Monday, November 30, 2009

Aren't Holidays Supposed to be Relaxing?

For weeks, I looked forward to the Thanksgiving Holiday with great excitement. This would be the first year that I would eat Thanksgiving dinner with my family. This would be the first year that I wouldn't fly to either Chicago or Columbus on a pre-dawn flight on Black Friday in order to begin playing for a three-day long Irish dancing competition. This would be the first year that I would have a six-day vacation from school: in addition to Thursday and Friday, our school also had Wednesday and Monday off.

Visions of sleeping in and having a restful holiday proved, alas, to be delusional. Far from relaxing, I had rather exhilarating week: I visited with Jesuit friends and classmates, watched a bizarrely interesting zombie movie, played for hundreds of Irish dancers, saw old Irish dancing friends and colleagues, became re-acquainted with the "Chocolate Martini" as an after-dinner drink, and drove across most of northern and middle Ohio.

In short, I'm exhausted.

And I still I have to plan for the week.

But above all, I am deeply grateful for such a fun holiday.

So I do apologize for my relative silence: no need for alarm! I've been on the road and I'm ready to plunge into the weeks remaining before the Christmas holiday. My eyes grow heavy as I write this, but be assured that I'll have more posts in the upcoming day!

Happy Advent!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's Not All About You

I have spent the last few weeks reading C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity with my seniors. It's a remarkable little book: clearly written, engaging, with very short chapters. As my post from yesterday should indicate, my indebtedness to Lewis for giving me an imaginative tableau for my Christianity certainly predisposes me toward loving any of his works.

Book III of Mere Christianity takes as its overarching topic the issue of Christian Behavior. He begins by recounting "a story about a schoolboy who was asked what he thought God was like. He replied that, as far as he could make out, God was
"The sort of person who is always snooping round to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it."
Lewis writes that in his own era, just around 1943, this is the image of God that seems to have taken hold of popular imagination. If my experience with high school and college students is any indication, this image of God still holds sway.

If this distorted image of God still reigns, I believe it is because of our distorted notion of Christian morality. Lewis is right in noting that, for many, Christian morality is "something that interferes, something that stops you having a good time." In other words, morality is reduced to a bunch of proscriptions: Do not do this, You may not do that. Morality thus ceases to be about how faith affects and shapes our entire life, preparing us to live forever in the Kingdom of God, and is reduced to an obsessive focus on individual acts.

Lewis writes that Morality appears to be concerned with three things:
  • With fair play and harmony between individuals
  • With tidying up or harmonizing the things inside ourselves
  • With the general purpose of human life as a whole: what humans are for
Too often, he goes on to observe, Morality is reduced to a focus on the first of these and a complete neglect of the latter two. While ensuring right relations between people is certainly important, it is not enough.

At the risk of scandalizing readers, let me try to make this clear.

I have observed that, for many young men, "Christian Morality" is reduced to "What I do with my pelvic region." As long as I don't hurt anyone else, they reason, it's okay. This reasoning, they figure, permits the willy-nilly use of pornography. Applying this reasoning to the entire body, they ask, What difference does it make to anyone if I smoke pot? Drink under age? They want to have a good time, they don't see it as hurting anyone else, and if God doesn't like this....well, then, just get rid of God all together! Better to be a happy atheist or a wholly unbothered agnostic than a prudish theist.

If Christian morality is often reduced to negative proscriptions, modern morality is equally reduced: If it doesn't hurt anyone, then it's okay.

This, Lewis writes, is moonshine. What good is it to have right relations with other people if the individual is completely out of whack? We have to examine the moral standing of the individual - we need to look not only at what she does, but who she is. We need, in other words, to look at the individual's character. Christian morality begins, once we look at the person's character, to focus on the whole person, on who this Christian is as a disciple of Jesus, on how this person lives out this discipleship.

But why even be a disciple? Because, Lewis writes, the general purpose of Christian life is to live together forever in the Kingdom of God. Our human lives are training grounds for eternity in the New Jerusalem. To be sure, this is where Christianity and other traditions will conflict; one should not suspect that the Buddhist is angling for a seat at the Lamb's Table! Nevertheless, as Christians, this is the belief that we hold and we must live our lives in accordance with this belief, trying to make sense of it to others (and to ourselves) as we journey toward the Kingdom together.

Christian morality, understood as how faith in Christ shapes and molds our human lives, is the great and much-needed reminder to our own culture: It's not all about you. Yes, you are important - infinitely important! - but you are not alone in this great journey of discipleship.

The irony is that in order to combat the narcissism and self-obsession of our era, Christians often become equally self-obsessed and act-centered. I really think this is a reason why young people struggle so greatly with Christianity: they think it is nothing more than rules and regulations that keep them from having a good time. There are rules, and there certainly are regulations. But God is not a cosmic tally-keeper who watches to see how many times you do x or y. Better, perhaps, to see God as the great coach who encourages you to keep practicing, who corrects you when needed, who helps you to play well with your team mates, so that you are ready to play in the big game.

If today's pelvis-preoccupied culture reject Christianity, it is more often because we have failed to catechize properly. We need to affirm again and again that we like athletes who are in training. Let me be clear: we must not be permissive and say, "Oh well, it doesn't matter." If a pitcher isn't throwing the ball properly, it's a terrible coach who says, "Oh well, it doesn't matter at all." It matters a great deal! The coach realizes that there is more at stake than just the pitcher: there is the whole team that cannot win the game unless all individuals are playing well.

We do need, however, to remember one good pitch does not a pitcher make, nor one bad pitch necessitate that he be thrown off of the team. We need to focus on more than just individual acts and regain the robust image of the Body of Christ which is, like any team, far greater than the sum of its parts: it supports its players, it encourages them, it challenges them to continue to grown and develop, and it compensates when they falter. A group of of All-Stars won't be very successful if they can't learn to play as a team; a bunch of musicians can't play well together if they don't have a common beat to follow. It is the grace of Christianity that we have that coach and we have that beat: Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

We have now, more than ever, a chance to restate the great drama of Christianity and challenge people to take up again the great adventure of discipleship. In a sense, then, it is about you: only you can decide to accept the invitation to discipleship. But upon entrance, you realize that you don't occupy the central place: there are others who have been called along with you and we're all trying to figure out how to develop ourselves better and integrate ourselves further into this rag tag team with call the Church. We need to reclaim some excitement for being so drafted and go out and draft others into the "Spring Training" of our earthly discipleship so that we may all play as a team forever in the Eternal Summer of God's Kingdom.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Disenchanted by the Gospel

Years ago, before I entered the Jesuits, I went to a local bookstore to purchase a newly released book in the Harry Potter series. While I was standing in line, a well-intentioned customer eyed the book under my arm (which I carried, if memory serves me correctly, with a paperback copy of the Catechism that I wanted to buy) and promptly informed me that the book I was holding contained "the devil." With feigned horror I allowed the book to drop to the floor and stared at her, exclaiming, "Good Lord! So that's where he's been all this time!" I then picked the book back up and made my way to the cashier.

One of the reasons I liked the Harry Potter books so much is that, many years before any students took up residence at Hogwart's, my heart and mind had been captivated by a different magician: C. S. Lewis. As a little boy in the second grade (so we're talking 1987-88), I remember distinctly my mom giving me a copy of his The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to read. Now Mom never never claimed it as a Christian story or told me who the characters were meant to represent. Instead, she entrusted me to the steady hand and capacious heart of Lewis who became, in some sense, my tutor in literary Christianity.

Over the last 23 years, I've read the book perhaps a dozen times. My heart still beats a little faster when I hear the beavers say to the children, "Aslan is on the move." Aslan - the unseen king of Narnia who is coming. Aslan, whose very name causes the White Witch to fly into a towering rage; Aslan, the ruler whose mere presence releases the icy grip of winter on an evilly enchanted world. It is Aslan who who the name "that is above every other name, so that at the name of [Aslan] every knee will bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that [Aslan] is Lord, to the glory of the [Emperor over the Sea]. (Philipians 2:10-11). Note: yeah, it's a somewhat tendentious use of Scripture...but you get the point

My sense of exhilaration at the very name of Aslan may account for the tremendous sorrow I still feel when watching Aslan's agonizing submission to the White Witch, when he stands in the stead of the treacherous Edmund. Possessed of a knowledge of the Deeper Magic, Aslan offers himself to the witch to be sacrificed. He gives himself over to her to do with him as she will and what she does is just what we expect of her: she murders him. She makes a great display of immolating the "great cat." My stomach still churns when in my mind's eye I see the grotesque cadre of characters gathered around the noble and gentle Aslan, taunting and torturing him.

After the act of satanic violence has been completed, as the shorn body of the once-great king lies on the table, the reader is left aghast: is this it? The horrific buildup that culminated in the plunging of the knife plummets the reader into a vacuum. But in the matter of a few pages, the violent act is undone: the stone table cracks and the great lord of Narnia returns, in all his glory. He returns not to offer a sermon but, rather, to summon all of creation - even those creatures who had fallen under the witch's spell - to rally against the force of evil. As Aslan leaps and bounds toward the witch's castle where he will restore life to those who'd been turned to stone, I still to this day grow misty eyed thinking of the power and majesty of Aslan and desire greatly to fight on his side for the glory of Narnia.

Is it any wonder that when I prayed, and still continue to pray, through the "Call of the King" [91-100 of the Spiritual Exercises] that my mind goes to Aslan? I cannot describe the joy and excitement I still feel when I contemplate the Eternal King addressing his followers, exhorting, "My will is to conquer the whole world and all my enemies, and thus to enter into the glory of my Father. Therefore whoever wishes to come with me must labor with me, so that through following me in the pain he or she may follow me also in the glory."

When I say that I am disenchanted by the Gospel, I mean it in this way: the Good News has freed me from the icy spell of the White Witch, has shown me that the promises of riches and honor and pride in a cold and dead kingdom are empty and hollow. The logic or magic that runs our day-to-day world, the spell that many of us have succumbed to that says, "You are what you do" and "My value is how much I earn," has lost its grip on me. I prefer to stand under the banner of a different king, a king who does not serve the logic of this world but who knows, and shares with others, the Deeper Magic that the world has forgotten. In and through this King, the Deeper Magic that has lain under the surface of creation has begun to ooze out into the created world. I want to stand with this King and to serve this Deeper Magic as Narnia is the Kingdom of God breaks into the world.

Now I'll go out on a limb: the Deep Magic, the very magic that empowered the Witch's heinous murder of Aslan, is not secularism. Unreflected secularism is a Less-than-Deep Magic, an attitude that looks no deeper than the surface of reality and rejects any effort to penetrate to reality's core. No, the Witch was intoxicated by what seems to be a religious understanding of the Deep Magic - her execution of Aslan was certainly a liturgical ritual. But her failure, as we see, is her refusal to be humble before the true source of her knowledge, it is in not recognizing that the Deep Magic that gave her self-righteous justification to murder was itself powered by an even Deeper Source. The Witch, it turns out, had made an idol of the Deep Magic; it had become a totem, a token, that she was able to manipulate.

What we see is that the Deeper Magic was not some archaic doctrine, some proposition to be quoted in a debate, a thesis used to trump an opponent. The Deeper Magic is encountered in and through the person of intimate were the two, it would seem, that Aslan appears to be the incarnation of the Deeper Magic. It is this Deeper Magic that is "not tame." It is this Deeper Magic that refuses to be domesticated or controlled. It is this Deeper Magic, this King, who calls whom he wills: he goes even into the Witch's castle and frees those who had fallen under her stone-casting spell. This Aslan, this Lord, whose name excites the heart and whose return from death mists the eyes is the one who calls all those who will fight for Good and Right and gathers them into a body in and through whom his Reign shall come.

By way of conclusion, it still seems to me that so many in our country have become self-righteous servants of the "Deep Magic" and have used it to advance their own political agendas. They have made the Bible, or the Catechism, into weapons and idols that they can wield. They have, in effect, "made tame" what is not able to be tamed. They have fallen under the Witch's spell and their hearts have gone cold and angry and embittered.

So recall, then, the wonderful scene in the novel when Father Christmas comes to Narnia. He comes as a herald of the Great King's manifestation, his Epiphany. Father Christmas is not the highlight of the season but, rather, a mere preparatory figure who paves the way for the true star of the show. As we prepare to enter the Advent season, it may serve many of us well to consider who the true focal point of the season is. The gifts Father Christmas bears are not ends to themselves. Instead, they are those things that empower the following of the True King, the real Reason for the Season.

Recall how Aslan's breath turns stone into living flesh and, as a response, the restored individuals join in Aslan's battle against evil. The Breath of the King, the Spirit, vanquishes the grasp of evil's enchantment and frees us to be lovers and followers of the King. We must, then, allow ourselves to be reached by the Spirit so that we, too, may be disenchanted by the Gospels. A heart so disenchanted by the Good News is a humbled, fleshly heart that risks everything to serve the cause of the Good King, who dedicates himself and invites all of creation in to the the friendship and service of the Kingdom that our lives and beings may proclaim the Greater Glory of God.

Friday, November 13, 2009

God is like...

Over the last few weeks, one of the main topics we've discussed in our New Testament/Christology course has been the importance of parables. Coming from the Greek word meaning "comparison," we often experience the parables as powerful teachings shared with his listeners by Jesus to show what the Kingdom of God is like. I taught the students that the parable are "atomic bomb" stories - they should shatter our pre-conceived notions of God and their radiation should penetrate into the very core of our being. Too often, however, we banalize the parables and make them quaint little tales rather than experiencing them as the irruptive and challenging teaching moments Jesus intended them to be.

So this week, instead of a weekly sermon, I invited the students to write their own parables or short-sayings about God and the Kingdom. Some of them were mediocre: not a few typed in "God is like..." into Google, scrolled, down a few, and cut-and-paste the answers into their document (they will, of course, be re-doing the assignment over the weekend). Others, however, were profoundly creative and, I'd like to share a few of the better/funnier parables and short-sayings below:

  • One student wrote a highly amusing Parable of the Yam. The gist of this tale is a rich, but stingy, farmer who loves growing yams above all other vegetables. Eventually, his yam crop begins to fail, causing great distress in the farmer. His prayer leads him to a great insight: his great passion for growing yams is nothing when there are people starving outside his farm's fence. So the farmer throws an enormous feast for the poor and hungry and, lo and behold, he realizes a bumper crop of yams. Moral: I cannot flourish if my sisters and brothers do not have enough to eat.
  • God is like community college, no matter what struggles you may have they will always try to get you back on the right track.
  • God is like football pads, he protects you from the blows dealt to you by others.
  • God is like the kitchen: whenever I want to eat something, there is always something there for me.
  • God is like the weather: something that shows itself in many ways and is always present, even if we don't acknowledge it.
  • God is a carpenter who knows what we want but gives us what we need: where we want fences, God builds walkways.
I think each of these is great and their accompanying stories are really well done. There were others, too, that did a great job - but, given their highly personal nature, I won't post them.

And yet, there has to be a favorite. One student stands, to my mind, in the line of the great spiritual fathers and mothers of the Church. I have one student who ought to go off to a little cave where spiritual seekers might come to him and cry out, "Abba, give me a word of salvation!" I have one student whose insight into the nature of God is so profound, so earth shattering, and so dead-on that I'm still chuckling over it.

Faith in God is like deodorant: if everyone had it,
the world would be a much better place

In its simplicity, its elegance, and its factualness this is dead-on. Since I am forever exhorting my students to frequent and liberal application of deodorant, this one struck a chord with me and my own experience.

Truth be told, this is one of the better assignments I've given my students. It gave them a chance to apply their creativity to their faiths in order to craft an intimate picture of who God is for them, a relationship that they could then express to others.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poison or Medicine?

Over the last two weeks, I have received three correspondences from an anonymous blogger who has raised questions I think it would be helpful to address.

First, Anonymous is concerned with the "fundamental lack of seriousness about your Jesuit recipes and whistle-playing and inordinate self-abosorption...". I never would have thought that sharing one's passions for food and for Irish music would manifest a lack of seriousness or be considered a measure of frippery [<-- a too seldom used word].

This should go without saying: this is, of course, my blog. When I set out to maintain it, it was with the purpose of sharing the story of one Jesuit's formation. By its nature, it is a blog focused on a central character. If that is considered self-absorption, then I reckon I'm guilty. But it would seem that the whole project does necessitate that in order to tell of "A Jesuit's Journey" there needs to be a Jesuit to narrate it. On this site, I am that Jesuit.

This self-absorption, Anonymous has gone one to note, might be better expressed as a form of narcissism:

Obviously I did not intend my last communication for on-line viewing, nor am I concerned to dialogue. My identity is irrelevant to my comments, the value of which only you can assess. I intend them for the opposite of a "poison pen" letter, a "medicinal pen" letter, if there is such a thing--simply what one of the nameless non-faces in the crowd thinks about your auto-publicised journey. Somewhere in the gospels St John the Baptist says, "I must decrease so that Christ can increase." What I would hope to see in your blogging, and don't, is the figure of Jesus becoming more important and presented in sharper outline as you approach the priesthood, while your own personality fades into the background. Such a transformation would seem truly priestly. I suppose narcissism is least evident to the person most beholden to it, yet I would hope that you conquer it for the sake of your priestly vocation, or, failing this, that you commence a different career path. Your obvious talents, especially in writing, would make the first option better for the Church. We need good priests, because we need Christ. We need men who know how to move the self off-stage.

Now this comment leaves me with something of a paradox.

You see, if I ignore this comment completely, then Anonymous might think that my narcissistic tendencies have blinded me to any criticism. But by engaging it, I might just be reacting hysterically to criticism (a point Anonymous raised in an earlier missive), thus demonstrating the fragility of my ego, thereby confirming Anonymous's diagnosis.

So what's a supposed narcissist to do?

Well, I can begin by acknowledging that regardless of what I say or do, it's not going to sway the mind of my anonymous interlocutor. He or she has already figured out my psyche.

One thing that I can do is to restate briefly the rationale behind my blog.

I have no qualm with Anonymous's desire that Christ be kept at the center. I desire this, too. And I should like to think that a person who reads my blog will get a sense of the joy and excitement I have as a Companion of Jesus.

Here is the rub: I am trying to be a Companion of Jesus. This means that through prayer and discernment I have felt called and confirmed in my desire to live out my Christian discipleship as a Jesuit. I simply reject any idea of Christianity that would say that my personality would have to "fade into the background" because it is in and through my personality that I met and continue to meet Jesus Christ. It is, after all, Christ who makes me who I am: a sinner who feels called, a musician who strains mightily to follow the beat of the band's leader, a sous chef trying to imitate the Master.

As a Jesuit, I have grown unimaginably and been stretched in innumerable ways. Indeed, one of the great confirmations of this growth has from voluminous correspondence I've received from people who've read my blog or seen my YouTube videos who will say how much they resonated with what I've written, played, or taught and how it has helped reconnect them with their faith.

Anonymous, I don't know what more I can say. I am not Christ and although I do feel as though I've been called to serve as a priest at the Eucharistic table, I haven't any such assurance. I try with all magnanimity to be open to the movements of prayer and discernment, although I must say that the support of fellow Jesuits, friends, family, and colleagues both confirms this call and enkindles my desire.

Each one of us is to be bearers of Christ's light to a world that has been darkened by sin. We must become so enflamed with this fire that we become incandescent, casting away the darkness and serving as a beacon where others come to find the truth of who God is and who they are called to become. It is my belief that when Christ comes toward us, we do not cease to be ourselves. No, to the contrary, we become most who God desires for us to be.

I could no more abandon Irish music than I could deny that my greatest desire is to be a Companion of Jesus. I do not see this as a career or one job among many other pursuits. I have felt the stir of longing in my own heart that has called me in this direction and I have had that confirmed multiple times. Many other paths have presented themselves along the way, but none has called me toward itself as this path has. It is a path that has asked me for everything that I could offer and has returned more than I could have hoped for. This blog tries to reflect that abundance: the grace of the God who calls and the joys (and occasional struggles) of one who wishes to accept what has been offered.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

What was lost...

I often joke that, before I entered the Jesuits, I led the life of a rock-star accordion player. In some ways, this is hyperbolic: "rock-star accordion player" is an oxymoron! Nevertheless, in the world of Irish dancing, I had earned a solid reputation as being a good musician for Irish dancers. Consequently, many organizers of feiseanna, or Irish dancing competitions, would invite me to play at their events.

One evening, about seven years ago, I was forced to take an early-ish flight to a city in the Mid-West. I arrived at the hotel early, unpacked, but was too restive to take a nap. So I did what any reasonable extrovert would do: I headed down to the hotel bar to see if any of the other Irish dancing teachers/musicians/adjudicators had arrived. Much to my chagrin, I was the first to have arrived.

Never being one to allow being on his own to deter him, I sidled up to the bar and ordered a drink and asked for a menu. The bar itself was thoroughly unremarkable: small bowls of snack mix dotted the wood bar and an unkempt barkeep paced back and forth, looking for thirsty customers and an expansion of his tip jar. Even though it was early on Friday, I was surprised at how few people there were in the bar: certainly an ominous sign, portending a disastrous dining experience.

I ordered a burger and started to watch a hockey game that was being shown. A few seats away from me, a forlorn looking young man stared glumly into a half-filled beer. I couldn't help but notice him (he sat between me and the television) and, seldom being one to shy away from a conversation, I made a remark about the game on television. With a grudging turn of his head, the young man made eye contact with me and muttered an inaudible response. For a moment, our eyes met and I saw that this was a guy - just about my own age - who was experiencing terrible suffering.

Well, I did what any Irish musician would do: I bought him another drink. He acknowledged the gift and, slowly began to open up. What began as a trickle of information soon gave way to a deluge of information: I learned that he had run away from home ten years earlier due to an abusive environment, that he had turned to drugs and prostitution in order to make a "living" out on the street, and that he had recently been diagnosed with HIV. He was in the hotel hoping to see a family member about getting money for anti-viral medicine.

What struck me most was how he spoke of his erstwhile Christian faith. He told me that he'd been raised a devout Christian but, after he fled his home, he'd all but abandoned his faith. Indeed, he told me, "I've done things that would keep God from loving me." Being young and enthusiastic about the degree in theology I was pursuing, I tried to reason with him. It was for naught: the logic of the human heart runs far deeper than the theological skills I had acquired. And so I fell silent and listened. I listened to him tell of how he would never have a wife or kids. How he had squandered away his life. Of how he had sinned so grievously that God could not forgive him.

What was most jarring is that he shared that he often tried to imagine himself as the younger son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He said that for as many times as he had prayed with that text, he could not imagine himself being so welcomed by the Father. His sin, he felt, put him outside the realm of the Father's love and forgiveness.

As our conversation drew to a close, I had the insane notion to exchange email addresses with him. He obliged - he said that email was the only way he stayed in touch with his younger sister - and promised to write.

He left when a family member came in to see him. At about the same time, several of my colleagues arrived and my attention turned to catching up on the latest gossip in the Irish dancing world. But while my head was occupied with useless drivel, my heart was arrested by the man I had just met.

Several weeks went by and then, one morning, I found an email from him. He caught me up on the vicissitudes of his life and told me that he was staying with a family member.

Attached to the email was the following text. It was a prayer he wrote that has haunted me for years:

Dear Lord, I have wandered very far from you.
I am lost and alone. I am cold and scared.
I want to come home, but I don't know the way
and I don't think you will be there.
But if you are there, and if you will have me,
put a small light in the window.
If it is there, I will hope to find it.
I will come to the door.
I will knock.
Please open.
It's cold out here.

(Disclosure: I formatted the text to look this way. The words, however, are original to him)

This little prayer has stayed with me for many years. Recently, when teaching my sophomores about the parable of the Prodigal Son, memories of this encounter returned to me. I searched mightily for the text of the prayer, finding it saved in a file in my John Carroll University mail (I was a grad student there from 2002-2004 and they still haven't deleted my email account).

As I was retrieving the email message, I had the thought to try corresponding with him once more. It had been years since I'd last heard from him and I reckoned that he'd have changed emails by now.

Well, I cannot express how excited I was to hear back from him several weeks later. Although he had changed his email address, he checked his old one periodically. We exchanged phone numbers and chatted on the phone: his life has made remarkable strides in the intervening years. He now is working on a college degree and his HIV is being managed with medicine. He has fallen in love with a young woman and is giving serious consideration to "popping the question."

Without being asked, he brought up the issue of faith. He remembered sending me the aforementioned prayer and shared with me a piece of marvelous news: after years of praying, after years of seeking, he finally allowed himself to be caught up in the Father's embrace. The years of saying, "No! God cannot love me" served as the true obstacles to God's love, rather than God withholding love from him. In a beautiful image, he said that he was "snagged" by God only when he was too tired to run any further or fight any longer. He fell limp into the Father's arms and has been raised to new life in a renewed relationship with God.

C. S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity that Christianity begins in dismay: the dismay of knowing that we are sick and desperately need of healing. The dismay of having watched - and abandoned - the person you loved be executed and then huddling together in an upper room. I learned from this man - Chris is his name - much of the dismay that fills the hearts of so many. It is from Chris that I learned that no amount of words would dispel that dismay...only the patient silence of an ear and the abiding presence I could offer in prayer.

An ironic realization, to be sure, when you consider that I've expended many words to say that I had to shut up to hear the true story of God's work in this fellow's life.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

New Protocol

Some of you will notice that if you want to make a comment on the blog, it'll have to be approved by me before it gets published.

As one of the comments (now deleted) noted, I do have a hard time finding time to teach and play Irish music and do all sorts of other things. I simply do not have the time to babysit my blog, deleting silly posts when they appear.


November 8th: If you want your post to be published, or to be taken seriously, include your name on it. I'm not interested in dialoguing with anonymous posters.

Monday, November 02, 2009

All Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus

On November 5th, the Church remembers the the Saints and Blessed who have lived their Christian vocations as Companions of Jesus. Please join your prayers with mine as we remember all those Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus....those who have come before us and those who live among us now.

A Prayer for Vocations

in the name of Jesus,
through the power of your Spirit,
inspire men and women to labor for your kingdom.

We especially as you
through the intercession
of Mary, our Mother,
St. Ignatius, and all the saints,
to help the Society of Jesus
continue its service of your church.

May your will be done.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Time Magazine

Several weeks ago, I heard the exciting news that Time magazine would be doing a story about the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy. Time is doing a year-long examination of the city of Detroit and is trying to highlight points of hope within the city.

The link to the online version of the article (printed in this week's edition) is here. The story is entitled "Jesuit Message Drives Detroit's Last Catholic School." Written by Amy Sullivan, the piece does a nice job calling attention to the commitment of the Society of Jesus to the city of Detroit.

It should be mentioned, to be fair, that there are two other Catholic secondary schools in Detroit: Loyola High School and Cristo Rey. These schools, however, were started post-1967 (after the Race Riots that tore the city apart) and, technically speaking, U of D Jesuit is the last school remaining of the schools that once flourished in the city.

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame