Friday, April 29, 2005

Back in Berkeley.

This weekend I’ll be going back up to Berkeley, spending a couple nights at JSTB. Hopefully I’ll be back on Monday with some account of my adventures. I say “hopefully” because I’ve been having a lot of technical difficulties posting of late, though I don’t know whether fault rests with Blogger or with the computers at Santa Clara. ‘Til we meet again, be well. AMDG.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Notes on the Feast of St. Peter Canisius.

Today the Society of Jesus remembers Peter Canisius, an important early Jesuit whose bold efforts helped preserve the Catholic Church in Germany at a time when it looked as though the country might become completely Protestant. Though he was one of the most learned theologians of his day, Canisius is remembered not for his intellectual prowess but for his skill as a grassroots evangelizer. Canisius had a talent for communicating the Catholic faith in terms that were intelligible and persuasive to the humble and uneducated, and this talent proved decisive in keeping Catholicism alive in Germany. Canisius ensured his lasting influence on German Catholicism by authoring a popular catechism that remained in widespread circulation into the 20th century.

This year, the Feast of St. Peter Canisius has particular relevance for the life of the Church. Our new pope comes to the Chair of Peter with both a reputation as a brilliant theologian and a desire to be an agent of renewal for the Church not only in Germany but also across Europe. I suspect that Pope Benedict XVI would like to be known more as an evangelizer than as a theologian, and he could well find inspiration in the example of Peter Canisius.

A liturgical side note: though Jesuit houses remember Peter Canisius today, the universal Church celebrates his memory on December 21st. Saying as how Canisius is one of our greatest saints, with the approval of the relevant Roman authorities the Society decided it would be better to celebrate his memory at a time of the year when he can get the attention he deserves rather than a few days before Christmas, when the excitement of Advent would make him little more than a footnote. Makes sense to me. AMDG.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Adam and the Bishop.

Lately it seems like Nobili Hall is bursting at the seams with novices. This academic quarter, there are two novices in residence here - myself and Jason Beyer, a second-year novice from the California Province who is on Long Experiment working in campus ministry and teaching at Santa Clara. In addition, however, we've had a lot of novice guests in the last few days. For starters, the Cal Prov primi are staying at Nobili while they visit various Jesuit apostolates across the Bay Area. Two Oregon Province primi and one of Jason's fellow Cal Prov secundi have also stopped in. Last but not least, my classmate Adam DeLeon came down from San Francisco for a visit. I ran the numbers yesterday with Oregon novice Matt Zahler and we figured out that on that day there were twelve novices at Nobili - more than some novitiates, actually. Within a few days, however, this highly anomalous state of affairs will have ended and Jason and I will go back to being the only novices in what speakers of Jesuitese sometimes call "a professed house."

As noted above, my brother novice Adam was in town this weekend. He wanted to see some of the local Jesuit apostolates, so I showed him the Santa Clara campus and took him down to the California Province offices and infirmary in Los Gatos and to Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose. The former Cal Prov novitiate at Los Gatos is legendary as the place where Novitiate Wine was produced for nearly a hundred years (novices picked the grapes, and Jesuit brothers directed the winery). Resurrecting an old tradition, Novitiate Wine is once again available from a company called Testarossa Vineyards, though the Society's involvement in the enterprise is limited to leasing the old winery to Testarossa and letting them use the Novitiate label. In company with many other erstwhile formation houses, the former novitiate at Los Gatos now serves as an assisted living and nursing care center for senior Jesuits. Many Jesuits now spend their last years in the same places in which they entered the Society and received their initial formation, and that fact carries a striking poignancy.

This afternoon, Adam and I took a good look at Bellarmine College Prep. I had been to BCP before for dinner with the Jesuit community, but on that visit I didn't have a chance to explore the campus or learn much about the school. Today I got to know BCP a lot better, thanks in large part to the generosity of Father Dick Cobb, who showed Adam and me around and told us a lot about the school and its students. The sprawling, college-like campus, rigorous curriculum and diverse student body all left me with a very positive impression of the school. Rounding out a great experience, I again enjoyed dinner with the community in the evening and had the good fortune to attend an evening liturgy in the school chapel where fifty BCP students received the sacrament of confirmation. In summation, Bellarmine College Prep rocks.

You know who else rocks? Bishop Patrick McGrath and the Diocese of San Jose. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve become a big fan of this diocese and its bishop. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a local church as dynamic and vibrant as this one. This is a diocese with an approach that makes Catholicism attractive, a place where it’s exciting to be Catholic. That’s something I cannot say about a lot of the other places I’ve lived; having spent a fair amount of time in dioceses that were a lot less healthy than this one, I really appreciate what I’ve found here. Part of what makes this diocese work so well is that it has a fine bishop in Patrick McGrath. I’ve now heard Bishop McGrath preach twice, the first time being at a jubilee Mass a few weeks ago and the second being at tonight’s confirmation Mass. Both times, I was deeply impressed by the Bishop’s gentle presence, conversational tone and consoling message. I can't point to any one particular thing that the Bishop said or did on either occasion that cemented this impression, but instead it was the overall effect of hearing him preach that made me into a fan. Meeting Bishop McGrath in person tonight and speaking with him before and during dinner confirmed my sense that he is both an outstanding shepherd and an all-around great guy. I could say similar things – in fact, I think I already have multiple times – about San Jose itself. It’s a great diocese to serve in, and an all-around great place to be. AMDG.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Michigan suffers through second day of late snow storm.

This according to the Freep and Jesuit sources in Detroit. All I can say is that this seems a good time to be in California. AMDG.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Notes on the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus.

As its title suggests, today's feast is unique to the Society of Jesus, and you're unlikely to see it celebrated unless you live in a Jesuit community or attend Mass at a Jesuit church or chapel. On this date in 1541, Ignatius and the First Companions made their solemn vows in the Basilica of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls in Rome. As I noted in a previous post, historically significant Jesuit anniversaries usually aren't as much a focus for annual celebration as our founder's feast day, July 31st. Nonetheless, today is a special day for the Society of Jesus, so be sure to send greetings to your favorite Jesuits. AMDG.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Father Malcolm Carron, S.J., 1917-2005.

Father Mal Carron, whose years of dedicated service to his home city earned him the title “Mr. Detroit,” died two days ago at Colombiere, a month shy of his 88th birthday. Mal had what I suspect is the unique distinction of serving as president of all three Jesuit schools in Detroit, playing a pivotal role in the history of each institution. Mal led the University of Detroit through exceptionally tough times, weathering student rebellion, civil unrest, economic decay and urban decay. At a time when many Detroit institutions were following a tide of migration to the suburbs, Mal Carron kept U of D in the city and worked hard to make the university responsive to the needs of a struggling urban community. After thirteen years as a university president, Mal moved from higher to secondary education, spending over a decade at the helm of U of D Jesuit High School. Foregoing a well-deserved retirement, in his late-seventies Mal served as founding president of Loyola High School, bringing Jesuit education to at-risk students in innercity Detroit. Mal Carron spent the last several years of his life at Colombiere, which is where I got to know him. At our first meeting, after I'd been introduced as a novice, Mal replied with a wink and a smile: "I was a novice myself once - about fifteen years ago!" On good days, Mal Carron could crack a joke and carry a conversation. On bad days, he spoke only in monosyllables ("oh boy" was his all-purpose response to any kind of situation, good or bad) but remained very alert; no matter how incommunicative he appeared, Mal consistently did quite well in the Colombiere football pool. Though I didn't meet Mal Carron until the twilight of his life, I'm glad to have known him. Mal may have passed from the scene, but his edifying example will continue to inspire Jesuits in Detroit and beyond. AMDG.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

. . . Qui Sibi Nomen Imposuit Benedictum XVI.

As you've no doubt heard by now from more reputable news sources, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is the new pope. Unlike his immediate precedessor John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI takes office with a public image already formed by years in the global spotlight. Many Catholics have strong opinions - both positive and negative - about the new Pontiff, and in the coming days we all have to face up to the challenge of making a familiar face into a fresh one, learning to see the man we've come to know well as "Cardinal Ratzinger" (a name that means many different things, depending on who you speak to) as that heretofore unknown figure, "Pope Benedict XVI."

All Catholics, regardless of how they feel about Joseph Ratzinger, will greet this papacy with their own particular hopes and fears. I'm particularly curious about the new pope's attitude toward the Society of Jesus and relationships with Jesuits, as this is an aspect of his life that I know little about but would seem to have practical implications for my own life.

On another level, I feel that I'm completing an important milestone: my first experience of a papal death, interregnum and election. When I attend the community Mass in a few minutes and hear liturgical reference made to "Benedict, our pope," I'll get a lump in my throat that tells me the transition to a new era is complete. AMDG.

Habemus Papam . . .

but at this point we don't know who he is. I did a routine news check on what I thought was my way out the door of Catholic Charities to visit some of the refugees at their house, and what do I see - white smoke and bells at the Vatican! A new pope has been elected, and the world's eyes are trained on the balcony at St. Peter's where he will soon emerge. The joy, excitement and mystery of a papal election are at this point mingled with uncertainty about the identity of the man elected - I suspect I wouldn't have been able to feel this mix of emotions were it not for the instant nature of modern media coverage. In times past, most Catholics would've gotten the news of a papal election and the identity of the man elected at the same time. I knew that the first conclave of the instant media era would be different somehow, and now I know exactly how. AMDG.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Berkeley and San Francisco.

This past weekend I visited each of the aforementioned cities for the first time. I headed to Berkeley on Saturday, having lunch with my onetime ND prof Paul Kollman (in town on sabbatical) and dinner with Chi Prov scholastic Mike Conley (studying theology at JSTB). Over the course of the day I got a good look at both UC-Berkeley and JSTB (i.e. the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley), and found both to my liking. The University of California campus is one of the most attractive I've seen, combining a variety of well-designed buildings with a generous allotment of surprisingly woodsy open space. South of the campus, Telegraph Avenue offered some good shopping, but despite a certain cultivated scruffiness the street didn't strike me as any more "eccentric and eclectic" than, say, Harvard Square. (However, I'm also told that Telegraph gets a bit more eccentric - and much more sketchy - after dark.) One thing Telegraph has that impressed me quite a bit are a number of panhandlers bearing very creative signs; my favorite such sign was one borne by a teenager that read "Ninjas killed my family, need money for Kung Fu lessons." Very different from Telegraph is the "Holy Hill" neighborhood north of campus, so called because of the proliferation of seminaries (including JSTB) located there and federated under the auspices of the Graduate Theological Union. Leafy, quiet and appropriately hilly, the area around JSTB struck me as very agreeable and undoubtedly a great place to live, study and work.

Sunday marked my first trip to San Francisco, where I spent most of the day with my novitiate classmate Adam DeLeon, who is on Short Experiment there working with Amnesty International and living with the Jesuit community at St. Agnes Parish. St. Agnes has the reputation of being a very dynamic and vibrant parish, and though I regrettably wasn't able to attend Mass there or meet any of the parishioners I can say that the church is tastefully designed and the Jesuits on staff are very friendly. St. Agnes is located in Haight-Ashbury, a neighborhood famous as a center of the '60's counterculture but now with more yuppies than hippies and more trendy boutiques than head shops. To be completely honest, reminders of the '60's are strikingly rare in the area now better known as "the Haight"; to me, the place seemed little different from any number of trendy, gentrified urban neighborhoods I've visited (Steve, that includes even downtown Hoboken). Though the Haight failed to impress, I was taken with St. Ignatius Church, which isn't only one of the most beautiful Jesuit churches I've seen but one of the most beautiful churches I've seen, period. I'm told that the California Province nearly went bankrupt from the expense of building St. Ignatius in the 1910's, and having seen the place I believe it. Altogether, I really liked San Francisco. The city's many hills have a rippling wave effect that makes the place feel a lot bigger than it really is, and the many parks and scenic vistas dotting the city provide for an excellent aesthetic experience. Among the various areas I've lived in, the Bay Area is shaping up to be one of my favorites. This is really a great place to be. AMDG.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Jesuits in the News.

There was a note on the community bulletin board a couple days ago reporting the appointment of Father Francis X. Clooney, S.J. as Parkman Professor of Divinity at Harvard. Clooney, who currently holds academic appointments at Boston College and Oxford University, is (in the words of the Harvard press release) "one of the world's leading comparative theology scholars" and a noted authority on Hinduism. I've never read any of Clooney's books, but I heard him speak a couple years ago at an event in Chicagoland and was impressed. I also had dinner with him on that occasion and found his company most enjoyable. It must be admitted that Clooney's departure from BC is a great loss for a school that is in the midst of an effort to build itself up to being the preeminent Catholic and Jesuit university in the country. However, having a Jesuit on the Harvard faculty gives the Society of Jesus added visibility in the highest echelons of American academia and bears witness to the intellectual apostolate that has been a key part of the Order's ministry since its earliest days. So I'd say that Clooney's move to Harvard is very good news for this least Society. AMDG.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Irish Seawolves in the News.

Notre Dame basketball forward Torin Francis, a former star player at my sister's high school, Tabor Academy, yesterday announced his eligibility for the NBA draft. You can read more about Francis' time at Tabor here and here. Francis' career with the Seawolves and the Irish represented a kind of bridge for me; when I was at Notre Dame, I thought it was really cool that a kid I remembered reading about in my local paper when he was playing at Tabor was now playing for the Irish. The prospect of him going to the NBA is also pretty cool, though I would've preferred that he wait until senior year and complete his degree before thinking about going pro. Given that I remember his career as a high school player, the prospect of Torin Francis playing professional basketball also makes me feel a little old. Such is life, I guess. AMDG.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Strategic Discernment.

The Jesuits of the United States are currently engaged in a process called "Strategic Discernment," about which you can learn more (a lot more, in fact) here. In a nutshell, the process is intended to help the Society of Jesus figure out how we can best serve the needs of the American Church in the 21st century. What kind of ministries should we involve ourselves in? How should we live as Jesuits? What kind of training should men in formation (guys like me, in other words) receive? How should we relate to our lay colleagues? How should our communities and provinces be organized? The Assistancy Strategies Commission of the United States Jesuit Conference is currently considering these and other questions, and to help them find answers Jesuit communities across the country are taking part in a "national conversation" about Strategic Discernment. This afternoon, the Jesuits of Nobili Hall played our role in this stage of the process by having a community meeting to discuss this document put out by the Conference. I'm not going to tell you what was said at the meeting, but the views expressed there (not to mention the Strategic Discernment process in general) have stimulated highly interesting and enriching conversations among community members about our shared future as Jesuits. The present process of Strategic Discernment could lead to major or minor changes in our Jesuit life - or, as seems most likely, a mix of both major and minor changes - which makes this an exciting time to be a Jesuit novice. Now, when (God willing) I'm an old Jesuit - "praying for the Church and Society," perhaps - I doubt that some young novice will ask me, "Where were you during the Strategic Discernment of 2005-07?" However, if I am asked that question (which, I'm sure, would bring joy to my ancient heart), I'll have an answer. AMDG.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

What I did on my spring vacation.

The death of a pope is a sad event which invites sustained reflection, but the novemdiales also provided me with a pretext for a much-needed break from blogging. Short Experiment is going very well, but finding time for regular posting on this site has been difficult. The death of Pope John Paul II also presented me with a journalistic conundrum. Though I was strongly affected by the passing of the only Pontiff that Catholics of my generation have ever known, I also didn't feel like I had anything particularly worthwhile to write about the event. At the same time, it struck me as vaguely impious to post on other topics during the novemdiales if I wasn't going to say much about the topic that was consuming a lot of the world's attention during the past week. Now that the prescribed period of mourning is over, so is my hiatus from blogging and the philosophical hand-wringing that accompanied it.

So what have I done in the last week or so? A lot of things. I've attended some interesting liturgies, which I'll discuss more in a separate post. Last weekend I continued my effort to visit the various California missions, making it down to Mission San Carlos Borromeo and Mission San Juan Bautista. The former mission - perhaps most noteworthy as the place where Blessed Junipero Serra is buried - is located in posh Carmel-By-The-Sea, an oceanfront town that is also home to some gorgeous beaches, a pricey though unremarkable shopping district and a lot of narrow, poorly-marked streets. Much more inviting was San Juan Bautista, a still-rustic mountain town that retains an Old California feel with a Main Street lined with mom-and-pop stores and a profusion of cacti and noisy, evidently wild roosters. During working hours I've also embarked on a few field trips with the refugees, including visits to the Children's Discovery Museum and Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose and an upcoming junket to Santa Cruz. On weekdays outside working hours I've enjoyed scrumptious dinners and fellowship with the Jesuits at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose and at local favorite Krung Thai. Perhaps now you understand why I've been too busy to post much on this blog. I'm sure I'll continue to be busy in the next few weeks, but as Pope John Paul II's tomb in St. Peter's begins to welcome visitors and the College of Cardinals prepares to elect the next Pontiff, I'll do my best to keep you all up to speed on goings on here at Santa Clara. AMDG.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Death of a Pope.

There's probably nothing I can say about the life or legacy of Pope John Paul II that hasn't already been or will be expressed by others more eloquent than myself, so I'm going to refrain from offering any commentary on the death of the Pontiff. Some readers may be curious where I was when the Pope died or when I heard the news, so I'll tell you. Yesterday morning I drove down to Santa Cruz, primarily to see the historic Franciscan mission there (one of my goals for this two-month sojourn in the Golden State is to visit as many of the California Missions as I can). I was at Mission Santa Cruz when John Paul II died, either in the chapel (a copy of the original, actually) or in the mission garden behind it - I don't know which because I actually didn't learn about the Pope's death until about a half-hour after it happened, when I heard the news on the radio as I was driving through bustling downtown Santa Cruz. So there, now you know.

In observance of the nine-day period of official mourning for the late Pope, I will not post again on this blog until Tuesday, April 12th. If you want to know more about the novemdiales and other papal mourning rituals, check out this article. AMDG.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Hans Küng and Karol Wojtyla.

This morning I saw Hans Küng. I will never see Karol Wojtyla, at least not in this life. One of the most widely-known and most controversial Catholic theologians of the past century, Küng came to Santa Clara for a couple days to give a public lecture and participate in a symposium with several lesser-known dignitaries. As you might well imagine, I would've appreciated going to one or the other Küng events, in part so I could say in coming years, "I once saw Hans Küng." Unfortunately work and obligations to my Jesuit community kept me from hearing Küng speak, and yet I can still say I saw the man. Walking across the campus this morning I chanced upon a tent in which a couple dozen people - a mix of tie-wearing academic-types and students in shorts and flip-flops - were eating breakfast. Sure enough, Hans Küng was in the tent - looking just as he does in photographs: a slight, professorial man with salt-and-pepper hair and glasses, managing at once to maintain both a mild-mannered appearance and the bearing of someone who has gotten used to (and gotten over) being famous. Küng was quietly eating his breakfast and didn't appear terribly occupied, and for an instant I thought about walking the twenty-foot distance between us in order to say hello. I realized then that I really had nothing particularly worthwhile to say to Hans Küng and that, saying as how Hans Küng doesn't know me from a hole in the wall, he probably wouldn't have anything particularly worthwhile to say to me either. I also realized that in peeking into the tent I had gotten what I hoped to get from Küng's visit: I can now say that I've seen Hans Küng, and I'm satisfied with that.

I'll never be able to say "I saw Karol Wojtyla," and I'm satisfied with that as well. Pope John Paul II has the admirable distinction of being the most-travelled pope of modern times and probably the most-travelled pope ever. I'm sure I would have enjoyed seeing him in person if I'd had the chance, just as I'll enjoy seeing any of his successors if I have the opportunity; there's something special about being able to say "I saw the Pope" regardless of which pope one happens to have seen. Nonetheless, I'm sure I'll be able to enjoy a happy and fruitful life as a Catholic and a Jesuit even if I never see a pope in person. When it comes down to it, I guess that despite my respect for the present Pontiff's globe-trotting ways I'd be equally content if the Successor of Peter elected to remain a distant man in white waving from a balcony in St. Peter's Square. (However, I also suspect that the precedent set by John Paul II would make it difficult if not impossible for the next pope to return to this older style of exercising the Petrine ministry.) My loyalty to the Church remains the same regardless of whether I see the Pope or not, irrespective of who is chosen to occupy the Chair of Peter and whether or not the occupant in question loves to travel or prefers to stay at home in the Vatican. In short, I need not see to believe.

Laying the above considerations to rest, I'm not sure how to feel about the imminent death of Pope John Paul II. Given that Karol Wojtyla has been Pope longer than I've been alive, the shallow reservoir of my personal experience is of little help. As some friends reading this blog may recall from conversations we've had, at times I feel like the now-predictable holding pattern of a so-called "emeritus papacy" is preferable to the uncertainty of a papal interregnum and the election of a new pontiff - even if the latter situation is inevitable. At the same time, I find consolation in the belief that after years of growing infirmity and physical suffering the Pope is at last receiving his reward. Beyond all this, I remain frankly intrigued by the juxtaposition contained in the title of this post. In the last hours of the Pope's life, what distraction should appear before me - a campus visit by Hans Küng, of all people. Did I ever expect these two figures to come together for me in this way? For that matter, did I ever expect that the death of John Paul II - an event long-anticipated, yet somehow surprising - would find me in the unlikely environs of Santa Clara, California? I'd best leave things there, lest an accounting of the actual or anticipated events I never expected to see keep me here all night. AMDG.

More parish closings reversed in Boston.

In a mid-December post I discussed Archbishop Sean O'Malley's reversal of his earlier decision to close Plymouth's Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Church after concerted lobbying efforts by parishioners. Now the Archbishop has decided to reverse a number of other closing decisions, including earlier orders to shutter St. Albert the Great Church in Weymouth and St. Anselm in Sudbury. Spunky parishioners at both churches attracted international attention and widespread admiration for their intense efforts to keep their communities alive, efforts that included round-the-clock prayer vigils, appeals to the Vatican and active media campaigns. As the Boston Globe reports, the people of St. Albert's have a lot to be happy about; even if the beloved Father Ron Coyne won't be returning as pastor, the parish is (in the words of one parishioner) "so much stronger and healthier" following the vigil and the Archdiocese's decision to reopen the church. St. Anselm's, meanwhile, will not be restored to parochial status but will become a chapel of St. George Church in Framingham. Considering the dedication and loyalty its parishioners have shown over the past year, St. Anselm's should be able to maintain its unique and particular identity under this new arrangement. Though the immediate future looks bright for St. Albert's and St. Anselm's, the news is less positive at other parishes whose closings have been upheld - as yet another Globe article indicates. I'm a little taken aback by Archbishop O'Malley's claim that he "did not expect the degree of resistance" that many parishioners have mounted to the reconfiguration process; while the process itself is clearly necessary, deep flaws in its execution have served to exacerbate tensions which would have been present even under the best of circumstances. Though I share the misgivings that many feel about reconfiguration, I'm encouraged by O'Malley's willingness to reexamine and in some cases reverse his earlier rulings. Amid the pervasive darkness of an inherently painful and divisive process, the Archbishop's admission of past mistakes casts a small but significant ray of hope. AMDG.