Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

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.