Tuesday, November 30, 2004

ND fires Willingham.

Read Kevin White's statement and comments to the press and the South Bend Tribune's articles on campus and community reaction. My feelings about the whole business are decidely mixed. I share the concerns many other alumni have expressed about Willingham's coaching, and a change in leadership and strategy might do the team some good. However, part of me feels that the coach was done in by external circumstances and was hamstrung by unrealistic expectations. I'm also leery of establishing the precedent of letting coaches go before their contracts run out, especially when doing so gives the impression that the University is simply looking for victory at any cost on the football field. Hopefully the Domers among my readership will have something to say about this. AMDG.

The Little White House, 19??-2004.

To my great delight, Eric has decided to share photos and video of the demolition of the little white house next to the novitiate. At some point in the history of Loyola House, the building next to ours provided extra bedrooms and recreation space. Sadly, the white house's useful life ended long ago. Unused for over a decade, the house fell into ever greater decay and disrepair and ultimately had to be torn down. In the meantime, the rental of the other house next door - now known as Bobadilla House - has given the novitiate the living and playing space that the white house once provided. Regrettably I wasn't around yesterday to see the white house - a small, but nonetheless noteworthy piece of Jesuit history - go down, but I'm pleased that Eric recorded it. Farewell, Little White House, we hardly knew ye. AMDG.

Monday, November 29, 2004

More good stuff from Radcliffe.

No, Harry Potter fans, I'm not talking about the kid who plays your hero on the silver screen - though I'm sure he does that very well. I'm talking about Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., former Master General of the Dominican Order, whose writings I've begun to dip into. This past summer I read and appreciated his Sing a New Song, a collection of speeches and essays focusing on each of the vows of consecrated life and on Christian virtue more generally. The reflections contained in Sing a New Song impressed me in no small part because they managed to balance fidelity to the unique charism of Radcliffe's religious community with a universality that appealed even to this confirmed Ignatian and (then) soon-to-be Jesuit novice. Sing a New Song was enough to get me hooked on Radcliffe's writings, so when I enterted the novitiate I brought along a copy of his more recent book I Call You Friends. Last week I finally got around to reading the book, an experience that only confirmed my admiration for its author. I Call You Friends covers diverse territory: the first half of the book is made up of autobiographical interviews that Radcliffe gave to a French journalist, while the second is a mix of speeches and articles on a broad variety of topics. As told by the man who lived it, Radcliffe's vocation story has a charming simplicity: he decided to join the Dominicans without ever having met a member of the Order, attracted as an earnest spiritual seeker by the Dominican motto Veritas (Truth). Radcliffe's eventual rise to global leadership of his religious order was, he claims, a surprise for a man who met none of the stated criteria for the post of Master General. The second half of I Call You Friends offers Radcliffe's thoughts on such topics as our evolving understanding of the nature of time, the role of missionaries today, the proper manner of teaching of Christian doctrine in Catholic schools and the state of the Church in contemporary Europe. Radcliffe displays equal insight and mastery discussing each of these topics (among many others) and I found much to reflect upon in each chapter of I Call You Friends. If you're looking for a good book to read during Advent, either Sing a New Song or I Call You Friends would fit the bill nicely. AMDG.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Happy New Year!

Today, the First Sunday of Advent, is the first day in the Catholic liturgical year. On one level, this means that we at Loyola House will start using the new 2004-05 Jesuit ordo (a book listing the Mass readings and other particulars for each day's prayer and liturgy). On another level, this means our chapel will be spruced up with seasonally appropriate decorations and the priests among us will start wearing purple stoles and chasubles at Mass. On yet another level - the most important, in fact - the season of Advent offers all of us in the Church an opportunity to prepare ourselves spiritually for the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ. In the next few weeks, many readers of this blog are likely to be busy with all kinds of preparations for the coming holidays - buying gifts, planning parties, writing and mailing cards, traveling long or short distances to visit loved ones, and so on. All these activities are characteristic of what we often call (if you'll forgive a somewhat trite phrase) "the spirit of the season." As such, all are an important part of the weeks leading up to Christmas. As we begin Advent, however, we should also recognize the original and still essential spirit of the season we're about to celebrate. In the coming days, while you're running from store to store, making key phone calls or looking for the right recipes, I hope you'll also take some time to consider the things you might do to welcome the One whose birthday we celebrate a scant 27 days hence. Glad tidings - AMDG.

Friday, November 26, 2004

With the folks.

Don't expect much blogging today, as I'll be escorting my family around Detroit. Today is also my sister's birthday, so we'll be celebrating that. Lastly, in case you were curious, Detroit beat Chicago 35-21 in the annual Loyola House Turkey Bowl. AMDG.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm effectively taking a day off from blogging for the holiday, which at Loyola House includes Mass, dinner and a Chicago vs. Detroit football game as well as a novitiate tradition of which I've only recently become aware - watching The Sound of Music. My parents and my sister Elizabeth will also be coming in for a visit, which means I won't be doing much blogging Friday either. Until I write again, enjoy the late, great Alistair Cooke's reflections on Thanksgiving in this Letter from America transcript from a few years ago. While you're at it, have a wonderful holiday. AMDG.

"Cops: Senior citizens ran secret gambling club."

Who has the story? Who but the Boston Herald, the Bay State's top source for offbeat crime reporting. AMDG.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Suspension of Disbelief.

As previously noted, I've been meaning to comment for a while on The Polar Express. The film's stunning visuals are its prime selling point: perfectly capturing the look of the book on which it is based, The Polar Express provides a perfect mix of the real and mundane with the surreal and fantastic. On another level, however, the movie offers an intriguing parable of religious faith, with the principal characters serving as archetypes of different varieties of belief. Hero Boy is the sincere skeptic who wrestles with the existence of God (represented, of course, by Santa Claus) before having something akin to a religious vision that turns him into a confirmed believer. Hero Girl, who never doubts that Santa is real, was a true believer from the get-go and is tapped by Tom Hanks' Conductor (who, I guess, represents organized religion) as a sort of inspirational leader figure. Lonely Boy (who, for what it's worth, is the spitting image of Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle) isn't so much a skeptic as an indifferentist. Christmas (or religion) just doesn't deliver him the benefits that make practice worthwhile, so he doesn't bother - until, like Hero Boy, he has an experience that makes a believer of him. I don't suppose that any of these thoughts are original; I'm sure someone somewhere has expressed them in print or online, though I regret I don't have the time to track down relevant links. In the alternative and for what it's worth, I'm happy to point out that The Polar Express also has a vague connection to the Society of Jesus. The train in the film was inspired by an actual Michigan locomotive, sounds of which were recorded for cinematic use. The name of the star loco? The Pere Marquette. AMDG.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

What I'm reading.

Yesterday I completed Jonathan Wright's God's Soldiers: Adventure, Politics, Intrigue, and Power - A History of the Jesuits. Well-written and full of interesting anecdotes, God's Soldiers nonetheless fails to deliver on its promise of offering a "History of the Jesuits": readers who come to the book without at least a passing knowledge of Jesuit history aren't likely to learn much about the Society from the book. On the contrary, you'll learn a lot about the author and his interests. Wright focuses strongly on the Society's involvement in European politics and on the more swashbuckling aspects of the Jesuits' early missionary endeavors, but says precious little about the Society's charism or of the unique gifts of Ignatian spirituality which animate the work of the order. Wright's strongest chapters focus on the cultural trends and political circumstances that led to the suppression of the Society in 1773. Developments since the Society's restoration in 1814 are treated in brief and breezy fashion; tellingly, Pedro Arrupe - regarded by many as the "second founder" of the Jesuits - is mentioned but twice, and then merely in passing. Worse, the Society's 31st and 32nd General Congregations - the key gatherings at which the order began the work of renewing itself in response to Vatican II - aren't mentioned at all. Shifting my critical eye from the book's author to its publishers, I'm rather amused that Doubleday decided to release a book simply titled The Jesuits in the UK under the more arresting title God's Soldiers. I expect most American publishing houses would be hard-pressed to resist such an opportunity to make their product more saleable by giving it a more provocative label.

My recommendation on the book amounts to a split decision. If you already know a bit about the Society's history and are in the mood for a quirky and impressionistic piece of Jesuitica, by all means read God's Soldiers. If, on the contrary, you're a general reader looking for an introductory tome on the Jesuits' 500 year journey, skip Wright's book and pick up worthier titles by John O'Malley, William Bangert and Jean Lacouture instead. AMDG.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Loyola Gallery.

The ever-awesome Jonathan has posted photos of our clay sculptures from last Tuesday. Contra Jonathan's suggestion that I post on mundane and therefore ordinary activities, I should emphasize that we don't play with clay all the time - then again, looking at some of the sculptures (especially mine) you could probably figure that out on your own. Anyhow, hope you enjoy the photos. AMDG.

Back from Fort Benning.

Returned early this morning from the SOA Watch vigil in Columbus, Georgia. Besides about sixteen novices and staff from Loyola House, the bus I took down included numerous students from UDM and U of D Jesuit High School. I never thought I'd say this, but the preponderance of college and high school kids on the trip made this 24 year-old feel like an oldtimer; the experience was also somewhat nostalgic, as the antics of the high schoolers made me think back to school bus trips I took when I was their age. I found Columbus to be a charming and strikingly gracious city: the downtown business district - where our group spent most of Saturday - was well-kept and had an old-fashioned feel, and all the locals I encountered were friendly and patient even though many of them disagree with the goals of SOA Watch and the purpose of the vigil. I was also surprised to discover Columbus' rich history: among other things, the city is the hometown of writer Carson McCullers and the birthplace of Coca-Cola. As for the vigil weekend itself, it was an interesting experience. We spent most of Saturday with the many Jesuit and Jesuit-inspired groups that had come down for the weekend, and I got a chance to reunite with Jesuits I knew from GU and from the Chicago Province. As far as I could tell, Sunday's vigil went well - repeat attendees said that it was larger and better than it had been in previous years, and despite the large crowd (estimated at about 15,000) and diversity of groups involved (attendees ran the ideological and religious gamut - practically the only common thread was concern about the SOA) the whole thing proceeded with nary a hitch. From my perspective, the only drawback to going was that practically as soon as I got back to Loyola House at 7.30 this morning I had to head out the door again for Colombiere. Working there on very little sleep was a challenge, but after a nap this afternoon I felt as good as new. AMDG.

Friday, November 19, 2004

A Weekend at Fort Benning.

In a few hours I and many of the other novices and Loyola House staff will be heading down to Columbus, Georgia for the annual School of the Americas Watch vigil at Fort Benning. Never having been to the event but having heard much about it, my sense is that it will be part-conference and part-protest. I'm not typically the protesting type, and I look at my participation mainly as a way of learning more about the issues involved and of sharing fellowship with the many other Jesuits that will be there (this is an issue that the Society takes personally, given that SOA graduates were among those responsible for the murder of the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador). I also see my going as a logical extension of some of the work I did in law school on international human rights issues. Hopefully I'll have some interesting things to say when I get back - until then, please pray for me and the other members of the LH community who'll be going. AMDG.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Playing (and praying) with clay.

Last night the Loyola House community had a seminar entitled "Art and Spirituality," focused on ways in which we can integrate use of our creative abilities into our prayer lives. To provide a practical demonstration, the presenter brought clay and asked each of us to transform a glob of it into an objet d'art somehow expressive of our spiritual state. As with the psalms written during last weekend's workshop, the results reminded me of what a talented group I've been thrown in with. Clay isn't exactly my best mode of expression, so the piece of art work I produced was comparatively crude. What I ended up making was a small tile piece not unlike one I was required to produce in junior high, the chief difference being that this one has an appropriately Jesuit 'IHS' on it while the one I did in eighth grade featured a three-dimensional representation of Godzilla. Seeing all the sculptures displayed on a table in our dining room, I wondered whether we might temporarily open the place up as the "Loyola Gallery" and sell off our handiwork to raise money for the Jesuit Seminary Association. Considering that we probably wouldn't make much money doing so, however, I suspect we're better off keeping the sculptures and preserving them as knicknacks and desk ornaments. AMDG.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Rocco's not-so-modern pizzeria.

Having enjoyed Rocko's Modern Life, I appreciated the clever title of this Observer restaurant review. More importantly, I appreciated its kind words for a South Bend institution I came to love in my time at Notre Dame. I generally failed to appreciate South Bend's finer points when I lived there, hung up as I was on the city's comparative isolation and often foul weather. In retrospect, however, I sometimes find myself missing little things about South Bend and vicinity - things like Bonnie Doon ice cream, a couple fairly good used bookstores (Erasmus Books in South Bend and Casperson's up the road in Niles, Michigan), the Vickers Theatre in Three Oaks, dorm Masses at ND, and restaurants like Rocco's. The message, I guess, is a trite, old one - you seldom appreciate what you've got until it's gone. And now, for a shameless commercial plug, visit Rocco's when you're in South Bend. You'll be glad you did. AMDG.

Archbishop O'Malley on parish closings.

Here's a letter from Archbishop Sean O'Malley on the reconfiguration process in Boston and here's what the Globe and the Herald had to say about it. Though I've always understood that closing parishes is as painful for the Archbishop as it is for impacted parishioners, O'Malley's admission that "[a]t times I ask God to call me home and let someone else finish this job" touched me profoundly. I appreciate that kind of vulnerability in leaders of the Church, but some other things in the letter give me pause. I wish O'Malley had not put as much emphasis on the declining number of priests as a reason for the closings. As I wrote in an earlier post on the suppression of my own home parish, I think the Archdiocese should have considered allowing laypeople or religious to serve as parish administrators where priests are not available - a model already adopted in many American dioceses where the priest shortage is particularly acute.

While I appreciate the Archbishop's frankness in laying out more fully than before the reasons behind the reconfiguration process, I struggle a bit with some of what he writes. "We should all be consoled to know that the sacrifices we make allow the mission of the Church to continue," O'Malley writes. "If your 'viable' parish was closed it was so some other 'not viable' parish or ministry could continue." On an intellectual level, I appreciate O'Malley's point, but emotionally - and, more crucially, pastorally - his language on this point leaves me cold. Few parishioners, I daresay, would enjoy being told that the Archdiocese is closing their ostensibly healthy and vibrant parish to prop up another parish which appears to be tottering. Parishioners understandably identify strongly with their parish - for most, the parish is the primary and perhaps sole point of contact with the larger church, and for many Catholics the parish is also the center of one's social and cultural life and a part of their family's experience over many generations. I cannot bring myself to believe that it's pastorally sensitive to tell parishioners that their parishes are being closed to serve the greater good, even if it's true. Nor am I consoled by the Archbishop's call "to all Catholics to be Catholics first." Somehow those words seem to suggest that by identifying with one's own parish - again, the key point of contact and identification for most Catholics - one is being less than loyal to the institutional Church. Though some parishioners may in fact take comfort from the Archbishop's words, my fear is that many others - particularly those whose faith has already been shaken by the turmoil of the last few years - will be alienated by them and give up on the Church altogether.

As I wrote above, intellectually I understand and accept the points put forward in Archbishop O'Malley's letter. My concern, however, is that the language he uses does not seem to effectively address the hurt that I and many others feel in connection with the reconfiguration process. I don't presume to know the most pastorally effective way to handle situations like this - that's something I have to struggle with. As the Archbishop's letter poignantly suggests, it's something Sean O'Malley struggles with too. I hope you'll join me in praying for him and for all who are struggling to find consolation and healing in these difficult times for the Church in Eastern Massachusetts. AMDG.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Preview of Coming Attractions.

Pursuant to a reader's request, sometime soon I hope to post some thoughts on the Examen of Consciousness. I also hope to post reflections on The Polar Express, which I went to see yesterday. Stay tuned. AMDG.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Praying the Psalms.

Such was the title of a workshop the novices at Loyola House attended last night and for most of today, presented by a religious sister who teaches Scripture at the graduate and seminary level. The workshop provided an excellent scholarly introduction to the Psalms as well as practical tips for using them in personal prayer. At one point, the speaker asked us to write our own psalms based on rules of composition she provided; the resulting prayers were perhaps surprisingly strong, but the experience still reminded me of those elementary school exercises where one is asked to write haikus and limericks. All told, the workshop was a very good investment of time, and I'll probably refer to the speaker's helpful handouts on the different genres of the psalms and their vocabulary for some time to come. AMDG.

ND students restricted from studying abroad in Cuba.

Yesterday's Observer reports that, thanks to the Bush administration's new restrictions on travel to Cuba, a group of Notre Dame students and faculty will not be able to make a planned trip to the island next March. Having made the same trip earlier this year, I'm disappointed that others will be denied the same opportunity thanks to a policy that strikes me as misguided and counterproductive. I'm also beginning to wonder whether my participation in this year's trip helped doom future visits to Cuba by Domers; after all, I visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority with a group from Georgetown in March 2000, and a few months later the region was plunged into violence that has prevented further such trips by GU students. I remain very pleased to have had the opportunity to visit Cuba - and I can't wait to go back - but I'm also quite annoyed that others will be denied the chance to go. AMDG.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Scarecrow and Mrs. King.

Continuing Novitiate Notes' long-neglected apostolate of bringing the fruits of '80's pop culture to the world, let's take a quick look at the 1983-87 TV series Scarecrow and Mrs. King, about a housewife (Kate Jackson) who pals around with a secret agent (Bruce Boxleitner). A chance comment from Ben about the scarecrow guarding our compost heap (don't ask) prompted me to recall the show, which led Jonathan to exclaim, "Scarecrow and Mrs. King! I haven't seen that show in 20 years!" It probably shouldn't be surprising that there is a plethora of SMK resources on the Web - which means Jonathan shouldn't have any trouble accomplishing his goal of finding and downloading the show's theme music (music I don't remember but might recognize if I heard it). I don't recall having been a particularly big fan of SMK (please correct me, Mom, if you remember differently), but evidently it still managed to leave a strong enough imprint on my psyche that it would come back to me tonight after being absent from my conscious thoughts for almost two decades. AMDG.


Most readers will probably react to this post with a resounding "Huh?" or an "Okaaaay," but right now I'm pleased because I just received my copy of the newly-printed 2005 edition of the Catalogus Provinciarum Statuum Foederatorum Americae Societatis Jesu - which is to say, the Catalogue of the Provinces of the Society of Jesus in the United States. The Catalogue is a directory listing all the Jesuits in the United States, their apostolates, residences and so on. The new 2005 edition is special for me and my fellow primi because, having entered in August, we're listed in the book for the first time. Granted, it doesn't have much of an impact on our daily lives, but somehow seeing our names in the printed pages of the Catalogue makes us feel more "official." By this time tomorrow the novelty of the experience will probably have worn off, so I might as well enjoy it today. AMDG.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

An ecumenical encounter at Wal-Mart.

Every month, some of the residents at Abbey Living Center go on an outing planned by the nursing home's activity staff. This month, the outing was to an area Wal-Mart, and my fellow novice volunteers and I went along. Each of us accompanied a particular resident through the store and helped them with their shopping. The resident I was helping, a lady named Hope, is very talkative and has a great sense of humor, which made the experience a lot of fun. After picking up everything she needed and paying at the checkout, Hope wanted to go outside to smoke a cigarette. As we sat in front of the store, Hope with her cigarette and I with her shopping bag, a middle-aged man and woman approached us and struck up a conversation. The couple handed us pamphlets full of Bible verses and announced themselves as members of a local Baptist church. At this point, Hope - who is very Catholic - pointed at me and said, "He's a Jesuit." I confirmed that I was a novice in the Society, aspiring to the Catholic priesthood. At this, the faces of our heretofore smiling interlocutors dropped: they clearly didn't know what to make of Hope and me, especially me. I thanked the Baptists for their pamphlets and wished them Godspeed; they responded "Have a nice day" and withdrew with some awkwardness. I would've been happy to continue chatting with them, but I suspect they decided their time would be better spent on likelier prospects. AMDG.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Father Joe Downey on the "Christian End-Person."

Today I completed Searching for the Christian End-Person: An Inside Story, by Joseph F. Downey, S.J. As I noted in previous post, I picked up Searching for the Christian End-Person largely in hopes of gaining insights that would help me minister better to nursing home residents. The major themes I picked up in Downey's book are that our spiritual lives necessarily change as we grow older and that the process of giving up control over our lives that comes with aging can be consoling as well as difficult. The book's focus is a bit wider than I expected when I began reading it, covering spiritual development from midlife onward. Downey sometimes introduces psychological terminology and concepts that the general reader might have difficulty navigating, but he illustrates his points very well with examples from his own life (hence the "Inside Story" subtitle). Given its topic and approach, I can't help but wonder whether - to paraphrase a comment I've heard some people make about Stendhal's The Red and the Black and Giuseppe di Lampedusa's The Leopard - one has to be over 40 to really appreciate a book like Searching for the Christian End-Person. I've got a few years to go on that score, but even so I still managed to find the book pretty worthwhile. AMDG.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

On a Tuesday.

Tuesday is bar none the busiest day of the week for first-year novices here at Loyola House, and lacking the drive or energy to blog on any other topic at the moment I'll concentrate on this one. We start the day at 7 am with Mass. Some of us - but not my group - leave immediately after the liturgy to head up to Colombiere. The rest - my group included - leave around 9.30 am for our various hospital experiment sites, from which we return somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.30 pm. A little down time follows, and I do mean "a little," because at 4 pm we have Spanish and most use the time directly before class to prepare. Dinner follows almost immediately after Spanish, with our weekly community meeting afterward. Community meetings vary in length depending upon the topic, but if we have a lot to discuss or a guest speaker to hear from they can last as long as a couple of hours. Then comes our once-a-week creative evening prayer, which varies in length and format depending on the person planning it. All this completed, some weeks we finish our obligations for the day as late as 9.30 pm. I love Tuesdays here - just as I love every day here - but as you can tell the schedule for this day of the week is a very heavy one, which makes it hard to even find time to blog much less come up with some original content. Maxima mea culpa - hopefully at the very least this entry sheds a little additional light into the ins and outs of our daily routine. AMDG.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Website of the Day.

Now this is an awesome website, one I wish I'd known about before - here, assembled in a user-friendly searchable database, are passenger records for everyone who entered the United States through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924. From this site I learned, among other things, that my great-grandmother arrived in the United States on June 13, 1907 aboard the President Lincoln, sailing from Hamburg. She was 18 at the time, an Austrian citizen of Polish nationality, most recently a resident of Niebieszczany in Galicia and listed her sister's home in New Bedford, Mass., as her intended destination. All this and more could be deduced from an electronic record and a good scanned copy of the original list of passenger arrivals. If you're looking for info on your immigrant ancestors, the Ellis Island Records website is a good place to look. AMDG.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Notes of a Liturgical Tourist.

This weekend I attended Mass at two landmark Catholic churches in greater Detroit - Saturday afternoon at Sweetest Heart of Mary Church near downtown and this evening at Assumption Church in Windsor. Experiences at both well worth reporting.

One of Detroit's oldest and best-known Polish parishes, Sweetest Heart of Mary was founded under unusual circumstances, as this historical synopsis on the church's website explains. Sweetest Heart of Mary's 2400-person seating capacity is reputedly the largest of any church building in the Archdiocese of Detroit, but there couldn't have been any more than 100 people at the Mass I attended yesterday. Like many inner-city ethnic parishes across the country, Sweetest Heart of Mary has to contend with the fact that its congregation has moved away; an added difficulty in this case is that the residential neighborhood that once made up most of the parish is now largely gone, razed to build I-75 and various industrial and commercial buildings. Under the circumstances, I'd say Sweetest Heart of Mary is doing remarkably well. I got the impression that most of the parishioners come in from the suburbs or other parts of the city to attend the church, and an encouraging number of them were younger couples with children. The church itself, an attractive Victorian Gothic structure, appeared to be very well-maintained, suggesting commendable financial generosity on the part of the aforementioned migratory parishioners. The liturgy itself was pretty average, but then again the church's architecture and history would seem to be the greater draw.

Assumption Church in Windsor, as I've mentioned before, was founded by Jesuits in 1767 on the site of an earlier mission established in 1748. Jesuits served off and on at Asssumption until 1859, when it briefly became the cathedral of the Diocese of London. Since 1870, the parish has been in the care of the Basilian Fathers. Like Sweetest Heart of Mary, Assumption has a lovely and well-preserved 19th century building, albeit one more restrained in design and decor. The time of the Mass I attended tonight (7:30 pm) and the parish's location on the campus of the University of Windsor led me to expect a younger-than-average crowd; as it happens, I'd say there were a fair number of young people present, but there were just as many families and seniors as well. One way or another, the church was packed and the liturgy and preaching were very good. Going to Assumption also reminded me how much I like going to Mass at night. When I was at Georgetown I regularly attended Sunday and daily Mass at 11:15 pm, and as a night owl I've long found the late evening hours to be highly conducive to prayer. I've yet to find a Mass in metro Detroit that can match the contemplative quality of Georgetown's 11:15, but in the 7:30 at Assumption I found enough echoes of what I found on the Hilltop that I hope to return to the Windsor parish on a regular basis. AMDG.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Classic Caddy sighting reported.

Earlier this afternoon fellow novice John Petit and I went to gas up one of the vans and put air in the tires. At a Marathon station on Woodward, we spotted a mint condition black '54 Cadillac Fleetwood (almost identical to the one pictured on this website, though the one we saw today had original-looking wide white walls). Speaking with the couple that owned the car, we were surprised to learn they'd won it in a 50th anniversary giveaway sponsored by local landmark Pasquale's Restaurant, right up Woodward from the very gas station we were at. The anniversary and the giveaway are discussed in this article in the (Royal Oak) Daily Tribune. An enjoyable little incident that added something to an otherwise ordinary Saturday. AMDG.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Meet the Chicago Seven.

The fall issue of Partners, the Chicago Province magazine, includes a group photo and profiles of this year's Chi Prov primi, available online in PDF format. At some point Company will have photos and short bios of all the novices in the country online, and I'll post a link when they do. In the meantime, you'll have to settle for the piece in Partners; also worth looking at in the same issue are neat articles on the Cristo Rey schools and on the life of Father Ben Morin, a Chicago Jesuit who spent three and a half years as a POW during World War II and later served in Peru for 38 years. Ben is a really a cool guy and his story is worth reading. Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago has been a national model and was the subject of a recent 60 Minutes profile; Partners provides an interesting inside account of the school's founding and early years and relates how its success has been duplicated elsewhere. Lots of good reading, hope you enjoy it. AMDG.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

News from the nursing home.

For a while I've been meaning to blog about the hospital experiment, but being busy with a million other things and having a hard time synthesizing my thoughts about this particular ministry have both kept me from doing so. Better late than never, I'll share some of my reflections now.

In a previous post, I discussed my experiences ministering to my Jesuit elders at Colombiere. Most of what I wrote last month still applies, though I can also say that over time the challenges seem to diminish and the joys and consolations grow. It's been great getting to know some of the older Jesuits, hearing their stories and helping them complete routine tasks. The men at Colombiere have done many different things: some were university presidents, others parish priests; some spent the better part of fifty years doing missionary work in India or Peru, while others spent an equally long period teaching high school in cities like Cincinnati or Toledo; some are famous writers, while others have served in happy obscurity. Some, unsurprisingly, are friendlier than others, but all are delighted to meet the novices who are "the future of the Society." On the whole, Colombiere has been a lot of fun, and I look forward to going back to visit the guys there even after our experiment ends in mid-December.

The other part of my hospital experiment has been much more challenging, but still quite rewarding. Three days a week, I and three other novices minister to patients at Abbey Living Center in Warren. As nursing homes go, Abbey is pretty good - the facility is well-kept, and the quality of care seems to be high. Nonetheless, it's still a challenging environment to find oneself in. Living two or three to a room, the residents don't have much privacy; many residents are depressed and despondent, and some express their frustration by lashing out at staff members and other residents. Though the Abbey staff are dedicated to giving the residents the best care they can, because the facility is home to almost 200 people it's hard to provide a lot of individual attention. As a result, some residents can feel very lonely and isolated. At the same time, however, it's important to recognize the contribution of the many happy and joyful residents who bring life and light to their companions. Three weeks into my experiment at Abbey, I've had the chance to meet and speak with residents from across a wide spectrum. Ministering to some has been a real struggle, as I've had a hard time to find the right words to lift them out of their depression and loneliness; sometimes, the best I can do is provide a helping hand and a sympathetic ear. Others, however, have effectively ministered to me by sharing some of the life and energy they possess in spite of their infirmities and limitations. Though it's been a tough time in some ways, I think I've benefitted a lot by going through it.

A lot of what we do at Abbey falls within the ambit of pastoral care. We spend some of our time visiting new residents to get a sense of where they're at spiritually, ask them about their needs (whether they'd like to receive communion, for example) and assure them of our prayers. We also help with the nursing home's weekly prayer services, which tend to be fairly ecumenical (though the residents are predominantly Catholic, many other faiths are represented) and are generally led by visiting volunteers of various denominations. Sister Rose, a feisty Dominican nun from Philadelphia, is the director of pastoral care and an absolute delight to work with. Other religious and clergy come in from time to time to help out, representing a veritable cornucopia of religious communities. For example, we have an IHM sister who comes in once a month to lead a prayer service, a Ukrainian Catholic priest who offers an occasional liturgy at the nursing home (a fair number of residents are Ukrainian), an amiable old Marianist priest who visits every other week to provide the sacraments of reconciliation and anointing of the sick, and, of course, four novices of this least Society. And that's just the Catholics; as I noted above, the residents represent a spectrum of different denominations, and clergy and lay volunteers of various stripes accordingly visit from time to time.

Today an unexpected pastoral opportunity presented itself at Abbey when the priest who was scheduled to come in to offer Mass for the residents was unexpectedly forced to back out at the last minute. With many residents already gathered for the liturgy, the novices were given five minutes notice to throw together a communion service (thankfully, Sister Rose had some consecrated hosts reserved for just such an occasion). While Jonathan's group of novices has become quite expert at offering such services at the nursing home they visit, our Abbey group had never done one before. Despite having no time to plan, we managed to present a fairly seamless service with some music (courtesy of talented singer Eric and pianist Tony), a brief homily from yours truly, and communion for those who asked for it. In short, another exciting day in the life of some Jesuit novices. AMDG.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

My requisite post-election commentary.

The re-election of George W. Bush gives me no joy, saying as how I voted for John Kerry. I'm glad that Kerry won Michigan, however, as it made me feel that my decision to switch my registration was worthwhile. Nonetheless, I'll admit I'm kinda bummed about Bush's re-election, though for me there were a few bright spots on election night: Barack Obama's landslide victory in Illinois, though long anticipated, gave me some good cheer, as did Ken Salazar's narrow win in Colorado and fellow Hoya Stephanie Herseth's election to her first full term as U.S. Representative from South Dakota. Despite the result, I'm glad this election is over, as its increasingly rancorous tone had become quite wearying. With the distraction of presidential politics at least temporarily out of the way, I look forward to having more time for some of my other hobbies and for catching up on some long-neglected correspondence. And, as always, the joy of being a Jesuit novice more than compensates for whatever momentary sadness I may feel at setbacks in the temporal realm of politics. AMDG.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

I voted!

You know those stickers the LWV gives out at polling places? Unfortunately they don't give them out in Precinct 3 of the City of Berkley, Michigan, so I'm not wearing one. I was, however, the 226th person to vote this morning at the Father Landry Parish Center across the street from Loyola House. This was my first time voting in Michigan; when I lived in the District of Columbia and Indiana I continued to vote in Massachusetts, but with the stakes so high this year and the presidential race so close in Michigan I decided I ought to vote here. The experience was much the same as what I was accustomed to, with a few added quirks: unlike Massachusetts, Michigan provides a "straight ticket" option at the head of the ballot, and obstinately continues the (in my mind, at least) arcane practice of having elected judges. Should be interesting seeing how things go tonight - whatever your political sympathies, I hope you'll join me today in exercising your right to vote. AMDG.

Notes on All Souls Day.

Today is the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, more generally known as All Souls Day. I've long had a fondness for this particular feast, and thus I was delighted to give the homily at this morning's community Mass. The gist of what I said is that All Souls Day is about remembering the people who've made a difference in our lives who have passed away. In large part, All Souls Day is about memory - and so is the Christian faith itself. Jesuits, I said, have a particularly strong awareness of this fact, as the concepts of memory and recollection play an important role in Ignatian spirituality. In the Examen of Consciousness, for example, we remember the events of our day to see how God has been working in our lives. Then we have the Suscipe, the prayer Ignatius offers us at the conclusion of the Spiritual Exercises, "Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will ..." When it comes down to it, we're all about memory, and so is All Souls Day. AMDG.

Monday, November 01, 2004

"Political poll yields surprises."

Today's issue of the Observer, Notre Dame's student paper, reports on an interesting survey of Domers' political views. Bar none, the survey's most intriguing finding: the statement "I am more liberal than the average Notre Dame student" won the assent of - get ready - 56 percent of all respondents. If that's so, there would seem to be a gulf between perceptions of "the average Notre Dame" student and the reality - something for the student body and the administration to think about, perhaps. AMDG.

What I'm reading.

Today I finished Father William Bangert's biography Jerome Nadal, S.J., which I'd been working on since mid-October. Before I entered the Society I could finish a book of this length - a little under 350 pages - in under a week; now, however, I curiously find myself so occupied with different things - personal and communal prayer, community meetings, house jobs, the hospital experiment (I will write something about this soon, I promise), and so on - that I'm often lucky if I get five or ten pages of pleasure reading done each day. Not that I'm complaining - even if our days here are very full, they're also very rewarding. As for the Bangert book, what struck me most about Nadal's life was the many lasting innovations he introduced into the Society. Though most remembered today as the man who Ignatius commissioned to bring the Constitutions to all the Jesuit houses of Europe, Nadal was also the first to suggest that the Jesuit novitiate be a house in its own right (before, novices were trained informally in regular Jesuit communities) and promoted yearly week-long retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises as a key part of each Jesuit's spiritual life. Though sometimes very dry, Bangert's book was well worth reading. Having disposed of it at long last, I just started Searching for the Christian End-Person: An Inside Story by Father Joe Downey, a Jesuit I've gotten to know up at Colombiere. Downey's book offers something akin to a "spirituality of aging," and I'm hoping to cull from it some insights that will help me in my present ministry with nursing home residents. When I finish Searching for the Christian End-Person (hopefully in less time than it took to get through Bangert's biography of Nadal), expect further reflections from me on this topic. AMDG.

Notes on All Saints Day (and Theresa's birthday).

Today is the Feast of All Saints. To paraphrase from something fellow novice Eric Styles said in his homily at our house Mass this afternoon, I can't say much about this feast that hasn't already been said. Therefore I won't say anything more about it, beyond the fact that today is also the birthday of Sister Theresa, who works here at the novitiate. Happy birthday, Theresa! AMDG.