Thursday, June 30, 2005

Viva Cristo Rey . . . y Arrupe también.

In posts dating from November and March I made reference to Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, a Chicago Province school offering economically disadvantaged inner-city students the innovative combination of a traditional Jesuit classroom education and work study internships with some of Chicago's leading white-collar employers. The success of Cristo Rey in Chicago has inspired the establishment of similar Catholic high schools in cities across the United States, each operating on the same model as the original Cristo Rey. At this writing, the Cristo Rey Network includes eleven schools in cities as diverse as Austin, Texas; Lawrence, Massachusetts; Portland, Oregon and Waukegan, Illinois. Another Cristo Rey model school is set to open next year in Kansas City, and feasibility studies for ten more in various cities are in the works.

Denver is home to one of the newest Cristo Rey model schools, Arrupe Jesuit High School. Through the good offices of Arrupe's President Father Steve Planning and Missouri Province novice Mike Rozier, a number of us novices had a chance to tour the two year-old school earlier this week. As one might expect of such a young institution, Arrupe retains a very half-finished feel. Housed in an old parochial high school building, Arrupe is in the midst of a gradual physical transformation aimed at turning an antiquated 1950's structure into a state-of-the-art facility. Some parts of the building have already been effectively renewed, while others in the midst of renovation and yet others stand in need of attention. Though Arrupe receives financial support from the Missouri Province Jesuits, the corporate sponsors of the work study program and other generous donors, the school still possesses very modest means. The student body is phased to grow gradually to something like 350 or 400 students; each academic year Arrupe adds a new grade, with the expectation that full enrollment will be reached and the first class graduated in 2007. As a new institution, Arrupe faces both great challenges and great promise. Touring the school a couple days ago, I couldn't help but feel that, while the challenges are temporary, the promise is enduring. AMDG.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Suddenly It's 1960!

Dad, I'm sure you'll appreciate the title of this post; other readers may want to check here and here to understand the reference. Like the 1957 Plymouth Belvedere, Novitiate Notes dares to break the time barrier with an exciting new look. Ad experimentum I've decided to change the template of this blog. Novitiate Notes has had the same no-frills look for its entire ten-month existence, and I figured it wouldn't hurt to try out a new template. That said, I was more than happy with the old template and may return to it in the future. Readers with strong feelings for or against either the new or the old template are welcome to chime in, though I suspect I won't get much mail on the issue. AMDG.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

"Are you guys seminarians?"

That's a question I had to field twice this weekend, posed in precisely the same words at Denver's Holy Protection Byzantine Catholic Church and Spirit of Christ Catholic Church in suburban Arvada. As questions go, this one made a lot of sense, as most parishes probably aren't accustomed to seeing several unattached young men arrive in a group to attend Sunday liturgy. On another note, both of the parishes I attended this weekend offered end-of-liturgy blessings to married couples celebrating notable anniversaries - 25 years of marriage in one case and 40 in the other. The two blessings were a study in contrasts, illustrating the different though complementary liturgical values of the Christian East and West. At Holy Protection, the blessing of the couple took over five minutes and incorporated a series of richly elaborate prayers as well as a rite of sprinkling with holy water; at Spirit of Christ, the blessing was limited to a twenty second-long, apparently extemporaneous prayer delivered by the priest while the congregation extended their hands in blessing. As I wrote above, the different approaches represented by the two blessings are complementary: even if different in form, the liturgies of Eastern and Western Christians nonetheless represent two equally appealing routes to the same destination.

In other news, on Friday afternoon I took the bus downtown with fellow novices Justin Kopa (Maryland) and Shane Courville (New Orleans). On foot we explored much of the heart of the city, glimpsing such sights as the 16th Street Mall, the Colorado State Capitol and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The 16th Street Mall struck me as a well-conceived and successful downtown development which serves as an important anchor for business and helps keep the center of Denver vibrant. The Capitol and the Cathedral were suitably impressive, though the latter was surprisingly small. The trip confirmed the positive impression of downtown Denver I got when I ventured down there last weekend. I don't expect Denver to join the ranks of my favorite cities, but based on my experiences so far I'd say it's a fine place to spend a month in summer. AMDG.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Notes on the Feast of SS. John Fisher and Thomas More.

The Catholic Church remembers Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More as heroic martyrs who chose to undergo imprisonment and execution rather than affirm King Henry VIII's claim of supremacy over the English Church. As is often the case with canonized martyrs, both men did much more than merely die for their faith - Fisher made his mark not simply as Bishop of Rochester but as a scholar and administrator at Cambridge, and More wrote the provocative and influential Utopia before being called to royal service. Nowadays, More is the much better known of the duo, thanks in no small part to Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons. I've watched the 1966 film version of A Man for All Seasons countless times, and on repeat viewings I still look forward to particular scenes I regard as favorites. To some extent, A Man for All Seasons has to be considered bad history; Bolt's play fudges a few facts and presents a highly selective look at Thomas More's life - and, for that matter, ignores entirely the life of More's sadly neglected fellow martyr John Fisher. That said, A Man for All Seasons must also be considered a sterling example of intelligent and perhaps inadvertent hagiography, a work that brings the sacrifice of a 16th century Christian saint to a modern audience that deserves to hear his message. So if you haven't seen A Man for All Seasons, do yourself a favor and rent it now. AMDG.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Notes on the Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

For many modern believers, 16th century Jesuit Aloysius Gonzaga appears to be a highly paradoxical figure. As the patron of Catholic youth and of Jesuit scholastics, Aloysius may seem a dubious figure for emulation. Delicate and sickly from childhood, Aloysius further ruined his health with severe penances that seriously limited his ministerial abilities. Given Aloysius' apparent rigidity and extreme scrupulosity, his family and fellow Jesuits must have found the saint a hard person to live with. Caring for plague victims in Rome, Aloysius threw concerns about hygiene to the wind and seemingly went out of his way to ensure that he caught the disease that would claim his life at age 23.

Some may be tempted to dismiss Aloysius Gonzaga as a specimen of an antique and outmoded strain of piety; however, if we compare Aloysius' choices and challenges with our own we may find that Aloysius has something important to say to us today. Like many modern young people, Aloysius found himself searching for a deeper sense of purpose in a culture that struck him as decadent and materialistic. Aloysius discovered his life's purpose when he entered the Society of Jesus; in much the same way, an encouraging number of modern youth find meaning and fulfillment in committing themselves to lives of service - some in religious life, but many more in volunteer programs that benefit others in their own communities and around the world. After entering the Jesuits, Aloysius was forced to moderate his ascetic regimen of prayer and penance; his struggles to do so should remind young religious that each of us faces unique challenges in adapting to this life.

For all the apparent dissimilarity between Aloysius Gonzaga and ourselves, on reflection we may discover that this saint of the early Society was a lot like us. Today's celebration of Aloysius' life helps us recognize that even those saints who seem not to speak to our circumstances have something to teach us about ourselves. AMDG.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The rest is history.

Please forgive the overly corny title, as I'm presently unable to think of anything more creative (I briefly considered naming this post "Rocky Mountain High," but that would be too corny). Anyway, I've settled in here at Regis University in Denver for the biannual Jesuit history course for the Society's novices in North America. There are over ninety Jesuit novices on campus, representing all ten provinces of the United States Assistancy plus the Upper Canada Province and the English-speaking Caribbean novitiate in Jamaica. Many of the novices currently gathered here in Denver will be running into one another repeatedly over the next decade as we go through formation together. As the process of Assistancy Strategic Discernment goes forward, it's also quite likely that many of us who are beginning our formation in different novitiates will end up as members of the same province. In a very real sense, the future of the Society is right here.

The academic component of the Denver program began this morning with a lecture from Father Mark Lewis of the New Orleans Province, former director of the Jesuit Historical Institute in Rome. This week, Father Lewis will be speaking to us about the pre-Suppression Society, with particular emphasis on the world of the early Jesuits. Over the next few weeks, a number of other Jesuit historians will come in to cover other topics. In addition to classroom lectures, we have also been placed into small seminar groups to discuss the material covered, and each week we will be expected to prepare a two-page integration paper reflecting on our experience. Granted, I'm only one lecture into a four-week course, but based on what's come so far I expect the next month will be a lot of fun.

At this point I'm not in a very good position to comment on the merits of being in Denver, as I haven't seen much of the place. I've had an easier time than I would've expected adjusting to the altitude, though the baking heat and bright sun still leave me eager to retreat to the cool, dark indoors whenever possible. The area around the Regis campus is heavily Latino, with a number of taquerias that may bear closer examination. Yesterday I and a couple other novices drove into Denver's historic LoDo (Lower Downtown) area, primarily to visit the Tattered Cover Bookstore there. Tattered Cover was nothing to write home about - to be fair, however, the LoDo store is not the independent chain's flagship - but the neighborhood was very nice, and I'm sure I'll be going back there. The snow-capped peaks of the Rockies feel omnipresent, which is a good thing because they're lovely to look at. So far, Denver looks pretty promising. Whether my initial impression is borne out by further experience may be judged by readers perusing my posts over the next few weeks. AMDG.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Yet more parish closings reversed in Boston.

In a sign that the Archdiocese of Boston is still working out some of the many kinks in a very flawed reconfiguration process, Archbishop Sean O'Malley has again reversed a number of parish closings on the recommendation of a mostly lay review board. Previously slated to close, Boston's St. Mary of the Angels (a Jesuit-staffed parish, incidentally) and St. Peter (Lithuanian) parishes will remain open, as will Dedham's St. Susanna, Milton's St. Pius X, Stow's St. Isidore and Watertown's Sacred Heart parishes. While it will not regain its parochial status, previously-shuttered Infant Jesus-St. Lawrence Church in Brookline will reopen as a chapel of an adjacent parish. For reaction from parishioners at the impacted churches, click here.

Several of the churches that were saved yesterday enjoyed the benefit of loyal, vocal and well-organized parishioners who fought to keep their spiritual homes open. For example, Eastern Massachusetts Lithuanians - including many with memories of Soviet religious persecution in their homeland - rallied to rescue St. Peter's, one of only two remaining Lithuanian national parishes in the Archdiocese. Parishioners at Infant Jesus-St. Lawrence followed the lead of their cohorts at several other Boston-area parishes slated for closure by waging a nearly eight-month sit-in that, to a large degree, seems to have succeeded. As I've remarked in previous posts on this topic, I'm heartened to see parishioners in the Archdiocese of Boston exercise a sense of proprietorship over their spiritual homes, doing all they can to save and protect the places that have anchored their Catholic faith. Battered by seemingly unending crises, the Church in Eastern Massachusetts needs their devotion and witness. God bless them.

As often happens, the prediction I offered yesterday as to the timing of my next post was a bit off. I'm writing tonight from Creighton University in Omaha, where my fellow novices and I are spending the night. We had dinner this evening with the Krauses, who we thank for their hospitality and for the gift of our brother Ben's company. At this point, I believe I can predict with a fair degree of accuracy that my next post really will be from Denver. 'Til then, all the best. AMDG.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

To Be or Not to Be a Priest.

That's the question that several young men profiled in today's Chicago Tribune are grappling with. The Tribune's impressively thoughtful and fair-minded article examines a semester in the lives of a few undergraduate seminarians at St. Joseph College Seminary, a diocesan institution affiliated with Loyola University Chicago. Far from being spiritual supermen or pious caricatures, the seminarians the article focuses on are shown to be normal guys trying to figure out what they're going to do with their lives; in that regard, they're a lot like their contemporaries outside the seminary. At the same time, the men at St. Joseph College Seminary can also be regarded as exceptionally brave, inasmuch as choosing to accept a call to priesthood or religious life today is especially difficult for college-age youth today. One way or another, the article offers an interesting look at the life of college seminarians and is well worth reading. (If site registration prevents you from doing so, see if this helps; if it doesn't, let me know.)

In other news, I'm back in Chicago for a spell; tomorrow morning my fellow novices and I head to Omaha on the first leg of our epic journey to Denver. Though few, my days here have been filled with activity. Last night I saw Batman Begins, which was much better than I expected - the plot offers some neat twists and turns, and the performances are generally very good. This afternoon I visited the Art Institute of Chicago for the first time, and was suitably impressed. This evening, the novices of Loyola House (sans Ben Krause, already in his hometown of Omaha) reassembled here in Chicago after having been scattered for a week for province days and home visits. We enjoyed dinner and a tour at our brother novice Eric Styles' home parish, St. Benedict the African (East), in the Englewood section of Chicago. The parishioners and staff who greeted us at St. Benedict the African were very welcoming, and they are blessed to have a very beautiful church (the photos on the website don't do it justice). Some day I'd like to attend Sunday Mass there, but in light of the intense novitiate travel schedule it may be a while before I have the chance. Odds are my next update will be posted from Denver; in the meantime, I'll be enjoying the rest of this brief stay in Chicago and getting to know a big chunk of the Midwest on the road to the Mile-High City. A bientôt, AMDG.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Back in the Bend.

I'm writing this post from a computer at Notre Dame's Hesburgh Library, which hasn't changed much since I was a student here little more than a year ago. I can't say the same about the Notre Dame campus as a whole, which is going through one of its periodic construction spurts: a couple buildings have been torn down and a couple new ones have gone up; one road through campus is being redirected and another is in the course of being widened. I never thought I'd be able to say this, but South Bend is showing signs of yuppification. When I was a student here, the only Starbucks in the area was in the LaFortune Student Center at ND, but now the coffee retailer has several locations in South Bend and neighboring Mishawaka. Coffee-drinkers of a more independent bent have the option of going to a hip new coffee lounge which recently opened near campus in a building that used to house a fairly dinky Indian restaurant. The new DeBartolo Performing Arts Center has, I'm told, substantially raised the cultural horizons of the area, meaning aspiring sophisticates now longer have to drive to Chicago (or, failing that, Three Oaks) in search of a good time. Like all people, yuppies need housing as well as nourishment and entertainment, and to satisfy that need a number of promising new condo developments are planned or under construction. In short, South Bend is starting to become an exciting place to live - a bit late for me, perhaps, but good news for the people of Michiana.

As an incidental side note to the above, one of the more interesting things about returning to South Bend after a year away has been observing the fate of some local restaurants. As in many other cities, there are a number of locations in South Bend where restaurants open and close within a few months, such that the a single space can house a surprising variety of different eateries over a fairly brief period. I'm sure many readers can think of examples of this phenomenon in their own locality; I've found a couple good examples in South Bend. On S.R. 23 near campus, there's a building that in my time living here was successively home to a generically Eastern Mediterranean gyro place and a Jewish delicatessen (called, creatively enough, the Irish Kosher Deli). Now, the same place is home to a Mexican restaurant. Up the street from the house I used to live in on Leland Avenue is a place that started out as a soul food restaurant and then became a taqueria - the Taqueria El Gordo, to be precise. From the looks of things, the Taqueria El Gordo is a thing of the past, as the building is now boarded up. If restaurant buildings could talk - oh, the stories they'd tell (stories, probably, that would make one never want to eat out anywhere again).

Anyhow, readers may be wondering about the purpose of my trip in South Bend. I'm currently in the middle of what is called the novitiate "home visit," where novices get a few days off to visit their families. I saw my family last weekend, however, so instead I'm making my home visit in the city I most recently called home before entering the novitiate. My agenda for the trip is nothing more than seeing old friends and returning to familiar places. Wednesday I'll be heading back to Chicago, then on Friday it's off to Denver. These few days are thus a peaceful interlude amid periods of intense travel, and so far I'm enjoying them.

In my last post, I promised an update on province days, so here goes. On Thursday night, Chi Prov socius (i.e., assistant to the provincial) Father Mike Class took the novices out for dinner at Tapas Barcelona, a fine new Spanish restaurant in Evanston. For dessert we went to Ethel's Chocolate Lounge, a neat place where we enjoyed delicious if pricey bonbons in swanky surroundings. Over the next couple days we provided miscellaneous assistance at a spate of province events, most notably Friday evening's Jubilarian Mass at historic Holy Family Church and Saturday's ordination liturgy at St. Ignatius Church in Rogers Park. The ordination was appropriately moving and went off quite well despite minor glitches; as ordaining prelate, Francis Cardinal George gave a very thoughtful homily and did a particularly good job locating the significance of the event in a specifically Jesuit context. Saturday night saw the annual province banquet, an occasion offering both fine food and excellent fellowship. On Sunday morning, newly ordained priests Jim Collins and Dave De Marco celebrated their first Masses in the presence of their families, friends and assorted Jesuits. As part of the last-mentioned group I attended De Marco's first Mass at Loyola University Chicago before leaving for South Bend. So that's the weekend in a nutshell - Partners magazine will offer a fuller account in its next issue, which I'll provide a link to when it becomes available. AMDG.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

On the road again.

In a few minutes I'll be leaving for Chicago to attend what is known as "province days," a weekend-long reunion of members of the Chicago Province. Festivities include a number of Masses and receptions, leading up to the ordination Saturday afternoon of two of Ours, Dave De Marco and Jim Collins. When province days wrap up Sunday morning I'll be off to sunny South Bend for a few days of R&R. Middle of next week I'll be back in Chicago, albeit briefly, then it's off to Denver for the month-long Jesuit history course. I'll have updates over the next few days as time permits. Happy trails, AMDG.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Chi Prov on the Web.

My very own Chicago Province has a brand-new website. Long anticipated, the new site offers a more contemporary and eye-pleasing presentation of the content that graced the old site, which kept the same design from its launch in the mid-'90's until just yesterday. Though the Chi Prov website has a spiffy new look, there's little in the way of new content, but the new stuff that is there is pretty cool. There's a nice video gallery of short films on diverse subjects, including - to my surprise and delight - the minor-classic vocation video "This Extraordinary Life." The interactive province map is also worth checking out, though I'm a little disappointed by the absence of Henri de Lubac House in Granger, Indiana, the residence for Jesuits engaged in one way or another (teaching, study, advocacy, etc.) at the University of Notre Dame. The Jesuit community in Granger played an important role in the development of my vocation, and also anchors a small but vital Jesuit presence amid the sea of Holy Cross priests and brothers at Notre Dame. Even so, De Lubac House is simply a Jesuit residence and not a corporate apostolate, so its absence from the map is understandable. On the whole, the new Chi Prov website is quite nice and deserves your attention. AMDG.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Back from Cedar Point.

Amusement parks aren't really my thing, so I'm less than ideally qualified to assess the merits of the self-proclaimed "number-one rated amusement park on the planet." This venerable lakeside attraction is a very big deal to many Ohioans and Michiganders, and my novitiate class includes several seasoned Cedar Point veterans. For my part, I can say that I found Cedar Point to be much cleaner than a number of other amusement parks I've been to, and I was happily surprised to find a Johnny Rockets inside the park. My family will not be surprised to hear that I did not go on any of the roller coasters; instead I spent most of the day at the beach, which I found very pleasant. Assuming Loyola House sponsors another Cedar Point outing in the future (this one being at least the second in the past two years), I suspect I'll return to the fleshpots of Sandusky. I doubt I'll ever become a Cedar Point lifer like some of my Jesuit brethren, but I wouldn't mind seeing the place again. AMDG.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

SouthCoast news roundup.

Today's Standard-Times contains several items of interest. There's an article on yesterday's commencement ceremony at Tabor Academy, where my sister and her cohorts in the Class of '05 received their high school diplomas "[a]gainst a backdrop of clear blue skies, brilliant green lawns and whitewashed sailboats bobbing in Sippican Harbor[.]" Having had the good fortune of attending the ceremony myself, I can say that the event was every bit as lovely as the Standard-Times describes it. Commencement exercises were also held yesterday at my own high school alma mater, Old Rochester Regional High School, as reported here. My graduation from ORR in 1997 received similar treatment in our local paper - readers who know me personally may enjoy locating me in the photo that accompanies the article. Regarding area youth who did not receive diplomas yesterday, the Standard-Times has a sad and sobering story on ORR dropouts who've come to regret leaving school before graduation. Last but not least and on a very different note is this piece on unresolved historical conundrums in post-Deep Throat America - a piece that reminds us once again that, even if there is one less secret out there, there's still plenty to go around. AMDG.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Congrats, Boo!

This coming Saturday, my sister Elizabeth will graduate from Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts. Tomorrow morning I'll be flying home to attend the Tabor commencement ceremony and related activities. I'll be back at Loyola House on Sunday night. Rumor has it there will be a novitiate outing to Cedar Point on Monday, about which I will probably have a report on Tuesday. 'Til then, hope all is well. AMDG.