Thursday, September 28, 2006

Odds and Ends

First off, I would like to thank my friend Eric Abercrombie for his generous gift and lovely card. Eric (AKA: Enyak, "Token Protestant Friend", father of the child-who-should-be-named-Rahner) and I did our MA's together from 2002-2004. United by Spirit and common enemies, we laughed our way through our time of studies. My best memories of graduate school seem to involve Abba Enyak as we tried to process Process theology, struggled with Rahner, learned of Abba Antony despite the blither of Brother V, and ate more pizzas and drank more coffee than I care to think about! Eric is grand scholar, a fine representative of the great state of West Virginia, and I am honored to call him my friend.

In his honor I include this picture. First, it shows that I do and can work (Recall: I do manualia as a Jesuit). Second, it commemorates the day Eric and I cleaned the backyard of Joan "The Boss" Nuth, a faculty member at John Caroll University. This was, as I recall, after the term had ended so our grades did not rest upon her satisfaction!

Now, on a more aesthetic note, I went last night to see the Broadway production of "The History Boys." I had not heard of this play until Howard Gray mentioned it and, as he cited it as brilliant, I figured I should check it out. Drew and I purchased Student-Rush tickets for $26.50 and went to the 8:00 show.

In a word: tremendous. There were so many beautiful and touching aspects of this play concerning the battle between a teacher who holds as ideal the "learning for learning's own sake" and a school's administration who cares only that "what" is known look and sound as good as possible. At heart is the struggle between how we view knowledge: is it that which enriches and enlivens our souls and spirits, informing and defining us as persons, or is a commodity to be quantified and brokered in order to "get into" a school or find employment.

I could write for a long time on this, but I haven't the time. If you are able, please see this's transformative. One of the more arresting scenes took place at the end of act one and I leave you with Hector (the idealist teacher) and his remarks:

The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.

Perhaps in these lines I find the reason I write what I do...that my hand might grasp yours, that we might realize that we're never as alone as we think we are.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Recipes Site

I'm giving serious consideration to dropping "Jesuit Recipes" as a site. Sadly, I don't cook nearly enough to work up new recipes or even to discover recipes that I like. Unlike the novitiate where I had ample opportunity to be in the kitchen, I have only to cook one dinner and one appetizer (for a Thursday night social) each semester. What I would do, though, is post any recipe that I come up with on this site rather than having the two different sites.

The Cat's Meow!

I can't help myself - I'm in love with playing with the recording abilities of my computer.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

One More Tune

To round it out to three, I thought I'd include this tune. It's called "The Lament for Fred Finn" and it's the aire I played at my Grandpa Hagan's funeral.

Over the Moor to Maggie

I thought I'd try a reel yesterday, so I recorded this nice tune. I'm going to go into the city today for Mass (St Francis Xavier Parish in Manhattan) but when I return I have hopes to put down a few sets of tunes. As a teacher of music, this may be the best teaching tool I've yet found - I can record a set of tunes and then send them to my students...or post it on the 'net for anyone who is interested!

Just as a "religious life" moment: part of my intent in posting (I am a man of many intents!) these videos is to show that entering religious life *does not* mean that I've had to give up what is truly important and life-giving to me. Truth be told, I don't travel like I used to before I entered. But I've played in nursing homes and at funerals, for bishops and fundraisers, in each case using my music to enter into the lives and experiences of others.

Several months ago I posted this, reflecting how much my spirituality and the way that I have come to know and see my service of the Lord has been shaped and contoured by my music. I post it again:

The leader of the band ascends the stage and the crowd goes quiet. The fiddles and flutes have been tuned and the dancers wait for the music to begin. I raise my accordion and look to the leader who gives me a wink. He knows that I will make mistakes, that I will struggle to keep up; on my part, I have fear that I'll screw everyone up, that I will go off time, that I'll forget the tunes. And yet to see him looking at me assures me that I can be a member of the band and that I do have something to contribute to the music and the dance. The piano is struck and the first notes sound out and soon all the room is a swirl of dancers spinning and shouting and laughing and musicians playing and Guinness being poured. I lose myself in the music, finding that even when I make mistakes I am still at my finest because I am doing what I love - I am helping people to dance and I am playing with the One who summons forth the best of my music - and in that I rejoice. I catch the eye of the leader of the band and for the briefest moment, I glimpse an eternity of playing music. Then it is gone and I return to playing, no longer an accordion player who wishes to be in the band, but a musician who has found his voice in the tradition.

Quite to the contrary of losing my talent or skill (though I will admit to being a bit rusty) I have found that I am realizing more and more my skills as I consecrate them to the establishment of God's Kingdom on earth (between cooking and music, it'll be just a delightful place if I have anything to say about it).

So ask yourself: what do you have to offer? What skill/talent/passion do you bring that cries out to be put to its fullest use, that in developing it you will develop yourself as a more attentive and devoted Hearers of the Word which cries out to each of us in the quiet of our hearts?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Yeah for YouTube!

So I had some time this afternoon and recorded a jig with iSight video camera. It's not the best quality of playing that I'm capable of, but it'll do for a first effort. I'll try and record a bunch of these and put them online in hopes that someone will stumble upon my playing and offer me a recording contract!

Yeah, I'm a Nerd

Now that I've discovered a new form of technology, I'm going to exploit it completely. I found this little clip a few days ago and I think it's pretty impressive. To be honest, I'd probably have added a ton of cool Ignatian-themed dialogue but, to the extent that it's two seminarians dueling with lightsabers, it's quite good.

From YouTube:

Watch St. Louis seminarians Michael Grosch and Edward Nemeth battle for the eminent position as Camp Director of Kenrick-Glennon Days summer camp, hosted at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary by St. Louis seminarians and the St. Louis Office of Vocations. Mike and Ed's performances are spectacular in this film produced by Jeff Geerling.

Jesuit Music Video

In an effort to be technologically sophisticated, I'm trying this as my first effort to link to the YouTube website. If this works, I have some nice suprises in the future!

**Now that I see it does work, let me ask: who said that Jesuits don't have a sense of humor?!?!***

Shameless Self-Promotion

Dr. John Shea sent me a link today along with a message that I'm to post this to my blog. Failure to do so, he threatens, will result in him sending an email to everyone he knows containing the same information. Because I think it's hysterical, I will include it:

Follow this link, look for professors whose last names begin with "D" and scroll down - see that red thing next to my name? That's a chili pepper. It means that a student thought/thinks that

I'm Hot!!!

Near as I can tell, I've never been told that I'm hot before. I guess it's pretty meaningless as I've taken a vow of chastity, but I think it's funny nonetheless. Sadly, I guess I harbor some fears about just who may have posted it....ah well, I'll take any (admittedly cheap) compliment I can get!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

My new Pet

In honor of my new pet, I'm typing this post entirely in green.

When I was a kid, I really wanted a Chia pet. My parents insist that they bought me one, but I don't remember it at yet another instance of my being deprived as a child.

So several weeks ago I downloaded a digital Chia-Pet for my iMac computer. I love him! He's growing quite nicely and I think I'm going to have to download some trimming program so I can make him look like a bonsai or a poodle or something. I will admit that my first one "died" when I went home to Cleveland due to lack of "digital watering" (I was traumatized to see his upturned corpse on my computer screen)...which means that out of love I will be tethered to "Herb" the Chia-Pet.

Now, let me be fair to my parents. When I was home last week, my father didn't anticipate that I would be returning to Cleveland again until after my birthday. So, after a lovely steak dinner, didn't Big Bob Duns shock us all and bring out a birthday cake! I was so excited and moved that MY FATHER had remembered my birthday...until I realized that it was, in fact, the half-eaten birthday cake from my cousin's birthday celebration held the week before at my house. Nevertheless, the casually forgotten cake that lingered in the freezer for a week proved ample enough for my simple tastes and I'm sure that my parents will be very glad that I've publicly acknowledged their kindness and generosity.

Note to my Parents: It took me nearly twenty years to get over the death of my Paddington bear. I'll now be well into my forties before this slips from my memory.

A Birthday Greeting

I would be TOTALLY remiss if I did not give a huge

Happy Birthday!!!

to my dear friend Anne Hall.

For those of you who don't know her, Anne is an accomplished teacher and adjudicator of Irish dancing and she lives in Denver. It was also Anne who began this blog over two years ago, so in a way she's the mother of my ramblings these last few years.

So please join me in wishing Anne a very happy birthday. Anne, thank you so much for being such a good've taught me more about love and friendship than you'll ever know and I am a better man for having known you.

My favorite Anne Hall birthday story (well, my only one): Several years ago Anne's birthday coincided with the Baltimore feis. Well, due to horrible weather the building where the feis was to be held was totally without power and a number of the stages had to be moved outdoors. Sitting outside under an umbrella is not my idea of a fun day...even if I'm at the beach...and by the end of the day I was pretty dang exhausted. Well, during an interminable line of slow hornpipes, didn't some awful grasshopper see fit to jump down my shirt and then, unable to escape, begin to flutter about madly in my shirt. I look pretty ridiculous when I'm playing the accordion, so imagine me jumping up and down - playing all the while because I didn't want to throw a kid off time - while trying to rid myself of my unwanted guest.

That night, we went out with Anne's friend Nicole for a lovely dinner (I recall only that we had wine and crabcakes, although I suspect there was more food than that) and then walked along the waterfront.

Happy memories!

Happy Birthday!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Yet another development

When I went to John Carroll University to do my MA in Religious Studies, I naively entered into studies thinking that I would dedicate myself wholly and unreservedly to my studies. I was totally wrong. I played for feiseanna pretty much every weekend of the year - including my own graduation weekend!

So why would I assume that I'd dedicate myself solely to studies here at Fordham? Yesterday, the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine (my vow name and the patron of catechists) I began to assemble my thoughts in regard to my latest project: I will be working with a small group of students (along with Kyle Gautreau, SJ) on what has been titled "Three Cheers for Catholicism." This seminar-style course will (hopefully) make use of Robert Barron's wonderful "And Now I See...A Theology of Transformation" as well as another small text.

So here's my basic approach: the first thing we will work on is learning to recognize that God is actively at work in our day-to-day lives. How do we do this? By what erudite means to I intend to help students realize that the wholly ineffable God has ANY desire to be in relationship with them? How do we come to know the God-of-our-lives, the Word made flesh, the Spirit that cries out from within the depths of our hearts?

Well, we're going to pray.

My thought is to begin with the Examen of Conscience (or Consciousness, if you prefer). Instead of explaining it right here (I'll work up a proper explanation for another time) click here and experience it for yourself. Sometimes at night, when I'm very tired, I use this to structure my day's closing prayer. My ultimate goal is to have a wise Jesuit (like Howard "Abba" Gray, SJ) record a version of this that would speak directly to students, but for the time being I'll make use of what's available.

Barron's book begins, "Christianity, above all, is a way of seeing." Through prayer I hope to help students develop a "spirit's eye" that will catch and muse upon the various ways God is present in their lives. The text itself follows the traditional tripartite path of spiritual theology contributed by the Psuedo-Dionysius: the purgative path wherein we see ourselves as sinful and in need of redemption, illuminative path wherein we come to know a God who wills our salvation and desires to be in relationship with us, and the unitive whereby the Word of God becomes "God With Us" and unites human and divine nature.

It should be an interesting semester and I'm confident there will be much to report back on. If anyone has comments or suggestions about what would be helpful to address in this little seminar, I'm all ears!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Professor of Traditional Irish Music Studies

I received final word today that my course "Introduction to the Tin Whistle" will be offered this Spring at Fordham. So each Tuesday from 4:30-5:30 I'll be instructing a whole new generation of college students on how to hold, blow, and make sense of my favorite instrument (favorite, that is, next to the oboe). At this rate, I've taught at three Jesuit colleges: JCU, UD-Mercy, and soon it will be Fordham. I think I'll attempt a record at the number of colleges I can teach something at!

Monday, September 11, 2006


I often tell people that I have a bad memory. It's no exaggeration -- for some reason, I can usually recall minute details about some obscure topic, but I'll handily forget the important which car I drove to the grocery store or whether I've eaten breakfast on a particular day.

What I cannot forget, however, is the shower I took five years ago (please, control your imaginations). As I washed my (more ample but still receding) hair, the morning radio show hosts announced that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Given that these two bloviating fools often made outlandish claims, I reached out of the shower and turned off the radio...I have a strange sense of humor, but such a statement I did not find amusing.

Several minutes later I began to boil water for my tea and oatmeal and I turned on the television. Instead of being greeted by Katie Couric on the Today show, I met the awful and tragic images of two planes slamming into buildings and the realization that something awful, something evil, and something that defied all speech had taken place.

I wanted to memorialize this day, but I do not want to put words where gaping holes in time and space and lives now exists. I am not so brash as to think that I can dress up these events and find meaning in what is so meaningless, so senseless. I can offer only a prayer, a word of encouragement, and the pledge to do what can be done that such acts of horrendous violence are not perpetrated again, especially in the name of religion.

Mommies and Daddies, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, spouses, friends....all of them are the victims of this event. Innocent people who lived out their final day without any sense of what was going to happen...leaving behind innocent people who will live out their days wondering what in fact did happen.

My prayers today are with the victims and their families and loved ones. My prayer is for those who perpetrated these atrocities. My prayer is for each of us for whom it is so difficult to climb out from beneath the rubble that fell upon our hearts that Tuesday morning, for those who still struggle to find hope, for those who are still trapped by the debris and dust and horror of that terrible day.

Two Photos

I often get asked to show more pictures of my family. On the left you have me and my Grandma Hagan and on the right you have my father BBD (Big Bob Duns) and my mother Michele.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Flickr Update

If you're interested: I posted about 15 more pictures to Flickr today, which you can access by clicking on the photo montage at the right of the screen.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Poverty of Words

About a week ago, another Jesuit (Props to Kyle!) and I discussed the blog forum. He encouraged me to be more controversial, to stir things up a bit. And, to be honest, there's a great part of me that does indeed wish to tackle some of the more contentious issues that face the Church and the modern believer/disbeliever today.

My desires stated, however, I am faced with the all-too-real knowledge that, regardless of what I say or don't say, not only I but the Society of Jesus will be judged for what I write. It is often very difficult to separate "a" speaker from an entire organization...critics of the Society of Jesus (since I'm most familiar with these critiques) will often hold up one particular Jesuit who says something that displeases them and then extrapolate his words and paint the whole of the Society with his brush. Not only is this not fair, but it is not charitable.

These websites can be a great tool for evangelization. I should like to think that others have learned something of me and of themselves by reading my musings over the past two years. I chuckle (and smack my head) when I read my early posts...they were insane! But with the prayer and experiences of the novitiate I think that I grew and matured enormously and what has emerged on these pages has been a genuine, sincere, and sometimes humorous attempt at articulating my experiences.

Nevertheless, I am bound by the knowledge that I have a public forum and that I must be careful in offering opinions about issues. It would do no one any good for me to bring shame or discredit to the Society or to the Church just so that I could shoot my mouth off.

It is a privilege to share my journey with others. Probably more often than I'd like, I post inane and trivial details about my days and weeks. But our lives are not made up of profound spiritual moments and realizations...they are, instead, mostly filled with the humdrum of our daily martyrdom, a silent living-toward-death that brings us slowly and inevitably toward the cross and to the horizon of our lives. I just have the tool (and audacity) to make these daily walks public.

So I thank you for reading and I thank you for praying. I believe because I pray. Each night I bring a battered heart to prayer and pray for a soothing balm; each morning I rise and give thanks for another day that I have to walk as a Companion of Jesus. If my blog has had any thread of success, perhaps it has invited people to think of their own relationship with God, invited them to question how they live their live, invited them to ask, "What does God want for me in this life?" Where do you find the greatest joy in life; where do you find excitement and love and life? Follow that light and do not be afraid to do so! Perhaps that is what I wish most to share with others and this blog is an entrance into the day-to-day (ideally!) journey of following Christ as a member of the Society. I recognize that "my" story isn't "your" story but maybe, just maybe, it will give someone courage to embark on a new chapter, or book, of his or her own tale.

Tomorrow I go to Cleveland for "Lukas Fest '06." Lukas Laniauskas, nSJ is professing his first vows (the same ones I professed last month) in the Society of Jesus on Saturday. Please keep him in your prayers.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Looking toward the future

It's funny that the school year isn't but a few days old and I'm already making plans for the way I'll spend next summer. One of the great aspects of the Society of Jesus is that there is really an unlimited array of choices for spending one's summer. If you follow this link: Summer Opportunities you'll get a sense of what I'm talking about. Indeed, this list is certainly not exhaustive and the horizon of opportunity extends to the far reaches of the individual imagination.

One of the lessons I learned during my time at Loyola Medical Center is the importance of being a companion to other's during their times of need. Since I won't have enough German to go abroad this summer (Next year!) I began looking into various spiritual direction programs throughout the country. While I have little aspiration to spend my apostolic life in a retreat house (it'd be too quiet) I would truly love to be engaged in the ministry of spiritual direction throughout my Jesuit life.

In short, after looking at a variety of programs, I have settled on one not listed on the internet or one that even exists in any sort of formal way. Based on the ultimate approval of my formation director, I have asked Walt Farrell, SJ to guide me as a spiritual director. So next summer, if all goes according to plan, I will return to Detroit and hopefully direct several people on retreats. Learning from Walt is akin to learning from the teacher of Master Yoda from Star Wars. I don't know who taught Yoda, but he had to be pretty good...and Walt is better than "pretty good."

So that's "Ryan Update" number one. The second update is that I will not be playing the Mid-American Oireachtas this year. Due to a number of reasons, it is just not possible for me to play this year. It's sad - in the past 18 years or so, I think I've missed only one or two regional championships. Ah well, that's life. In its stead, I think I"ll go down to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Or I'll go stand outside the windows of the Today Show and wave like an idiot. Or I'll do both.

So there you have it. I'm off to pray for a bit (another plug for Pray As You Go and then I have two classes today: Aristotle and Theological Anthropology.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Lesson in Humility

One of the more poignant scenes from the life of St Ignatius Loyola is recounted in his biography. His dreams of working in Jerusalem thwarted, he felt that the better way to help souls was to begin studies. In order to do this, however, the thirty-something Ignatius had to go back and learn the fundamentals of, among other things, Latin which necessitated his sitting in class with children.

This week opened with a similar experience. The majority of the students in my German 101 course are 1st years and, while only eight years separates us, I can attest that eight years is a lifetime in many ways. I could extol what I feel is the benefit of affective maturation, but that would obscure the point of this post: I am by no means going to learn German with any great ease!

This language is tough! I thought Spanish was difficult, but this is enormously more challenging. I feel like a baby learning to pronounce words again, learning to count, learning how to say hello. Everyone around me seems to be picking it up so much faster and easier that it's pretty frustrating. With great ease do I normally express myself and, because I haven't yet gotten that far, I couldn't ask to go to the bathroom even if I needed to do so! (I can say hello, count to twenty, ask how you're doing, and tell you I speak English).

I just offer this humbling little experience for reflection. It makes me think of how frustrating it is for immigrants (legal or otherwise) who are thrust into a milieu where they are unable to communicate. It is crippling to be deprived of our speech and, as I am learning, learning a new language entails a great humbling and a regression to our linguistic infancy.

And I though my novitiate experienced tended to be infantalizing!

The language will come in time. I have tons of flashcards already and I've committed myself to studying German, so come hell or high water, I will learn it. I have the lofty goal of reading Rahner one day, but I doubt that it will ever happen...Karl's own brother, Hugo, is said to have remarked that a potential project was to translate Karl's notoriously dense prose into German! It is fun, nevertheless, to have the opportunity to learn a whole new language an∂ the prize of being able to order a good German beer in the German language is definitely a motivating prize.

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame