Wednesday, February 21, 2018


I seldom read blogs. Nor do I update mine any longer with regularity. That said, a post written over by Resident Theologian spurred me to post the Acknowledgment page to my own dissertation.


I suffer no illusion: there is no way to express fully my gratitude to those who have made this project possible. I hesitate to name names for fear of missing someone. But, as I look back in a sort of Examen of my education, there are certain constellations of persons who simply must be named.
            My love of theology began at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Six teachers in particular helped me to find my voice as a student and as a man: Tom Pasko, Joe Buzzelli, Kay Goebel, Jim Brennan, Jim Skerl, and Michael Pennock. As an undergraduate at Canisius College, Dan Liderbach, SJ and Ben Fiore, SJ were my go-to mentors. During my first stint of graduate studies at John Carroll University, Joan Nuth and Howard Gray, SJ were stalwart guides both of my head and my heart.
            At Fordham University, I had the great pleasure of studying with a number of brilliant minds. Brian Davies, OP introduced me to the study of Thomas Aquinas and Terry Klein gave me an appetite for Wittgenstein. Jane Dryden was a frequent coffee companion and guide in those early years of philosophy studies. Vinnie Sullivan, my rector, schooled my heart and Matt Malone...well, you gave my liver a workout (along with Dennis Baker, Jim Keane, and Drew Marquard). Later, as a student at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, I was blessed to study with wonderful Jesuit scholars and exemplars of the type of priest and scholar I desire to become: Mark Massa, Jim Keenan, Tom Stegman, Jim Gartland, Randy Sachs, Dick Clifford, Jim Bretzke, Joe Weiss, Don MacMillan, John Baldovin, Arthur Madigan, Jim Bernauer, Oliver Rafferty, Joe O’Keefe, Robert Daly, James Conn, Frank Herman, and Dan Harrington. The friendship of men I lived and studied with – John Nugent, Jayme Stayer, Paul Shelton, Cathal Doherty – has been one of the great joys in my life. Benjamin Dahlke, Bernhard Knorn, and Niall Coll: I will forever remember with great fondness our many long, cold, walks through the snowy streets of Chestnut Hill. 
            My most formative years as a Jesuit were the years I taught at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy. To the students and families I met, I say thank you for allowing me to learn how to be a teacher. My head may always be in the university but my heart will always belong to the high school. You taught me the meaning of "To give and not to count the cost." To my Jesuit brothers – Brian Lehane, Karl Kiser, Jim Boynton, and Matt Wooters – I say thank you for your friendship. I want to thank in a special way Patrick Peppard, SJ for giving me hours of entertainment and teaching me more about hyperbole than he could EVER know. To the John Carroll University Jesuit Community, especially Martin Connell, I am indebted for providing the ideal situation to write a dissertation. 
            To my friends in Irish music and dancing: you have helped to keep me grounded over these years. I love few things more than playing and praying for you as a community. It would be foolish to try to name all of the persons – living and deceased – to whom I owe so much. But I want to say thank you to Tom Hastings for teaching me how to be a musician and to Anne Hall and Liam Harney for being great friends and travel companions I could ask for. My time playing Irish music for dancers has blessed me in a special way with the grace of disappearance: the better I do my job as a musician, the more I recede and disappear, the more the dancer can emerge on the stage. I hope as a theologian and priest to duplicate this lesson, to get out of the way so that others can do what they are called to do.
            Thank you to my parents Bob and Michele and my siblings and their spouses: Colin and Charity, Torrey and Brian, and my sisters Reilley and Hagan. You endured much over these years and even though you care little about Karl Rahner or William Desmond, you were generous with listening to me. To my aunts and uncles and legions of cousins: we are at our best when we are together as a family.
            To my advisory committee: no words can express how fortunate I feel to have you as mentors and guides. Dominic Doyle and Richard Kearney are exemplars as scholars and teachers. Dominic: thank you for guiding me through Taylor’s oeuvre and teaching me how not to be a cranky Thomist. Richard: your Wake of Imagination was the book that lit the spark of my interest in philosophy and your unparalleled ability to weave narrative and philosophy together in scintillating prose serves as the model I should most like to follow.
            To my brother Jesuits: there are no words to express what it means to stand in your company. Thank you for giving me the resources to follow my passions and to use what talents I have to help build God’s Kingdom. My greatest desire is that, when I meet Jesus one day, he will be able to say, “Welcome home, Ryan. I have seen something of myself in what you have done.” Over his shoulder, I hope to glimpse Saint Ignatius nodding in approval. Adam DeLeon and Denis Weber – we’ve hung in there since 2004: thank you for being constant companions. If I have come to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ in this life it is because you have formed me to do so.
A word to my advisor and guide Brian Robinette. From the day I met you in January 2013, I knew you were the one I had to work with. Your brilliance is matched only by your humanity and generosity which are both boundless. I must thank, too, Krista for sharing her husband and Trevor and Austin for sharing their father with his students. Brian, I am so proud to call you my teacher and my mentor and it is a singular joy and privilege to call you a friend. I hope you detect your trace what follows and that the conclusion of this project serves to mark the beginning of a long and fruitful friendship and collaboration. 
            Finally, I want to acknowledge Emma, Quinn, Con, and the soon-to-be born nephew my family awaits. I have loved each one of you from the moment I knew you were to be born. Thank you for the gift you have been to our family. My greatest hope for you is that you will each open yourselves to the blessing and burden that is the life of Christian discipleship.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Calm Before the Storm

It's hard to believe it's now two months since Christmas. A lot has happened since my last post: I completed the dissertation (born on 7/15, final chapter sent off 12/15, intro and conclusion written and submitted for defense on 2/13), interviewed for teaching positions at Marquette University and Santa Clara University, and had a bit of a botched eye procedure that made it really rough to see for a few days and very difficult to read anything at all for about a week. Fear not: the eyes have healed and, at the moment, I'm just about to board a flight to New Mexico for a feis weekend. 

I feel a bit rudderless without the dissertation dictating my daily schedule. It's nice to read fiction again and I've been able to catch up on some movie watching. I'm actually really grateful things rapped up in time for Lent, as I want this to be a real season of prayer...Lord knows, I've relied on God's grace for a long time now and I want to let the Holy One know I do not take it for granted! 

Sadly, I write this with a heavy heart as our country is shaken yet again by the tragic loss of young life in Florida. I can't say I've much to add that hasn't been said. I'm sad and I'm angry. Once upon a time, I would have written something here...but I don't have it in me to add anything but a steely resolve to work against this sort of violence. 

I defend the dissertation on March 22nd. I hope, sometime before then, to know where I'll be teaching next year. Other than a lot of music to be played over the next few months and the defense/graduation, my time is very much my own for the first time in a very long time. I'll be glad to use this as an opportunity to re-ground myself spiritually and to open my heart to where I'm being sent to teach. 

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame