Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

12 December 2008

More on Dulles

A friend of mine brought this old newsreel of Cardinal Dulles' priestly ordination in the 1950's to my attention. It's worth a look.

Cardinal Dulles 1918-2008

This morning Avery Cardinal Dulles SJ died at the Jesuit infirmary, Fordham University.

I had the privileged of meeting Cardinal Dulles twice and found that he more than lived up to his reputation for grace and wisdom. The Society and the Church will feel the loss of this great theologian and priest.

May he now see the face of the living God whom he served so well.

Requiem aeternam dona ei , Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei . Requiescat in pace. Amen.

10 December 2008


As of noon today I'm done for the semester. I have but one thing to say:

28 November 2008


Josiah Royce has taken over my life. I've been doing battle with The Problem of Christianity for the past week. Perhaps battle is too strong a word. Problem is actually rather sympathetic to Christianity and Royce was a Christian. The book, at least the part I'm interested in, is a metaphysics of community. The Problem bit of the book is Royce's attempt to make Christianity and modernity play nice or at least acknowledge the challenges of each.

My problem is that I started writing my paper not knowing what I wanted to write about. Unfortunately I was eight pages in before realizing this. All tolled I've gone through four topics and have rewritten almost the entire paper twice! It's enough to drive a guy crazy. Thankfully I'm nearly done now.

Thanksgiving at Loyola was lovely, eerily quiet though. This is my first time on a college campus over break, and it's almost tomblike.

Back to writing... of a non-blog variety.

20 November 2008

Ratzinger on Economics

"Even if the market economy does rest on the ordering of the individual within a determinate network of rules, it cannot make man superfluous or exclude his moral freedom from the world of economics. It is becoming ever so clear that the development of the world economy has also to do with the development of the world community and with the universal family of man, and that the development of the spiritual powers of mankind is essential in the development of the world community. These spiritual powers are themselves a factor in the economy: the market rules function only when a moral consensus exists and sustains them." Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 1985 "Market Economy and Ethics"
The world economy probably should have paid closer attention to this address. Hindsight is twenty-twenty I suppose.

14 November 2008

Still Alive

Yes, I'm still alive. I've been writing so much for school the past month I haven't had much energy for extra curricular writing.

School is going along well--I think. Once I have a chance to slow down and reflect I figure it out for sure.

In fairness I've been doing more than just study. One of my various peculiarities is a weakness for financial news and the past few months has provided amply for this little quirk. It's terrifying on one level but fascinating on another.

I've also finally gotten my ministry set-up: save some paperwork which is hopefully all just formality. I'll be volunteering at Loyola University Medical Center in the ministry department. I'm really looking forward to getting started over there.

09 October 2008


Sorry for the dirth of posting. I'm buried alive under a mound of books. This past weekend I was at the Jesuit villa in Omena enjoying the lovely fall weather and reading Theodore Parker. Now I'm back in Chicago enjoying more lovely fall weather and reading Soren Kierkegaard. For those politically minded perhaps a look at Soren's platform is in order.

This is about as political as I get. Now back to the Hegel bashing.

28 September 2008

Significant Figures and Perfection

I've been annoyed all morning after missing a stupid question on an online Chemistry quiz because of a significant figure error. (Despite being a philosophy graduate student, I've decided to take one science class a semester while I'm at Loyola. I took very little hard science as an undergraduate and want to make up for this deficiency.) Mine was a quintessentially stupid mistake: 25 mL instead of 25.00 mL. Even though it likely will have a negligible effect on my final grade I can't shake a sense of annoyance.

Significant figures are used in experimental science as among other things an admission of the intractable error inherent in measurement (at least measurement of non-discrete entities) and thus in anything derived from those measurements. No measurement is right or wrong-- good measurements are precise and accurate which is not the same thing is right.

My annoyance springs from getting a question about foulable measurement wrong and thus having myself evaluated as foulable. Perhaps my opinion of myself should be little more like an empirical measurement, always expecting some error while striving for the greatest precision possible. God gets to be right or wrong-- the rest of us try to approximate this but only to a few significant digits.

22 September 2008

Piles of books

Most of my waking hours the past few days I've been mulling over term paper topics for my Philosophy of Religion and American Philosophy classes. Normally I walk around with a distracted look on my face, recently I've been in danger of running into things. But no matter even Thales (founder of Western Philosophy) fell into a well.

The problem with writing in philosophy of religion is just how well covered the topic is. People have been writing about it almost since there have been people writing so coming up with a small enough topic is proving trickier than I imagined. That and the subject matter is kind of a toughy. Who'd a thunk the ineffable would be well you know.

I think I'm pretty well settled on writing on Royce's view on community in American Philosophy. There's still some narrowing to be done on that but it seems managable.

Why am I freaking out about term papers in September you ask? I like to think of the library as a jungel and I'm a hunter looking for exotic academic prey. The longer I spend in the jungel the more unusual things I'll find. Working on term papers gives me a good excuse to go looking even if I only use a quarter of what I find. End of hopelessly dorky post.

13 September 2008


I guess the mystery of belief in God has been solved.

Hat tip to Erika

07 September 2008

Not even wrong

This morning at brunch with my brother Jesuit and Dean, Paul, we were trading various logical puzzles. Not all my neurons were firing so well this morning. I found myself stuck on a puzzle that I knew was off but didn't know how to fix it nor even explain it properly.

The problem:

Three sailors book a room at a hotel for thirty dollars. Later the hotel manager reconsiders and decides to charge them twenty five. He sends a bell boy up with the extra five dollars. The bell boy realizing that five is difficult to split three ways decided to give each sailor a dollar and keep the other two.

If each sailor paid nine dollars for his share of the room and the bell boy has two dollars where did the other dollar go?

After finally solving the problem, with a little help, Paul told me what was so difficult it, to quote Wolfgand Pauli the quantum physicist, "This isn't right. This isn't even wrong."

It's relatively easy to ferret out a logical error someplace in an argument. What makes this little problem tricky is it slips an almost nonsensical perspective into the mix. To be wrong requires a certain logical framework with falsifiability. To not even be wrong is to pose a question that simply can't be answered because it completely misframes the situation.

Be on the lookout for arguments that are not even wrong.

04 September 2008

Rainy Day

It's Thursday morning. I'm sitting here in my room trying to summon the motivation to start the mountain of reading I need to get done for next week. The weather outside is cold and rainy, normally the perfect study weather but today all it's eliciting is a desire warm blankets and a nice fire. The only cure I know for such lethargy is good tea... my typical cure for anything. To the kitchen...

In the happy news department, two of my dear college friends, Erin and Dan, recently announced their engagement. Congrats Erin and Dan!

25 August 2008


"The goal of this class is to solve the most important and difficult problem in the history of the universe." -Dr. Moser in his introduction to Philosophy of God

As of today I'm officially a grad student, and what better way to start than with the "most important and difficult" questions. Does God exist? Do (Can) we know God exists? The answers to these questions change everything. This class caused me to reflect on the privilege of advanced philosophical and theological studies. Where else does one explicitly ask then deeply reflect upon the most important questions? Monasteries perhaps-- universities grew out of them after all. I'm not going to answer the most important question other than an inadequate because it's not a question that is ever really answered but always lived with and in. Though if pressed... yes and yes.

Now on to reflection.

And all for the greater glory of God who is both knowable and beyond all knowing; who exists and is beyond all existence.

23 August 2008


Greetings from Loyola University Chicago.

My head is still spinning from all the recent business of vows and moving to Chicago. Vows were wonderful but overwhelming experience. I was touched how many friends and family came to Detroit to support me. I was particularly touched by the number of my brother Jesuits who came to witness my commitment to this Least Society.

After the vows my parents threw a wonderful little party for me complete with video montage. Sunday I packed up my room, and Monday Cyril and I headed for Chicago. This week has been a series of orientations to this new community, university, and city. It has been a transition to be sure but a painless one. Before entering the Society I spent six weeks living here at Loyola with the Jesuit community discerning so I already know the lay of the land.

Classes start on Monday, here's hoping for a good semester.

Today is also entrance day at the novitiate. Seven men entered Loyola House, please keep them in your prayers.

17 August 2008


Almighty and eternal God, I, Matthew Ian Edmund Dunch, understand how unworthy I am in your divine sight. Yet I am strengthened by your infinite compassion and mercy, and I am moved by the desire to serve you. I vow to your divine Majesty, before the most holy Virgin Mary and the entire heavenly court, perpetual chastity, poverty, and obedience in the Society of Jesus. I promise that I will enter this same Society to spend my life in it forever. I understand all these things according to the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. Therefore, by your boundless goodness and mercy, and through the blood of Jesus Christ, I humbly ask that you judge this total commitment of myself acceptable. And as you have freely given me the desire to make this offering, so also may you give me the abundant grace to fulfill it.

At Detroit, Michigan, chapel of the North American Martyrs, University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, on the 16th of August in the year 2008.

28 July 2008


Hello from Villa Marquette in beautiful Omena, Michigan where an epic battle is raging between the forces of order and chaos. This week we've been engaging in a major clean up of the compound especially our war against mold which is now in it's second year.

Some major projects:

Rehabilitating fifty nightstands, yes fifty (sanding and painting with mold resistant paint)

Building replacement Adirondack chairs (last year many were lost in the mold battle)

Tearing apart a defunct and incredibly funky old shower room

Tearing down an old fuel shed on the beach and gutting another

Continuing to get rid of any carpet or upholstered furniture in mold prone areas

Painting the second floor of one of the houses

Cleaning the chapel and re-securing some of the pews (the temperature changes warped some of the wood and broke a few brackets)

Official vacation starts Wednesday.

21 July 2008

Whether there is a sin in lack of mirth?

I answer that, In human affairs whatever is against reason is a sin. Now it is against reason for a man to be burdensome to others, by offering no pleasure to others, and by hindering their enjoyment. Wherefore Seneca [Martin of Braga, Formula Vitae Honestae: cap. De Continentia] says (De Quat. Virt., cap. De Continentia): "Let your conduct be guided by wisdom so that no one will think you rude, or despise you as a cad." Now a man who is without mirth, not only is lacking in playful speech, but is also burdensome to others, since he is deaf to the moderate mirth of others. Consequently they are vicious, and are said to be boorish or rude, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. iv, 8).

-St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Secunda Secundae Partis Q168 A 4

The Angelic Doctor clearly understands the virtue of recreation. Who am I to ignore his advice? Let the recreation commence: tomorrow, Batman on Imax; Wednesday, Cedar Point; Friday, Omena for a variety of water sports, bonfires, and fellowship. And whether mirth, work, or study it is all for the Greater Glory of God.

16 July 2008

Back in the USA

I'm back in the USA as of yesterday afternoon. It was a long trip via Houston but after twelve hours of sleep last night I'm back to normal.

My time in Peru was on the whole wonderful though not especially easy. The people, especially the Jesuits were remarkably warm and welcoming. They opened up new realities of culture and the Church to me that I had never before considered.

I've come to realize just how dependent I am on the American way of doing things, everything from traffic laws to potable drinking water to good government. As much as Americans complain about the state of our government, and have the right to complain, compared with most of the world our country runs remarkably well and after even my short time in Peru, I am particularly grateful for my native land.

Task one have arrived in Detroit is working through the pile of laundry that has accumulated from the Peru trip and my trip home and to Chicago which immediately preceded Peru. On these occasions I'm especially motivated to simplify, besides the spiritual benefits I'd have less to wash.

12 July 2008

Cuzco and Beyond

I'm just back from six days in and around the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco. Cuzco is around 10,000 feet which for most people means a spell of altitude sickness anything from a mild headache to pretty severe trouble. Thankfully all but one of us were spared the nasty effects of low oxygen levels.

Tuesday we ventured a small ways out of Cuzco to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a fertile valley home to many important Inca ruins.

Our plans got a bit disrupted Wednesday because of a National Strike. All roads in and out of the city were blocked and just about all the stores were closed. The only vehicles on the road that day were police. We watched the strike from the roof of the Jesuit Church in Cuzco's main square after an excellent tour given by the pastor. The Church in the picture is the Jesuit Church, La Compañia.

Thursday we headed out of the city to some remote Jesuit apostotles working with native peoples. It was really the middle of nowhere. We traveled for miles and miles over unpaved roads and truly harsh terrain.

Friday we visited the storied Maccu Picchu. I was less impressed with the city itself than with the rain forest and mountains surrounding it. Location, location, location.

03 July 2008

Last week in Lima

This is my last week in Lima. On Sunday I head up to the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco for a week of touring including Maccu Pichu. I don't think I'll have internet access whilst in Cuzco.

Last night there was a power outage, our fourth since arriving here. Rather than sitting at home in the dark all night we decided to head out into the city. The picture is of seven happy Jesuits at Lima's waterpark, which is really quite impressive. It's a collection of fountains, some quite large, choreographed with music, lights, and video. A good time was had by all, and when we got back home the lights were on.

Urban Roosters

Urban Roosters
or how I get up in the morning.

When I was younger, I often watched Green Acres on TV and wondered what the country life would be like. As a child of upper-middle class and lower-upper class suburbs my acquinantance with any sort of farm animals is strictly limited that is to say I've visited pettings zoos and watched Green Acres. One prominent aspect of my agrarian imaginings was waking up to the sound of the roosters preparing for the dawn and then going out to a hard day's work.
When I arrived in Lima last month, a congested city of almost eight million, I had no idea part of my Green Acres imaginings would come true. Yet the very first morning here about six in the morning the roosters began cockeldoodeling (can that be a gerund?). Our neighboor a few buildings over raises roosters on his roof, in fact urban livestock appears to be common here. It was amuzing and efficient using the rooster alarm for about the first week until I realized the awful truth about waking up to roosters: it's the alarm clock that won't shut off at least not until the sun goes down. Sure they mellow out as the day goes on but never quite stop like an alarm clock the beeps randomly throughout the day just to make certain you haven't nodded off. Gone are my romanticized vision of life on the farm, all thanks to a very urban Lima and its very urban roosters.

29 June 2008

Ss. Peter and Paul

Happy Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul

Today a few of us ventured downtown to the Jesuit Church of San Pedro for Mass. We got more than we bargained for. The Peruvian people have a penchant for processions I've discovered. Today at San Pedro we arrived to find the street full of men and women in all sorts of brightly colored costumes from Inca to Elvis. At the center of it all was St. Peter decked out in an ornate cope with St. Paul carried along side. A group of retainers wore sashes matching the cope. The parade stretched on as far as I could see. I counted at least four bands and eight dancing troops.

San Pedro has Mass ever hour on Sunday mornings, all well attended. We arrived around 10:45 for the 11:00 Mass. The parade continued all through Mass. The bands outside overwhelmed the poor organ and choir. The competing cerimonies distracted me a bit but the Peruvians seemed used to it.

Around communion time the first procession seemed to end. But no sooner had it ended than a second St. Peter statue emerged ready to be taken on tour. This time in the opposite direction of the first. Talk about Catholic Culture.

25 June 2008

¿No conoco?

I was struck today by the joy of being bad at Spanish. Don't get me wrong, my goal is to eventually achieve fluency, but in the meantime there's a lot to be learned. Stumbling over my words frees me to pay greater attention to expression, tone, setting. It also makes conversation very basic. Not being able to talk about metaphysics, literature, history, world events, I've found great solace in talking about simple immanent things. In English I seldom let myself enjoy a conversation about how a certain piece of fruit was a little odd looking; in Spanish I'm all about it. Speaking like a three year old in Spanish means enjoying some three year old level conversations and it's not all bad.

In other news, my current favorite blog, The Immanent Frame, has a great thread on Neuroscience and Religion: A Cognitive Revolution. Well worth a look for those interested in such things.

18 June 2008

Jean Vanier

The saintly Jean Vanier, founder of l'Arche, speaking at the Eucharistic Congress in Quebec

17 June 2008



I´m currently living in the Juniorado in Breña, a lower middle class neighborhood of Peru with six Peruvian and Ecuadorian Juniors (the stage of formation just after novitiate), nine guys from Loyola House, one scholastic from Texas, and four Peruvian priests.

The transition to Peruvian living has not been completely smooth. I go some nasty food poisoning or some such thing last week and only today to I feel completely better. Thankfully my illustrious spiritual director, Fr. Dave, is also Dr. Dave MD, so I was well taken care of.

The Peruvian schedule is a little different than what I´m used to:

7:00 Mass

7:30 Breakfast

8:15 - 1:00 Spanish Class

1:30 Lunch (the big meal of the day)

Afternoon free with occasional planned activities

7:30 Dinner

A week in I´m begining to adapt. Spanish is likewise coming along though slowly as I have not seriously studied it before. French and Latin give me some foundation but more with reading than speaking.

10 June 2008


Greetings from Peru!

It has been an eventful week and a half since I last posted.

First was Jenn and Pat s (the apostrophy key is not working on this keyboard sadly) wedding in Buffalo. It was a wonderful celebration, fitting for such a wonderful couple.

Next was a home visit. Journeying back to my native Youngstown for a few days with family, always a pleasure.

Immediately after home visit were bi-province days in Chicago. Jesuits of the Detroit and Chicago provinces gathered to celebrates jubillees and the ordination of four of our brothers.

We left Chicago Saturday after the ordination for Detroit and flew out of Detroit Sunday morning for Houston then onto Peru.

I am still a little overwhelmed at the moment. This is my first trip to South America and my first real Spanish immersion experience. My Spanish is pitiful and it takes about all my mental energy at the moment to follow the conversations going on around me. Right now I am batting about .500 on comprehension and a great deal less on conversation. Hopefully these will improve.

29 May 2008


I've just received word from my provincial that I have been approved for vows in August! Huzzah!

Time for a classic Jesuit video in celebration:

25 May 2008

Corpus Christi

More like Corpus Christi observed since the solemnity was really last Thursday but is moved to Sunday almost everywhere.

Another mostly uneventful week here at Loyola House. We had a seminar Thursday and Friday which was rather good. The event of the week was, at long last, finishing Charles Taylor's A Secular Age which I've been reading off and on since October. It's truly an amazing piece of scholarship though not something that can be zipped through clearly. I would write about it except I don't know where to start, perhaps some other time.

Next week looks to be busier. Monday is the summer birthday extravaganza. Tuesday is the 25th Jubilee celebration for my novice master. Wednesday and Thursday the provincial visits. Friday is a liturgy workshop. Saturday I leave here at the crack of dawn for Buffalo and Jenn and Pat's wedding.

I will derive

For all you Physics and Calculus lovers:

17 May 2008


The first year novices returned to Loyola House after being spread across the US and Canada on various ministry experiments. There's an excitement in the air as everyone shares what he's been doing the past few months-- new ministries, cities, people, challenges and joys, ministries as diverse as working with the UN to working with the homeless. In these things and everything in between finding God, who Ignatius exhorted his follower to find, "In all things." It's times like these I feel particularly blessed to be a Jesuit--living, working, and praying with such wonderful men serving a mission so much bigger than any of us.


13 May 2008

Back from Retreat

I'm back from my eight day retreat at Manresa Jesuit Retreat House just north of here in Bloomfield Hills. It was a lovely time to decompress after working at U of D Jesuit and do some serious prayer.

May is a relaxed time here at Loyola House. We have a number of projects but no steady work until June when we head off to Peru for six weeks. I'm hoping quixotically to get caught up on my reading. I just ordered The Philosophy of Medicine Reborn: A Pellegrino Reader, a collection of essays by the eminent medical ethicist and doctor Edmund Pellegrino which I'm really excited about starting. Anyways... much reading to do.

04 May 2008


This cartoon was drawn by a junior in my eighth period Morality class. I think he captures my personality a bit too well.
Posted by Picasa

03 May 2008

Back in Berkley

Long experiment is over and I'm back in Berkley at Loyola House. It was a wonderful four months at U of D Jesuit. I'm immensely grateful to the U of D Jesuit community and the larger school community for their support during my time with them. U of D is a wonderful institution and I was lucky to be a part of it.

Jesuit life is full of transitions. I don't find transition an easy thing. There is a natural desire to settle into places be they communities or ministries. It is a necessary part of ministry to commit to a particular work. To invest oneself in the task at hand. It's very easy to become attached to that task, to self-associate with a ministry. Yet in the midst of transition I am reminded that a Jesuit should never be content with settling into a particular ministry for the long haul. A Jesuit is, before any particular ministry, one who is sent on mission for the greater glory of God. He must always seek after the Magis. Where am I being called to serve better? Living the Magis means transition--a willingness to go where the Spirit leads. I pray I might have the grace to live this ideal.


25 April 2008

One more week

I've just finished my second to last week here at "The High". At the risk of sounding cliche, time has just flown by. As is common in novice experiments, now that I feel comfortable at this ministry it's getting time to move on. Thankfully I still have next week.

Matthew the disciplinarian has had to assert himself a bit more as the weather has grown nicer. Student behavior is inversely proportionate to favorable atmospheric conditions. The longer I'm here the more unpleasant I find taking disciplinary action. Teaching is fun; classroom management is exhausting. Unfortunately without firm measures nothing would be accomplished in a high school, such is the cost of adolescent angst.

This weekend my parents are visiting. Tonight we're going to see Hilary Hahn play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concert with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; it should be excellent.

16 April 2008

The Pope at Catholic University

The Holy Father will be visiting my alma mater tomorrow to deliver an address on Catholic higher education. Hopefully my little brother, who is a freshman at CUA, will get to see him.

15 April 2008

Viva Il Papa!

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know the Pope is now visiting the United States. Let us pray that his visit may enliven the Church in faith and unity.

07 April 2008

An excellent week

Last week was an excellent week in the life of Matt. Now most of my weeks are good: I lead a happy life, I'm pleased to say. But last week was a cut above.

Firstly, classes last week went better than I had hoped. Particularly philosophy class, last week's topic was the ethics of J.S. Mill and Virtue ethics. It was a lot to cover in a ridiculously short amount of time, but I think they got a few of the essentials. What is more encouraging is the number of students who came up to me outside of class to talk philosophy.

The eighth graders took a Latin exam last week which also surpassed my expectations. Many of the kids got over 100%. I think they have successfully conquered the present active in all four conjugations. Now onto the passive voice.

Last Wednesday University of Detroit Mercy hosted a lecture by Dr. Robert Bellah, a prominent sociologist who studies secularization particularly. He lectured on the conditions of belief in the modern West. How does one believe today in a Society that increasingly guards itself against the transcendent. He reflected particularly on Charles Taylor's A Secular Age, which I might add is just superb. It is well worth the 800 page commitment.

Friday early evening I attended a discussion of the 35 General Congregation of the Society of Jesus which ended last month. A general congregation is the highest governing body of the Society. The presenters who had been members of the congregation were all convinced that the work of the spirit had been accomplished. The highlighted particularly our new Father General Nicolas and a reaffirmation of our strong communion with the Pope. I left the meeting reinvigorated in my Jesuit identity and pleased with the direction the Society is heading.

Friday night was the premiere of Battlestar Galactica season four. Cylons, and Raiders, and Starbuck O My. The little dork inside me was delighted.

Saturday I finished my application to Loyola University Chicago where my provincial has mission me for next year. Jesuits missioned to a Jesuit university for First Studies typically don't have any issues getting in but we're still required to go through the application process.

Saturday night I was off to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. The program was Italian themed including Berlioz's Roman Carnival, Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony 4, and John Corigliano's Symphony 3, "Circus Maximus". This last work is a new composition and a challenging one. It attempts to parallel the collapse of Roman civilization with what the composer perceives is the collapse of our own. I'm not ready to pass judgment on it yet; I can say it's kept me thinking.

Sunday I took some time to enjoy the nice weather and catch up on some letter writing.

All together an excellent week.


01 April 2008

April Fool's Day

This makes me immensely happy. More at the Shrine of the Holy Whapping.

30 March 2008

Elizabeth Anscombe

As I was reading through the New York Times magazine this morning I happened upon an article about a pro-chastity at Harvard. (Chastity in the sense of abstaining from sexual activity before marriage, not in the priestly sense though the two senses are related.) It is one of an increasing number of pro-chastity groups popping up at Ivy League Universities. Several of these groups take as their 'patron' Dr. Elizabeth Anscombe, an Oxford Philosopher and disciple of Wittgenstein most noted for her work on human intention.

The chastity movement finds inspiration in Anscombe's 1977 essay "Contraception and Chastity." It's only 16 pages and well worth a read. Anscombe as the NYT article rightly points out is difficult to summarize. The essay is a hybrid of the theological and the philosophical with a little history mixed in for good measure. Better just to read what she has to say than for me to try and explain it. I don't think I can really do it justice.

Incidentally, I'm going to attempt to teach some Anscombe to my senior philosophy students in the form of her essay, "Modern Moral Philosophies." I'm not planning on having the students read it just utilizing a few arguments. This essay was landmark in the development of virtue ethics. The class is currently studying Kant, and we'll be on to Mill shortly. I'm hoping to use it as a means to work backwards to Aristotle. We'll see how well that works.

Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!

28 March 2008


All good things come to an end, including spring break. Since Wednesday afternoon of Holy Week I've been enjoying some time off in Youngstown and Philadelphia.

This year I once again had the good fortune to assist with the Easter Triduum liturgies at my home parish of St. Charles. Things went off mostly without a hitch, thanks in large part to the excellent servers. Good servers make an MC's job much easier.

The Tuesday after Easter my parents and I headed to Philadelphia to visit my mother's side of the family. The picture is of Logan Circle in downtown Philadelphia near where we stayed. It was a packed but wonderful couple of days reconnecting with family.

We also had an opportunity to visit a special exhibition of Frida Kahlo's art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (home of the Rocky steps). Frida is known both as the wife of the famed muralist Diego Rivera and as an accomplished and provocative artist in her own rite. I was particularly drawn into her themes of identity and generativity which appear in many of her works.

Tomorrow it's back to Detroit.

The Immanent Frame

Interesting blog find for those interested in "Secularism, religion, and the public sphere"

The Immanent Frame

23 March 2008

Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone!

Christ is Risen, Alleluia!!!

22 March 2008

Stations of the Cross

Each year the Holy Father leads the Good Friday Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum in Rome. The celebration focused on Asia this year with Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong writing the mediations and the various depictions of the passion portrayed in a Chinese style. Full Text.

Jesus truly dies, because he is truly man. He hands over his last breath to the Father. O, how precious is that breath! The breath of life was given to the first man, and it is given to us once more, in a new way, after the resurrection of Jesus, so that we are able to offer every breath to him who gave us breath. What fear we have of death and how enslaved we are by this fear! The meaning and value of a life are determined by the manner in which it is given away. Even for the unbeliever it is not acceptable to cling to life, losing all sense of its meaning. And for Jesus, there is no greater love than that which leads us to lay down our life for our friends. Those who are attached to life will lose it. Those who are ready to sacrifice it will keep it. The martyrs give the supreme testimony of their love. They are not ashamed of their Master before men. The Master will be proud of them before all humanity on the last day.
-Cardinal Zen, Mediation on the Thirteenth Station

16 March 2008

An End and a begining

Tonight was the final performance of Grease. I was delighted with how well everything went. The cast and crew put on a terrific show. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have played a small part in it.

Today also marks the begining of Holy Week with the celebration of Palm Sunday. This is a week set apart from all others to remember and celebrate Christ's victory over death. The event that changed everything.

Gloria, laus, et honor
tibi sit, Rex Christi, Redemptor.
-Theodulph of Orleans, circa 820

14 March 2008

Closing Homily

This is an excerpt from Father General Nicolas in his closing homily of General Congration 35:

The logic of the Christian experience is very clear. God is love, and so we too love. God is mercy, and so we too show mercy. God is good, and so we too desire to be good. If we do not love, we really do not have anything to say.

13 March 2008

Templton Prize

"Science gives us Knowledge, and religion gives us Meaning. Both are prerequisites of the decent existence. The paradox is that these two great values seem often to be in conflict. I am frequently asked how I could reconcile them with each other. When such a question is posed by a scientist or a philosopher, I invariably wonder how educated people could be so blind not to see that science does nothing else but explores God’s creation." -Michael Heller

This year's Templeton Prize will be awarded to Fr. Michael Heller, a physicist and Catholic priest whose scholarship has included work on the ever intriguing question: "Does the universe need to have a cause?" Fr. Heller ministered in Poland during the communist period and was persecuted both for his work as a scientist and a priest. More on this year's winner can be found on the Templeton site.

In other news, Grease opens tonight!

05 March 2008


I woke up with morning and to my delight was greeted with a snow day. After promptly celebrating the news with a two and a half hour nap, I'm awake, caffineinated and ready to go. My goal today is to catch up on all the things I haven't had time for in the past two weeks; it's a long list.

Much of my life has been taken up with U of D Jesuit's musical, Grease. I never realized how much work goes into putting on a good show, last night the stage crew worked until 9:15 pm. That's about par for the course the next two weeks. Working on the musical has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know the students on a less formal level than the classroom but it does take up a lot of time. All things considered, I'm very happy to be working with the 90 or so students, faculty and volunteers who are trying to pull this thing together. Even more important than putting on the show is the wonderful community built around this common effort and for that I am most thankful.

Opening night is a week from tomorrow! By way of shameless plug: Anyone in the Metro Detroit area should consider coming. The Saturday show is almost sold out but there are still tickets for the other three performances.

27 February 2008

Great Books

I've had the good fortune of lecturing on Plato's Republic several times in the senior survey Philosophy class here at U of D Jesuit. For the number of times I've read the Republic, the book seems just as fresh and only slightly less enigmatic as the first time I opened it. The depth of insight is inexhaustible. Peter Kreeft once quipped, "a classic is like a cow, it always produces more milk," in which case the Republic is one of the most bovine of books.

Teaching is tiring work. At the end of the day I've found myself slipping into the unfortunate habit of settling down in the TV room and letting the images wash over me. As I walked by the TV room this evening intent on basking in the artificial glow, the dichotomy between the great book I've been teaching and what I was about watch struck me: a timeless classic versus largely vapid melodrama or strident analysis of current events. There are many classics I have yet to read, many great truths yet to be discovered. Perhaps life is too short merely to be easily entertained for the moment.

I don't mean to diminish the medium of television per se. There have been, are, and will be brilliant art and analysis through it. Yet I find my recourse to TV comes not from a desire for edification but from a desire for ease. I suspect the easy lessons of what I was going to watch are not worth learning.


13 February 2008


More paper grading...

My respect for good high school teachers grows by the day, especially on days when a mountain of papers comes in for me to grade. The need to incentivize learning by attaching a grade to it is rather distasteful but necessary, more necessary than I previously thought.

Thankfully next weekend is a four day weekend--a chance to get caught up.

In other news, Godspy has relaunched. "GodSpy’s mission is to show—through compelling, personal writing—that being a committed, believing, orthodox Christian is compatible with being a thinking, feeling, culturally engaged person of the twenty-first century." It's well worth a look.


05 February 2008

Joyeux Mardi Gras!

Happy Fat Tuesday to one and all.

I'm currently avoiding a stack of tests I need to grade while proctoring the learning center. The students are a bit lethargic today; they've been gorging themselves on Pazckis all morning and are now in a collective sugar coma. Before I came to Detroit I had no idea about Pazckis. They've a Polish pre-Lenten tradition, an extra unhealthy donut, if such a thing is possible. The idea was to use up all the lard, fat, etc... prior to lent. Presto! Pazckis.

28 January 2008

Small World

It's a small world after all. Two friends of mine have designed the altar Pope Benedict will use for his public Mass in Washington, DC. More details here. Congratulations to John Paul and Ryan--great job guys!

My life as a high school teacher is chugging along smoothly. This teaching thing is harder than it looks. I've learned that lesson planning is particularly tricky business. The Socratic Method doesn't work so well in 11th grade, so I have to be careful to plan explicitly what I'm going to say and where I want to end up at the end of the day. That's not to say that I'll get there, but it's nice to have a plan. Thankfully, I'm getting good feedback from both teachers and students. It's fun but tiring work--which explains my limited posting of late.


19 January 2008

Father General

This morning in Rome these words were spoken by our former superior general announcing the election of his successor according the the formula set down by St. Ignatius and past general congregations:

Ego Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J., auctoritate Sedis Apostolicae et universae Societatis, Reverendum Patrem Adolfo Nicolas S.J., declaro electum in Praepositum Generalem Societatis Jesu, in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.

(I Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J. by the authority of the Apostolic See and the universal Society, declare the Reverend Father Adolfo Nicolas S.J. elected Superior General of the Society of Jesus, in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.)

Deo Gratias


14 January 2008

Thank You Fr. Kolvenbach

Address given by Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ on the acceptance of his resignation by the 35th General Congregation:

Dear Fathers and Brothers,
Today the General Congregation has thought it well to accept my resignation as General Superior of the Society of Jesus. At the end of these nearly twenty-five years of service, I want first of all to thank the Lord, who – to use the words of Saint Ignatius – has truly been propitious to me at Rome, in leading a Society He has called into service for his greater glory.

I am also most grateful for the privilege of having met and accompanied so many friends in the Lord, who in their many diverse vocations have always shown themselves to be true servants of the Mission of Christ.
No single Jesuit should feel himself excluded from this profound sentiment of recognition. Nonetheless I would like to thank in a particular way those in the General Curia who have helped me day after day over many years in carrying out my responsibilities for the Society, as well as all the Major Superiors spread throughout the entire world.

Earlier I was able to express my great thanks to the Holy Father for his apostolic orientations which have allowed the Society to continue our mission “under the banner of the cross and under the Vicar of Christ on earth”.

Let us be grateful to the Lord that despite a disconcerting diversity of persons and cultures, of desires and works, our union of minds and hearts has never failed, and, despite an increasing fragility, the Society retains the capacity of apostolic dialogue before the challenges of the modern world in proclaiming the one Good News.
On this eve of the election of my successor and of the many decisions that the General Congregation will have to make, I unite myself with the prayer with which Saint Ignatius finished his letters: “May God our Lord in his infinite and supreme goodness be pleased to give us his abundant grace, so that we may know his most holy will and entirely
fulfill it.”

13 January 2008

On Dishwashing

Every time I wash the dishes they get dirty again... what's with that? Bummer.

During last week's retreat much of my time was taken up washing dishes for the retreatents. It's hard to get an sense of accomplishment from dishwashing when the dishes just keep coming. Dishes get dirty... dishes get cleaned... people need to eat again... dishes get dirty... it's a vicious cycle.

Upon reflection I've realized all work is like washing the dishes, though some types are more obviously repetitive than others. Take teaching school--students arrive not knowing things as freshmen and hopefully graduate having learned something. Then new freshmen arrive and the cycle begins again.

Even in professions involving creation or discovery this cycle is present albeit in a lesser degree. Homer created timeless classics, but they only retain their freshness and vitality by being carried on and seen anew from age to age. The letters on the page are dead--readers bring them life. Their is a cycle of interpretation and reinterpretation--the texts are not so static as they appear. Homer might have died long ago but the work of the Odyssey and the Iliad are ongoing. Surely writing is not as cyclical as dishwashing but some strands are present. I'm writing something right now and will feel accomplished when I finish, but this accomplishment has little sense of finality nor completeness-- nothing has been definitely expressed by me certainly nor even Homer.

Similarly great scientific discovery is not an end but a beginning. Newton discovered a model for the motion of planets and gravity that is very accurate but not quite right. Einstein offered an even better model, but it too does not really explain why the universe moves the way it does. Their accomplishments while immensely important are important because they more fully engage the question than because they solve it.

Does work really accomplish anything then, or are we forever washing the endless dishes? Yes, I think something is accomplished, but we need to re-imagine what accomplishment is.
In fact, in the final analysis it is always man who is the purpose of the work, whatever work it is that is done by man-even if the common scale of values rates it as the merest "service", as the most monotonous even the most alienating work. -Laborem Exercens, John Paul II
The worker is the purpose of work... that's different. Perhaps work is not so much about doing something as it is about becoming someone. The widgets we make don't last but we are hopefully changed for the better by making them. Better still those that encounter our work are also changed by it. Work is for people more than people are for work.

Now I'm going to go wash my teacup. AMDG

11 January 2008

Moved In

I've officially moved into the Jesuit Community at University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy (hereafter U of D Jesuit). It's been a low key day of packing and laundry. As moves go this is not a big one geographically, the novitiate is about five miles north northwest. Culturally it's a big move both in terms of the neighborhood and the Jesuit community.

The novitiate is a fairly regimented formation community. Its focus is inward--it exists to form novices. This community exists to further apostolic work. Its focus is on the well being of the school and the province office where many of the community members work.

The biggest transition is lifestyle. Going from 10 hours of apostolic work a week plus classes and ample reflection time to working full time and needing to find God in things a bit more on the fly. I'm excited and a bit daunted by this transition. It is a chance to really live the Ignatian ideal of finding God in all things especially in the midst of working with the people of God. AMDG

10 January 2008


Amanda Shaw, a Junior Fellow at First Things, has a great article on the First Things blog about a great movie Juno. For anyone who hasn't seen Juno yet, stop what you're doing and get a ticket. The movie chronicles a 16-year old girl's unplanned pregnancy and her difficult journey from contemplating abortion to telling her parents to adoption. Amanda does a much better job explaining it than I can, so read her article. Incidentally, Amanda and I are college friends.

Juno’s convictions barely show beneath her see-if-I-care attitude and her hip high school lingo, but those convictions nonetheless have deep roots. Vanessa asks if she wants to be paid for the adoption, and Juno shoots back, “I’m not selling the Thing.” Possessions can be sold. People can’t.

Go Cubs!

The retreat is over. Cyril and I are transitioning from our role as retreat helpers to high school teachers. On Tuesday we began our transition by spending the afternoon at the school getting to know some of the kids, particularly kids in the school play.

Tuesday night we watched the U of D Jesuit Cubs take on their arch-rival Brother Rice in basketball. U of D is not a sports powerhouse let's say; Brother Rice usually is, but on this night the Cubs mounted a dramatic comeback in the fourth quarter from a 12 point deficit and defeated Brother Rice 45-43. The crowd went wild... yes, really. They rushed the court and everything. I was particularly impressed by the large number of students in attendance and by their enthusiasm. Clever cheers, dancing, cowbell, what more could you ask of a student section?

Monday morning, U of D Jesuit High School and Academy here we come.

GO CUBS! and as always AMDG

07 January 2008


Ouch OSU Ouch

Two years in a row


And now for something completely different...


Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy Hang on

Strong Words Spoken in Love

Love for the Church in every sense of the word, – be it Church people of God, be it hierarchical Church – is not a human sentiment which comes and goes according to the people who make it up or according to our conformity with the dispositions emanating from those whom the Lord has placed to direct the Church. Love for the Church is a love based on faith, a gift of the Lord which, precisely because he loves us, he gives us faith in him and in his Spouse, which is the Church. Without the gift of faith in the Church there can be no love for the Church.
- Franc Cardinal Rode CM, Opening Homily of GC 35

The Thirty Fifth General Congregation opened today with a homily preached by Francis Cardinal Rode on behalf of the Vatican. The Homily in no uncertain terms called the Society back to its roots especially to what Ignatius called sentire cum Ecclesia (thinking with the Church).

The homily touches upon what I see as the central difficult of Jesuit life, the thing that most attracted me to the Society of Jesus and most frightened me about her and still does. "The Tradition of the Society, from the first beginnings of the Collegio Romano always placed itself at the crossroads between Church and society, between faith and culture, between religion and secularism...Do not abandon this challenge. We know the task is difficult, uncomfortable and risky, and at times little appreciated and even misunderstood, but it is a necessary task for the Church." It's rather like being stuck between an unstoppable force and an immovable object.

The Society has the great and risky task of taking the Gospel foreign places: in the dialogged with other cultures, religions, even in dialogue with those who explicitly reject the faith, with an increasingly secular, atheistic world. Bringing the faith to all these diverse peoples and situations requires great creativity and adaptability. Sometimes creativity leads to distortion of what one is trying to pass on. Sometimes it leads to pride, Jesus gets lost in all too subtle distinctions used to accommodate dialogue; the Church is regarded as backwards: how could the hierarchical Church be so dim, power-hungry, or obstinate not to take our advice? Sometimes, thanks be to God, it leads to good fruit--the Gospel is advanced, the Kingdom of God is strengthened.

How do we think with the Church, the Body of Christ and His vicar while staying true to the task set before us, to confront new challenges in imaginative, effective, and often controversial ways? I don't know. This is a task too great for me, too great for any group of men; it is the Spirit of God which first enlivened the Society and continues to do so today that will see this work to fruition. AMDG

06 January 2008

Prayer at the Tomb of Ignatius

Tomorrow, January 7th, the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus opens with a Mass at our Mother Church in Rome, the Gesu.

The ceremony will include lighting a vigil candle at the altar of St. Ignatius, pictured to the right, to be kept burning the duration of the congregation; Jesuit communities around the world will be similar candles burning in their chapels symbolizing our 'union of hearts and minds' to use St. Ignatius's words. The prayer to be offered at the tomb is quite fitting I think.
Father and Master Ignatius,
discerner of the ways of God,
faithful friend of the Lord,
and humble servant of Christ and the gospel
beneath the banner of the cross;
you who untiringly sought the greater glory of God
through discernment and prayer,and were docile in obedience to the Lord and his spouse the Church;
you who did not seek riches or honor,
but preferred poverty with the poor Christ
and humiliations with Christ humiliated,
provided only that the most holy name of Jesus,
in which our salvation is placed,
was proclaimed to all;
intercede for us with the Father of mercies,
so that in this time of grace
we may seek and find in all things
God’s divine presence
and know his sovereign will.

To the Eternal King of all things
we entrust this least Society,
created not by human hands,but by the powerful hand of Christ our Lord
in whom we place our hope.
May Christ conserve and prosper
what he has begun
for his greater service and praise
and for the salvation of souls.

To you, Father Ignatius, and to the Society of saints in heaven
we entrust ourselves,
so that, confirmed in faith,
refreshed in hope,
and inflamed by evangelical charity,
we may love and serve the Lord in all things
and renew each day
our prayer of offering:

“Take, Lord, receive
all my liberty,
my memory, understanding,
my entire will—
all that I have and possess;
you have given to me,
to you, Lord, I return it.
all is yours now;
do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace;
that is enough for me.”

We ask this in the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord. [emphasis mine]

04 January 2008

John Allen

John Allen wrote a piece on Benedict's "Affirmative Orthodoxy" which is well worth a read. But in case you don't read the whole thing here's the 'money' quote:

There was something original about the way Benedict presented the Christian basics in 2007, so much so that I would nominate it as perhaps the year’s most important neglected papal story. To put the story in a sound-bite, I would call it the emergence of “Affirmative Orthodoxy” as an interpretive key to Benedict’s papacy.

By “affirmative orthodoxy,” I mean a tenacious defense of the core elements of classic Catholic doctrine, but presented in a relentlessly positive key. Benedict appears convinced that the gap between the faith and contemporary secular culture, which Paul VI called “the drama of our time,” has its roots in Europe dating from the Reformation, the Wars of Religion, and the Enlightenment, with a resulting tendency to see Christianity as a largely negative system of prohibitions and controls. In effect, Benedict's project is to reintroduce Christianity from the ground up, in terms of what it’s for rather than what it’s against. [emphasis mine]

GC 35

The thirty-fifth General Congregation of the Society of Jesus opens on January seventh. A General Congregation is the highest governing body of the Society of Jesus and is called only as needed for the purpose of electing a new superior general or other matters of 'greater moment'. The first General Congregation was held in 1558 to elect St. Ignatius' successor.

This congregation was called for the purpose of electing a successor to our superior general Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ who with the Holy Father's permission has asked to retire after 25 years leading the Society.

225 delegates from all over the world will gather to consider the question of the next superior general. What else the congregation takes up is left to their due diligence. Documents are expected to be produced on: Obedience, Obedience to the Holy Father, Ecology, Globalization, Vocations, Collaboration with laity, Jesuit identity, and Community Life. Once the congregation is in session it has autonomy to set its own agenda save requests from the Holy Father.

Lord, in your providence you guided Saint Ignatius to found the Society of Jesus. Enrich it, we pray, with gifts of heart, mind and spirit. Make us all one with you in holiness and love, that we may discern your will and carry it out with constancy and faith. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


03 January 2008

Matthew the Domestic!?

Matthew... now with super domesticated powers!

This week Loyola House plays host to 16 guys interested in the Society of Jesus for an eight day, silent, discernment retreat. Cyril and I don't begin our spring assignments for two more weeks; we've been given the task of taking care of practical matters for the retreatants and directors. We're responsible for everything but cooking dinner and half the lunches.

Taking care of the little tasks of cleaning, organizing, shopping, etc... is more time consuming and difficult than I expected, lots of necessary little tasks none of which give a great sense of accomplishment when completed. The accomplishment in all this is the well being of the retreatants and directors.

Having been spared most domestic duties up to this point in my life and certainly having avoided full-time domesticity, this little experience gives me a new esteem for those people who devote themselves to the endless little tasks for the well being of others.


02 January 2008

Natural Law Conference

My Alma Mater is holding a conference that on paper looks just phenomenal. The title of the conference is "A Common Morality in a Global Age: In Gratitude for What is Given Us." It will focus on a 21th century understanding of 'natural law'.

One of my favorite thinkers Sir John Polkinghorne is speaking on "The Christian Belief in Creation and an Attitude of Moral Responsibility." I'm also intrigued by the title of Jean-Pierre Dupuy's paper, "The Rebellion Against the Given: Advanced Technologies and the Obsolescence of the Human Condition."

The conference planning was set in motion three years ago at the request of then Cardinal Ratzinger and according the Whispers in the Loggia the Holy Father is taking a keen interest in its unfolding.