Monday, January 30, 2006

Notes on the Feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs.

Today Byzantine Christians in both the Catholic and Orthodox churches celebrate the Feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs, a joint commemoration of Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. Today's feast owes its existence to a 12th century quarrel about which of these saintly bishops of the Eastern Church was greatest; to resolve this debate, the Archbishop of Constantinople decreed that all three men should be remembered together for their cumulative impact on the life of the Church. An author of numerous apologetic works, Basil of Caesarea also produced a rule for religious life that continues to guide many monks and nuns of the Eastern Church. Gregory Nazianzen acquired the epithet 'the Theologian' for his defense of the doctrines of the Trinity and of the two natures of Christ. As Archbishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom preached courageously against corruption in the imperial court and among the ranks of his own clergy. By remembering these three outstanding figures on the same day, the Eastern Church offers the faithful three different but equally distinguished models for emulation. At the same time, taking all three together sends an important message about the church as community; each of the Three Holy Hierarchs was outstanding in his own right, but the Church would be much the poorer without the witness of all three. On this Feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs, I'll be praying in thanksgiving for the lives of Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, and asking them to intercede on behalf of those who continue their legacy today. AMDG.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Viatorians and Ukrainians.

The first part of this post's title may be a bit misleading in that I didn't actually meet any real Viatorians when I was at St. Viator High School yesterday for an interleague Chicagoland Scholastic Bowl tournament. Nonetheless, I know more about the Viatorians now than I did on Friday, thanks to a historical display in a hallway at St. Viator's - not much more, but more nonetheless. SICP's varsity Scholastic Bowl team won five of the six rounds in which they competed; the junior varsity team was victorious in only one of five rounds of competition, but the freshmen on the team nonetheless did very well considering the difficulty of the questions (many of which focused on material covered in the junior and senior years of high school) and gained valuable experience. I don't know how SICP did relative to the other schools at the tournament, but I'll post this information when it becomes available. However, I do know that I'm lucky to be associated with a bright and talented group of young people. Working with the Scholastic Bowl team has been a highlight of my experience here so far, and I'm looking forward to joining the team for their next competition.

The second part of this post's title is accurate - I did see some Ukrainians over the weekend. This morning I attended Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Chicago's historic Ukrainian Village. Though I'm told the Ukrainian Village neighborhood now has more yuppies than Ukrainians as a result of gentrification, the area retains an ethnic feel thanks to a concentration of beautiful old churches and Ukrainian businesses. I arrived for the Cathedral's scheduled 11:30 am English-language liturgy to find that a Panakhyda following the main 10 am Ukrainian liturgy was still in progress. The conclusion of the Panakhyda delayed the start of the liturgy I'd come for by about fifteen minutes, but I was glad for the chance to hear the Cathedral's superb Ukrainian choir. My brief exposure to that choir may be enough to lure me back for the Cathedral's 10 am Divine Liturgy next week. One way or another, I was sufficiently enchanted by my first furlough into Ukrainian Village that I hope to return often during my time in Chicago. AMDG.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A busy day at SICP.

Setting a new personal record, this afternoon I was present for three back-to-back afterschool activities. Right after school I ran a practice for St. Ignatius' terrific Scholastic Bowl team, which seems poised to do well in an all-day tournament Saturday at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights. Naturally, I'll be at St. Viator's tomorrow to cheer the team on. After the practice wrapped up, I spent two hours chaperoning a school dance in the dining hall. This was my first time chaperoning at such an event, and in contrast with the old clich├ęs about Catholic school teachers going around with rulers and cautioning kids to 'make room for the Holy Spirit' my duties seemed to consist entirely of telling attendees which doors they could and couldn't use to enter or leave the premises. After the dance, I attended a varsity boys' basketball game versus the Rams of Gordon Tech. The Wolfpack led throughout the game, and though the Rams came on strong in the second half Ignatius won by 53-41. So it was a busy and varied afternoon and evening for me at St. Ignatius College Prep, but it was a fun and rewarding one as well. AMDG.

Being a Jesuit in today's Church.

Mark Mossa has an excellent post up commenting on the role that the Society of Jesus plays in ideological squabbles among Catholics. Mark starts out by giving examples of the positive and negative reactions he receives when people (Catholics in particular) find out that he's a Jesuit. Commenting on these reactions, Mark writes:
These are two extremes. It seems sometimes that when it comes to Jesuits, people either love us or they hate us. The difference I find is that the people who love us, in most cases, do so because they have had good, personal encounters with Jesuits. As for the people that hate us, some have had a bad experience with a Jesuit, but some have just jumped on the bandwagon. There seems to be a rule in some quarters that if you are striving to be an orthodox Catholic, you have to hate the Jesuits. There's a strange sense of solidarity that comes with having a common "enemy."

But as with any prejudice, there are many who will say mean-spirited things about the group as a whole, but when challenged they will allow, "I didn't really mean all Jesuits. Hey, I even have friends who are Jesuits." This, then, serves as permission to continue to malign the group as a whole.
Though I've only been in the Society for a year and a half, Mark's words have a great deal of resonance for me. Most people I encounter express strong support for my vocation, often in part because of the positive impact that individual Jesuits have had on their lives. Echoing Mark's observations, I've found that people I encounter who have bad things to say about the Society often base their opinions on secondhand information or seek to defend their views with statements of the "I even have friends who are Jesuits" variety.

For me, it's hard not to take criticism of the Society personally, especially when that criticism is unfair. It's particularly hurtful to hear people suggest that the Jesuits are 'a dying order' or one that is becoming irrelevant - both of these claims are false, and furthermore both seem to implicitly condemn the commitment that I and my brothers in the Society have made. Hurtful, too, were the words of some of my Catholic friends when I told them I was entering the Society. Though most of my friends supported me, a few were tepid or even bemused in their reactions. If I were joining another religious community, I sensed, they would have been much more supportive. Some Catholics, I've learned, have a very restrictive vision of what religious life is - they expect everyone who joins a religious order to share the same attitudes and observe the same practices. They seem to believe that religious orders that don't align with their own narrow conceptions simply should not exist.

As discouraging as some criticism of the Jesuits can be, I'm happy to report that I receive many more positive responses than negative ones. Here, too, my experiences have been similar to those Mark reports: "People are very pleased to meet a young man who has chosen to serve God and the Church as a priest. Most don't care that I'm a Jesuit, some don't even know what a Jesuit is. They are very supportive, especially when I share with them who I am and why I have chosen the life I have." I love being a Jesuit novice, and the support and encouragement I've received from many quarters has been a great blessing. Being a Companion of Jesus, a member of a group every bit as committed and flawed as the Apostles, is itself a joy and a blessing. There's nowhere I'd rather be, and no group I'd rather be a part of. AMDG.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Michael Ignatieff, MP.

Even if polling predicted the outcome well ahead of time, the victory of Stephen Harper's Conservatives in Monday's Canadian federal election still caught me by surprise. If experience was any guide, I thought, just enough voters would swing to Paul Martin's Liberals at the last minute to keep the Grits in power. Some media voices have been speculating about 'Canada's turn to the right,' but I suspect the Conservative win is more a reflection of public anger over the sponsorship scandal and other recent controversies than a vote of confidence in the party's platform. As the head of a fragile minority government, Harper will have to play his cards very carefully and avoid the kind of dramatic changes in government policy that many in his party would undoubtedly like to see. At least that's my take on the situation; Canadian readers who take issue with what I've written should feel free to correct me.

One of the more interesting stories to come out of this election is the political baptism of Michael Ignatieff. A prolific author and public intellectual who has made notable contributions to contemporary debates about human rights, Ignatieff returned home to Toronto late last year after almost three decades living in England and the United States and promptly became a Liberal candidate for Parliament. A star candidate in a Liberal-leaning riding, Ignatieff nonetheless faced a bruising campaign. Some grassroots Liberals in Ignatieff's riding resented the arrival of a political neophyte who'd lived outside Canada for many years and had tenuous local roots; the same politicos were upset that the Liberal party brass had pushed Ignatieff's candidacy at the expense of other potential contenders who had labored in the trenches for years and wanted a run at the seat. Ignatieff's published writings were unsurprisingly subjected to close scrutiny and criticism, as were public statements that suggested the candidate had his eye on the Liberal leadership and the Prime Minister's office. Despite all the controversy surrounding his candidacy, Ignatieff won comfortably on Monday and will soon take his seat in the Canadian House of Commons. Ignatieff's past accomplishments suggest that he has the potential to do great good in public life. It remains to be seen whether he can ascend to the heights some believe he could reach, but I'm sure he'll keep things interesting. Just watch him. AMDG.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Where everybody knows your name.

As expected, my weekend away in South Bend offered some much-needed relaxation and a chance to see old friends. I actually saw more friends and acquaintances than I expected, randomly running into people I hadn't planned on seeing as I made my way across the Notre Dame campus. As always, the Jesuits of Henri de Lubac House in Granger, Indiana provided gracious hospitality and fraternal companionship. One of my brother novices once characterized the Granger Jesuit residence as my "home community" in the Society, and on that point said novice was quite perceptive. Henri de Lubac House is a place where I always feel welcome and a place I always look forward to returning to. I could say the same thing about Notre Dame and, for that matter, about South Bend in general. More desolate in the winter and considerably less cosmopolitan than most of the other places where I've lived, South Bend is nonetheless a city for which I've come to regard with affection.

One of my favorite annual campus events when I was a law student, the Notre Dame Student Film Festival continues to impress in its latest installment. From year to year, a number of the short-subject films that make up the festival seem to be variations on a theme. For example, there's always one or two slice-of-life documentaries profiling colorful local residents or chronicling peculiarly local phenomena. Two films at this year's festival fell into the "townie doc" category: Two Dollar Ride, a profile of a South Bend cabdriver popular with ND students, and Layer 18,653, a look into the life of a Southern Indiana man who has produced the world's largest ball of paint. Each year's festival also has at least one entry in the "looking for love" genre, in which date-deprived Domers adopt new strategies in their pursuit of romance - like taking to the slopes, as in this year's Skiing for Love. Every festival features at least a couple black-and-white silent films on sundry topics - this year's silents looked at a guilt-ridden thief (Possession) and a bachelor who proposes to his girlfriend by hiding a ring in a cupcake (M&M in the Middle). Each year, there's also at least one "edgy entrant" film that deals - typically with great tact and creativity - with a controversial or sensitive topic. Case History, this year's "edgy entrant" and probably the best film at the festival, tells the story of a once-popular but now disgraced Catholic priest trying to put his life back together after serving a prison term on sex charges. On the whole, the 2006 Notre Dame Student Film Festival was on a par with those of past years and left me wanting more. I can't wait to see what Notre Dame's inspired student filmmakers will think of next. AMDG.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Wolfpack defeats Lions 49-42.

Continuing a strong season, the St. Ignatius varsity boys' basketball team beat the Lions of Leo High School by a seven-point margin. Though the game was played in Leo's own (surprisingly small) gym, the Lions didn't have much of a home-court advantage - in fact, the Wolfpack led throughout the game. To the credit of all players, both teams played like their lives depended on the outcome of the game. It was good to see the Wolfpack win an away game for the second week running, and it was even better watching the game in person with my current housemate Father Jim Chambers. A Jesuit who now serves as a chaplain at Cook County Hospital after having spent many years teaching in Kathmandu, Jim is also an Ignatius alum (Class of 1942) and a loyal fan of Wolfpack basketball. Jim's enthusiasm for the game and for his alma mater offer a sterling example to all Wolfpack fans.

In other news, I'll be heading to South Bend tomorrow morning for an overnight visit. My primary purpose in going is to catch up with a few good friends at Notre Dame, though I may also take in the 17th Annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival while I'm in town. Attending this yearly presentation of invariably top-notch student-produced films was one of the things I enjoyed most about my time at Notre Dame, and the festival also provided a brief ray of sunshine during otherwise bleak Indiana winters. This year's film festival also offers me the opportunity to scope out Notre Dame's new DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, which was built during my time on campus but didn't open until after I graduated. Perhaps I'll have more to say on the topic when blogging resumes on Monday. AMDG.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

South Bend to join Eastern time zone.

Today's South Bend Tribune reports on a U.S. Department of Transportation ruling putting the city and its environs in the Eastern time zone. In July and November posts, I commented on the ongoing political debate about how Indiana's 92 counties should be divided among the Eastern and Central time zones. For the past several decades, most of the Hoosier State has observed "Indiana East Time," a Solomonic compromise which enabled residents to spend half the year on Eastern time and half on Central time without having to worry about changing their clocks. IET will disappear in a few months, and after a great deal of controversy the federal government is releasing its final decisions on what time zones the counties that have observed IET will be placed in. The time zone issue was particularly contentious in South Bend-centered St. Joseph County. Many St. Joseph County residents look ninety miles west to Chicago for a sense of cultural and social definition, so it made sense to most local officials and many ordinary citizens for the county to become part of the Central time zone. At the same time, others observed that South Bend and the city of Elkhart in the neighboring county of the same name essentially constitute a cohesive metropolitan area with an integrated local economy; it made sense for St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties to stay together, and Elkhart wanted to be in the Eastern time zone. Both sides had a point, and in some sense both were right. However, only one could prevail. Yesterday's DOT decision putting St. Joseph County in the Eastern time zone paradoxically serves local interests while spurning local opinion. Though I retain a nostalgic hankering for Indiana East Time, I'm glad the time zone controversy has come to an apparent conclusion. AMDG.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Mind the gap.

I believe I've alluded in the past to the generation gap that seems to exist between people of my age and today's high school students. On numerous occasions - including this very evening at dinner in my own Jesuit community - I've heard it said that the cultural, social and technological changes of the last three decades have reduced generations from groups of people born within periods of ten to twenty years to groups born in five-year (or even smaller) blocs. What would once be regarded as a single generation is now seen as a succession of several mini-generations. To provide an anecdotal but telling example of the gap between mini-generations, today's high school students can't remember a time when access to the Internet and cellphone use weren't widespread phenomena. I can remember such a time, and that fact means that I necessarily view the world in a different way than young people only a few years younger than me.

As you might imagine, the above reflections were prompted by an experience I had today at school. I recently agreed to help coach SICP's Scholastic Bowl team, and this afternoon I attended one of the team's practice sessions. As they would at a competition, the students listened to questions on various topics - history, language, math, science - and buzzed in to give answers. As you can imagine, the kids who do Scholastic Bowl are very bright; as I had expected, they correctly answered an array of very challenging questions. However, none of them could identify Boris Becker, Ed Koch or the movie Bull Durham. 1980's pop culture trivia that I take for granted is apparently becoming alien to modern teenagers.

Reflecting on the generation gap between myself and today's high school students helps me put my ministry at St. Ignatius College Prep in a larger context. Many of my experiments in the novitiate have focused on bridging the kind of gaps that too often drive people apart. Working with elderly nursing home residents on my hospital experiment was a means of bridging the gap between youth and age. My experiences working with refugees in California and Ontario helped me bridge gaps between different cultures and religions. And now at SICP I find myself trying to bridge a new and different kind of generation gap. Such is life as a Jesuit novice. AMDG.

Monday, January 16, 2006

From Annunciation to Resurrection.

I was on the move quite a bit this weekend, moving from the center to the periphery of Chicagoland and then back again. I spent much of Saturday at Arrupe House in Rogers Park, catching up with various friends enrolled in the Jesuit First Studies Program at Loyola University Chicago. I also got a haircut from my brother novice Ben Krause and returned the favor by cutting Ben's hair immediately afterward. This is the first time that Ben has cut my hair, and I'm pleased enough with the results that I'll probably ask him to do it again.

Yesterday morning I met up again with some scholastics from Loyola (including loyal Novitiate Notes reader John Shea) for Sunday liturgy at Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church in the Chicago suburb of Homer Glen. Annunciation is known for the high quality of its liturgical celebrations and the beauty of its interior, photos of which can be seen here. Annunciation is also trying to establish itself as a model in the area of environmental sustainability, which is what stirred John's interest in the parish. Though the pastor's preaching style was quite different from what I'm used to, I found that the parish lived up to its reputation for fine liturgy. Most of Annunciation's "green" initiatives are still in the planning stage, but I still think the parish deserves credit for its creativity in this area.

Sunday evening found me far from Chicago - and even further away from Homer Glen - at the Resurrection Center in the north-central Illinois town of Woodstock. Woodstock stood in for Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in the movie Groundhog Day, but it wasn't the Hollywood connection that brought me there. The Resurrection Center was the venue for an overnight retreat for SICP faculty, facilitated by newly-ordained Deacon Pat McGrath. Pat gave a number of excellent presentations on Ignatian themes, in between which I had plenty of time to get to know some of my new colleagues a bit better. The retreat also provided an opportunity to spend some time with the St. Ignatius Jesuit community's own Pat Fairbanks before he heads off to tertianship tomorrow. In some sense, in coming to SICP I'm trading places with Pat, who'll be based at Loyola House for the next four months and will be revisiting some of the experiences of his novitiate - the Long Retreat, classes on Jesuit history and the Constitutions, and short-termed experiments in ministry. To learn more about tertianship and about the Chicago Province Jesuits who will be undergoing this final stage in their formation this spring, check out this article in the latest issue of Partners, the Chi Prov magazine. More importantly, I hope you'll join me in praying for the tertians as they begin what ought to be a rich and meaningful experience. AMDG.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Wolfpack beats Friars 40-39.

Just returned from a St. Ignatius varsity boys' basketball away game at Dominican-run Fenwick High School in Oak Park. St. Ignatius fans were unsurprisingly outnumbered by supporters of the home court Fenwick Friars, but the Wolfpack faithful offered a level of audible enthusiasm that rivaled (and at times exceeded) the cheers of the much more numerous Fenwick fans. This psychological edge may have helped the Wolfpack beat the Friars - in overtime, mind you - by a single point, 40-39. I'm told this is a significant victory for St. Ignatius, as the Friars are one of our stronger opponents and have tended to defeat the Wolfpack in past matchups. I had just as much fun as I did at last week's Jesuit Cup game, and I look forward to cheering on the Wolfpack again next Friday when they take on Leo High School. Go Wolfpack, AMDG.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Exam week at SICP.

The next three days at St. Ignatius will be devoted to first semester final exams, some of which I will be proctoring. From what I can tell, most of the finals here seem to be multiple-choice tests of the Scantron variety. If you've taken a standardized test, you've probably seen a Scantron sheet - indeed, you probably have painful memories of the hours you spent filling and perhaps madly erasing and refilling the tiny bubbles of a Scantron sheet in the midst of a high-stakes exam that you thought would determine the course of your life - and perhaps did. Does SICP's use of Scantron sheets for most of its exams help the school's students feel less uncomfortable when they end up taking the standardized tests that most high schoolers dread? It's possible, but I doubt it. My sense is that students will always approach tests like the ACT and the SAT with fear and trembling, no matter how familiar they are with Scantron sheets.

To my mind, Scantron's impact on American education has been both positive and negative. On the one hand, it's hard to argue with the system's efficiency. The advent of exams that can be corrected by machines cuts down on the amount of time that teachers must devote to grading and gives them more time for other activities that can help sharpen their skills - crafting lesson plans, deepening their knowledge of the subject they teach, and even enjoying more leisure time so they'll be more well-rested and relaxed when they enter the classroom. Nonetheless, Scantron and similar technologies also limit the potential ways in which testing can help students grow. I would argue that essay-based exams demand a level of analytical ability and a competence of written expression that simply cannot be tested by even the most rigorous of multiple-choice exams. And then there is the question of objectivity. The anonymity of computer grading eliminates the possibility that teachers' personal opinion of particular students might influence their grading decisions. We've reached a point where computers - albeit not those of the traditional Scantron variety - can also be used to evaluate essays and other written work on the basis of length, word choice and the like. However, even the most sophisticated computer cannot analyze a student's essay with the level of attention and sensitivity that a human teacher can. On the same token, other methods of anonymous grading - such as the assignment of exam numbers which students may put on their tests instead of their names - can help maintain objectivity without dehumanizing the grading process.

It's hard to say what kind of exam I'd opt for as a teacher. The multiple-choice Scantron exam and the old-fashioned blue book essay exam each have their strengths and weaknesses, and I suppose which is best depends on the content of the course in question. In the arena of testing, teachers and students may have to settle for nothing more than 'good enough.' AMDG.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Becoming Mr. Koczera.

My first week at St. Ignatius College Prep was a bit overwhelming, with a lot of new names and faces to remember and a lot of new information to absorb. Each day I've gotten to know the school a bit better and gotten a better sense of what I'm doing there. That's not to say there aren't some challenges - getting used to being "Mr. Koczera" instead of "Joe" is one. This is my first time working in a high school, and being regarded as an authority figure is still a very new experience for me. Even so, I think I'm getting the hang of it. I'm also making slow but steady progress in getting to know some of the students, who have impressed me as a bright and talented group. The faculty and staff here have also been very friendly and welcoming, helping a new colleague who is a novice in more senses than one to get his bearings. Though SICP is still very new to me, I think I'm settling in fairly well.

A highlight of my first week was Friday's "Jesuit Cup" varsity boys' basketball game between St. Ignatius College Prep and Loyola Academy. A spirited rivalry exists between Chicago's two traditional Jesuit high schools, and the annual Jesuit Cup game - a tradition of at least three decades' standing - holds an important place on the athletic calendars of both schools. This matchup between the SICP Wolfpack and the Loyola Ramblers draws such a large crowd that for the past couple years the Jesuit Cup game has been held at the Gentile Center at Loyola University Chicago. As anticipated, Friday night's game was played before a packed gymnasium. Students and alumni from both schools came out in force and cheered their favored teams on with admirable zeal. After an exciting, high-energy game, the Wolfpack lost to the Ramblers 47-43. Historically, I haven't been much of a basketball fan - my years at Georgetown notwithstanding - but I had such a great time Friday that I hope to attend the rest of this year's Wolfpack basketball games. This experience reminded me how glad I am to be here, and hopefully the great time I had at the Jesuit Cup game is a sign of even greater things to come. AMDG.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Father James E. Farrell, S.J., 1914-2006.

Detroit Province Jesuit Father Jim Farrell, a longtime teacher, administrator and retreat director, died early yesterday in Cleveland at age 91. In his seventy-three years in the Society of Jesus, Jim served as a teacher and administrator at Loyola Academy and U of D Jesuit High School and later did retreat work at Loyola of the Lakes Jesuit Retreat House, Manresa Jesuit Retreat House and the Jesuit Retreat House of Cleveland. Jim was also the older brother of Loyola House's own Father Walt Farrell, and it was in this capacity that I met him. In October 2004, Jim came to the novitiate to help celebrate his younger brother's 70th anniversary as a Jesuit. On that visit, Jim shared a few stories about Walt and also spoke about his own life in the Society. Though they lived in different cities for much of their Jesuit lives, the Farrell brothers kept up frequent contact and often vacationed together. Though I only met him once, I'll miss Jim Farrell. His brother Walt and those who knew him well will surely miss him even more. I hope readers of this blog will join me in praying in a special way for Jim and for all who mourn his death and gratefully recall his life of service. AMDG.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Settling in at SICP.

This is my first post of the new year, so it seems appropriate to begin by writing about a new experience: the first day of my Long Experiment at St. Ignatius College Prep, which was today. I spent most of the school day meeting with faculty and administrators, reading handbooks, filling out forms, touring the building and generally getting to know SICP a bit better. Having met with the principal and various department heads, I have a somewhat clearer idea of what I'll be doing at the school. It looks like I'll be dividing my time between the departments of social studies, pastoral ministry, community service and student activities. In practical terms, this will mean a combination of observing (and perhaps later teaching) some classes, helping out with Kairos and other retreats, and assisting some of SICP's many student organizations. The administrators, faculty and students I met today were friendly and seemed eager to help me feel at home. Discovering that I was a Domer, some commiserated with me over Notre Dame's loss to Ohio State yesterday in the Fiesta Bowl. Though it may be too soon to know for sure, SICP seems to be more of a Cubs rather than a White Sox school; as noted in this March post, the Cubs are my Chicago team of choice - notwithstanding Nomar's departure for the Dodgers.

Though I still haven't unpacked all my clothes and personal effects, I've settled into the rhythms of life at the St. Ignatius Jesuit Residence. Like the staff and students at the school, the dozen or so Jesuits in community here have given me a gracious welcome. The Jesuits here are a diverse group, about evenly split between men working at SICP and others involved in diverse apostolates including hospital and prison chaplaincy, parish work and ministry to people with HIV. A majority of the Jesuits here are over the age of 65, and I'm the youngest in the community by almost twenty years. Nonetheless, the generation gap is much less significant than you might suppose -I'm blessed to be in a friendly and generous multigenerational community, and even if many of my brothers at St. Ignatius are close to one another (and far from me) in terms of age, each is unique in background, interests and personality. Being in Chicago, I also have access to other Jesuit communities, such as the one at LUC. I'm also living a stone's throw away from my brother novice Ben Krause, who is doing his Long Experiment at St. Procopius Church a few blocks south of SICP. From the standpoint of Jesuit community, I'd say I'm pretty well-situated.

Rounding out this post, I should say something about my physical location. My room at the St. Ignatius community affords a breathtaking view of the Chicago skyline; I can actually see the Sears Tower from my bed. My room also looks out on trendy Taylor Street, which includes a cosmopolitan array of ethnic restaurants as well as the remains of Chicago's Little Italy (represented mainly by a few cafes and bakeries). SICP is basically surrounded by the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, with university-owned buildings next door to and across the street from the school and the Jesuit community. The neighborhood around St. Ignatius is also saturated with historic Catholic churches, each serving very different worshipping communities. Right next to SICP is Holy Family, one of only a handful of buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the mother church of the Chicago Province; once a very Irish parish with tens of thousands of registered parishioners, Holy Family now serves a small and predominantly African American congregation. Just down Roosevelt Road from SICP is St. Francis of Assisi, an important presence in Chicago's Latino community for over eight decades. Notre Dame de Chicago a few blocks north of Roosevelt is another of Chicago's oldest parishes and, I'm told, one of its most diverse. Then there's the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, a reminder of the neighborhood's days as an Italian enclave and still home to a strongly Italian faith community. While I'm here I hope to visit each of these churches and perhaps report on them on this blog.

In my last post I suggested I might say something about Peter Jackson's new remake of King Kong. To put it briefly, the film's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. King Kong is full of rich and stunning visuals, including carefully detailed recreations of 1932 Manhattan and some of the most realistic computer animation I've yet seen on the big screen. However, the creators of the new King Kong seem to have been some impressed with the tools at their disposal that they got carried away with them. The filmmakers' indulgence comes out especially in King Kong's overlong and over-the-top fight scenes; sequences in which the title ape battles three dinosaurs simultaneously or swats biplanes from the sky are suitably impressive, but they also drag on a lot longer than they have to and involve increasingly tedious choreography. King Kong proves that even visually dazzling films can wear out their welcome. In many ways, King Kong is worth seeing. However, whether this film is worth three hours of one's life is a prudential judgment each viewer will have to make. AMDG.