Monday, May 29, 2006

Happy Memorial Day!

When I was a kid, Memorial Day weekend was sort of the un-official start to my summer. While there were at least two more weeks of school, the two "kick off" feiseanna of the year were Akron (held on Saturday) and Cleveland (held on Sunday). So it was nice, in a sense, to spend this year back in Cleveland at the feis. And yet, I can't help but smiling when I consider that this, the un-official start of summer, actually points me in the direction of Peru which is in the heart of its winter. I guess I'll enjoy the three weeks of summer ahead, embrace the five weeks of winter of Peru, and then emerge to enjoy the end of July and the month of August!

All in all, the feis yesterday wasn't terrible. Granted, my stage (#2 which was a championship/prelim) stage didn't start until 11:00 and ran until 6:00. I could dissect what I see as the difficulties with the event, but I'll spare the rant - just know that one day I will chair a feis of my own and it will be a true fiesta of fun and feising!

I write this from the comfort of my home in Cleveland while I enjoy a cup of Einstein's coffee and a delicious bagel - courtesy of a gift card from the English family (thanks guys!). Mike and Brian took first place yesterday, each on his respective instrument and in his age category. They, along with a number of other Irish dancing people, came back to the house last night for a low-key was good to have the opportunity for socializing, especially after a long day of playing.

Now I discovered a wonderful treat last night: the Great Lakes Brewery sample pack. For just $13.00, you get twelve bottles of beer (three bottles of four flavors). I love this beer and I'll be bringing two cases of it back to Detroit to share at our cook-out this evening.

In Jesuit-related news, we had a workshop on the Myers-Briggs personality inventory last week. I am an ENFJ (you can google Myers-Briggs and take an on-line test to see what you are). Here's a brief description I found on-line:

Theme is mentoring, leading people to achieve their potential and become more of who they are. Talents lie in empathizing with profound interpersonal insight and in influencing others to learn, grow and develop. Lead using their exceptional communication skills, enthusiasm, and warmth to gain cooperation toward meeting the ideals they hold for the individual or the organization. Catalysts who draw out the best in others. Thrive on empathic connections. Frequently called on to help others with personal problems.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006


As you can see on the right, I finally learned how to post links to my website. Should you feel so inclined, I invite you to investigate them at your leisure.

Monday, May 22, 2006


I don't often post homilies on here, but I thought I'd put the one I delivered today up on the net. It may be helpful to read today's gospel to get a sense of where I'm coming from, so I've included that, too:

John 15:26-16:4a

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.

“I have told you this so that you may not fall away.
They will expel you from the synagogues;
in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.
They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.
I have told you this so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you.”

I am ashamed to say it, but I have never had much of a devotion to the Holy Spirit. Sure, it is easy to pray to Jesus: we have got the gospels, major motion pictures, stained-glass windows, and even Jesus action figures. I do not even have too difficult a time with God the Father – again, stained-glass windows, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, and even the role of God assumed by George Burns in “Oh God!” and Morgan Freeman in “Bruce Almighty” make prayer easy. But the Spirit? More often than not my image of the Spirit is informed by Agatha Christie’s “The Birds” and terrible memories of having to clean out my sister’s bird cage.

I would like to suggest, therefore, a different image. Imagine, if you will, a karaoke bar. Having somehow lost your inhibitions –or being possessed of no inhibitions– you ascend the stage and select your favorite song...Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time" or Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." A brief musical introduction allows you to re-acquaint yourself with the tune and you begin to relax into its familiar rhythm. And then, like magic, the television screen prompts you with words. Gradually giving yourself over to the music, you find a certain freedom to interpret the music for yourself – you begin to make the song your own. Sure, there are times that you slip up and go off key…or perhaps you’re off key the whole time. But the soundtrack does not stop; the music continues to play and to provide a constant guide no matter how far from the tune you stray. And once you have finished your rendition of the song, once you have received the cheers of adulation or the jeers of derision and re-joined your friends, you can sit back and watch as the next person surrenders him or herself to the music, surrendering fear and inhibition, and letting loose the inner diva who dwells in all of us.

As wanting as my metaphor may be, I do think it does point to the dynamism of today’s gospel. Jesus knows that preaching and teaching the truth in his name will lead us directly into conflict with a world not always able or willing to hear the good news. He knows that the shadow of the cross is thrown long over the lives of discipleship and that we will face humiliation and degradation at each turn of our ministry, our rendition being met more often with jeers than with encomiums. Jesus knows that we are all of us off key most of the time and that we cannot on our own sing the song of the gospel in a way that either sounds good or that makes sense.

Because of this Jesus promises us the Spirit. The parakletos – meaning literally “the One called alongside” – serves as the soundtrack to our lives and our ministries. It is the Spirit of the Word – the Spirit who testifies to the Son – who will animate our words, guide our rhythm, and consecrate our songs to the promotion of the gospel. Each of us, of course, will choose to sing the gospel with different songs and different melodies, but Jesus assures us that the Spirit will provide the musical score that will make our rendition both possible and sensible.

As we perform the gospel, we will inevitably slip up and go off key. We will feel disoriented and confused and scared, but we will try to get back into tune and to stay with the beat. After a great deal of practice, hopefully we will become more confident in our abilities and we will begin to take risks – reaching for the occasional high note here, straining to achieve a new harmony there. And here, quite unlike the karaoke bar, something magnificent happens as we begin to interpret for ourselves the song we sing: the pre-written words prompted by the television disappear and we begin to write with our own lives the words to the music. We begin to compose enfleshed hymns of praise; we call forth the courage to assume our place in the chorus of those who, along with the Psalmist, “praise God’s name in the festive dance” and “sing a new song in the assembly of the faithful.” In the presence of the paraclete, the “One called along side”, we know that we never stand alone so long as we speak the Truth; we are empowered, therefore, to lose our fears and inhibitions - even when faced with hostility and derision – and to give ourselves over to the adventure of performing the gospel. It is in this Spirit that we can testify to the Truth. It is in this Spirit that we can sing of the Father’s goodness. It is in this Spirit that we can offer testimony to Christ even when confronted by the shadow of the cross. And it is in this Spirit that we can sing joyfully of the one who has brought new life into each of us, who has deigned to make music with us, and who has invited us to perform the gospel as disciples of Christ.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Drew Coaching

In an effort to re-capture elements of his childhood, Drew's taken to wearing a baseball uniform and standing against fences at baseball games. This picture was taken at the end of the first game of the double-header where UD High won 6-5.

Here's the Ford River Rouge Plant touring group: (From Left to Right) Lukas Laniauskas, Adam DeLeon, Drew Marquard, Ryan Duns, and Mike Singhurse.

Lukas is the newest member of the Detroit Province. Originally entering the novitiate in Lithuania, he has returned to the US and will take vows in Cleveland this September.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Settled in at the Ranch

Since I'm facing the prospect of typing into an Excel spreadsheet a whole slew of names of people to invite to vows, I figured I'd employ a slight dilatory tactic and update my blog.

This has been a surprisingly full week. After our return on Tuesday, I went to see the absolutely horrible "American Haunting" which one novice aptly described as a glorified Lifetime flick. On Wednesday I went to see the Cavs play at a local watering hole. On Thursday I prepared a steak dinner for the Tertians who were staying here at Loyola House. (Note: Tertians are not extraterrestrial beings who've landed at Loyola House in search of a steak dinner. They are, in fact, Jesuits in their final stage of formation and the "tertian year" is basically a third year of novitiate. Soon these men will be called to make "Final Vows" and then they'll be fully incorporated into the Society of Jesus.)

Yesterday I went to see Ford's Rouge Plant located in Dearborn. In light of this experience, I can aver that I've been born anew. Not only did I get to see them make the F-150, but I also learned "The Truth About Trucks" and I'm finding that I'm quite able to apply my new-found knowledge (to my delight and the chagrin of those around me) while I'm in various parking lots. Last night we went to Benni Hanna Japanese restaurant and then popped over to Dave & Buster's where we watched the Cavs lose.

Today I went to the University of Detroit-Mercy (where I hold emeritus status as a professor of adding and subtracting and, so I've heard, one of my prominent students is going to donate $50 to endow a chair of "fraction studies" in my honor) and watched the University of Detroit Jesuit High School Freshmen Baseball Team (Dang that's a mouthful!) play the first part of a double-header. They won the first game, I stood in the sun for twenty minutes and got burned, and Adam and I were able to support Drew as he coached his players to victory.

Another word about the Fleadh: I'm very happy still for the success of my students. The Fleadh is akin to any major regional competition that qualifies its winners to participate in a national or world-championship event. Mike and Brian are to be commended for their success if only for the fact that their teacher did his work with them over the phone. Yep - the speaker phone is a wonderful invention and, as awkward as it is, it has been invaluable for keeping me up-to-date on their playing.

Finally, I went to the Apple store to look at a new computer for First Studies. I've settled on an iMac with a built-in iSight camera. These computers are glorious and I suspect that they'll enable me to teach via the internet. Soon the speakerphone will crawl into obsolescence and be supplanted by web cam. Hooray!

Time to go and eat dinner. The first year men are back from their various experiments and I should probably greet them.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Back from Retreat

I'm Back!

Just a quick note - I'm typing this and talking to my mom at the same time. Retreat is over and I'm getting settled in back at the novitiate.

Congratulations are in order for Mike and Brian: Mike placed 2nd on the whistle (15-18) and Brian 1st on the whistle (12-15) and 3rd on the flute.

Ok, I'm off to do some unpacking. We're going to the movies tonight, too, to see some strange horror movie.

More later!

Sunday, May 07, 2006


I'm heading off on retreat tomorrow evening. Please keep me and the other novices in your prayers and know that I'll keep you all in mine.

If you have any interest in being invited to my vows, please drop me an email/post a comment and I will include you on the list.

Pray, too, for Mike and Brian and all the competitors at this year's Fleadh. Let's hope for the best!


Friday, May 05, 2006

Last Day!

Today's my last day of work. It's been looming all week (and who would ever think of Friday as looming?) and now that it's here, I'm just about ready to head back to Detroit. We celebrated my CPE journey at the hospital yesterday afternoon with a gathering of chaplains over many different types of pie (cake is cliche) and last night we celebrated Eucharist, had a community faith-sharing, and then enjoyed a lovely dinner.

Upon learning that tomorrow would be my last day, one of the nurses took the time to inquire about what it was, exactly, that I did for a living (given the varying schedule of the nurses, some don't know that I'm a Jesuit). I gave a good explanation and she seemed utterly exasperated to learn how much traveling I've done this last year. And, as I look back upon my blog, I really have been all over the place - literally, in terms of geographic location, and affectively, in terms of emotion and processing.

This has been a graced experienced, a time of learning how one incarnates God's mercy on a day-to-day basis, a time of learning how to enact the hospitality of the Lord. There has been gains and victories as well as heartbreaking losses. I am different now, changed in ways I could not have expected four months ago. More battered, more broken, more deeply wounded, more fully human.

I have to laugh that over the last few months, my posts have been decidedly un-funny. With luck, this will change as I leave the crucible of hospital work and move into the antics of Loyola House.

So I bid adieu to my patients and co-workers and friends today. They have been such a wonderful part of this journey and, I suspect, hardly any of them will ever know how much they've meant to me. I guess I can summarize the movement of my time here by saying that the point of entrance for me was to discover what it meant to be a Jesuit in ministry. Today, I leave having learned about ministry, about humanity, about myself. Today I will walk out of the hospital a changed man, humbled by my own realized limitations and graced in so many ways. In January I walked through the hospital doors seeking to learn about ministry and, today, I will walk out those doors having claimed my identity as a minister.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Return to Cleveland!

I received last night the official word from my superior that I will be allowed to play for the 2006 Cleveland Feis. This is a semi-big deal insofar as it was my first feis when I was cutting my teeth on jigs and reels and my family has had a long time affiliation with the event. It's meaningful, too, as it'll be the last pre-vow feis I play and will probably be the last time I play a feis in the mid-American region for quite some time.

I have three days left at the hospital. It's going to be very hard to say good-bye. Just today, for instance, I met several patients who expect to be with us for over a week and it was sort of difficult for me to tell them that I'd be following them up until Friday and then turning them over to another chaplain.

Often people focus on the vow of poverty as having only to deal with fiscal resources. This is an example of how such a narrowly construed understanding of our vows is limiting: right now, I face the dearth of choice (attached also to obedience!) and the reality that, for all the good work I've tried to do, that someone will pick up where I left off on Monday, that new patients will come and go, that the hospital will go on without me. That's terribly ego bruising! But it's a part of life, a part that I suspect I will have to get used to over the next few years.

So Drew is coming to collect me from Chicago on Saturday. I'll begin my 8-day retreat on Monday, so there'll be no posts for nearly a week. What is most difficult is that the Fleadh with come and go while I'm off praying at the Colombiere Center (the Jesuit retirement community/retreat center in Clarkston, MI) and, unless I can convince my novice direct to inform me of their progress, I'll not know how Mike and Brian did until I return on the 16th. So again, do say a prayer that they play their best and, while you're at it, say a prayer for me!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Final Week

So today marks the beginning of my last week at LUMC. After a long weekend of socializing and entertaining (we had to Open Houses to welcome guests to our new house) I return to the trenches of pastoral care. With the way my schedule works, I only have to go to 'group' on Thursday allowing me, fortunately, to spend the rest of my time with patients.

I'm not especially keen on going back to Detroit. I like what I have taken to calling "Big Boy" life: I like having responsibility, a job, a home. One of the difficulties of Jesuit life, as I am coming to realize, is that ours is a life etched with the mark of itinerancy...we are always on the road. And so tonight I'll begin packing to make my return to the novitiate; this week I'll say my goodbyes to my friends at the hospital.

That's all I have to say about leaving at this time. I think I'll start my final week with a trip to Enstein's for a bagel and coffee and I should make it to work *just* in time for morning prayer.

On a lighter (and more hopeful note) do keep Mike and Brian English in yours prayers -- the Fleadh is in two weeks!

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame