Sunday, May 30, 2010

Long Silence

I realize it's been nearly two weeks since I last managed to post. As the school year has wound down, I find that the demands placed on my time and energy only increase. It's hard to believe that the school year is nearly complete: I composed my final exams yesterday and I only have three more teaching days this week. Our finals are being given Friday, Monday, and Tuesday and then....summer break.

It's been a wild ride. I cannot but be grateful that I have woken up each morning excited and I've gone to bed each night very tired. As we prepare to enter into the summer holiday, I cannot help but to feel an enormous sense of gratitude. This experience has been overwhelmingly confirming for me as I continue to grow in my vocation to be a Companion of Jesus and I am excited for what the next semester will bring.

If there's any regret that I have, it's that I've not gotten to be in Cleveland for as many 'family events' as I'd have liked. I did make it home for Easter and for Big Bob's 60th birthday. But I missed my nephew's first birthday party last week...I simply couldn't get down to Cleveland. So I'd like to share a few photographs my mom sent.

The calm before the storm.

I applaud the idea of giving the kid his own little cake to devour like a rapacious beast. This way, his fingers - which have been God only knows where - don't contaminate the cake reserved for everyone else.

If he were not so cute, I'd be offended by this brazen act of gluttony. Then again, having been a prefect for a high school cafeteria, this is pretty mild compared to the way some of the students eat. 

A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips. How many children have begun the slow march to Weight Watchers with a scene like this? Sure, it's really cute now. But when we're cutting out the door frame to hoist him out of the bed he's been in for five years, who'll be laughing? It's a slippery slope that begins with cake and ends with being featured on some BRAVO show...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

No, I eat out of a trough

Since I haven't finished my coffee yet and I still don't feel like going out for my run, I thought I'd post one further item.

Several weeks ago, I went out to dinner with friends. We went to a local pizzeria where they serve 'designer' pizzas and rather nice bottles of wine. Dressed casually, I was thoroughly enjoying my glass of Chianti, the pizza, and our conversation when I heard an exasperated, "Oh my God! Mister Duns!!"

I looked up to see one of my students towering over me. He looked wholly bewildered and said, much to his parents chagrin, "I didn't know you were allowed to eat in restaurants!"

If my students' caricature of me is correct, my first reaction was to roll my eyes and give him 'the stare.' This was immediately followed by my retort, "Are you insane? Do you think I stay at home and eat out of a trough each night? Of course I eat in restaurants!"

The parents laughed and offered an apology for their son's naivete. As they walked away, I saw the kid turn around again so I lifted my glass of wine in salute and took a long draught of Chianti with great gusto. He smiled and turned away. I went back to my meal, wholly amused.

I've Finally Arrived

One of my students, a graduating senior, has taken it upon himself to fashion some sort of keepsake in honor of our time spent together. Some students might do woodcraft. Others, perhaps, would do beadcraft. Still others might find a nice picture, frame it, and distribute it to all interested parties.

Not so this student.

Rather than these pedestrian gifts, this student has suggested that a t-shirt be produced in my honor. Here is the "galley proof" of the shirt:

For those of you who are without interpretive abilities, allow me a brief explanation to unpack the subtleties of this creation.

Duns - for the students involved, this first word is rife with meaning. It evokes images of me blasting students with a SuperSoaker. It recalls the way I roll my eyes when inane comments are made. It reminds those familiar with my style of classroom management that I am not above pouring water on a sleeping student's head, chasing a senior out into the hall after he steals my collar tab, telling stories about the squirrel army that currently threatens to overrun the school, or - and most importantly - trying to present the Catholic faith in a way that is credible and joyful.

Squad - Well, it means group. I guess it could have been called the "Duns Clan" or the "Duns Assembly" but "Squad" works well. I don't think there is any particular meaning invested in this word choice but, in our postmodern culture, I'll leave it open to interpretation.

Finally there is a symbol: the hook.

For some, this might conjure images of Peter Pan's nemesis Captain Hook. For others it is synecdoche (pars pro toto) where the hook stands for an entire pirate.

While these both may be valid, they are not correct. The hook stands for a longstanding fascination of mine with the mythic figure of the Candyman, best represented in the 1992 classic "Candyman." The inimitable Tony Todd stars in this film, convincingly playing a former slave whose forbidden love with a white woman leads the townspeople to execute him by severing his hand and then coating him with honey, inciting a swarm of bees to sting him to death. Yet death cannot vanquish the fire of love and so, when the name Candyman is called out five times in the mirror, he is summoned from the grave. Unfortunately for those foolish enough to call upon him, he kills those who disturb it would seem that there's no real way of warning others not to say Candyman five times because, if you do, you'll end up dead. It's a terribly vicious cycle.

I digress.

My students know well of my abiding love for horror films and they were pleased not only that I had seen Candyman (many of them were born in 1992. I was very much alive then) but also that I had made the lore of Candyman (and its two sequels) something of a personal hobby. Hence the hook: it stands for none other than the Candyman.

I'm sure the color scheme of white-on-black intends to recall that 95% of the time that I'm seen in public I'm wearing clerics (the other 5% is reserved for the occasional Spirit Day when I wear a polo shirt or when they see me running or out to a restaurant or a movie).

I am flattered by this and I'll be sure to get a picture of the "Duns Squad" as soon as the shirts arrive.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Three Recent Photos

The above picture is of Archbishop Vigneron's recent visit to the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy. He was a gracious guest, celebrating the Eucharist with us, speaking to the graduating seniors, touring the school, and giving an exhortation to a group of nearly fifteen students, each of whom has expressed an interest in a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. I was, as my students called me, the "Hat Boy."

Above is a photograph of Crystal Davidson, a good friend and a marvelous support of the Society of Jesus. I had just flown in from Little Rock, Arkansas and went down to Saints Peter and Paul Church for an exhibition of the artwork of Father Mark George, SJ.

The students think that I actually "walk" to work each morning. Actually, I ride my bike.

Actually, I had to remove two tricycles from the Student Senate Office yesterday and move them down to the basement of the Jesuit Residence for storage (if you look closely, you can see the dust on my shoes: the office was pretty dirty).

U of D Jesuit High School Senate Elections

Starting at 8:45 this morning (EST) you can watch live coverage of our annual Student Senate Convention and Election. The Senate Election process here at U of D Jesuit is storied both for its scope and the level of commitment it demands of its participants. If you want to see school "history of the making" click here to watch the action.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


It's been some time since I last wrote about it, but long-time readers know that I do practice Yoga as a form of exercise. After years of playing the accordion and my recent interest in running, Yoga has been a remarkable blessing in my life, helping to keep my muscles stretched and toned. Furthermore, I love the calming effect it has on me: even the most rigorous practice leaves me peaceful and still and I often have some of my best prayer experiences following a workout, since the vigorous poses and movements really do help to calm down my mind and make me receptive.

I did say often, so there must be a story.

Last night, I decided to do a short Yoga series intended to help build upper-body strength. It's a nice series that I downloaded from YOGAmazing on iTunes. Chaz is a helpful coach and his lessons are short enough to do in the evening after papers are corrected. I recommend that you try him out.


So there I am, working through several poses and feeling rather good about myself. One of the poses - I think it's called the Crane - involves transferring all of your body's weight to your hands while you elevate your legs. It's a pose that resembles something you see on a National Geographic cover that would showcase a Yogi.

So I followed Chaz's instructions very carefully. I 'built the shelf' with my knees and began the transfer of weight. As I prepared to engage the pose, Chaz mentioned that fear should not keep us from attempting this pose because, if we fell, it'd only be six inches or so before our faces hit the ground.

So I, the Yoga Master, transferred weight and elevated my legs. I thought for a moment, "What the heck was he talking about? This is easy." I even looked down and thought, "How bad could falling six inches be?"

Well, I found out.

As the latter thought flashed through my mind, I lost my balance and came tumbling to the ground. I landed directly on my face and incurred a bloody nose as a consequence. Fortunately, I do not have a bruise on my face, so I'll assume that my nose isn't broken. I couldn't help but laugh as I got into bed a bit later, thinking on how my delusions of grandeur probably stand in the way of my being really physically fit. Ah well, at least it gives me something to chuckle over.

My spirit is willing, O Lord, but my flesh is really weak.

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame