Thursday, September 30, 2004

Bush v. Kerry, Round One.

Novitiate Notes is emphatically *not* a political blog, but some readers will undoubtedly want to know what I thought of tonight's debate, so I'll write a few words on the topic. (Readers who are interested in my views on this score are also likely aware of my political leanings, so I see little need to state them here.) Kerry was cool and composed, and made good use of factual data to back up his contentions. However, he also occasionally lapsed into unnecessarily tortured circumlocutions at points where a few direct words would've done the trick. (By the count of another Loyola House audience member, Kerry also referred to his Vietnam service no fewer than eight times, but I've never faulted him for that.) Bush, to his credit, stayed on message - even though the message itself was trite and even counterfactual; the President's stammering delivery and awkward demeanor didn't help, and though he got in a couple zingers he also had more than a few gaffes. Kerry looked and sounded presidential; Bush did not. Personally, I'd give this one to Kerry; will be interested to see what the papers, polls and pundits have to say. Looking forward to Round Two in a few days. AMDG.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

What I'm reading.

Yesterday I completed Moral Theology in an Age of Renewal by Paulinus Odozor, a Spiritan priest from Nigeria who currently teaches at Notre Dame. I don't have much of a background in moral theology, so I can't offer a learned critique of the book. (For one of those, see this review from America.) I approached Odozor's work hoping for an overview of some of the more salient debates in Catholic moral theology over the past forty years, and that's pretty much what I got out of it. Moving on, I've begun re-reading The First Jesuits by our own John O'Malley. I read O'Malley's book for the first time during the summer of 2003, and I was so taken with it then that I managed to complete it off in a couple days. I'm delving it into it again first and forthmost because portions of it were assigned for the Jesuit history class we're currently taking; rather than simply read excerpts, I figured I might as well read the whole thing again and see whether it strikes me differently now that I'm in the novitiate than it did when I was a candidate. Stay tuned for the answer. AMDG.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Finneran resigns.

An era in Massachusetts politics comes to an end today with the resignation of Speaker of the House Tom Finneran. The Bay State has a long tradition of strong legislative leaders, and Finneran was no exception. Many observers - myself included - have taken the view that the Speaker wields more influence over the course of Massachusetts politics than the Governor; in Finneran's case, it certainly helped that the Speaker outlasted three occupants of the Corner Office (with the potential, had he stayed, to outlast a fourth as well). He was a fascinating figure as well as a controversial one, equally adept at performing intricate legislative manuevers and at dishing out tart-tongued zingers. When I was a State House intern, I got to meet the Speaker several times. I started out disliking him because of some policy differences. Over time, however, my stance softened and I came to have great respect for the Speaker, even as I continued to disagree with him on some things. As it is everywhere else, politics in Massachusetts is as much about personalities as about policy. Tom Finneran was an outsized personality, and his departure from the upper echelons of state government leaves a massive void that may take a while to fill. For me, politics is also a terrific spectator sport, and any game Finneran played in was always worth watching. AMDG.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Avanti: A Postindustrial Ghost Story.

An intriguing-sounding avant garde theater production with this title is currently playing in South Bend. The play was written by a Notre Dame theater prof, and got generally positive reviews in the South Bend Tribune and the (Notre Dame) Observer. Mom and Dad may want to keep their eyes open to see what Turning Wheels has to say about the production. For my part, I wish I was able to see the show - while I was generally very impressed with the quality of the FTT productions I saw at ND, they never did anything quite like Avanti while I was there. Then again, in my time they didn't yet have the spiffy new DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts either. AMDG.

Happy Birthday, Society of Jesus!

Today is the 464th anniversary of the date which is often thought of as the birthday of the Jesuit Order. On September 27, 1540, Pope Paul III approved the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus in the bull Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae, giving the Jesuits official recognition as a religious order within the Catholic Church. Within the Society today, September 27th isn't generally celebrated with much pomp - the big festivities are generally on July 31st, the Feast of St. Ignatius - but we at Loyola House still found a way to mark the occasion, celebrating with birthday cake after dinner. AMDG.

Back from Midland.

This past weekend, the first-year novices visited the Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ontario. It was an awesome trip, not only spiritually enrichening but fun-filled as well. In view of our numbers, we were divided among three vehicles - two vans plus a Dodge Stratus piloted by Detroit Province vocation director Br. Jim Boynton, who led the trip. Ben, Jake, Kevin, Tony and I were in the teal Grand Caravan, known to us as Bobadilla Fett (named in dual honor of this guy and this one). I like to drive, especially in Canada, so I volunteered to pilot 'Dilla Fett all the way to Midland and back. My major impressions are two: 1. For a minivan, it has a lot of zoom. 2.) Gas mileage is okay but not great, and filling the tank costs a fortune. The drive up was really enjoyable, especially as it involved not one but two Tim Hortons stops, one of them being in Strathroy, a friendly little town where I involuntarily though happily spent three days last August on account of a massive blackout. Our group of fifteen also enjoyed a sumptuous dinner and generous hospitality at the home of some friends of Ryan in Brampton, right outside Toronto. We didn't get to Midland until close to midnight, and we were all so exhausted we turned in pretty much immediately.

On Saturday morning we toured the Martyrs' Shrine as well as the nearby recreation of the 17th century Jesuit mission known as Sainte-Marie-among-the-Hurons. The church and grounds at the Shrine are beautiful, impressive and highly conducive to prayer. Sainte-Marie is a faithful, detailed recreation in the mold of Plimoth Plantation, right down to reenactors in vintage garb and omnipresent smells of wood smoke and dead and/or living animals. The small wooden church at Sainte-Marie also includes the twin grave of SS. Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant, the only two of the eight North American Martyrs whose final resting places are known with certainty. The grave was moving in its great simplicity; Brebeuf and Lalemant rest under a dirt mound marked only by a single candle, a tiny cross and a crude wooden plaque. Perhaps needless to say, visiting Sainte-Marie as a Jesuit novice was a unique experience. We all got our picture taken under the "IHS" plaque at the entrance to the compound, and we toured the recreated Jesuit residence with great fascination (the rooms were a lot smaller back then). The staff at Sainte-Marie were delighted to see us, though speaking with a reenactor playing a 17th century Jesuit Black Robe was a tad surreal.

Saturday afternoon we had a big Mass in the shrine church to commemorate the Feast of the Martyrs (which really isn't until October 19th). The provincial of the Upper Canada Jesuits presided, with Toronto auxiliary bishop Daniel Bohan giving the homily and numerous Jesuits and diocesan priests concelebrating. Afterward we enjoyed a very nice dinner followed by entertainment from the highly esteemed Jimmy and the Novices - with a special guest appearance by Bishop Bohan, who gamely sung along with the band.

Sunday we visited St. Ignace, where Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant were martyred. The place looks much as it probably did in 1649, and visiting it was an appropriately powerful experience. After other opportunities for Mass dried up, we ended up going to the massive open-air Mass held in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Toronto's Rosary Sunday, an event which had absolutely no connection to the previous day's commemoration of the Martyrs beyond the fact that both were held at the same shrine. Thousands turned out for the Rosary Mass, which was held under blazing sunlight and without any kind of amplification; despite moments of chaos (the distribution of communion, for example, was woefully disorganized) the Mass went off fairly well. The ride back to Berkley was a blast; we of Bobadilla Fett made a quick stop in intriguingly named Tiny, Ontario, as Kevin can attest. On the way back we also spent several hours in Toronto, which most of us (myself included) had never seen. Numerous people had told me that Toronto was a lot like Chicago, and my admittedly brief visit confirmed that impression. Though we drove around the attractive University of Toronto campus, efforts to locate Jesuit Regis College were unsuccessful. We did, however, enjoy a delicious dinner of take-out pizza at happening Yonge-Dundas Square downtown, where the entertainment included the self-proclaimed "Mr. Peru," an elderly man in a gold cape and cardboard top hat who would take on any comers at chess for $2 a game. An obligatory late night Tim Hortons stop followed in border town Sarnia, and we made it back to Loyola House around midnight. Yet again, "a fun a time was had by all."

Sometime this week I hope to blog on the myriad '80's and '90's pop culture references that came up in the course of the trip, if only for my own edification and, perhaps, that of Jonathan as well. AMDG.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Moral instruction from the Boston Herald.

Gotta love the Herald - see this headline in today's edition: "Moral: Don't let your babies grow up to be bank robbers." As often happens in the Herald, the headline has only a loose link to the article it accompanies, a piece on a recently apprehended criminal suspect dubbed the "Willie Nelson bank robber" by Boston police. If you study the picture, you have to admit that, yeah, he kinda does look like Willie Nelson - but, then again, he also looks like George W. Bush might if he grew a beard and ponytail. (Note especially the similar facial expressions.)

You may be wondering what this post has to do with life in the novitiate. The best answer would probably be "nothing," though I'm currently reading a book on moral theology and the linked article has the word "moral" in its title. Bear in mind that I've also reserved the right to occasionally comment on extraneous topics, which this certainly is. AMDG.

Martyrs Miscellany.

This final collection of links related to the Martyrs may have a slapdash quality to it, in part because I have a lot of loose ends to tie up before we head to Midland tomorrow. (And on that note, don't expect any blogging over the weekend - next post will probably be Monday.) In the collective, the North American Martyrs have given their name to lots of churches and chapels - notably at Jesuit schools, though for now I'll content myself to mention the Copley Crypt Chapel of the North American Martyrs, located in my old dorm at GU, and the chapel at U of D Jesuit High School, the Jesuit secondary school closest to the novitiate. A lot has been written about the Martyrs; the fullest account of their apostolic endeavors is found in the monumental Jesuit Relations. Another classic account is contained in Francis Parkman's The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century. On a totally different note, there is also a collection of stories by Tobias Wolff called In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, which I suspect has nothing to do with the Martyrs (I haven't read it, though the title is intriguing enough to make me want to pick it up). For what's it worth, here's a random selection of institutions named for Martyrs I haven't yet mentioned specifically: the College Saint-Charles-Garnier in Quebec; St. Gabriel Lalemant Catholic School in Niagara Falls, Ontario; St. Antoine Daniel Catholic School in North York, Ontario; St. Rene Goupil Church in Chicago; and St. Noel Chabanel Church in Willoughby Hills, Ohio. A motley list, to be sure, but a list nonetheless. Hope to have good things to report on return from Midland - until then, all the best. AMDG.

Traveling Bilberries.

The last few days at breakfast some of us have been puzzling over the identity of the "bilberry." We'd never heard of this mysterious fruit until we discovered in the kitchen a jar of Poorrock Abbey wild bilberry jam made by the monks of the Society of St. John at Holy Transfiguration Skete in Eagle Harbor, Michigan. The answer to the conundrum is that 'bilberry' is apparently a pseudonym for the fruit we commonly call the huckleberry; this page has the whole story, told in wonderfully British fashion. (We're told, for example, that "[o]n the Continent, [bilberries] are often employed for colouring wine" while in England "[b]efore the War . . . [t]hey were used mainly by pastrycooks and restaurant-keepers.") The mystery appears to be solved - at least for now. AMDG.

Bartles & Jaymes.

Remember that commercial from the '80's? Three of us - Ben, Mike and myself - did this morning after Rel Life class, but none of us could remember what made the ad so memorable. Well guys, this link should help us out, and any other readers who might be having an "Oh yeah, Bartles & Jaymes... what was that all about?" moment. AMDG, and thank you for your support.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Isaac Jogues and me.

Novitiate Notes' triduum of Martyrs' links continues with a look at St. Isaac Jogues. In some ways, Jogues is my favorite of the Martyrs, or at least the one I feel the strongest connection to. He is the patron of Georgetown University and as such is featured on a stained glass window in Dahlgren Chapel there. When I was an undergrad at GU as well as afterward, I made personally significant retreats at the Jesuit Spiritual Center in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, a lovely place which once served as the novitiate of the Maryland Province, again under the patronage (and name) of St. Isaac Jogues. Driving back and forth between Indiana and Massachusetts as a law student, I also got to know the Martyrs' Shrine in Auriesville, New York, which commemorates the location of Jogues' martyrdom. As far as I know, Isaac Jogues is also the only one of the Martyrs to have given his name to an alt-rock band, yet another reason (as if I needed any more) that I'm fond of the guy. AMDG.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

From Huronia to the World Wide Web.

The past few days we've been saying special prayers to the North American Martyrs at daily Mass to prepare for our upcoming trip to the Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ontario. Over the next three days, I'll be making my own unique contribution to the preparations by sharing assorted weblinks concerning the Martyrs. The focus for today is on St. Jean de Brebeuf, the first Jesuit to serve among the Hurons and author of the Huron Relations, a portion of which may be read here. Sensitive to and respectful of the ancient culture and customs of the Huron people, Brebeuf enjoined his fellow Jesuits to "love these Hurons, ransomed by the blood of the Son of God, as brothers." He can also be regarded as a pioneer in the field of inculturation, to which his authorship of the Huron carol Jesus Ahattonia attests. Brebeuf has given his name to numerous institutions in Canada and the United States, including churches too numerous to list; his also seems to be a popular name for Catholic secondary schools, including a Chicago Province high school in Indianapolis and Jesuit-founded institutions in Montreal and Toronto. I was also surprised to discover a municipality named for Brebeuf high up in the Laurentians; this cozy B&B is ready to welcome any readers who may want to see the town - if you go, be sure to send me a postcard. AMDG.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Mass and Warming Center Kick-Off at SS. Peter and Paul.

The first-year novices went to Sunday Mass this morning at SS. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church in downtown Detroit. SS. Peter and Paul has a beautiful sanctuary and a great history - completed in 1848, it's the oldest church building in the city and once served as Detroit's Catholic cathedral. Today the parish reaches out to the surrounding neighborhood with its Warming Center, a daytime drop-in center for the homeless. After Mass, we attended the Warming Center's annual kick-off event, featuring presentations and testimony from staff and former clients of the Center, lunch and a Q&A session. The former clients gave particularly moving testimonies, relating how much the friendship and hospitality provided by the Center meant to them when they had few other places or people to turn to. A great place to spend a Sunday, and a deeply enrichening learning experience to boot. AMDG.

ND beats Michigan State 31-24.

And I was there, thanks to the generosity of our neighbor from across the street, Sister Barbara. Sister Barbara works for the Archdiocese and thus is frequently in a position to offer things like football tickets to the novices (for another example, just last Saturday I and two of my confreres went to the Detroit Symphony thanks to Sister Barbara). The game was terrific - recap, play-by-play and other data available here. Novitiate house manager Chris Staab and I enjoyed what were literally front row seats, hardly six feet from the field. This was the first time I'd been to a Notre Dame away game, and it was much different from any home game. Somehow being massively outnumbered gave the Irish fans a distinctively different - and somehow much spunkier, if that's possible - spirit than they typically exhibit at home. Getting in and out of the stadium was a lot easier than on game day in South Bend - there was very little traffic, and Chris and I got to park for free in what seemed to be a farmer's field a mile or so from campus. (Yes, a farmer's field - East Lansing had a much more rural feel to it than I would've expected.) The MSU campus seemed fairly nondescript, though having now slogged through it I can appreciate what alumnus Father Dave Godleski once told me about its sheer massiveness. All in all, a great win for the Irish and a great night out for this Jesuit novice. AMDG.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

(Formerly) Jesuit Windsor.

Just returned from a visit to Detroit's lovely Canadian neighbor, Windsor. My initial plan had been to visit a particular used bookstore downtown, but the place proved not to be at its stated address - or, alternatively, was not where Mapquest said it would be. (I prefer the second explanation.) Frustrated in that effort, I instead paid a visit to some Jesuit-related sites in Assumption Park and then strolled around the campus of the University of Windsor. Assumption Park is located on the site of an 18th century Jesuit mission of which nothing remains; however, a stone cross and a historical marker in the park recall the Jesuits' presence there (photos of both may be found here). The Park also includes a striking abstract sculpture of what I assume are meant to be four Jesuit Black Robes, though from their posture (marching in line with hands clasped in prayer) and garb (they appeared to be wearing hoods) they could easily be mistaken for Benedictine monks. As for the university, it started life as a Jesuit institution, Assumption College, later passed into the hands of the Basilian Fathers and is now a secular, public institution (though the Basilians maintain a presence there through the affiliated Assumption University). Also in the area is Assumption Church, the oldest Catholic parish in Ontario (founded 1767) and one that was established by Jesuits, though now under Basilian auspices as well. The park, university and parish are all set in a very pleasant residential neighborhood fronting on the Detroit River itself ; definitely worth a return visit. AMDG.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Detroit Day, LSD at UDM and the La Salette Parish Carnival.

For the aforementioned "Detroit Day," went with fellow first-year Eric (no, not this Eric, who is second-year) and our second-year guide Jim to see the sights (or at least some of them). First stop was the Solanus Casey Center, which includes various exhibits on the eponymous Capuchin as well as his grave. Then we had lunch at the locally celebrated Mario's, whose decor and serving staff seem not to have changed since the place opened in 1948. Eric, our resident liturgist, wanted to check out the recently-renovated Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and so we went there after lunch. I found the cathedral to be quite beautiful, as these photos will hopefully attest. After arriving back at the novitiate for a scheduled class in Jesuit history (focused today on the Jesuits in New France) we were on the road again, this time to UDM. There we enjoyed what is known in Jesuit (or at least novitiate) parlanace as "LSD" - liturgy, social, dinner - with the UDM Jesuit community. One highlight of this experience was meeting Father Herm Muller, who at 95 remains active as a tutor to UDM students. After dinner, the novices enjoyed an excellent tour of the campus from the gregarious Father Gerry Cavanagh, who teaches business ethics at the university. The UDM Jesuits offered outstanding hospitality, and they were evidently delighted to meet the new crop of novices. And if all that wasn't enough activity for one day, when we got home several of us decided to check out the parish carnival at neighboring Our Lady of La Salette Church. To fall back on a trite saying, "a fun time was had by all," but that which is trite is often true as well. AMDG.

Notes on the Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine.

Today the Church remembers St. Robert Bellarmine, a prominent early Jesuit and an important figure in the Counter-Reformation period. Bellarmine has given his name to various Jesuit institutions in the United States, including high schools in California and Washington, a parish in Cincinnati, a retreat house outside Chicago, a house of formation in St. Louis, and the liberal arts division of Loyola Marymount University. (Kentucky's Bellarmine University, I should note, is not a Jesuit school but rather was founded under diocesan auspices.) The novices and staff of Loyola House will mark the day in a couple ways: First, we're having a "Detroit Day" during which the first- and second-year novices will visit area attractions we either weren't aware of or simply haven't yet seen. Second, we'll be having Mass and dinner tonight with the UDM Jesuits. Should be lots of fun - rest assured I'll post a full report later. AMDG.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

James Joyce and the Jesuits.

A recent discussion at table (that's to say, at a Jesuit meal) touched upon the question of James Joyce's view of the Society of Jesus. Joyce was educated at Jesuit schools and often placed Jesuit characters in his fiction, perhaps most notably in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. This short item on the Irish Jesuits' website discusses Joyce's relationship with the Society and its impact on his life. In pertinent part: "Joyce . . . told friends at different points in his life that his Jesuit education had taught him how to arrange things, so that they became easy to see and judge, and that his capacity to keep going in the face of many hardships in his life (his health, his daughter's health, his difficulty in finding publishers) may have been attributable to 'the influence of A.M.D.G.'"

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

My interview with Benno.

As an assignment for one of my novitiate classes (more on these later), I conducted an interview today with Father Benno Kornely, a local Jesuit engaged in spiritual direction and retreat ministry at Manresa Jesuit Retreat House. As one just beginning what I hope will be a lifelong journey in the Jesuits, I found great inspiration listening to Benno talk about his life in the Society. In his fifty-eight years as a Jesuit, Benno has served in a diverse array of apostolates: teaching at the former Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, serving as a chaplain to Native Americans students at the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas (now known as Haskell Indian Nations University), high school teaching and administration at St. Francis Mission on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, and over thirty years as a retreat leader and spiritual director. Speaking with Benno affirmed my sense of vocation, offering a reminder of the many different ways in which each individual Jesuit may serve God and others over the course of his life. All in all, a great meeting with a great Jesuit. AMDG.

The Shopping News.

My fellow novice Jim and I just got back from doing the midweek grocery shopping at Sam's Club. If you think family shopping is a challenge, try doing it for a household of twenty-seven. The highlight of this morning's outing was not the shopping itself but a chance discovery I made while making an inventory of the pantry beforehand: much to my surprise, the novitiate has a stock of Autocrat Coffee Syrup. As some of you may know, coffee syrup is an integral ingredient of coffee milk - which, having grown up in southern New England, I am a big fan of. So it looks like I'll be drinking a lot more coffee milk, and that can only be a good thing. AMDG.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Ready, Set, Go!

It's approximately 11.55 pm on September 14, 2004, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and Novitiate Notes is making its debut. This blog is intended mainly as a means of keeping my family, friends and other interested parties up to date on my life as a Jesuit novice at Loyola House in Berkley, Michigan. When the spirit moves me, I may also comment on other topics. This is my first stab at blogging, so please forgive the rather spartan and rudimentary look of this page - in time, perhaps, I'll be able to add a blogroll, links, pictures and the like. In the near future, I hope to post more introductory info on the Society of Jesus and life at the novitiate; in the meantime, you can learn more about the Jesuits here and here. Also feel free to check out the blogs run by my brother novices Eric, Jonathan, Kevin and Ryan. AMDG.