Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

22 April 2007

Reading List

This weekend marks the halfway point of my L'arche experience. L'arche is unusual for a number of reasons. One in particular is the amount of "half free" time. There are times when we must be present either waiting for a core member or just hanging around monitoring things. During these times I've found myself pages through some good books.


Our Christian Faith: Answers for the Future. by Karl Rahner and Karl-Heinze Weger

This book looks at Christian faith from the ground up. Though only a brief work, I found it articulates the central issues of faith in a skeptical age very well. I don't think this particular work is in print anymore, but it is well worth a read if you can find it.

Three Weeks with My Brother. by Nicholas Sparks

I just finished this book. It's not the kind of book I would normally read but a friend lent it to me. I was pleasantly surprised, it's a memoir of a family as it encounters various struggles set within the framing narrative of two brothers taking a trip around the world.

Principles of Biomedical Ethics, Fifth Edition. by Thomas Beauchamp and James Childress

This was a pretty dense, long text. Recently I've become very interested in Medicine and Biomedical Ethics, since this is one of the standard texts in the field I thought it would be worth reading. The text does a fine job of laying out the problems and theoretical groundwork. I disagreed philosophically with most of the conclusions, though the book was well argued. My main critique is not so much of the book as it is of biomedical ethics as a philosophical discipline. Certainly philosophical reflection on biomedical issues is vital and the book was intended to be just that sort of reflection. However I had a nagging feeling the whole time I was reading it however that to be credible speaking of such life and death issues clinical experience is a must. A philosophical abstraction of a dying person and an actual dying person are two very different things as I learned in my nursing home experiment. The best philosophical reflections spring from concrete experience.

In Process:

The Erotic Phenomenon. by Jean-Luc Marion

The book is a phenomenological reflection on love. So far I can say this is one of the most challenging books I've ever read and one of the most rewarding. It's a refreshingly original work of philosophy, imagine a philosophy book with no footnotes! It's not merely an intellectual exercise either Marion really speaks to the core of what it is to be human. I'm completely enamored by this book but I'll need to read it a few times before I can discuss it intelligently. Expect more on this later.

Science and the Trinity: The Christian Encounter with Reality. by John Polkinghorne

Polkinghorne is an accomplished quantum physicists turned theologian. The book lays out various approaches to understanding reality through faith and reason.

Next Up:

The Ethical Imagination: Journeys of the Human Spirit. by Margarette Sommerville

This is another Biomedical ethics book, a bit lighter fair than the last one. One of the assistants here at L'arche recommended it. The book is a collection of lectures given by Sommerville on the CBC. Something called the Massey lectures which I'm told are very prestigious here.

16 April 2007

Happy Birthday

Today is the 80th Birthday of Pope Benedict.

Ad Multos Annos Holy Father!

15 April 2007

Ordination Weekend

This weekend I had the privilege to attend the ordination of three of my brother Jesuits at Our Lady of Lourdes parish here in Toronto. Two men were ordained to the deaconate and one man to the priesthood. Ordinations are truly wonderful celebrations. I'm most moved by two of the central actions of the sacrament. First those to be ordained prostrate themselves on the ground while the congregation intones the litany of the saints. Those to be ordained by this gesture show their humility and submission to the office they are about to undertake. No one is worthy or entitled to ordination, God chooses. We must humbly respond to our various calls. The litany of the saints brings into focus that ordination is an action for the whole Church and we ask the whole Church to be present spiritually, especially those great men and women in faith who have gone before us.

After the litany the candidates approach the bishop one by one. The bishop lays his hands on the head of each man asking the Holy Spirit to confer the grace of Holy Orders. This gesture comes to us from the very beginnings of the Church and through it is a chain leading back to the Apostles. It is a gesture that is profound in its simplicity.


12 April 2007

Easter Week

It's been a busy time around Easter here at L'arche. The community celebrates Triduum through specially designed liturgies adapted to suit the community and the core members. Since L'arche is non-denominational the celebrations do not conform to any particular rites. I was impressed how well the organizers were able to make the celebrations accessible to the community while powerfully reflecting the meaning of the day. Holy Thursday was particularly striking. Jesus' washing the feet of his disciples is often referred to as the "Sacrament of L'arche". After music, several readings, and reflection each house community gathers and washes each others feet. Every member of the community participates as much as he or she is able. I'm only in my third week at L'arche but already I've had my "feet washed" by the core members. They don't do anything practical for me per se. I'm the one doing the visible serving, but the opportunity to serve itself is the greater gift. The gift of the core members is their presence and it is a great gift. There is a remarkable mutuality, though assistants are ostensibly here to serve the core members I find myself more deeply effected by them then having an effect on them. Being given the opportunity to wash someone feet is a grace.

I participated in the Easter Vigil service at St. Basil's parish which is located at St. Michael's College, part of University of Toronto. Five were received into the Church by baptism and an additional five by confirmation. It was a wonderful celebration. Easter Vigil is one of the highlights of my year, it is a reminder that the light of Christ dispelled the deepest darkness. We need only turn to the light.

Easter Sunday evening the house hosted another L'arche house for dinner. There were about 20 of us gathered to celebrate the great feast and enjoy each others company. A good time was had by all. The turkey was good too.

Yesterday and this morning are my days away. The theologians community at Regis College was gracious enough to invite me over again for an evening of good food and great company. This invitation was all the more heroic given they're in the midst of final exams and papers. Despite the increased workload they were remarkably cheerful. During finals time I tend to be dour. The academic year at Canadian institutions of higher learning ends several weeks earlier than their American counterparts.

On an unrelated note, three new blogs are listed in the "Brother Jesuits" section. They're all by Fr. Ben Hawley, SJ a Jesuit of my province. I recommend checking them out.


01 April 2007

Passion Sunday

Today is Passion Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week. I hope that this week we all might make a special effort to prepare ourselves for our celebration of the Lord's death and resurrection.

Today also marks the end of my first week at L'arche. So far the transition has been very smooth both into the L'arche community and getting to know the local Jesuit community. I'm taking on an increasing number of roles here at Greenwood house and have gotten pretty well adapted to the pace of life. I'm also finding plenty of time between the activities of the house to read and reflect. It's a nice "ora et labora" situation.