Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A new Benedictine blog.

Susan at Musings of a Discerning Woman drew my attention to Narrow at the Outset, a new weblog by Sister Steph, a young, recently-professed member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana. In her first few days as a blogger, Sister Steph has put up thoughtful posts touching on the Benedictine Rule, educating youth about social justice and the cultural differences one encounters when moving from the East Coast to Indiana and in moving from lay to religious life. I look forward to reading Steph's future posts, and I commend her blog to your attention. AMDG.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Boo begins college.

This weekend my sister Elizabeth moved into her dorm to begin her freshman year at Stonehill College - I hope my readers will join me in wishing her the very best as she begins her undergraduate career. Stonehill is a great school and has a beautiful campus, as I can attest from having spent a week there to attend Massachusetts Boys State in 1996. Good luck, Boo - be sure to keep me posted. In the meantime, I'm going to have to start reading The Summit to keep up with campus news. AMDG.

". . .the ravages of seventy years of Jesuit living."

Yesterday afternoon the novices and staff of Loyola House attended a special Mass and dinner at Colombiere honoring the jubilarians of the Chicago and Detroit Provinces. "Jubilarians" are individuals celebrating significant milestones in religious life - fifty, sixty or seventy years in the Society, for example, or fifty or sixty years in the priesthood. Though our two provinces celebrate Jubilarian Masses each year at province days in June, an additional bi-province jubilee celebration is held in August at Colombiere as a way of honoring the older Jesuits residing at our retirement community. This year at Colombiere we had a veritable bumper crop of jubilarians - an even dozen, in fact - who have given over 700 years of collective service to the Church and the Society. This year's jubilarians have served in many different apostolates - in universities and in high schools, in parishes and in retreat houses, in publishing and in foreign missions - but everything they have done has been for the help of souls and the greater glory of God.

Speaking with jubilarians and with older Jesuits in general, I'm often impressed by their apparent agelessness and lightness of touch. Though many have accomplished great things, they seldom talk about them. Many remain energetic and sharp into their eighties and nineties, continuing to work as much as they're able and recalling the events of fifty years ago and the events of yesterday with equal clarity. Though many have accomplished great things, they seldom talk about them. Reaching that degree of humility has to take some doing. The title of this post comes from a wisecrack one of this year's jubilarians is wont to repeat to visiting novices: "You're looking at the ravages of seventy years of Jesuit living." The Jesuit in question is doing much better than most other ninety-year olds I've encountered, which suggests to me that the "ravages" of Jesuit living aren't all that bad. On the contrary, the example of the men at Colombiere suggests that the Society of Jesus is a great institution to grow old in. AMDG.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Congratulations, John!

Loyola House's own second-year novice John Petit was officially sworn in as a member of the Michigan Bar today by Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Patrick O'Brien. I and several of my cohorts had the pleasure and privilege of attending John's swearing in, which we all found appropriately moving. As a recipient of undergraduate and law degrees from UDM, Judge O'Brien declared himself very pleased to assist in admitting a Jesuit novice to practice law in Michigan. John, who practiced law in Ohio for ten years before entering the novitiate, will soon start doing a few hours a week of pro bono work for the UDM Mobile Law Office. I'm sure he'll do Loyola House and the Society of Jesus proud.

In other news, the secundi had our first Social Ethics class this evening at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary. At Notre Dame Law School I took an excellent class on Catholic Social Thought that covered much of the same material as the class I'm now taking at SSCMS; the NDLS class, it's worth noting, was taught by Professor Vincent Rougeau, a contributor to the always interesting Mirror of Justice weblog exploring the intersection of CST and secular legal theory. If the syllabus I received tonight is any indication, the SSCMS class takes a very different approach, and I'm looking forward not only to renewing my acquaintance with the Church's social teaching but also to the opportunity to examine the topic through a different set of lenses and in a rather different context. I'm sure I'll have more to say about this as the semester progresses, but for now it should be enough to say I'm glad to be in the classroom again.

In totally unrelated news, I had lunch today at the Telway, a venerable local greasy spoon at the corner of John R and 11 Mile Road in Madison Heights. As far as I can tell, the Telway has no website of its own, but you can read contrasting perspectives on the place in this warm and fuzzy human interest column from the Freep and this much darker piece from the Metro Times. The Freep's Sylvia Rector paints the Telway in "Main Street U.S.A" colors, while the Metro Times' Dan DeMaggio takes a "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" approach. Reading both of the articles (and I recommend you do), it's hard to believe the two writers are talking about the same restaurant. For my own part, I enjoyed my visit to the Telway. The menu may be limited and the food may be simple, but the quality was good and the price was right. Any restaurant where you can get a fairly decent cheeseburger, fries and cup of coffee for all of $2.32 is well worth returning to, especially on a Jesuit novice's budget. AMDG.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Father Francis X. Grollig, S.J., 1922-2005.

I never really knew Father Grollig personally, but I knew who he was. During my hospital experiment at Colombiere, I sometimes saw Father Grollig in the dining room during breakfast or lunch, but I don't think I ever exchanged more than a couple words with him; he was a quiet man, and I got the impression he kept mostly to himself. I never knew much about Father Grollig's personal history until I read this obituary on the Chi Prov website highlighting his distinguished career in academia. Jesuits who knew him well report that he was kind and thoughtful, a good community man as well as a fine scholar and teacher. Father Grollig received a moving and dignified farewell from his fellow Jesuits in a funeral Mass this morning at Colombiere. My fellow novices and I attended, as well we should. It's a good thing for Jesuit novices to attend Jesuit funerals, just as it's good thing that we spend part of our hospital experiment in the first year of novitiate at Colombiere. By getting to know our elders and by paying our respects when they die, we come to understand better the span of Jesuit life. Seeing what our lives may be like in fifty or sixty years provides good data for discernment, letting us know what's in store for us if we persevere in this vocation. We all grow old and die, but there's something unique about growing old and dying in a religious order. That's a lesson the novices of the Chicago and Detroit Provinces learn from our brothers at Colombiere. Though long retired from the classroom, men like Francis Grollig continue to teach us. AMDG.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Notes on the Memorial of St. Rose of Lima.

Today the Church remembers the 17th-century Dominican tertiary Rose of Lima, the first person born in the Americas to be canonized. Today's memorial is significant for me because, as some readers may recall, St. Rose of Lima was the name of my home parish. The same readers will recall that St. Rose of Lima Parish was suppressed last year as part of a wide-ranging diocesan process of parochial reorganization. I believe I said everything I need to say about the closing of St. Rose of Lima here and here. This post will offer a somewhat different line of reflection on my experiences at St. Rose of Lima, focusing on my awareness of the patron saint of my home parish.

As a kid I had a very vague notion of who Rose of Lima was. I knew she was a woman who had lived a long time ago - how long exactly, I didn't know - and that in some vague sense she lived a life of prayer and service to the poor. I knew that she was from Peru, and in a childish way I found this disappointing - Rose would've been more exotic and intriguing somehow if she had come from Africa, Asia or Europe. (In retrospect, it seems quite ironic that I once viewed Peru as an insufficiently interesting home for a saint; I'll be going to Peru next summer, and the prospect now strikes me as very exciting.) As a child, I was never told about Rose's severe penances or her stigmata, perhaps because the pastor and our CCD teachers thought that modern children would be grossed out by the details - or because the adults themselves were ill at ease with Rose's particular brand of piety. When I was a kid I also knew nothing of Rose's association with the Dominican Order - throughout my childhood, I was almost totally ignorant of the existence of religious orders. It's worth noting that in the sanctuary of my church the requisite statue of St. Rose of Lima was joined by one of St. Martin de Porres, of whom we children learned even less than we did of our patron.

If I'd known something about St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres, I might have wondered what they were doing in a small-town parish in Massachusetts. Years later, I learned that the naming of my parish had a lot to do with the personality of the man who was Archbishop of Boston when the church was built. Richard Cardinal Cushing had a keen interest in Latin America and worked hard to develop stronger links between Catholics in the United States and their co-religionists to the South. Cardinal Cushing's commitment to Latin America found concrete expression in his establishment of the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle, an organization of diocesan priests who would take a break from parish work in the United States in order to serve the poor in Latin America. (The priests who delivered the annual mission appeal in my home parish were almost always connected with the St. James Society.) Another expression of Cardinal Cushing's affection for the Latin American Church came in the naming of new churches like mine. By naming a parish in a small, fairly homogeneous Massachusetts town after the patron saint of Peru, Cardinal Cushing presumably hoped to give the parishioners a greater sense of the universal Church in general and more awareness of the Latin American Church in particular. If this was indeed the Cardinal's hope, in my experience it was imperfectly realized in Rochester. That said, I do find it interesting that after having grown up in a parish named for Rose of Lima I ended up joining a Jesuit province with strong historical ties to Peru, and that furthermore I'll be spending time in the country during my novitiate. Cardinal Cushing, I'm sure, would be pleased. AMDG.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Nuns, priests, faithful beg: Don't shut Detroit churches.

This article on the front page of today's Detroit News highlights local Catholics' efforts to prepare for a likely round of parish closings expected to be announced in coming months. Many fear that the closings will dramatically reduce the Catholic Church's presence among and ministry to the people of inner-city Detroit. Though Detroit's Cardinal Adam Maida has emphasized his commitment to the Motor City. However, many parishioners' confidence in the Archdiocese was shaken by a round of parochial school closings announced in March; most of the schools targeted for closure were in Detroit or inner-ring suburbs and served mainly low-income and minority students, deepening fears that deeper cuts may be on the way. As reported in today's News, various groups composed of clergy and laity alike are brainstorming ways to ameliorate the impact of parish closings - by urging the Archdiocese to consider a wider range of criteria in its pastoral planning process - and to fight particularly harmful closing decisions - by adopting some of the same tactics Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston used to seek the reversal of some parish closures. In other words, these Detroit Catholics are simultaneously hoping for the best and bracing for the worst.

Cardinal Maida faces a gravely poignant dilemma, one that raises tough questions about the mission of the local church. Though the challenges of shifting demographics and declining priestly ranks are not unique to Detroit, Motor City Catholics nonetheless find themselves in a particularly difficult situation. Simply put, few American cities have as many parishes and as few Catholics as Detroit does. While parishes in outer-ring suburbs are stable (or even growing), inner-city churches that once counted thousands of parishioners now get a couple hundred - and sometimes many fewer - attendees on a Sunday. Though many Detroit parishes have almost negligible congregations, these churches continue to serve their neighborhoods in important ways : with parochial schools that provide an alternative to a failing public system, with soup kitchens and drop-in centers that offer food and shelter to the homeless, with an institutional presence that brings hope to areas beset by decline and despair. Detroit's inner-city parishes meet human needs that go beyond denominational boundaries, providing an array of irreplaceable services to their predominantly non-Catholic neighbors. This isn't the kind of impact that shows up on a sacramental index or weekly collection records, but it remains an indispensable means of bearing witness to the Gospel and helping to build God's Kingdom in our midst.

At a time when its human and material resources are being stretched thinner and thinner, the Church in Detroit faces a difficult task in fulfilling the mandate of the Gospel. Can the Archdiocese continue to meet both the sacramental and the human needs of its people? Must the Church's understanding of "its people" limited to Catholics alone, or should it include the many non-Catholics who benefit from the Church's presence in Detroit? These are tough questions to answer, and my prayers are with all who must grapple with them. At the same time, I'll also be keeping a watchful eye on the parish reconfiguration process, so you can expect further posts on the subject. AMDG.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Multiple milestones.

Loyola House's four new primi - Richard Beebe and Chris Musiet from the Chicago Province and Tim McCabe and Chris Staab from Detroit - officially entered the novitiate yesterday. As far as I can tell, this Entrance Day went very well. (Yes, I noticed the rhyme in the preceding sentence, though it was purely unintentional.) Welcoming the new novices to Loyola House was a great experience, and from what I can tell the families of the new primi appreciated the hospitality and the program we put on. If you want to know what the primi themselves thought, see Richard's blog. It's great to have the new guys here; as a class, the secundi are doing all we can to make them feel at home.

At the same time we welcome a new class of novices, the LH Class of '04 mark the one-year anniversary of our own Entrance Day - August 21, 2004. As I remarked on my six-month anniversary as a novice, memory is a very strange thing. Looking back on my own Entrance Day, it's hard to say whether it feels like a recent or a distant event - somehow, it feels like both. I'm not sure I can explain what I mean by this, though I can say that my reflections from six months ago are still pretty accurate.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention one more milestone that occurs this weekend: my classmate Jim Shea's birthday, which is today. As one might expect, Jim reports that from now on his birthday and his entrance into the Society will forever be linked together in his mind. Jim wasn't necessarily thrilled with the notoriety that this coincidence of dates provided him, and I hope he doesn't mind me telling the story on this blog. Happy birthday, Jim - ad multos annos! AMDG.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Tony and Joe go to White Castle.

As the title of this post indicates, fellow Chi Prov novice Tony Stephens and I had lunch today at White Castle. This is newsworthy mainly because I'd never been there before - Detroit is the first place I've lived that actually has White Castle restaurants. Living in Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and Northern Indiana, I knew White Castle as an almost mythic chain that friends who lived elsewhere raved about but which was perpetually out of my reach - much like In-N-Out Burger (which I later got to know and love during my time on experiment in California). In the quality department, White Castle's trademark bite-sized "Slyders" and crinkle fries don't hold a candle to In-N-Out's superior offerings. However, the Slyders I enjoyed today were undeniably tasty - even if they sat rather heavily in my stomach afterward. I can't say I'm likely to make many return trips to White Castle, but I can at least carve another notch into my tree of American pop culture icons. AMDG.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Novices on the move.

The guys who took vows last Sunday aren't the only Loyola House novices who are moving. Among many other chores this week, the new secundi (including yours truly) moved into new rooms in the novitiate. Switching rooms at some point during the novitiate is an old custom; at Loyola House we make the move once a year, though I'm told that some houses do it more frequently. Carting all my clothes, books and miscellaneous effects up the stairs and rearranging them in a new space was fairly exhausting, but I'm pleased with the results. My new room looks out on the lush green field beside the novitiate, and being on a second floor corridor with relatively little foot traffic gives me much more quiet and privacy than my old room on the first floor. The decor of my new room is so far sparse but, I think, tasteful: the light blue walls are bare except for a crucifix and a nicely-framed copy of the Theotokos of Vladimir, an icon I also have above my bed at home. I think it's safe to say I've already gotten used to the space, though getting used to its location in the house is another thing altogether - being on the second floor rather than the first means, among other things, that I'll be going up and down the stairs a lot more often than I did before. That shouldn't be a problem - if anything, I'll benefit from the extra exercise. A much larger adjustment will be getting used to living on the west side of the corridor instead of the east. In my old room, which looked east, I could usually count on early morning sunlight to wake me up sometime before my alarm clock had a chance to do its job. Facing westward in my new room, I have yet to wake up before my alarm. Granted, I've only been in this room two days, and things could definitely change over time. As I wrote above, I'm very pleased with the move, and reflecting on the ways in which being in a new space changes the mundane details of my daily life only gives me added cause for thanksgiving. AMDG.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Cruising from Plumb Corner to Woodward Avenue.

This article in today's New Bedford Standard-Times took me back to my childhood. Growing up in an intensely car-loving family, going to the weekly cruise nights on what counted as Rochester's main drag was an important activity. I feel like the actual day of the week when the Plumb Corner cruise night takes place has varied somewhat over the years, but my memory is a bit fuzzy on that point. (Dad, I'm sure you could clarify.) One way or another, the Plumb Corner cruise night has been a Rochester institution for most of my life.

The boundaries of the cruise night subculture go far beyond the small corner of Southeastern Massachusetts where I grew up. As it happens, my current digs at the novitiate are barely a mile away from the epicenter of what may be the mother of all cruise nights, the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise. In contrast with cruise nights in Rochester and elsewhere, the Dream Cruise occurs only once a year; however, the epic scope of the event more than makes up for its infrequency. Attracting over a million visitors each year and featuring over 40,000 vehicles, the Dream Cruise is, in the words of its official website, "the world's largest one-day celebration of car culture," an event that - much like any other cruise night - recalls "the heydays of the Fifties and Sixties when Woodward was the heart and soul of American cruising in the city that put America on wheels. Combined with the music and fashions of the era, the Woodward Dream Cruise celebrates the nostalgia of bygone days in the cars that made them so special."

For at least the last couple years, the timing of the Dream Cruise has coincided with Entrance Day at Loyola House. For me, attending the Dream Cruise with my family and entering the Society of Jesus on the same day was a reassuring strain of continuity between seemingly disparate parts of my life. At one time, I may have seen this grouping of experiences as sheer coincidence. Looking back, however, I suspect there was nothing coincidental about it. AMDG.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Ann Arbor nuns in the Freep.

Today's Detroit Free Press has this piece on the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, a new community of Dominican women based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Founded in 1997 by four former members of the Nashville-based Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, the new group will soon count 64 sisters in its ranks; the average age of women in the community is 31. As the linked Freep article relates, the Sisters are building a new convent and chapel to accommodate their growing numbers. In the process, their quiet witness to the Gospel is apparently having a good influence on the construction workers brought in to complete the project.

At a time when the ranks of American religious are shrinking and aging, the rapid growth of a small, young religious community must be considered good news. Granted, the success that the Sisters of Mary, Mother of Eucharist have enjoyed in attracting vocations does not mean that all communities of women religious would reap similar benefits if they adopted the same strategy. Within the larger context of religious life in the Catholic Church, I suspect that the numbers the Sisters are currently bringing in are more a blip on the radar than a sign that the vocation boom of the mid-20th century will soon be repeated. It's also important to remember that every religious community is unique - all that any can claim to offer is a particular pathway to God - not the best or most effiacious way, but simply one means among many of living a Christian life.

The above caveats aside, I have to say that I greatly enjoyed the Freep's article on the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. The sisters profiled in the paper come across as happy, holy, sincere and talented women committed to the service of God's people. I'm sure they are doing and will continue to do much good work, and I'm pleased that they're getting positive attention from the local media. As Freep reporter Jeff Seidel admits at the start of his article, in the current climate it seems hard to get the public to care about a fairly traditional group of nuns. I can't speak for all readers, but from my perspective I'd say Seidel's article is a success. AMDG.

Congratulations, vovendi!

In a beautiful liturgy this morning at Gesu Church in Detroit, my brother novices Patrick Gilday, Jim McLenaghan, John Shea, Jayme Stayer and Eric Sundrup pronounced perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, removing the little 'n' before the 'S.J.' that follows their names and becoming approved scholastics. On Tuesday, Patrick, Jim, John, Jayme and Eric will move out of Loyola House to begin First Studies at Loyola University Chicago. I hope you'll join me in praying for our vovendi and congratulating them on the commitment they made this morning. I'm very proud of them, and though I'm glad to see them continue their formation I'll miss their presence here at the novitiate.

The next week will be a busy one at Loyola House. It'll be a time of transition for my class, as we see our secundi off and become secundi ourselves. At the reception following today's Vow Mass, our superior and novice director Father Bill Verbryke said that we officially become secundi today, but I'm not sure I'll really feel like one until we welcome the new primi this coming Saturday. We have a lot to do before then - taking care of numerous housekeeping issues including new room assignments, firming up plans for our fall ministry placements, registering for classes at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary and the University of Detroit Mercy, and more. At the same time we do all this, the primi-to-be are running on parallel tracks tying up all the loose ends they need to resolve before Entrance Day. For a perspective on the process, check out this weblog by incoming Chi Prov novice Richard Beebe. If you haven't already, you should also take a look at soon-to-be New Orleans Province novices Jason Brauninger and Sean Salai, to whom I should apologize for neglecting to mention their fine blogs earlier. (I'll miss your posts, guys, and please know that I'll be praying for you as you begin the novitiate.) And once again, please be sure to pray for Patrick, Jim, John, Jayme, Eric and all the Jesuits pronouncing first vows around this time across the country. Their example is a sign of great hope for the future, and they do great credit to this least Society. AMDG.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

What I did on my summer vacation.

Yesterday the novices of Loyola House returned from our two-week villa at Omena, a particularly lovely corner of the Leelanau Peninsula overlooking the Grand Traverse Bay. Every summer for the past sixty-odd years, the novices and scholastics of the Chicago and Detroit Provinces have gathered at Omena for a vacation-cum-reunion. Though the men in formation staying at Omena are expected to attend daily Mass and keep up a regular prayer schedule, otherwise we're free to spend our days boating, golfing, lounging, shopping and so forth. Boating is something I did a little, joining some of my fellow novices on afternoon jaunts to nearby Suttons Bay and Traverse City. I haven't golfed in years, and I passed on the opportunity to take it up again. However, I did do a fair amount of lounging (being able to sleep in for a change was nice) and shopping (especially at local bookstores, both used and new). I also spent a fair amount of time getting to know the Leelanau Peninsula, which I've fallen in love with - perhaps in part because it reminds me of the area I grew up in, albeit much more sparsely populated and with much more open space.

In my last post, I promised to offer some specific highlights of my time at Omena, so here goes. The Traverse City Film Festival - the first installment of what backers (notably including Michael Moore) hope will become an annual event - was great. I managed to see two films on the festival calendar - Downfall, a finely-crafted chronicle of the fall of the Third Reich, and Gunner Palace, a documentary about a U.S. Army unit quartered in a half-ruined palace in Baghdad. Though both films were about war, they struck me very differently. Downfall blew me away with its outstanding performances and superior production values. Gunner Palace, by contrast, genuinely surprised me by eschewing politics and focusing on the almost-mundane details of daily life in a war-torn country: details like a soldier carefully removing a tomato slice from a fast food hamburger as he eats lunch atop an APV, the mixed attitudes of Iraqi kids following troops on patrol, and a suspected Ba'athist leader ("#89" on the wanted list) pausing before a mirror to comb his hair before being taken in for questioning. There's also a truly hysterical scene in which SPC Stuart Wilf (a Colorado Springs GI who essentially serves as the film's protagonist) recounts something of his life story while his buddy SPC Tom Susdorf complements the narration with a brilliant series of pantomime gestures (for instance, dropping out of school is represented by a quick downward motion of both hands). If you only see one movie about the Iraq War (not that there's many to choose from at the moment), see Gunner Palace.

Among other Omena highlights, I should probably say something about my visit to the Cross in the Woods Shrine and its Nun Doll Museum. The giant crucifix that gives the shrine its name is truly impressive, standing 55 feet tall and seeming even taller because it stands atop a 20 foot mound. The Nun Doll Museum was intriguing if somewhat spooky at times. It's clear that a great amount of the dedication and devotion went into assembling the collection, which includes hundreds of dolls of various sizes representing a plethora of different women's (and some men's) religious orders. The comprehensive scope of the Museum's holdings was proven to me when I found a doll representing the Servants of Jesus, a very small diocesan congregation headquartered across the street from Loyola House (as reported here). For all I know, there are probably even tinier religious orders represented in the Nun Doll Museum's collection, but I can't say for sure. I can say, though, that it was a poignant experience to walk through the Museum and watch older visitors point to dolls on display and say things like, "I was taught by those nuns" or "my aunt belonged to that congregation." If you grew up with women religious - as I and many of my contemporaries in the post-Vatican II Church did not - you could find yourself curiously moved on a visit to the Nun Doll Museum. For my part, I was moved to see people who were moved by the experience.

I also got a lot of reading done at Omena. After polishing off a volume of selected letters addresses by our late Superior General Pedro Arrupe, I read Kathleen Norris' The Cloister Walk. Norris' book shows a strong affection for the Benedictine tradition and offers interesting insights on sundry topics related to the psalms, prayer, saints and the experience of 'being church.' I should also say here - because I honestly can't mention The Cloister Walk without doing so - that the book had an interesting cameo in my vocation story, even though I didn't read it until a few days ago. After I told my parents that I was applying to enter the Society, my mother went to the local library in search of books about religious life. As Mom reported later, all they had was The Cloister Walk, which was singularly unhelpful. Later, Mom found a number of useful books on Jesuit and Ignatian topics, including vocation director faves The Fifth Week and In Good Company as well as Paul Mariani's Thirty Days and Bill Byron's superlative Jesuit Saturdays. In any case, The Cloister Walk came first, and I'll always remember that. (Will you, Mom?)

Lest you think it took me two weeks to slog through the four-hundred or so pages of The Cloister Walk, I must note that I read a few other books at Omena as well. One of these was Greek Orthodox theologian John Chryssavgis' Light Through Darkness, a fine introduction to Eastern Christian spirituality. After finishing Chryssavgis, I read a modern classic of American religious history that I'd been meaning to pick up for years - Robert Orsi's The Madonna of 115th Street. I enjoyed Orsi's book, but I also appreciated the change of pace that came with the next title on the list - Kathleen Stocking's Letters from the Leelanau. A Leelanau County native, Stocking offers a book full of incisive slice-of-life essays about her home peninsula. As I noted above, I've already fallen in love with the Leelanau, so I look on Stocking's book as a real gem.

In novitiate life there's seldom rest for the weary, and my two weeks at Omena provided a welcome vacation in what's been a busy summer. Now it's back to work, however - this weekend the Loyola House community will be busy preparing for our second-year novices' profession of first vows on Sunday. Though a busy time, this is also a happy one, and your prayers for our vovendi would be most welcome. Expect an update on the proceedings sometime in the next couple days. AMDG.