Monday, September 30, 2013


I am excited for tomorrow evening: it will be my first night helping to facilitate the RCIA (Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults) at Saint Cecilia Parish. I have been an RCIA sponsor in the past but this will be the first time I have the privilege of walking with a large group of interested adults as they explore and deepen their nascent Catholic faith. 

Next Sunday's Gospel Reading expresses well what animates this entire journey: Lord, "Increase our faith." The men and women who will gather tomorrow night feel this very request burning in their hearts. Something, someone, has touched their hearts and offered them an invitation to deepen their faith. Somehow they have found within themselves to say, "Yes!" and will begin this journey as a group tomorrow. 

While I can't say that I've spent many sleepless nights planning how the next few months might unfold, I will admit that there have been a few. Should I ask them to read something? Should I find a textbook? The old high-school teacher of me loves having materials, guides, and homework. Yet my heart tells me this might not be the way to go. 

Jesus didn't hand curriculum guides and handouts to his followers. 

He called them to follow. 
He taught them to pray. 
He showed them how to live and to love. 
He showed the consequence of love in a sinful world: the Cross. 

I guess my plan, if there is a plan, is little more than this: to begin with each one of the adults on her or his journey, to invite the story of (1) Who is God? and (2) How have you come to know God? I feel precious little pressure to fill them with content, with giving them answers that they can regurgitate at will. That will come, of course, and it must: there is a content of faith. 

Nevertheless, I cannot escape the conviction that if this is to be a meaningful experience for these pilgrims, they deserve to begin where the first disciples began: by reflecting on their feeling of being called. Jesus never compelled or imposed; he invited and proposed. His freedom to call spoke to the freedom of those called to respond. The path that their "Yes" set them upon guided their feet and has shaped the course of history for 2,000 years. 

Please pray for our Catechumens both at St. Cecilia and throughout the worldwide Church. While it is hardly ever easy or without tension to be a Catholic, I cannot help but to think that this is an exciting time to reacquaint ourselves with our shared faith. Pray that each of these women and men may come to know the Lord more deeply...and, as your pray for them, know that I'm praying that your prayer reaps the same reward. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Times Go By Turns

Drawn from a line in a poem written by St. Robert Southwell, SJ, Times go by Turns is an absolutely beautiful album recorded recently by New York Polyphony. If you wish to get a sample of the music:

Rather than giving a critique or a music review - which, as little more than a feis musician, I'm not really qualified to do! - let me say something of why I love this album. Perhaps it is too easy, or cowardly, to give a rational critique of a piece of music, feeling the need to justify oneself by using big words or concepts in order to show your audience that you know what you're talking about.

I don't know if I know what I'm talking about, but that's never stopped me from speaking before. I might lack the finesse of a classically trained critic, but I can at least tell you of why something has moved my heart.

The music of the New York Polyphony, for me, undoes a great deal of the damage canned pop music has wrecked upon my ears. Pop music tends to pander to common tastes: simple refrains, catchy phrases, short and simple melodies. A good pop song is one you can sing with in the car.

This album is the opposite: you're not going to sing along. Nor should you. This album gives you a Mass setting wherein you might come to find a sense of inner silence. As voices fade in and out, the listener is carried deeper and deeper into a richly woven musical tapestry. The point of this music is not to give you the claim of mastery of the melody but, in a way that is counter-intuitive to modern listening audience, it aims to allow your ears and heart to be conquered. This is music that must be listened to, stewed in, and absorbed. This album is therapy for the soul, releasing it from the commonplace and allowing to touch the sublime, the transcendent.

I get it: self-help books are all the rage. We all want a book, or guide, or program to tell us how to improve some aspect of our lives. Perhaps we have got it all wrong: rather than trying to empower ourselves by mastering texts with our eyes, it may be that what we need is to allow our hearts to be mastered through our ears listening to music.

If you are a lover of classical music and appreciate vocal ensembles, this is an album you will appreciate. If you are a person who struggles with prayer, a person who finds his or her mind so active so much of the time that it's hard to find the space for contemplation, this is the album for you. For this album will draw you into itself and, as the melody washes over you, you'll find yourself addressed from without. Instead of trying to "self-improve," you'll find yourself drawn into a silent space where you'll be able to listen - perhaps for the first time - for the wholly and holy other who is able to offer the healing you so fervently desire.

Albums such as this give me such joy. As I surrender to the melody and lose myself in the voices, I find myself more able to listen not only to the music but also to the inner stillness at the very center of my being. Purchased on iTunes for $9.99, this could easily be the type of listening one could do en route to work in the morning (it'd make a hell of a meditation period during traffic) or for a quiet evening of solo or communal prayer with a loved one.

I, for one, found this enjoyable with a glass of Four Vines Sophisticate  while relaxing after dinner. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Missa Charles Darwin

A digital acquaintance, Maura, shared with me two recent recordings by New York Polyphony: "Times Go By Turns" and "Missa Charles Darwin." This entry will deal with the latter, shorter, recording.

Written for a male vocal quartet by composer Gregory W. Brown, the composition unfolds along the traditional five-part structure of the Mass. The innovation of this composition comes both from its lyrics and its melodic composition.

The text of each piece is taken from Charles Darwin's works, such as On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man. To some, this will appear a heretical admixture: surely the songs used to praise God are incompatible with Darwin's words! To those who do not have any great difficulty reconciling religious faith with an acceptance of evolution, the result is stunning: the ancient hymns of praise are infused with words describing the primordial process of evolution.

Ingeniously, and in a way that is boggling to my mind, the very genetic structure of the work reflects the work of evolution. The composer used the genetic sequence of Playspiza crassirostis (one of Darwin's finches" and translated this sequence into notes.

What we have, as a consequence, is the sung liturgy of evolution. To use biological language, the phenotype (or appearance) of the liturgy expresses the genotype (structure and history) of evolution. In an act of arresting aesthetic beauty, the song of creation itself is performed in a setting normally reserved for a Eucharist celebration. Perhaps this is most fitting, after all, for should we not celebrate the wonders and glories of creation?

I am reminded of Saint Augustine's Confessions. Augustine, restlessly longing to find his heart's desire, writes:
And what is the object of my love? I asked the earth and it said: 'It is not I.' I asked all that is in it; they made the same confession. I asked the sea, the deeps, the living creatures that creep, and they responded: 'We are not your God, look beyond us.' I asked the breezes which blow and the entire air with its inhabitants said: 'Anaximenes was mistaken; I am not God.' I asked heaven, sun, moon and stars; they said: 'Nor are we the God whom you seek.' And I said to all these things in my external environment: 'Tell me of my God who you are not, tell me something about him!' And with a great voice they cried out: 'He made us.' My question was the attention I gave to them, and their response was their beauty. (X,vi,9)
 While it is not the artists' intent to "reconcile or aggravate the difference between evolutionists and creationists," I cannot help but to think such a rift may be healed through works of rapprochement such as this composition. "Beauty," Dostoevsky wrote in The Idiot, "will save the world." In a culture where acrimonious debates over the compatibility of faith and science are common, it may fall to works of beauty such as this to bring together two apparently contradictory voices in a hymn of wounding beauty and meditative awe.

If you're a lover of classical music, I strongly urge you to purchase this either for pure listening pleasure or for a challenging and moving experience of meditating on the song of creation itself. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Encircled Ever More Tightly

But technological advance will move faster and faster and can never be stopped. In all areas of his existence, man will be encircled ever more tightly by the forces of technology. These forces, which everywhere and every minute claim, enchain, drag along, press and impose upon man under the forms of some technical contrivance or other - these forces, since man has not made them, have moved long since beyond his will and have outgrown his capacity for decision. 
Give the Pope-crush so many of us have had in recent weeks, it may surprise you to know that the above quote does not come from the Holy Father. Nor does it come from Karl Rahner, another go-to staple on this blog. Instead, it comes from a somewhat unlikely source: the philosopher Martin Heidegger and his 1955 "Memorial Address."

Imagine his context, writing in the 1950's, and reflect for a moment on how fresh his words are:
...nowadays we take in everything in the quickest and cheapest way, only to forget it just as quickly, instantly. 
Heidegger did not consider growth in technology an evil, something to be avoided, but he did worry over, "our being unprepared for this transformation, our inability to confront meditatively what is really dawning in this age."

What he saw then was an excessive, if not obsessive, focus on "calculative thinking." That may sound intimidating, but click through the web and note articles such as "Don't Bother Earning These Five Degrees." The criteria of a good degree, for the author, rests apparently in how much your degree will be worth to a future employer. It makes no difference if you love poetry, can draw connections between current events and major occurrences in history, or appreciate art, music, literature, or philosophy. The logic seems to be: one earns a degree, not in order to develop passion and find a sense of internal freedom to dedicate one's life to a goal, but rather to earn a degree so one can plug oneself into the corporate machine.

As a counter to this "calculative thinking," Heidegger suggests cultivating an attitude of indifference toward technology (my take on Gelassenheit). In a rather Ignatian key, Heidegger writes, "we let technical divides enter our daily life, and at the same time leave them outside, that is, let them alone, as things which are nothing absolute but remain dependent upon something higher...".

Today, we call this form of indifference toward technology "unplugging." It can be disorienting to go out for an evening without a cell phone or to give up Facebook or Twitter for evenings at a time. By unplugging, by taking a stance of indifference to technology that uses it so far as it helps us and avoids it to the extent it hinders our flourishing, we can gain a better sense of perspective on our increasingly tech-saturated culture.

Heidegger's warning sends a chill (Thanks Howes - don't want a violation on that one) down my spine. He asserts:
...the approaching tide of technological revolution in the atomic age could so captivate, bewitch, dazzle, and beguile man that calculative thinking may someday come to be accepted and practiced as the only way of thinking. 
The counter-measure to this trajectory, he continues, is to become once again mindful of our own special nature: we are meditative beings. We meditate on the sense of mystery surrounding us as we calm and quiet ourselves, as we unplug from our workaday world, and let ourselves ponder the meaning of our lives. The meaning of our lives is hardly a calculation or formula. Instead, it is a hard-to-isolate mystery pervading the world in which we dwell.

If "calculative thinking" desires to reduce our world to a series of mathematical or chemical equations, "meditative thinking" resists this as it reacquaints us with the mystery at the heart of being. As a spiritual practice, we don't pray or meditate in order to escape reality. Instead, we pray or meditate in order to allow reality to appear in all of its glorious mystery.

We, all of us, face the temptation to focus exclusively on "calculative thinking." Whether it be in a few moments watching the sunrise while enjoying a cup of coffee, navigating traffic with the radio turned off, slipping into  a chapel or shutting off the office lights for ten minutes, or examining one's day just before bed: such meditative mindfulness counteracts the temptation to reduce our world to mathematical formulas and reintroduces us to the mystery present at the heart of reality.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Big Heart Open to God

In a candid and wide-ranging interview given at the end of August, Pope Francis met with fellow Jesuit and journalist Antonio Spadaro, SJ.

America Magazine, the Jesuit publication, has printed the full interview in translation. You may find it by going here: A Big Heart Open to God

The interview is also available as an e-book by following this link

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How Can I Give a Hand?

Every day, here and in other centers, so many persons, mostly young people, queue for a hot meal. These people remind us of the suffering and tragedies of humanity. But that queue also tells us that it is possible for all of us to do something now. Suffice it to knock on the door, and try to say: “I’m here. How can I give a hand?
~Pope Francis

Many thanks to Rocco Palmo for posting the transcript from the Pope's address to asylum seekers. The above quote, the conclusion of the Holy Father's comments, elicit just a few comments from me this morning. 

I know a woman, professionally very successful and well-established in her career, who this semester enrolled in law school. She continues to be active in her community, generous to her friends, and has not left her previous - and highly demanding - job. Yet, as she looks to the future, her own life's history of love and generosity gave her the courage to imagine how she might use her considerable talents to help others. She enrolled in law school, not out of blind ambition or with an eye toward climbing a ladder of success, but with the hope that she'd be able eventually to offer her services in legal aide clinics. At a time when others might be dreaming of perfecting one's golf game or augmenting the wine cellar, she dares to ask how she might be called anew to serve others. Even though it's intimidating to begin law school right out of college, let alone after having been a successful professional, she feels within her heart the desire to risk knocking, to risk announcing, "I'm here. How can I give a hand?

I think back to September 11, 2001, and the memories of heroic first-responders are seared into my memory. Such images are similar to those recalled in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. In a flood of confusion and tragedy, there were many women and men who "knocked" that day with their very lives, offering their whole selves to give a hand in an hour of need. Rather than running from the chaos and terror, they found the courage to run into it. They gave, not according to any calculation, but out of their utter generosity to their brothers and sisters in the human family. 

It cannot be denied that our society faces many problems and challenges. We are seduced into surrender, into throwing our hands up and saying, "I'm but one person! What can I do?" 

We hear from Pope Francis, perhaps, the best response to this question. Instead of asking, "What can I do?" and then returning to business-as-usual ask, instead, "How can I give a hand?" No, you cannot alone solve the world's problems. No, you alone cannot change the course and flow of history. No, you cannot place yourself at the center of the world and become the architect of a new regime. That may sound like heaven to you, but it's hell for the rest of us!

Instead, offer your hand. I shall offer my hand. Alone, one person's hands may not be able to accomplish much. Together, however, we can offer our hands in the service of the poor, the needy, and forgotten. If we offer our hands only for the occasional handshake or the 45-seconds needed to say the Lord's Prayer in church on Sunday, then we certainly do not do enough! But if we allow our hands to be guided by the hands of the Pierced One, the Risen One; if we allow ourselves to be molded by the hands of the One who cried, "Into your hands I commend my spirit!"; if we offer our hands to the Lord and ask that he guide us, just as one would guide the hands of a child learning to write, imagine the story we could write in history. 

It will start with a hand. I'll lend a hand. But where the hand goes, the arm follows. Then the shoulder. Then the whole person. And finally the heart. 

If you have the courage to dare asking, "How can I give a hand?" you risk more than a cost of a few volunteer hours. You risk your very heart which, touched by the needs of the world around you, will never be the same after having surrendered itself in the loving service of those in need. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Personal Experience of God?

Because God is greater than everything, God can be found if one flees away from the world, but God can come to meet one on the streets in the midst of the world. For this reason Ignatius acknowledges only one law in his restless search for God: to seek him in all things; and this means: to seek him in that spot where at any particular time he wants to be found, and it means, too, to seek him in the world if he wants to show himself in it...                                                                                                                         ~Karl Rahner, SJ

 For Saint Ignatius, and one of his spiritual sons Karl Rahner, a deep and personal encounter was never the reserve of the spiritual elite. One need not enter a convent, or a hermitage, or a seminary in order to find God. Instead, one need only open one's eyes to the world and still one's heart long enough to allow the God of all creation to speak if, and when, God should choose to do so. God, as Rahner notes, can be sought and found, "in all things."

Writing on the Christians of the future, Rahner once quipped, "the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not be a Christian at all." Rahner grasped well that one's faith is hardly a matter of being indoctrinated - brainwashed? - into a system. Faith comes from a movement of the heart, from "the experience of God, of his Spirit, his freedom, bursting out of the innermost center of human existence where it is wholly real." This encounter with the Holy One, the Spirit of the Risen Christ, can occur anywhere, at any time.

Yet, many assert, "I have never had such an experience!" No, it's probably true that you haven't had an experience of God that comes under the sign "God." Would that happen more often. Instead, allow me to suggest several places where one might have encountered the Spirit of the Living God:

  • A young father, patiently holding a colicky baby, allowing his wife some much needed rest even though he himself must be at work early in the morning. His heart isn't moved by selfish concern for his own fatigue but, rather, out of love for the child.
  • An old woman caring for her husband of many years as he slips into the twilight of Alzheimer's. 
  • A career-minded young adult who, in the depths of traffic, turns off the car radio and sits in silence.
  • In the countless hours of prayer seemingly 'wasted' yet drawing you deeper in the Mystery of a God who loves you. 
  • Being moved within one's heart to perform a random act of kindness even when you know you'll never be thanked: leaving groceries at a needy family's door, paying in advance the toll for another driver, offering to sit vigil with a sick person who may or may not know you're there. 
  • When you feel that, somehow, you're being called to great generosity with your life, overcome with a desire to pour yourself out for the betterment of others. 
  • When one can accept oneself as a poor sinner, as one who has failed numerous times and in incalculable ways, yet finds the strength and grace to rise again because, deep within, there is a sense that one is being called to continue one's journey. 
  • In a moment of darkness and despondency when, through the clouds obscuring one's life, a small ray of light pierces the darkness and shows one the path. 
  • Each time you move outside yourself in a spirit of love and compassion, giving even if it means risking rejection. 
  • Sharing the burden of another or allowing another to walk beside you in your hour of need. 
I believe Rahner correct: we can no longer take cultural Christianity for granted. No longer can one "go through the motions" and wear the dress of a Christian on odd occasions. One must make an embodied decision to be a disciple and to witness, in word and deed, to the Gospel. 

When Thomas encounters Jesus in John's Gospel, as you'll remember, Jesus appears with the marks of his crucifixion. The Resurrection doesn't erase Jesus' past, the violence inflicted upon his body...instead, the Resurrection redeems his past....and ours. In the quiet of our hearts, each of us is called daily to put our hands into the pierced side of Christ and to confess, anew, "My Lord and my God."

Each of us is called to bear upon her or his own flesh the marks of discipleship. These marks will typically not be inflicted by scourges and nails. They come in various shapes and sizes: calloused hands made rough over the course of years of thankless labor; weakened vision due to hours spent before a computer screen; gunshot wounds inflicted despite one's attempts to leave a violent past; arthritic hands crippled from repetition on an assembly line. Hands and feet, eyes and ears, bodies and souls ground down in the day-to-day offering of self for the service of the beloved. 

Each one of us is called, daily, to record with our bodies and lives our friendship with the living God. This friendship has a privileged place - a daily or weekly gathering - when we celebrate the Eucharist. But if the special time we set aside each week to be with the Lord in the Eucharist and one another is to be meaningful and life-changing, it will be so only to the extent that we have opened our hearts and eyes the other 167 hours of the week to God's presence to us. As Saint Peter Claver, the slave of the slaves, said so well: Seek God in all things and you shall find God by your side. 


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Jesuit Yogi

I was excited to have a chance to listen to my friend and brother Jesuit Bobby Karle, SJ, on a podcast entitled "The Jesuit Yogi."

In the past, I have written on the topic of the compatibility between the practice of Catholicism and the practice of yoga. It has now been several years since I wrote explicitly on this topic and it may be worth revisiting in the future.

I'll admit: the podcast starts out a bit rocky - the interviewer clearly doesn't know very much at the outset of the Society of Jesus, or Catholic religious life, but Bobby does a very nice job of responding to his questions in an accessible way. Bobby spent last summer doing a 200-hour yogi training program in San Francisco and discusses how he envisions incorporating this practice into his apostolic ministry.

There can be, in certain segments of the Catholic community, either a great suspicion of or outright hostility to the practice of yoga. This podcast may be helpful in listening to one person's thoughts on appropriating this practice into his own life of Christian discipleship.

While surely not intending to be offensive, I do bristle at the interviewer's line of "recovering Catholics." Some of his sentiments are pretty vapid and shallow, but they're reflective of a larger mood within the world. This is salvaged, at least, by Bobby's expression of desire at building bridges between the yoga studios bursting with young adults and the pews often empty of the same demographic. At minute 25:00, we hear this the planks of this bridge being put down as the interviewer shares from his experiences and those of his mother and says that his mother would be helped by a (one day) priest like Bobby.

Bobby and I worked together during the 2009-2012 school year, the year before he entered the Jesuit novitiate. I'm proud of the work that he has done and impressed with the way he, quite literally, embodies prayer. Bobby's concluding reflection about how, in the Eucharist, we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus can flow into the way we share ourselves with one another through the practice of yoga is a wonderful insight into the relationship between Christianity and yoga.

Inquire Within Podcast: The Jesuit Yogi

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Air Rage

I didn't want my 1100th post to be something negative, so I refrained from writing about one of my flight's this weekend until after I'd crossed the 1100-threshold.

That having been completed, I feel freed to talk about the most negative travel experience I have ever had. Indeed, I'm still so put off that I don't feel the least bit of guilt in giving pretty specific details of the encounter.

On Friday, I took two United Airlines flights to get to Kansas City, Missouri, where I had been invited to play at the 2013 Kansas City Feis. I booked with my normally reliable carrier, United, with whom I have flown 18 times already this year.

Of course, I carry my accordion with me. It's a small accordion whose dimensions fit exactly under the B-seats of the Embraer jets used by Continental for short trips. On larger planes, it fits easily into the overhead bins. Its width meets the requirement and, I dare say, it's no higher than your average bookbag.

All this is to say: Karl, the accordion, does fit underneath the seat. Some might say, "Yes, but the case extends up over the metal bar." True, but so would most bookbags. It looks larger than it is. Having flown many times over the years with my accordion I'm experienced at getting it onto the flight with a minimum of commotion or disruption.

The two photographs below, I believe, corroborate this assertion. Please forgive my hairy legs - I didn't want to block the aisle in taking the picture, so I did it sitting down.

Not only can I put my feet on top of the accordion (it's a soft case) but I can also put them under the case. The sliver bar on the left shows the end of the seat. Had I obtained permission from other passengers, I'd have taken photos of others' bags underneath their seats extended as far as, if not a bit farther, under the seat.

As I tried to board United Flight #5786 from Cleveland to Kansas City, Maria, the flight attendant, told me I had to check my accordion at the gate. There's no way I'd let a $4000 instrument out of my hands, and I told her that it actually fit under the seat of the Embraer. Rather than taking a "let's see" approach, she threw her hands up at me and said, "Sir, I am not dealing with you about this." 

Puzzled, I went back to my seat and put the accordion underneath. A few moments later, she appeared at my side and told me that it didn't fit the FAA regulations for being under the seat. Not wanting to start a fight, I said, "Ma'm, would it help if I took the accordion out of the case?" She threw her hands up and said angrily, "Sir, I am not negotiating with you." 

So I took the accordion out and folded up the soft case and put it behind my back like a back pad. I sit on the case at some events when they don't have padded chairs. 

Again, she came back and was clearly not content with the accordion at my feet. She looked at me and snapped, "Where's the case?" I pointed to my back and this clearly displeased her. "OH NO! That is a violation of FAA regulations and has to be checked." I asked, probably stupidly, if it were a coat or jacket if I'd have to check it. She made me give her the bag and rather than put it in the almost empty overhead, she gate-checked it. 

Might I mention that there was no one seated in my row? I had two seats all to myself. 

The passengers surrounding me seemed sympathetic: one of them turned and said, "she has it out for you today." 

At the end of the flight, I tried some type of rapprochement. I waited for the other passengers to deplane and then I walked up toward her and tried to smile. I started by saying, "Sorry for the confusion. I'm going to get a letter..." but before I could say, "that attests that this fits on the plane," she put her hands up and kept repeating, "Sir, I'm sorry sir, but I'm following FAA regulations. Sir, I'm sorry sir. Sir, I am not discussing this with you."
At this point, I became really angry and did say, "You know what, it's useless to talk to you." She just increased her own volume and and kept repeating herself. Then, losing my cool, I did say, "You're useless." I regretted it immediately but, at this point, there was nothing I could do. I skulked into the jetway where I had to wait for my bag, which she had checked, to be brought up. Naturally, it was the last one up. 


I've watched passengers scream and yell at attendants. I never once raised my voice and, until the very end of our interaction, I held my composure even though I was confident that I wasn't being unreasonable. It's an accordion, not a flute. As the pictures show, however, I believe it's pretty obvious that the accordion fits. 

Riffing on Johnny Cochran's famous defense of OJ: If the accordion fits, let him sit!

I'm not going to say that I'll never fly United again because it is my favorite airline. Over the last ten years, I have had nothing but positive experiences with them. That's why this particular event is so distressing: the rudeness of this employee and her obnoxious response was really out of place. 

It's hard enough being a Catholic seminarian with a receding hairline and an accordion on one's back. Being antagonized, threatened, and mocked in front of other passengers is hardly something I feel like dealing with. 

Monday, September 02, 2013

Happy Anniversary

It just so happens that yesterday marked the 9th birthday of this blog. Begun by Anne Hall, an Irish dancing teacher and a dear friend, the blog was to meant to be a way for me to stay in contact with people after entering the Society of Jesus as a novice.

Today, one day after it's 9th birthday, this also marks the 1100 post on the blog. 1100 times have I sat down over the years to share some thought, tried to give some glimpse, into one ongoing "Jesuit's Journey." There has never been a specific agenda to this blog and, scrolling through the archives, there's a readily discernible shift in 'tone' and style over the years.

This is as it should be. I entered the Society at the age of 24, having had success as a graduate student and as an Irish musician. I felt then, and still feel today, a great sense of freedom in choosing to answer a call that stirred deep within my heart. The "Yes" I said when I contacted the vocation director in late 2003 has been repeated many times since.

In a culture of readily measured progress - regimented workout programs like P90X, rungs on a corporate ladder, material benchmarks of success - religious life appears confounding. It is counter-intuitive to fold up one's own map and accept the bits and pieces that are given in due course. The grace of my life has been that it has been allowed to be an adventure, a story unfolding in a way I cannot control, a story whose ending is still unknown, a story with many chapters yet to be written.

In a perverse way, I'm grateful that my religious formation has taken place in a decade when public esteem of the Catholic Church has been, at points, pretty low. I have never been able to take for granted that clergy would be held in high esteem or thought well of. Indeed, it's sometimes quite the opposite! Rather than fitting into some pre-conceived mould, I've been given the opportunity to help to re-define what a religious, or a Jesuit, looks like in a new era. I'm a sinful man and I do this imperfectly. Yet, if through my own imperfections and flaws some glimpse a heart on fire for the Gospel of the Risen One and the Church, then I have accomplished something.

So here's a toast to nine years and 1100 posts. Tomorrow I begin Year II of theology studies and take another step toward ordination as a Catholic priest.

If I could have ever penned an original prayer, one single prayer to capture my life as a Jesuit, it would been the prayer that concludes this post. By lore it comes from an old Wisconsin Province Jesuit whose name I do not remember. Regardless of its origin, it is the prayer of my morning and night, how I arise each day and fall asleep. That for nine years I have been able to pray such, in good times and bad, is the deepest record of grace I can imagine:

For that has been, 
I say Thank you.
For all that will be,
I say Yes. 

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame