Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

26 December 2006

Reporting from Y-town

I'm back home in the Greater Youngstown Metro Area. Despite its numerous problems and deficiencies I have a special place in my heart for the Youngstown area.

Being back home has been great. The Star Trek tree is up and glorious, more about this soon.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were primarily spent here at home with family except for Sunday Mass and Midnight Mass. My mother sings in two choirs, the St. Charles Contemporary Ensemble and the Choir of the Shrine of Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted. We went to St. Charles for Sunday Mass and midnight Mass at the Shrine to hear Mom sing. The director of the Shrine, Fr. Vit, was a professional cellist in the Czech Republic and Canada before joining the Franciscans. In addition to the choir, Fr. Vit played for us before Mass which is always a treat, he's really an excellent cellist and I'm a tough critic of such things.

Today we visited my grandmother and great aunt at their various nursing homes. This evening some family friends stopped by and we ended up having an inpromptu party, which are the best kind. It was an evening of many good stories.

21 December 2006

Quick Post

The past week has been event filled. Last weekend was the Loyola House Christmas Party, which was a big success and Joe's visit which was also excellent. I hope Joe enjoyed Loyola House as much as we enjoyed having him. Cyril's friends who were visiting last weekend proved delightful as well. I do enjoy having visitors at the house.

The past three days I've been on retreat at Manresa Jesuit Retreat House. It was a wonderful, peaceful time in preparation for Christmas. There is something indescribable about the profound silence of a retreat.

Tuesday night the Richard's, my brother novice, father died. Tomorrow the community departs for Chicago to attend the wake and funeral.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And may perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.

Saturday after the funeral, I'll head home to Y-town for Christmas. The directions say it's a 6.75 hour trip but with Christmas traffic I'll be happy with anything less than 7.5.

14 December 2006

Last Day of Hospital Experiment

Today was our last day of Hospital Experiment. The past few months working at Alexander Mercy Living Center and the Columbiere Center have been a real blessing. There is much to be learned at these places both from the staff and the residents. The staff are an example of dedication and love for those in their charge. The residents show grace and perseverance in the final days of their lives. It is remarkable how much can be learned from those residents that can no longer speak.

The two ladies in the picture are Sister Bonnie, O.P. who is the Director of Spiritual Care at Alexander Mercy and was in charge of our activities there. She helped teach us the spirituality of dying and pastoral care. The one on the left is Tara who ran activities for the residents, we had the opportunity to work with her on many occasions including some intense games of Bingo.

Tomorrow Cyril, Richard, Christopher and I will be preforming Christmas Carols at Sts. Peter and Paul Church near the Renaissance Center for the clients of the warming center. Ideally this will be an interactive performance and we'll just be leading the singing. I'm skeptical how interactive it will be though.

Saturday is the great Loyola House Christmas Party, there is much cooking to be done.

AMDG

12 December 2006

Guadalupe

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas. This feast is of particular importance to Mexico and those of Mexican descent.

Our Lady of Guadalupe represents a bridge between Europeans bringing Christianity and the native peoples of Mexico. She is a reminder that the message of Christ is for every nation but must be preached with great sensitivity to the customs and history of each place, recognizing that God is already somehow present in each culture and people.

In other news, my Mom and Aunt Reda visited this past weekend. We explored some parts of the greater Detroit Metro Area I had yet to visit. A good time was had by all or at least by me.

06 December 2006

Feast of St. Nicholas

Happy feast of St. Nicholas. In many countries and Jesuit novitiates, good little boys and girls leave their shoes by the door and during the night St. Nick comes and fills them with candy. Apparently St. Nick loves happy children and hates happy teeth.

St. Nicholas was the fourth century bishop of Myra in modern day Turkey. He died on this date in 345 or 352. Little else is known about St. Nick though there are many legends. He became wildly popular during the Medieval periods in both the Greek and Latin Churches.

This icon of St. Nicholas probably captures the real man better than Santa. The icon itself is housed at the Hermitage Museum, at the Winter Palace, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

St. Nicholas, Pray for Us.

AMDG

03 December 2006

Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The house chapel has been decorated in Advent purple, thanks in large part to the efforts of Br. John who cut and sewed our new banners. In keeping with the liturgical season my blog has also entered Advent mode.

This weekend Loyola House hosted six candidates for the Society. I was very impressed with them. It was great hosting the candidates, and I hope to see them all at entrance day in August.


Vox clara ecce intonat,
obscura quaeque increpat:
procul fugentur somnia;
ab aethere Christus promicat.

-Sixth Century Advent Hymn

A Thrilling voice by Jordan rings,
rebuking guilt and darksome things:
vain dreams of sin and visions fly;
Christ in His might shines forth on high.

01 December 2006

World Aids Day

Today is the Feast of St. Edmund Campion SJ, one of my favorite saints. Evelyn Waugh wrote an excellent biography of him entitled Edmund Campion which I recommend to all.

Today is also World AIDS Day. The Chicago province of the Society of Jesus is assisting with a high school for Aids Orphans in Kenya: St. Aloysius Gonzaga High School. Check out the website.

30 November 2006

Ut unum sint

I want to see more of this.


God bless Pope Benedict

God bless Patriarch Bartholomew

Long may they reign!

29 November 2006

To breath


The late Pope John Paul the Great spoke of the importance of dialogue with the Orthodox Church so that the Church might once again breath with both lungs after so many years of separation.

Pope Benedict and Patriarch Bartholomew are taking another step in the direction of full communion. The Holy Father is visiting the Patriarch in Istanbul for the Feast of St. Andrew in a show of goodwill and friendship. Let us pray through the intercession of Sts. Andrew and Peter that the Church might be one again soon.

The Patriarch set up a website with excellent coverage of the event for those who are interested.

AMDG

Under Construction

I'm tweaking the format a little. Some links have disappeared as a result, don't worry they'll be back and lots more besides.

26 November 2006

Christ the King


Happy Solemnity of Christ the King which marks the last Sunday in ordinary time. Advent begins next week. The kingship of Christ is an unusual thing. While on Earth, Jesus acted unlike any king the world has ever seen, he was a selfless servant who cast of riches and power. Leaders in any field should take a lesson from this. Positions of power are for service, not self-aggrandizement. While this might be cliche, it nonetheless bears repeating because it is so seldom followed.

Thanksgiving weekend was a huge success here at Loyola House. Things started off a little rough with the Detroit Province defeating the Chicago Province in this year's Turkey Bowl. It was a hard fought battle but hopeless in the end. The only thing to do now is prepare for next year and pray more football players join the Chicago Province.

Thanksgiving dinner was a huge success thanks to the efforts of Richard. We still have leftovers to last until next Thanksgiving it seems. Everything turned out wonderfully, it was a great celebration.

After Thanksgiving we first year novices are allowed to have non-Jesuit guests. Prior to Thanksgiving only members of our "Ignatian Family" are permitted to stop by to allow for some community building. Having experience this community building, I see the wisdom of the policy. The house was full of friends and family of the novices. My own family had prior commitments but I'll be seeing some of them in two weeks. Thankfully, three friends from college, Dan, Erin, and Katie, were in town. We had a great evening out on Friday in the greater Birmingham area. After dinner out, we proceeded to the bowling ally. This is my second time bowling in two weeks, a new personal record. I was soundly defeated, bowling really isn't my game. About mid-way through our game, cosmic bowling broke out in all its ultraviolet, high decibel glory. I continued to bowl badly, but now I had something to distract me from my ineptitude. After bowling Katie and I headed back to Loyola House where she took on some of Loyola House's resident pool sharks. We ended up having a nice little party in the rec. room. All in all an excellent evening.

Saturday had two highlights. First, Albert cooked an amazing Mexican feast. It was truly extraordinary. The feast was one of those meals when you get despondent about getting full. Second, USC versus Notre Dame which was entertaining though lopsided. Meghan will hate me for saying this, but Notre Dame was overrated this year. I'm looking forward to a USC-Ohio State BCS Championship. Mostly because USC will probably be easier to beat than Michigan. We shall see.

Iesu, Rex admirabilis
et triumphator nobilis,
dulcedo ineffabilis,
totus desiderabilis.

-St. Bernard of Clairvaux

22 November 2006

Thanksgiving Eve

Today we observed the birthday of Loyola House's youngest member, Hung, who turned 19 on Monday. We celebrate birthdays on our community night which is Wednesday. Happy Birthday Hung.

Thanksgiving preparations are in full swing around here, the kitchen has been filled with activity the last few days and tomorrow promises to be crazy. I've been given the relatively light duty of green beans and carrots. Richard however has been in the kitchen for days it seems making pies, his reward will be great in the kingdom.

Tomorrow is also the novitiate's annual Detroit province versus Chicago province football game. I make no representations as to the outcome of said game.

This Thanksgiving, I find myself with much to be thankful for. I am thankful for my health and all the necessities of life which so many lack. As a recent graduate, I am thankful for my four years at Catholic University for the wonderful education I received inside and outside of the classroom, for many good professors and great friends. I am thankful for my friends at home and for the community of St. Charles. I am thankful for my family who have always been and will always be there for me, particularly my parents and brother Jonathan. I am thankful for the Society of Jesus, for the opportunity to walk with many great men serving the Lord and His People. I have much to be thankful for and so I give thanks to the Giver of all good things. AMDG

19 November 2006

Jubilate Deo Omnis Terra

Today was a wonderful Sunday. With the exception of the Browns loosing, I couldn't have planned it better. I'm pretty well used to the Browns loosing by now so it wasn't too great a shock.

I went to Mass at St. Hugo of the Hills this morning in Bloomfield Hills, typically we don't have Mass at the house on Sundays. I enjoy the opportunity to visit various parishes. St. Hugo's is perhaps the most affluent parish I have visited. Today the children's choir sang. Most parish children's choirs are cute but off key. This choir managed to be both cute and on key. They were even on beat. The rest of the Mass was also very nice. The Church itself is a lovely structure.

Later in the afternoon, a bunch of us headed to St. Joan of Arc parish in St. Clair Shores for a choir concert. The Detroit Concert Choir performed a program a mostly sacred selections taken from a variety of genres-- everything from Spirituals to Chant. They sang an arrangement of "O Sacrum Convivium" which was particularly good. It was a modern interpretation of the medieval chant that was innovative while respecting tradition. I was extremely impressed with the choir. They were almost perfectly in tune and in rhythm. The selections were thoughtful and well prepared as were their interpretations. Kudos.

After the concert we stopped at a nearby Lebanese restaurant. My affection for good hummus knowns no bounds. Thankfully this restaurant met and exceeded expectations. The Shish Tawook was also very good, though I fear I may have misspelled it.

Finally, today marks my third month in this Least Society. AMDG

18 November 2006

God Save the Queen

Today was yet another red letter day or better yet a scarlet and gray letter day as the Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Michigan Wolverines in a hard fought game. Most of the novitiate was gathered around the TV to watch the spectacle. I was impressed how well both quarterbacks performed, particularly Chad Henne. Expectations were very high for Troy Smith and he lived up to them for the most part, Henne got much less press but really played his heart out today.

The fun and excitement continued with a trip out to see "The Queen". A film which dramatizes the royal family and Tony Blair after Princess Diana's death. The acting was good, especially Helen Mirren as the Queen. James Cromwell who played Prince Philip will forever be the farmer from Babe for me. Any movie about royalty is an easy sell for me given my fascination with monarchies; I'm also a bit of an Anglophile. "The Queen" did not disappoint. God save the Queen.

17 November 2006

Bowling

Friday's at Loyola House are a mixed bag. Today we presented papers on the vows in a panel discussion. It was both civilized and edifying. After which we went bowling which is neither particularly civilized nor edifying. Actually that's just sour grapes since I'm a terrible bowler. Not that I expect much having only bowled a dozen times in my life if that.

Hung is a deeply contemplative bowler.







I on the other hand have yet to find the Zen of bowling, though that does sound like a good book title.


Also... Go Buckeyes. O-HI-O

11 November 2006

Veterans Day

Last week I got into a lively discussion with one of the old Jesuit professors at our retirement center about the 'self'. It got a bit technical but essentially we were discussing the role interspection versus the role of exterior moral, intellectual, and spiritual truths. The issue came down to how insular are we really. How deeply can outside things inform our interior selves.

I've been musing in an unsystematic way how essential community is for human existence. Some phenomenologists speak of 'intersubjectivity' that is recognizing the same essential humanity I find in myself in other people. My neighbor is essentially the same as I am, because of this I am able to reach out and connect on a fundamental level. This fulfills a basic human need for connection. The community formed transcends the sum of its parts and enhances each party. Actually arguing this philosophically, instead of simply stating a thesis, is very difficult business which I'm not up to at the moment. Though reflecting on my own experience is rings true.

Today is Veterans Day; the day we commemorate those who served our country in the armed forces. War itself is a breakdown of the human community. A time when people fail to see that which gives them dignity exists in all other people. Veterans through their sacrifice to bring peace and freedom witness to the connectedness of us all. Military units acting as one for a good beyond any of the individual soldiers. Individuals witnessing to the value of their brothers and sisters by self-sacrifice with no prospect of earthly reward. Living at the service of the community.

Hopefully someday we will require no more veterans, no more war, no more arms. Someday we will all come to realize that we are of equal value and that value is great. At present we live in a world where some are much more equal than others.

07 November 2006

Vote

An election day syllogism:

Today is election day.
On election day Americans should vote.
Therefore, today Americans should vote.

Democracy works a lot better if people participate.

04 November 2006

Return from the Cinci

We just got back from our whirlwind visit to the Cinci. Our trip was for Praesidium training; Praesidium is an organization which works with religious and secular groups developing plans to combat child sexual abuse. This is my second course on the topic since I joined the Society. The first called, Virtus, was mandated by the Archdiocese for anyone working with children. Praesidium is a more in depth course required for all Jesuits. In addition to the educational component, Praesidium reviews the policies of the province and implementation of those policies.

The course was eye opening. The revelations of abuse in the Church are really just the tip of the iceberg. From 1950-2000 approximately 10,000 people were abused in the Church, approximately 3% of abusers were priests, the vast majority were lay, though any number of priests involved is inexcusable as is any abuse which takes place within the Church. During the same time period, 4,000,000 were abused in Schools across the country. According to our presenter, one in four girls and one in eight boys are victims of abuse. It was a sobering presentation.



On a cheerier note, St. Xavier High School was host to this conference. Fr. Walter Dye SJ, president of Xavier, was gracious enough to show us around the school and give us an overview of the place. Our illustrious novice master was a previously president. Xavier is the largest all boys school in the country and is highly successful in nearly every aspect of high school life it seems. Walking around the facilities, which are enormous and newly renovated, signs of their accomplishments are everywhere, from State Championship football, to accomplished drama, to fine art. I've heard they do academics pretty well too. This Jesuit education stuff must work. Go Bombers.

Thanks to the St. X Jesuit Community, XU Community, and Faber Community for hosting us, the lowly novices, during our stay.

AMDG

02 November 2006

Fr. General

This is a picture from Father General's visit a few weeks back. I was lucky enough to sit next to him during lunch.

Tomorrow... the Queen City.

AMDG Posted by Picasa

01 November 2006

All Saints Day

Stop and smell the incense. Today is the solemnity of All Saints, the day in the Church year set aside to honor all those who are now united with God in heaven, both saints known and unknown. As a group, saints are a remarkably diverse bunch from Kings to paupers, scholars to simpletons. They are sinners who trusted in God and let Him work in their lives. They were and are God's instruments.

As great as many of the saints are, it's dangerous to place them on too high a pedestal. The call to holiness is universal, everyone is called to be a saint and becoming a saint is open to all. Sanctity is one thing in this world that is truly egalitarian. Everyone has choice to live for God, whether they profess 'God' specifically or not, or live for themselves. It is a choice between greed and generosity, between trust and control. It is the fundamental choice of existence and we all make it freely. Do I simply live for myself and my own comfort or do I live for something more for other people and by living for them for God?

All you holy men and women... Pray for Us.


Due to a recent change in plans, the novices will be in Cincinnati this weekend attending a conference. Though I lived in Ohio for quite a long time, I never had occasion to explore Cincinnati proper. This weekend I hope to rectify that oversight.

AMDG

29 October 2006

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

"What's the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist?
You can negotiate with a terrorist."

I'm amazed how upset Catholics, including myself, get about liturgy. What songs to sing, who does what, etc...

Cardinal Arinze in a recent meeting with French priests said, "the liturgy is not property of anyone--neither the celebrant nor the community in which the mysteries are celebrated."

Liturgy is important. Important things demand close attention. Liturgy is the Lamb's Supper, heaven and earth unite, the most sublime action humans can partake in this life. Christ comes among us in a unique and profound way through the Mass.

Good liturgy is that liturgy which highlights sacred mysteries. Bad liturgical practice is that which blurs the image of Christ.

What concretely constitutes good and bad liturgy is a difficult question. One which must be answered with great humility, a humility which goes beyond personal opinion and aesthetic preferences.

The Church in general has seen liturgy hijacked for various purposes, on both sides of any given debate. Choosing to replace 'He' with 'God' or sometimes 'She' becomes a statement rather than a reference to the divine. There are numerous other examples for both 'Conservatives' and 'Liberals'. While their might be legitimate issues as to whether a particular aspect needs tweaked such as gendered language, the liturgy itself is not a forum for debate. The exhortation to make peace with our brothers and sisters before approaching the altar rings very true today.

AMDG

23 October 2006

Fall Villa

The Novices of Loyola House are returned safely from our brief fall villa at the Jesuit house in Omena, Michigan. The tradition of Jesuit villas as places outside the city where Jesuits could recover in the peace of nature stretches back throughout the history of the Society. I believe it was Ignatius's idea to have villas but owing to my lowliness as a novice, I'm not sure. Regardless, they're a good idea.

The villa at Omena is more of a compound. The land and houses were donated to the Society back in the thirties. It's a beautiful property on banks of Lake Michigan which stretches inland to includes a large forested area. I don't exactly know how many. This post is really light on the details so far: I must be slipping.

We explored the woods, which was a bit precarious in hunting season, and the various houses on the property. It was a bit overcast and rainy but otherwise conditions were amicable.

The picture is from Leaping Bears Duns located about 30 mins drive from the Villa. The picture doesn't do justice to the immense size and number of the various sand duns. I was quiet impressed. Hiking on the duns proved more challenging than I originally anticipated what with the strong winds and getting stuck in the sand.

Time to go study Spanish, a test is looming tomorrow insofar as tests without grades can loom. AMDG Posted by Picasa

19 October 2006

Two Months

Today is my class' two month anniversary of entering the Society, not much of an anniversary I know. Baby steps.

More importantly, today is the feast of the North American Martyrs: Jesuits and companions who gave their lives for the faith while spreading the Gospel in what is now Southern Canada and the Northern United States.

Finally, tomorrow the novices head up to Omena, Michigan for a weekend away. In Jesuit speak, we're going 'on villa.' It will be nice to get out into the country and see the fall colors before winter sets in.

AMDG

14 October 2006

His Judgment Cometh?

Time's comment on my last post raised an interesting question. To what extend do folks like myself who in some way represent religion spread fear among the elderly we visit? Or spread fear in general for that matter.

Frederich Nietzsche said in All to Human, "Out of fear and need each religion is born." Nietzsche was no great fan of religion; he found it rather abhorrent in fact.

I'm not competent to speak for all religion. In Christianity, there is a place for fear but a much more prominent place for consolation. Pope John Paul the Great began his pontificate with the now famous words, "Do not be afraid." This call to take courage is central to the Christian message. Nietzsche is correct in highlighting fear as important. Fear should not be a product of religion, rather religion should dispel fear, replacing it with courage and trust in a loving God.

The worst possible condition for a person, hell, is not ultimately fire, brimstone and torment. What makes hell really bad being cut off from God. This isolation from God is something chosen by the disposition of a person's heart and mind. Heaven conversely is being united to God, not some eternal five-star resort.

It is a terrible misconception of the Christian message to portray God as spitefully marking down offenses ready to deal out punishment after death. God is just, but God is also merciful.

Perhaps some of the residents we visit have a conception of God as heavenly disciplinarian rather than merciful savior. Coming to the end of life waiting to be judged by such a one would be a frightening experience. If I must be a symbol in visiting, I hope to be a symbol of mercy not judgement.

11 October 2006

Lame Excuses

Today most of the residents at the nursing home were in a foul mood and didn't feel like talking. Many of them are polite enough to bow out of conversation gracefully when they don't feel like talking. My favorite excuse from nursing home patients is, "It was nice talking to you, but I've got to be going," or some less coherent variant of this. While on the outside this is a plausible explanation for ending conversation, in a nursing home the residents really have no place to go and precious few appointments to keep. After they tell me they've "got to be going", they proceed to spend the next few hours in the same spot staring at the walls. So much for my sparkling conversation. Perhaps one of the benefits of getting really old is no longer feeling obliged to provide plausible lies. If so, I'm looking forward to it. Though the direct approach suits me better, which usually runs something along the lines of "don't you have something better to do?" I've been tempted to ask, "define better" but have thus far resisted.

We visit during prime soap opera time, which has proven a strategic disadvantage; human contact is one thing, but soap operas, those are important. I've tried to strike up conversation about the soap operas during commercial breaks only to see may efforts mocked. Apparently I fain interest in soap operas badly, but you've got to give a guy credit for trying. The intricacies of "Days of Our Lives" are simply lost on me: I can't help it. We all have our gifts, mine is not daytime TV.

On a more serious note, these experiences speak to my need to read people better. Some days residents are pleased to talk for a long length of time. Other days they want nothing to do with me. Hopefully I'll get better at discerning which days are which quickly. It would be a terrible thing if my mission to be present to the elderly became my mission to be tolerated by the elderly.

AMDG

10 October 2006

Post jucundum juventutem

My work at the Columbiere Center and Alexander Mercy Living Center gives me the opportunity to socialize with the 80, 90, and 100 something set on a very regular basis. Spending some much time around these well seasoned persons got me to thinking about a very well seasoned song about youth: "Gaudiamus Igitur" (Let us rejoice).

Gaudiamus Igitur is the oldest known university song dating back to a manuscript from 1287, back when students rebelled against their parents by becoming Aristotelians, which might be the Medieval equivalent of today's emo kids, but probably isn't.

The song exhorts students to "Rejoice while they are young" before age, infirmity and eventually death set in:

Gaudeamus igitur
Juvenes dum sumus
Post jucundum juventutem
Post molestam senectutem
Nos habebit humus.

Let us rejoice
while we are young.
After the joys of youth.
After the hardships of old age.
The earth will have us. (a rough translation, my Latin is poor)

The song has several more verses. The one which rings most true to the case of nursing homes is this:

Vita nostra brevis est
Brevi finietur.
Venit mors velociter
Rapit nos atrociter
Nemini parcetur.

Our life is short.
Soon it will be finished.
Death comes quickly.
It destroys us savagely.
No one is spared.

The song, though it might not appear so from this verse is mostly upbeat, it has a 'seize the day' sort of message. Hearing the song, you'll realize the lighter tone of the thing. Still it makes a serious point, the 100 somethings don't necessarily think of themselves as old so much as trapped, imprisoned in their own failing bodies.

Seeing the realities of terminal illness, it's hard to look beyond the growing shadows. The light of resurrection is sometimes dim though ever present. Remaining faithful in old age, "white martyrdom", is difficult, perhaps more difficult than "red martyrdom". I find myself frustrated and humbled even trying to be present to people who are ending their earthly journey. There is so little I can do and the obstacles they encounter are so great. Many of those suffering in the nursing homes are beyond earthly help, unable to speak, move, or eat. All that is left to give to these people, all that remains is sharing my humanity, loving concern for another person. It seems so little really until we remember that it was love which destroyed death. Free, unmerited, love of humanity on the Cross triumphed over death. We here from the youngest to the oldest are called to join in that triumph in the same way it was accomplished, through love of God and others. We needn't rejoice only when we are young, but always in this great love which triumphed.

AMDG

07 October 2006

Praepositus Generalis


Today Loyola House was truly blessed with a visit from our Father General, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ. Father General is finishing his visitation of the Detroit Province.

Yesterday, we attended a speech he gave at Gesu Parish near University of Detroit Mercy in which he reflected on the Society's mission in urban areas particularly as it applies to the mission of the University of Detroit Mercy.

Today, Father General engaged in a candid Q and A session with Jesuits regarding the place of the Society in the Church and world. Father offered throughout reflections from his unique perspective as leader of the Society. After the meeting, we gathered with Fr. General and many friends of the Society for mass at Sts. Peter and Paul parish. During mass, Fr. General received Brother John Moriconi's vows, many congratulations to Brother John on his final incorporation into the Society.

After Mass Fr. General visited the novitiate for lunch. Over lunch Father shared his wisdom on a number of topics from his experience in the Middle East to visiting Fidel Castro. His visit was a great grace for this house, one I will not soon forget.

03 October 2006

Hospital Experiment

Today officially began our "Hospital Experiment". The name of the experiment is a holdover from times gone by, it would be more accurate to call it our nursing home experiment. A vestigial name is in keeping with working at the nursing home, a place where memory of times past is far brighter than the reality of the present.

At the regular nursing facility we visit, our duties are limited to being present to the residents by talking, holding their hands, reading, and praying with them. Some of the residents I've been assigned to visit are responsive, many are difficult to speak with, a few are close to death and almost entirely uncommunicative. The residents are overwhelmingly female, though this is common for nursing homes.

One day a week we'll be working at the Jesuit retirement facility starting Monday. There we take a more active role in the care of the men, both literally and figuratively getting our hands dirty.



Today is the memorial of St. Francis Borgia SJ, the third superior general of the Society. Speaking of superiors general, our current general, the Very Reverend Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ, will be visiting this lowly novitiate come Saturday. I'm looking forward to meeting Fr. Kolvenbach, reports are that he's a very holy and insightful man. Though before he arrives, I need to make sure my room is ship shape. He's been known to inspect novices' rooms from time to time and mine could do with a bit of sprucing up. Originally from the Netherlands, Fr. Kolvenbach taught linguistics and ministered in the Middle East before being called to Rome to assist our previous Father General Pedro Arrupe. Fr. Kolvenbach was elected Superior General by the 33rd General Congregation in 1983. Last year Pope Benedict granted his request to step down, normally Superior Generals hold the office for life. In 2006, the 35th General Congregation will choose a new Superior General to succeed Fr. Kolvenbach. More about Fr. General some other time.

One final note, I think I've finally acclimated to the novitiate schedule because 11pm now seems impossibly late and 7am is no longer particularly early. Amazing how that happens.

AMDG

30 September 2006

St. Jerome


Today is the feast of St. Jerome, one of the greatest minds in the history of the Church who gave us his wonderful "Vulgate" translation of the Bible. He's also noted as one of the crankier saints in the history of the Church. Partly this was his own personal irritability I'm sure. Partly he was cranky because he cared and when things went wrong he got upset, which is very human. (Kudos to Richard for bringing this out among other things in his reflection this morning.)

In the world and especially in the Church there is a level of divisiveness that would make even Jerome's head spin. While passion is a good thing, anger and internal divisiveness are not. Rocco Polmo wrote a good article on divisiveness in the Church. His main point is--we get so caught up in internal cat fights, the mission of the Church is lost in the mix. That mission succinctly stated in Gaudium et Spes is: "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ." The Church must be outward looking, always striving to bring the salvation of Christ to all people. This fundamental mission of the Church is so often debilitated by constant, irate internal squabble.

On an exciting note, tonight is Battlestar Galactica night at Loyola House in preparation for Season 3 beginning Friday! So say we all.

AMDG

29 September 2006

Motown

Today was the novices day out, a much appreciated respite from what has been a very busy week. Three events were on today's outing schedule. First, a visit to a photo exhibit at Wayne State exploring young migrant workers. The reality of such inhuman working conditions that go into putting food on our tables is truly astounding. Difficult work with poor pay and many risks but those engaged in it have few tenable alternatives. While in the neighborhood we also spent some time at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, a lovely building in want of renovation. Many of Detroit's buildings testify to a more prosperous time gone by.

Second stop was the Mexican section of town for lunch, and was it ever good.

Third was a trip to the Motown Historical Museum. I was pleasantly surprised by the place. Though a small museum it was well put together and framed Motown's place in music and culture. Though I'm not a great fan of Motown music, the museum is well worth a visit.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention today's feast of the Archangels: Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel. These angels are powerful ministers of God's protection, healing, and message as has been testified through Sacred Scripture and tradition.

St. Michael the Archangel
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against
the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him we humbly pray,
and do thou O prince of the heavenly hosts
by the power of God
thrust into hell Satan
and all the evil spirits
who prowl throughout the world
seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

AMDG

26 September 2006

Shout Out

Today's post is dedicated to the young, holy sisters I've had the privilege to know.

First up:

The artist formerly known as Jillian now preforming with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee. Jillian, now Sr. Beatrice, is now a novice having already finished a one year postulancy. She is a very dear friend of immense intellect, charm, and kindness who is sure to be a great asset to her Congregation and the Church.








Sr. Beatrice's younger sister Susannah also gets a shout out for joining the same congregation as her older sister. She's on the far left in the upper row with the rest of her entrance class. Susannah like her sister is great and is quiet the classicist in addition to other intellectual gifts. Unlike most religious in the United States the Nashville Dominicans are young and growing.



Last but not least is the newly minted Sr. Mary, also far left top row, who recently entered the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist located in nearby Ann Arbor, Michigan. Mary is a friend and classmate from Catholic University who graduated in philosophy along with yours truly this past May. She's terrifically talented and just plane terrific. I'm certain she will be a wonderful gift to her Congregation and the Church. The Sisters of the Eucharist are a new Congregation which has be blessed with stunning growth and vibrancy.

In a time when many religious congregations are becoming very grey, these women are a source of hope and a witness to the power of the Holy Spirit to give life and give it abundantly.

AMDG

25 September 2006

Midland


We got back from our mini-pilgrimage to the Martyr's Shrine in Midland, Ontario about nine last night after a six hour journey. It was a brief though enjoyable visit. Midland is about two hours North of Toronto in a lightly populated area which was once home to the Huron Indians. The Shrine commemorates those eight Jesuits and lay associates who lost their lives during the mission. The Shrine was build near the site of the martyrdom of Sts. Gabriel Lalement and Jean de Brebeuf who were killed while ministering to the Hurons by attacking Iroquois. After enduring 17 hours of torture witnesses recall their faithfulness and love to the very end.


The Society maintains the Shrine and cares for pilgrims. We were graciously hosted by the Jesuit community at the Shrine, who in addition to being nice folks showed an appreciation of Battlestar Galactica, one of the greatest attributes a group of people can posess.

We were invited to assist at the Feast Day celebrations at the Shrine. Your truly helped by serving. The Mass was concelebrated by a number of priests, mostly Jesuits visiting from the Toronto area. Afterward there was a lovely banquet in honor of the Martyrs.

On our return journey we stopped in Toronto for lunch with a community of Jesuit Theologians. We spent a few hours touring around the University of Toronto which as luck would have it was hosting a Book Festival, publishers from all over Canada were represented.


Today is the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Dmitri Shostakovitch, the celebrated Soviet Composer. For those unacquainted with Shostakovitch, he is a great composer to get to know. While his compositions mightn't be every one's cup of tea, though he is among my favorites in this regard, his constant trials creating great art in a repressive Soviet state provide a captivating story.

AMDG

21 September 2006

Speechify!

Yesterday I gave my first practice homily. It's harder than it looks. It's also considerable different than a regular presentation. I tried giving a presentation at first and it failed miserably. A homily is really more about listening than creating. Discerning what the Spirit is saying to you through the scriptures and saying that.

Tomorrow we leave for Midland.

AMDG

20 September 2006

Random Quiz

You scored as Roman Catholic. You are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.

Roman Catholic


100%

Neo orthodox


82%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


75%

Classical Liberal


50%

Fundamentalist


43%

Emergent/Postmodern


39%

Charismatic/Pentecostal


32%

Reformed Evangelical


25%

Modern Liberal


14%

What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

19 September 2006

One Month

Today is my one month anniversary as a Jesuit. Though a month is a brief time, my experience of this past month has been powerful and more importantly graced. Externally the past month has been relatively simple and peaceful. Most of my time has been spent at the novitiate reading, building community, and praying. Though we've attended some wonderful celebrations and had some great outings, by and large the past month has been quiet, at least by my standards.

However peaceful my external life has been the past month, my internal life has been that dramatic. These few weeks have given me a greater opportunity than ever before to pray through my experiences and seek the Spirit of God. Though this is not always and easy task, nor even a pleasant one at times. I have found great peace, a greater sense of myself, my community, and my loving Lord and Creator. I look forward to many more months in this Least Society.

This weekend my fellow first year novices and I will be making pilgrimage to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Midland, Ontario. More about them some other time.

In other important news, Battlestar Galactica season three beings in 17 days! Mark your calendars, set your Tivo's, this is going to be big. "So say we all." After sacred mysteries and eternal truths, nothing gets me so excited as a good sci-fi series and Battlestar is as good as sci-fi gets.

AMDG

14 September 2006

A quiet week


Life at Loyola House has fallen into a rhythm this week of prayer, study, recreation, exercise, and classes. It's nice having a regular daily 'ordo' though this normal schedule is likely to be uprooted shortly. There is something to be said for a normal daily routine, though there is equally something to be said for the flexibility of an ever changing lifestyle.

We've been reading through the life of Ignatius. When given large sums of money at gifts to help with his journey, Ignatius the Pilgrim would give these away trusting that God would provide a path. He didn't know what his days would consist of, who he would meet, how he would eat, what he would do. Through all this he trusted and was provided for. As I enjoy the comfort a normal schedule gives me, Ignatius the Pilgrim is cause for reflection.


In other news, I found a CD of Jesuit clip art in the computer lab. This should provide graphics for many updates in the coming months. Including today's image of Ignatius being drug away by a servant of the Franciscans during his visit to the Holy Land.

10 September 2006

Cleveland Rocks

We're officially back from our whirlwind visit to Cleveland for Lukas's first vows. Congratulations to Lukas the newest vowed member of the Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus. He took vows during a wonderful ceremony at his home parish. It was a joyous occasion with large numbers of Lukas's family in attendance as well as members of the parish community and his brother Jesuits. Lukas comes from a Lithuanian heritage and most of the ceremony was in Lithuanian. The parish had a very strong sense of both religious and cultural identity which was refreshing.

After Mass I had a chance to meet my parents for dinner. It was a great evening. As an added bonus we got to watch Ohio State destroy Texas. Go Buckeyes!

AMDG

08 September 2006

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary




Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Though not much is know about the circumstances surrounding her birth, so great is her importance in salvation history that this day should not pass without being duly marked.

Pray for us O Holy Mother of God.


My brother novices and I leave for Cleveland tomorrow so I probably won't get around to posting again until Monday. We're heading to Cleveland for the first vows of one of last year's novices, I'm looking forward to this celebration. I'm also looking for to seeing my family for a bit on Saturday night, Cleveland being not too far from my hometown.


Tomorrow the Holy Father returns to his native land of Bavaria for an apostolic visit. When Pope John Paul returned to his native land of Poland, he helped set off a wave of faith and action which eventually led to the fall of the iron curtain. Benedict's homeland and much of the western world is likewise oppressed, though much more subtly so. Materialism which regards people as objects and God as irrelevant has become prevalent in much of the developed world. Even among those who profess faith, myself included, the tendency to seek after only material things and reduce human beings to objects which can be used and exploited is hard to avoid. Growing up in such a culture, I often find myself needed to make a distinction between who is useful and whose existance is meaningful.

At the Mass celebrated just prior to the conclave then Cardinal Ratzinger said:

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth.

We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.

My prayer is that this trip may begin the process of the new evangelization. That countries with developed economies may have an equally developed faith and commitment to God's justice and law.

During this trip to his homeland, I will pray especially for the Holy Father that he may touch those whose hearts are hardened.

God Bless our Pope, Long may he reign!

AMDG

07 September 2006

White Robed Army



Today the Society of Jesus remembers and celebrates four of its own who lost their lives at the service of Christ and His Church.

Sts. Melchior Grodziecki and Stephan Pongr√°cz were Jesuit priests martyred in Slovenia. They along with a diocesan priest named Mark Krizevcanin were killed by Calvinist soldiers who invaded the city in which they were ministered. When given a chance to save their lives by recanting the faith, they chose death rather than denounce the Church.

Blessed Thomas Tsuji was a Jesuit killed for being a priest during a great period a persecution in Japan.

Blessed Ralph Corby was executed in England on the charge of high treason i.e. working as a Jesuit priest.

God is truly glorious in His saints.

On a far less profound note, pictures and brief bios of my brother novices and I have been posted on the Chicago Province website.

AMDG

06 September 2006

Book Meme

Per Joe's request,

1. One book that changed your life: Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. I was first introduced to this book by my former Dean, Father Pritzl, who was also the first philosophy professor I ever had. Pieper wrote in Germany following the Second World War, a time when the focus of life had shifted to increasingly practical concerns. His brief but profound text calls us back to a more fully human approach to the world. Truly meaningful and beautiful aspects of life such as love begin with what Pieper calls an "existential shock", something that reaches beyond the everyday activities of life and takes hold. Through reflection on this existential shock the world becomes deeper, more vivid, more real, more human yet also more divine. I've read Leisure: the Basis of Culture a number of times, with each subsequent reading I find the text more profound and clarion.

2.
One book that you've read more than once : Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I'm a hopeless Anglophile and get caught up in the Britishness of it all especially the first half of the book set in Oxford which reminds me of my wonderful term there amongst the Dreaming Spires. Waugh masterfully crafts compelling characters and weaves a wonderful message about faith and family.

3. One book that you'd want on a desert island: US Army Survival Manual for obvious reasons.

4.
One book that made you laugh: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. The man has a real gift for story telling.

5.
One book that you wish had been written: Recently I've become very interested in the history of secular humanism and atheism. Though much has been written in this field, I believe it merits still further investigation.

6.
One book that you wish had never been written: There are many books I find frustrating, though even truly awful books serve a purpose. Usually to demonstrate how not to write books or the foolishness of certain ideas.

05 September 2006

Factoids

Classes have started in earnest here at Loyola House. There's not particularly rigorous as of yet and I don't expect them to become so, though they have been interesting so far. By far the most awkward class of the day was Spanish. Though I've had to muddle through some Spanish before, mostly by speaking French with what I thought was a Spanish accent and hoping for the best, I haven't studied Spanish in earnest since second grade. Today we went through the standard first day studying a language ordeal. Mostly consisting of staring blankly as the professor speaks to us in a language we don't know and going around the table introducing ourselves to people we already know (and live with) only in Spanish. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to continuing, learning languages is fun though painful at times.

Also, from another class we went over a list of ways the Society is unique compared to religious orders. Here are some highlights:

Jesuits profess perpetual simple vows immediately following novitiate.


Jesuits have no specific work as a charism other than to Find God in All Things. The educational tradition of the Society comes from the fact that education encompasses so many things it seemed a natural fit for a group of men trying to find God everywhere.

Jesuits do not say the divine office together. Ignatius wanted Jesuits to be fully apostolic without the time constraints of singing in choir, though Jesuit priests do say the office in private.


Jesuits do not have a specific religious dress or habit. The "Jesuit Cassock", which is what the saintly Father Pedro Arrupe SJ is sporting in the picture, is derived from the student dress of the University of Paris in Ignatius's time, it was never an official habit. From time to time guys still wear them. I think they look a bit like Jedi or perhaps Sith Lord outfits, either way they're extremely cool and nice to see from time to time.

Jesuit Scholastics, i.e. those training to be ordained, do not take a religious title until ordination. That is to say Jesuit priests are not referred to as 'Brother' prior to ordination. The only Jesuits refereed to as 'Brother' are those who are not seeking ordination.

The Jesuits rule is the last approved rule of the Church, though it's not usually refereed to as a 'rule' but as the Formula of Institute and Constitutions, it is in fact a rule.

Jesuits regularly manifest their consciousnesses to their superiors. According to Canon Law this practice is forbidden to all other orders, the Society was given a dispensation from this aspect the Canon Law.

Jesuits take a fourth vow of willingness to go wherever the Pope wishes to send him. Only those Jesuits who take this vow are fully professed members of the Society able to take leadership positions.

Jesuits take solemn vows after ordination.

Just of few little things which make the Society a bit different and in my most humble opinion special.

AMDG

03 September 2006

Football


The Michigan game was fun, though neither Vanderbilt nor Michigan played particularly well the spectacle of such games is great. Everything from the pre-gaming tailgating to the band to the hordes of enthusiastic and slightly drunk students. As you all probably know or could at least assume Michigan defeated Vanderbilt without much difficulty.

This was my first trip to Ann Arbor; it is a remarkably lovely city, much more so than I expected. Conveniently, the Society has a community in Ann Arbor within walking distance of the football stadium. I hope to visit Ann Arbor again, it seems like a little city well worth getting to know.

Today we attended the final vows of a Jesuit brother. It was a lovely ceremony. I had much the same feeling as when I attended the Jubilee Mass last week: a remembrance of God's work through the years and looking forward to the continued work of the Spirit in years to come. The icing on the cake was some immensely amusing polkaing after Mass, though some of my brother novices did not approve of the accordion music.

AMDG

01 September 2006

Out of the Quiet

I'm back from retreat at Manresa, the Detroit one unfortunately not the Spain one. It was a wonderful though brief retreat. Since it was a retreat and silent I don't have much to report. Silent retreats are funny. While my external surroundings were serene and peaceful, the silence allowed any internal disquiet to show through. The noise of everyday life often drowns out more serious matters.

The prospect of intense introspection and listening that a silent retreat brings is not always an easy one but in my experience such time in immensely fruitful. Ours is a God who speaks in the silence more clearly than in the din of the world.

Tomorrow some of my brother novices and I head to Ann Arbor for a U of M football game versus Vanderbilt. As an ardent Ohio State fan I'm deeply conflicted about rooting for U of M. My sense of self-preservation will probably keep me quiet though I will at least wear red. Go Buckeyes!

AMDG

29 August 2006

On Retreat

This afternoon my fellow primi and I head to Manresa retreat center for a brief silent retreat. I'm looking forward to some quite time for spiritual reading, long walks, and a chance to reflect on the activities of the past few weeks. Be back Friday.

AMDG

28 August 2006

St. Augustine


Happy Feast of St. Augustine.

At the risk of sounding gloomy, Augustine was a figure who dealt brilliantly with a civilization in decline, especially in his famous 'City of God'. This great saint and doctor of the Church has been a light for centuries and now in a time when our own civilization finds itself at a crossroads, we would do well to heed his wisdom all the more.

"et quomodo invocabo deum meum, deum et dominum meum, quoniam utique in me ipsum eum vocabo, cum invocabo eum? et quis locus est in me quo veniat in me deus meus, quo deus veniat in me, deus qui fecit caelum et terram?"
-St. Augustine, Confessions

25 August 2006

One Week In

Today marks my first week of religious life, so far so good. After a morning of manualia (the Jesuit word for house jobs), my brother novices and I drove to Columbiere, the retirement center for the Detroit and Chicago provinces. Today was a special celebration of all those priests and brothers marking important anniversaries in their lives as Jesuits.

Essentially Columbiere is a nursing home, though by far the nicest nursing home I have ever visited. It was originally built as a novitiate and juniorate for the Society in the 1950's and has been used for many purposes over the years. Both the building and grounds are immense, part of the grounds are leased by the Society as a golf course. The section of the building modified to act as a nursing home is lovely and far less institutional than most nursing homes I've visited. My initial impression is that the Society takes excellent care of its older members. I'm looking forward to working at Columbiere beginning in October.

What impressed me more than the physical surroundings of the center was the spirit inside. Granted today was a day of celebration and thus cheerier than normal, nevertheless Columbiere did not have the hopelessness I've found in the other nursing homes I've visited. These men seemed to be peacefully awaiting the resurrection rather than mourning the end of their days.

As a man just starting out in this Least Society, I was overwhelmed by the stories of those celebrating, 50, 60, even 75 years in the Society of Jesus. Some of their resumes were impressive indeed, one of the men celebrating 75 years in the Society is working on his ninth book! These men leave a lot for lowly novices like myself to live up to. Throughout the celebration, I found myself in awe of what God had done through these men.

AMDG

24 August 2006

Feast of St. Bartholomew

Today is the Feast of St. Bartholomew. Unfortunately not much is known about him, and those stories which do exist often conflict. Despite the lack of material, one of the older Fathers in the community managed a brilliant homily from what little information there is, I was duly impressed and edified.

St. Bart is also the patron of my paternal grandparents parish. My grandfather has always been a source of inspiration for me. The oldest male in a family of nine, he dropped out of school in seventh when his father died during the depression and worked to support the family. Throughout his life he continued to selflessly put his family first until his dying day. He also had a remarkably, simple faith with special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Blessed Mother. When in my studies, I've found myself getting too cerebral, I reflected on his simple but powerful faith and trust which speaks more eloquently than fine words.

AMDG

22 August 2006

First Probation

Today is my fourth day as a Jesuit novice. The first days of novitiate have been much more low key than I was expecting. We've been attending short meetings introducing us to Jesuit life and history, though most of our time has been spent trying to form a community. After an awkward first couple days, we're beginning to gel into something of a community, though certainly developing a strong community is a long process. I've appreciated the slow pace of things, as it has left a lot of time for reflection.

I've also learned to play a game called 'Cornhole' from one of my brother novices and nearly achieved the 'golden sombrero'.

AMDG

19 August 2006

The first post of the rest of my life.

Today I entered the Jesuit novitiate. I'm rather overwhelmed at the moment, so I don't have much to say save, this is big. More cogent updates later.

AMDG

17 August 2006

One Last Day


Tommorrow is my last full day at home. Very Surreal.

Lao-tzu the chinese philosopher said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Though this maxim is a bit cliche it nonetheless rings true, at least to me.

Time to lace up my boots and take the first step.

AMDG Posted by Picasa

13 August 2006

Glorious Day

Today was unbelievably gorgeous: blue skies, a slight breeze, temperatures in the mid-seventies, no humidity. This type of day is rare in Northeastern Ohio which is one of the cloudiest parts of the country and very often humid. When such days do arrive here it is incumbent upon us to enjoy them.

After Mass with the story of Elijah and his 40 day journey, always a favorite, we decided to have a big breakfast in celebration of the beautiful day. A got a bit of packing done then Dad and I set off with his friend Mike for a bikeride. The original plan had been for a day of sailing, but since today was so calm it would have been a day of floating in the middle of the lake, far less amusing. We decided to try a biketrail a half-hour south of here. Go much south of my suburb and things get Appalachian very quickly, which is both charming and unsettling. The little towns are frozen in time about 50 years in the past. Just try to buy gas with a credit car in Lisbon, Ohio for instance... cash only. After some searching we found the trail, a charming little path through woods and farmland about 8 miles long with enough rolling hills to make life interesting. After biking 8 miles up and 8 back I felt sufficiently accomplished for the early afternoon.

12 August 2006

One Week



Tomorrow the second year novices from Detroit and Chicago provinces take vows, a week from today the new men, including yours truly, enter.

St. Aloysius Gonzoga, SJ
Pray for Us

10 August 2006

Very Heavy Van

Today I found myself in the unusual position of trying to push my grandmother's van out of her garage. The van has been sitting there unmoved for over a year now; neither of my paternal grandparents have been in a position to drive for quite some time. We made arrangements for it to be towed away tomorrow and were trying to make life easier on the towing people. After struggling with the van for half an hour, I found myself confronted by a hard truth: I was not designed to move heavy things. When I try to move heavy things: One, the heavy thing does not budge, and two, I walk funny afterward. Even the join efforts of my father and I were unequal to the mini-van of doom. So that was a pretty lousy moral, but what do you expect, it was a pretty lousy story.

In other news, I spent last weekend in DC visiting friends. I was great to see CUA people, even though I've only been gone for a few months it seems like much longer. What I returned to was a new world from what I had left. In May, we were all carefree college students. In August, I returned to find people with a bit more responsibility on their shoulders, the pressures of a 9-5 job and rent. While this is a natural progression, it was still a bit shocking how much can change in so little time.

02 August 2006

Shoes!!!

I admit it, I love getting new shoes. There are only two types of cloths I enjoy shopping for hats and shoes. The ends really interest me for some reason, the middle is comparatively dull.

Today was an interesting, we went to Reyers, which claims to be the "World's Largest Shoe Store". I don't know what methodology is used to determine largest. The place is grocery store sized, I assume they go by square footage. Though conceivably the title largest could be claimed by having the most pairs of shoes in stock or perhaps dealing in the largest volume. Regardless, they have a lot of shoes, it's shoe heaven.

Reyers is located about 45 minutes from here in my Dad's hometown. We, my parents, aunt and grandmother, were heading out that way to visit my other grandmother in the nursing home and decided to shop for shoes since we were in the neighborhood. My mother, aunt, and grandmother decided to look for me instead of themselves. Shoes coming at me from every direction. I ended up getting two pair, black priest looking shoes, though nice ones, Ecco's, and new tennis shoes.

Besides the selection, the salespeople at Reyers are remarkably knowledgeable. Booker, our favorite salesperson at Reyers, and yes after many years going to Reyers we know many of them and seek certain ones out. Booker took one look at me standing there and noticed a put slightly more pressure on my instep then normal. Within seconds he produced the perfect tennis shoe for me, it was a footwear miracle.

SHOES!!!!











"I am a deeply superficial person." Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

31 July 2006

Ignatius Day!

Happy Ignatius Day Everyone!!!

On this date 450 years ago St. Ignatius Loyola breathed his last. Ignatius was a remarkable man, who went from a courtier and soldier interested in the glory of battle and stature at court to one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church. Any attempt I make out summarizing his life will be woefully insufficient.

The most fitting testement to Ignatius I can think of are his own words:


Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.

25 July 2006

Cheesecake


Today or rather yesterday was another good day in the life of Matt. Though this summer every day has been remarkably pleasant. Today I went to Cleveland in search of a replacement for my beloved "Kamp" bag. After three years of good service and trips all over the world, it has become faded, torn, and rather shabby looking. I had intended to buy a new one of the same model but sadly they don't seem to make them anymore. Sigh. I got a nice new black bag, only time will tell whether it can fill the hole left by my old khaki one.


Regardless, messenger bag shopping is not particularly interesting to partake in let alone read about. The manager of Cleveland Trunk, where I bought both the new and old bags, proved to be quite amusing. Normally I'm not very chatty when shopping, usually because shopping puts me in a somber mood. Today manager Lady and I got to talking. She asked where I went to school, I mentioned I had just graduated Catholic and was not heading to the Jesuits. Apparently her daughter was a Catholic grad and she once taught bacteriology at Georgetown Medical School. In a remarkable change of career she went from Georgetown professor to mall store manager or perhaps an assistance manager, she was clearly in some position of authority, though it looked to be more of a retirement job than serious work. She asked if I knew how to tell if someone was a Jesuit. Apparently, all Jesuits answer questions by posing different questions, rather than answering the original question.

While this has not been my experience with the Society thus far, if I begin answering questions with other questions you'll all know why.

After questioning whether this Lady actually knew what she was talking about. It was off to the Cheesecake Factory no question about it. Mmmmm Cheesecake.

24 July 2006

Civ 4 and the Meaning of Life


---Warning, those unfamilar with the Civilization game series may find the following confusing.---

Those long summer afternoons, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, I'm invading the Roman Empire. Yes, summer means it's time to play Civilization. Nothing makes those long hot afternoons pass quite so nicely as sitting in the air-conditioning with some Gatoraid (global conquest is thirsty work) playing Civ 4.

One of my favorite parts of Civilization is when "great persons" are born in one of my cities. These super citizens are either: engineers, artists, religious figures, or scientists. A limited number of them are named after historical great persons. Though I disagree with some of the categorizations, particularly Pascal, who civilization describes as an engineer I believe. To label him in this way is to neglect his important mathematical and theological accomplishments. In any event, I'll get over it.

When I first started playing, I found these great people vaguely frustrating. The rub with great people is they are one time use in Civ 4. They can be used to accomplish a great task but whatever that task, it "consumes" them. Besides losing a good unit, there was something vaguely unsettling about these greatest of all units coming and going so quickly, and only getting to do one thing. Surely a great person should do lots of things.

The more I thought about this little quirk of the game, the more it made sense. Perhaps greatness is being consumed by just one thing. Granted living requires many varied activities, the difference is not so much in the activity as the motivation; the difference between living for something and simply living. In the first case, whatever something is consumes you and worms eventually get a chance too, in the second case, only the worms.

With purpose comes hope, because to hope is to hope for or in something. Simply living is hopeless, without object or direction. The actions of life move us in a direction. Perhaps greatness involves moving in the same direction, fixed on a goal. What is even greater still, moving in the right direction. For instance using your "great scientists" to build an Academy in the city with the highest research output, thus increasing research productivity by 50%.

Better to be the "great person" unit consumed in one great task than the warrior which spends the whole game directionlessly languishing in one of the cities, consuming resources while posessing minimal combat effectiveness.

Yes computer games, solving all of life's great mysteries. Though probably not the one thing to be consumed by in order to obtain greatness, but I could be wrong.

23 July 2006

El Cardoner


"Moving along intent on his devotion, he sat down for a moment with his face towards the river which there ran deep. As he sat, the eyes of his understanding began to open. He beheld no vision, but he saw and understood many things, spiritual as well as those concerning faith and learning. This took place with so great an illumination that these things appeared altogether new."

-The life of Father Ignatius



After mass, our family friend and my father's colleague Melinda present my father and I with a vile of water from the Cardoner River in the south of Spain. Last year on our trip to the Holy Land we brought water from the River Jordan and the Sea of Galilee for Melinda, she graciously returned the aquatic favor, having just completed an Ignatian pilgrimage.

The passage above is from the autobiography St. Ignatius dictated a younger Jesuit towards the end of his life. Throughout Ignatius refers to himself in the third person or simply as "the Pilgrim". Father Ignatius's pilgrimage of life lead him from the pomp and circumstance of the court to the glory of the battlefield to a sickbed and finally to the bank of this relatively unimpressive river at a place called Manresa. It was here, in this lowly place as a beggar that God filled Ignites with understanding. The Society of Jesus owes its existence to the grace shown to Ignatius that day.

Water though common is very precious. It gives life; it also takes life away. On the shore of the gardener, Ignatius was immersed in the love of God and the vocation to respond to this love. As I prepare to enter the company of men Ignatius founded, my prayer is the I and the whole Society of Jesus may be immersed in the same mission which Ignatius found on that river bank. To do all things for the Greater Glory of God.

22 July 2006

Beautiful


I saw "The Devil Wears Prada" last night. In my humble opinion, it was very good. Merly Streep played an excellent fashion diva, though Merly Streep does an stunning job with just about any role she plays. I was also impressed with Anne Hathaway and Stanley Tucci. It takes a real man to wear that suit. This film is well worth seeing; I highly recommend it.

The film got me thinking about fashion as it relates to real beauty. Oscar Wilde once remarked: "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." Despite the changeability of fashion there is something compelling when it is done well. There is a beauty of line, form, and color. At best it highlights the beauty of the human form. In the abstract, fashion with this goal is a praiseworthy undertaking. All things being equal, better to be fashionable than not; I say this as a reasonably unfashionable, though well meaning, person.

What is more beautiful than highlighting the human form is highlighting action. People can look beautiful, so too they can live beautifully. This is the better part.

Like so many good things in life, exterior beauty is only good in balance. To neglect it completely is unfortunate, to neglect higher things for it even more so. The devil probably does wear Prada. Saints might be able to wear Gucci from time to time though.

17 July 2006

Vacation Wrap-up

We returned to beautiful Ohio yesterday evening. One of the best parts of going away is coming home though it was an enjoyable trip. Though an unusual trip by Dunch family standards, we don't usually do road trips. This particular holiday adventure clocked in at around 2,050 miles.

We started out heading for a family wedding in Rhode Island. I have certain issues with the state of Rhode Island, firstly, it is not in fact an island. Secondly, it is too small to be a proper state. Despite these shortcomings, it was a lovely occasion. My cousin and his wife live in New York City but decided to get married in Rhode Island to keep things small and intimate, only about 50 people were invited. I was actually surprised I made the invite list, considering the number of family members who were axed. This wedding was a weekend long affair and since all the guests were staying at the same place, it was like some sort of bizarre slumber party with my grandmother and a large number of bohemian New Yorkers in attendance.

Other than eating and wedding attending, there was not much to do in this little corner of Rhode Island, so I was forced to go to the beach. Once again, my poor opinion of the beach was confirmed. It's hot, sandy, crowed, and totally unpleasant. Beaches might be pretty to look at but that's about it. Even the beaches in Hawaii where I visited last summer, while some of the nicest in the world, do not hold a candle to a good day of hiking. But I digress.

The wedding itself was lovely. It was a civil service, but was conducted with great care and dignity. The best thing short of a sacramental marriage. Much better to have a meaningful civil marriage than a half-hearted church one.

So there you have it. Gerad and Elizabeth Argeros. Aren't they cute?

Next installment... Quebec City