Monday, October 31, 2005

Notes on the Memorial of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez.

Today the Society of Jesus remembers St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, a Spanish widower who entered the Jesuits as a brother at age 37 and spent nearly five decades as porter at the Jesuit Colegio de Montesión in Palma, Mallorca. Rodriguez's main responsibilities as porter were to watch the door and greet visitors, but the saintly brother achieved greater renown for the practical and spiritual advice he provided to scores of students and fellow Jesuits. Among the beneficiaries of Rodriguez's companionship and counsel was a young Jesuit scholastic named Peter Claver; for more on the relationship between these two Jesuit saints, see this September post.

It's worth pointing out that the Alphonsus Rodriguez we remember today is one of at least three remarkable Jesuits who bore the same name. One of the other two was a martyr of the Paraguayan missions; to the possible confusion of many presiders and homilists, that Alphonsus Rodriguez has also been canonized and is remembered with his companions and fellow martyrs Juan del Castillo and Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz on November 16th. Yet another Jesuit named Alphonsus Rodriguez won a place in the Society's history as author of a three-volume treatise on ascetical theology entitled The Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues, which was required reading for all Jesuit novices until the time of the Second Vatican Council. Known popularly by the name of its author and not by its title, "Rodriguez" laid out specific ascetical principles and then illustrated them with examples, a good many of which were distilled from The Lives of the Desert Fathers. Whenever I ask older Jesuits about "Rodriguez," I either hear that it was awful reading ("you should thank God you've been spared Rodriguez," one told me) or that it was riotously funny, many of the author's examples having aged badly. Unlike his eponymous companions and despite his influence on many generations of Jesuit novices, the author of The Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues has not been raised to the honors of the altar.

Getting back to the saint of the day, I would be remiss if I didn't include Gerard Manley Hopkins' famous poem on Alphonsus Rodriguez in this post. Believe it or not, I'd never encountered this bit of Hopkins before I entered the novitiate. I owe a special debt of gratitude to my brother novice Ben Krause, who introduced me to the following poem several months ago.
In honour of Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez, laybrother of the Society of Jesus.

Honour is flashed off exploit, so we say;
And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day
On Christ they do and on the martyr may;
But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic beast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hustle then from fiercest fray.

Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alonso watched the door.
'Nuff said. AMDG.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Belated congratulations to the White Sox.

My friend and loyal reader John Shea, S.J. has called my attention to the fact that Novitate Notes has had nothing to say about the triumph of the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 Word Series. Obviously, I'm not a White Sox fan - if I had to root for a Chicago team, it'd be the Cubs, which would raise less of a conflict with my primary loyalty to the Red Sox - and I had originally intended not to say anything about the outcome of this year's World Series. However, on reflection I feel somewhat remiss in not acknowledging the success of a team that this year ended a World Series drought longer even than that previously suffered by the BoSox (though, to be fair, the poor ol' Cubs have been waiting even longer). So here's a belated congratulations to the Chicago White Sox and their fans. Reading articles like these in today's Chicago Tribune and New York Times, it's easy to remember the euphoria of last year's BoSox victory. So enjoy your moment in the sun, White Sox fans, and wait 'til next year. Go Sox, AMDG.

Kale soup and a concert.

I'm sure if I've ever said anything about meals at Loyola House before, so this post may be a first. The novitiate has a cook who comes in from Monday to Friday to prepare dinner, but on weekends the task of cooking falls upon us novices. We're assigned to cook in groups of two on particular days, and the way the rotation works we all end up cooking at least two or three times a semester. I'm on for today, and - as I'm sure Mom will be happy to hear - I'm making kale soup. I'm reasonably confident this is the first time that this traditional Portuguese stew incorporating chopped kale, linguiça sausage, kidney beans, onions, potatoes and macaroni has been served at Loyola House. This historic first wouldn't have been possible without the assistance of several people: Mom and Dad, who provided the requisite linguiça, which is unavailable in Detroit; first-year novice Chris Staab, who guarded aforementioned linguiça with his life, thwarting other novices' attempts to use it in their own cooking; veteran Detroit shopper Sister Beth Finster, S.S.J., who located hard-to-find kale at an area vegetable market; and my fellow second-year novice Jim Shea, who ably assisted in the preparation of the soup. Bringing kale soup to Loyola House was a true group effort, and I'm thankful to all involved.

I thought about including the recipe for kale soup in this post, but I should probably check with Mom first. It's also worth noting that there are a lot of kale soup recipes already on the Internet, though there's a lot of variation among them in terms (especially in terms of suggested ingredients) and none is exactly like the family recipe I used. I suspect most Portuguese families have their own unique kale soup recipe, and mine is no exception. Since I've never posted a recipe on this blog (and will probably never consider doing so again), I'm also skeptical as to whether readers would be interested. Any feedback on this topic would be appreciated, either in the comment box or via the e-mail link on my Blogger profile.

After dinner tonight, the residents of Loyola House will be attending a concert at Most Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit to premiere a CD by Jesuit Father Bob Scullin, provincial of the Detroit Province. The proceeds from tonight's event will benefit the Jesuit Refugee Service. For more information about Bob's CD, which includes performances by my fellow secundi Ryan Duns and Tony Stephens, click here.

Unfortunately, neither tonight's dinner nor the concert that follows will be attended by Detroit Province second-year novice John Petit. John left the novitiate this morning, and he did in his own unique way - in a Ford Mustang he just purchased (ex-Jesuits need transportation, after all). I've gotten to know John well over the past fourteen months, and I'll miss him. However, he goes forth with the blessings and best wishes of his community and we all hope that he'll keep in touch. Good luck and Godspeed, John - hope you'll leave a comment on this blog every now and again. AMDG.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers nomination withdrawn.

Earlier this morning, Harriet Ellan Miers withdrew her nomination for the Supreme Court seat of retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. It was in Miers' best interest to pull out when she did, avoiding a bruising nomination battle that appeared likely to end in defeat. At the same time, Miers is also taking a bullet for an administration that lacks the political capital to simultaneously keep an embattled Supreme Court nominee's head above water and run damage control on looming indictments in the Valerie Plame affair. By withdrawing her nomination, Harriet Miers has affirmed in a very public and highly poignant way her loyalty to a President she dubiously dubbed "brilliant." However, I wonder about her private feelings toward a boss who subjected her to professional humiliation of the worst kind. On balance, I think it's safe to say that Harriet Miers did the right thing in withdrawing her nomination. Nonetheless, I can't help but feel bad for her. AMDG.

Subject of Newman miracle probe revealed.

In this Monday post I commented on media reports about a potential miracle that could, if approved by the Vatican, pave the way for the long-awaited beatification of John Henry Newman. Today's Globe has an article revealing the identity of the Massachusetts man who believes that Newman's intercession helped him recover from a debilitating spinal cord ailment. Marshfield resident John A. Sullivan is an attorney who has spent the past quarter century working at the Plymouth County Courthouse and also does part-time prison ministry as a permanent deacon. A longtime admirer of Newman, Sullivan started to pray for the 19th century Cardinal's assistance when he began to suffer from a back problem so serious he could hardly walk. Though he can't say much about his case while it remains under investigation, Sullivan told a reporter: "If I could tell my story, people would find it very compelling, remarkable, beautiful. It is something people need today. But we can't have pressures to confirm the alleged miracle. When this thing is over, God will have his way."

You can tell Sullivan is a lawyer in the above comments; even though he believes that he was cured through Newman's intercession, he still refers to his healing as an "alleged miracle" for the simple reason that the proper authorities haven't ruled on its authenticity. Though Sullivan has yet to give a detailed account of his experiences, I can say that I already find his story "very compelling, remarkable, [and] beautiful." I find it so because Sullivan is a figure I can relate to. I've never met him, but reading about him in the Globe I felt a shock of recognition. Sullivan reminds me of any number of gentlemen I encountered during my summers working at the Massachusetts State House and on numerous political campaigns. In a sense, he represents a particular type of person that is well-represented in the Bay State. It helps that Sullivan lives and works in the same county I grew up in (albeit in a different part) and that he graduated from the same college my sister now attends (Stonehill). As I hope for the success of Newman's cause for beatification, I hope too that we have the chance to learn more about the man whose personal story is helping that cause to advance. I love stories, and I have a feeling that Sullivan's story is a great one. AMDG.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

And the rest is history.

From today's New York Times profile of Ben S. Bernanke, President Bush's nominee to replace Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve:
[As a high school senior Bernanke] applied to Brandeis University, which was founded by Jews and named after Louis D. Brandeis, the first Jewish justice of the Supreme Court. Harvard, which he ended up attending, was an afterthought. . . .

The synagogue in [Bernanke's hometown] was too small to support a full-time rabbi, so a student rabbi conducted services on the High Holy Days and stayed at the Bernanke home. One evening at dinner, the visitor suggested that Ben apply to Harvard.

"We were talking about Brandeis," Mrs. Bernanke recalled, "and the rabbi said, 'If he can get into Brandeis, he can get into Harvard.'"
Yes, Brandeis was once harder to get into than Harvard. However, what really intrigues me is that a rabbi apparently encouraged the young Bernanke to choose Harvard over Brandeis. Considered in the larger context of assimilationism in the American Jewish community, I'd say that's pretty interesting. Perhaps Steve Silver, who knows much more about this topic than I do, can offer some analysis. AMDG.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hurtado's Georgetown links recalled.

Today's Hoya has a short article reporting on a special Mass held yesterday in honor of St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, whose canonization I discussed in this Sunday post. The Hoya describes the Chilean Jesuit, who spent the 1945-46 academic year at Georgetown, as "the first member of the Georgetown community to be raised to sainthood." Though Hurtado's time on the Hilltop was very brief, Georgetown should be proud of its links to the newest Jesuit saint. As the individuals quoted in the Hoya article note, Hurtado offers a credible example of service which today's Catholics - and particularly Catholic college students - can admire and seek to emulate. It's good to see that Georgetown is taking steps to honor Hurtado's memory and spread awareness of his legacy. AMDG.

Rosa Parks, 1913-2005.

On a seemingly ordinary December evening in 1955, an African American seamstress named Rosa Louise Parks made history by refusing to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus to a white passenger. Under ordinary circumstances, Mrs. Parks' refusal may not have attracted much attention, but the massive bus boycott that followed her arrest is today considered the beginning of the modern civil rights movement. Fifty years ago, Mrs. Parks probably didn't realize that her small act of civil disobedience would change the lives of millions of Americans, but it did. Though the agenda of the civil rights movement remains uncompleted, Rosa Parks lived to see the sweeping changes her actions helped bring about. Yesterday, she died in Detroit at age 92. Today's New York Times and Washington Post have full obituaries; in Parks' adopted hometown, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News both have extensive coverage with an emphasis on Parks' Detroit ties and local reaction to her death. There's not much I can say about Rosa Parks that others could say better, so I'll simply say that today I'm joining millions of others around the country and around the world in mourning an ordinary woman who made a profound difference. AMDG.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A miracle for Cardinal Newman?

According to today's Boston Globe, the Archdiocese of Boston is investigating reports that a Massachusetts man miraculously recovered from a spinal cord ailment through the intercession of 19th century British Catholic apologist John Henry Newman. Newman has long been held in high regard for his spiritual and theological writings, and some of his ideas had a profound influence on the documents of the Second Vatican Council. However, Newman's cause for beatification - which was first introduced in 1958 - has proceeded very slowly. If the miracle attributed to Newman is accepted as genuine by the Archdiocese of Boston and by Vatican authorities, Newman's beatification will at last go forward.

As might be expected, Newman's possible beatification has attracted more comment in Britain than it has in the United States. Indeed, the miracle claim currently under investigation was reported by BBC News and The Times before it was picked up by the Globe. Even so, if the Newman miracle passes muster it will be the second time in the last few years that Massachusetts has played a role in the process by which the Catholic Church recognizes saints. In 1998, St. Teresia Benedicta of the Cross - better known as Edith Stein - was canonized on the strength of the miraculous cure of a Brockton, Massachusetts girl (incidentally, there's a very interesting story there, which involves the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church, Pax Christi USA and the University of Notre Dame, among other things).

For my part, I'd be very happy to see John Henry Newman beatified. As veteran Newsweek religion editor Ken Woodward points out in his excellent book Making Saints, academic types like Newman seldom fare well in the beatification process, mainly because they have a hard time attracting the popular support (and the prayers) that propelled the causes of figures like Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Padre Pio of Petrelcina. At the same time, the beatification of Cardinal Newman would help bring to greater notice the achievements and gifts of a man who has played a tremendously influential but comparatively quiet role in the life of the Church. While I'm not yet at the point of seeking Newman's intercession, I hope his cause is successful. AMDG.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Shake down the thunder.

Notre Dame beat BYU yesterday 49-23, with I and fellow novices John Petit and Mike Singhurse in attendance. Conditions were chilly and damp in Notre Dame Stadium, but the action on the field helped keep the crowd warm. I enjoyed being back on campus and also appreciated spending some time with the South Bend-area Jesuits at Henri de Lubac House in Granger (unfortunately sans Brian Daley, who was out of town). Special thanks are due yet again to Jerry Neyrey for providing us with his usual gracious hospitality, a fine meal and a comfortable place to stay Friday night.

Back in Michigan, my classmate Drew Marquard and my erstwhile secundus Eric Sundrup completed the Detroit Marathon this morning in three hours, forty minutes and three hours, twenty-five minutes respectively. I'm very proud of Drew and Eric, and their achievement makes me wonder how many other Jesuit marathoners are out there. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Father Eric Knapp, though I'm sure there are others - with a little research, perhaps I could craft a post on the subject.

In other news, the Society of Jesus gained its newest canonized saint today in the person of Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga. A Chilean Jesuit who died in 1952, Father Hurtado was a scholar and teacher who also worked directly with the urban poor as a trade union activist and as founder of Hogar de Cristo, a social service network providing assistance to orphaned children, destitute senior citizens, homeless people and individuals with developmental disabilities. Beatified in 1994, Hurtado was canonized today in Rome by Pope Benedict XVI. To learn more about the newest Jesuit saint, check out the official Hurtado Canonization website or this page on the Maryland Province Jesuits' website. An eminently modern apostle, St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga provides an excellent example of how today's Catholics - laypeople as well as religious - can work to spread the message of the Gospel. AMDG.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wake up the echoes.

For the second time in as many weeks, I'll be out of town for the weekend. Tomorrow fellow secundi John Petit, Mike Singhurse and I are driving down to South Bend to attend the ND-BYU football game on Saturday. We'll be enjoying the hospitality of our fellow Jesuits at Henri de Lubac House in Granger, Indiana - a community that played an important part in the development of my vocation and which I always enjoy going back to. I'll be back in Motown on Sunday to see my classmate Drew Marquard and Chi Prov scholastic Eric Sundrup run in the Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Bank Marathon. Expect an update then. Go Irish, AMDG.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Notes on the Feast of the North American Martyrs.

In the Roman Catholic dioceses of the United States, today is the Feast of the North American Martyrs. Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, Jean de la Lande, René Goupil, Antoine Daniel, Charles Garnier, Gabriel Lalemant and Noel Chabanel had very different personalities and died under differing circumstances, but all were bound together as Companions of Jesus and as men united in a common mission. Though accounts of the North American Martyrs' lives have traditionally emphasized the bravery with which they faced torture and death, their pioneering efforts at what we would now call inculturation also deserve note. Brébeuf, Jogues and their Companions were forced by circumstances to fit the Christian message into a very different mold than the Western European (and specifically French) environment which had nurtured their faith. I could say a lot more about the North American Martyrs - I happen to be a big fan - but I'll stop there. If you want a fresh perspective on their life and work, see what Rich has to say about them here. AMDG.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Like lambs among wolves.

Attending daily Mass, I often find that a single phrase from the day's Scripture readings strikes me with particular force and shapes my prayer for the day. I can never be sure what that phrase will be, but I usually know it when I hear it. In today's readings for the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, that phrase comes from Jesus' sending of seventy-two disciples in Luke 10. Sending his followers out to preach about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick, Jesus offers a very sobering commission: "Behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves." I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Nearly two millenia after the life and ministry of Jesus and in very different circumstances, these words still ring true. The accounts Luke gives in the Acts of the Apostles of the persecution and martyrdom faced by the first Christians show the meaning these words had for the early Church. In our own time, the witness of the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador and the Trappist Monks of Tibhirine show that those who dare to preach the Gospel still do so as lambs among wolves, apparently defenseless in the face of earthly power and violence. Discipleship has always been a risky business, for in purely temporal terms the way of Christ is the way of the weak.

The message we hear in today's Gospel appears all the more apt when we consider that the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist falls between two commemorations of martyrdom. Yesterday we celebrated the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, a first-century bishop who died with these words on his lips: "I am the wheat of Christ, ground by the teeth of beasts to become pure bread." In Ignatius' case, as with many other early martyrs, Roman lions stood in for the wolves of Jesus' admonition. As one who had studied the Gospels closely and assumed leadership in the Church at a particularly dangerous time, Ignatius of Antioch knew the risks he faced and accepted them.

Tomorrow the Church in the United States remembers the Jesuit Martyrs of North America, who gave their lives bringing the Gospel to a land they knew first as Huronia and later as "New France." The French Jesuits who worked among the Huron people in the 17th century embraced a martyrdom that went beyond dying for their faith - communicating the Christian message to people whose culture, language, lifestyle and worldview differed markedly from their own required a kind of daily death to self as profound in its own way as the physical death that each of the North American Martyrs would eventually undergo. Like Ignatius of Antioch, the North American Martyrs knew what they were getting themselves into. With many other Christians through two millenia, they accepted the risks that come with discipleship.

Martyrs are people who've given their lives for an idea. The martyrs we remember this week and throughout the Church year gave their lives for the message of Jesus found in the Gospels. Among the four evangelists, Luke is unique in that he provides his 'Life of Jesus' with a sequel - a sequel that tells us how some early Christians responded to Jesus' call to discipleship. Reading Luke's two books together, we learn what it means to be sent as lambs among wolves. Like the martyrs we remember in the liturgy, we know what we're getting ourselves into. AMDG.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Michael Simone Fan Club.

Mark Mossa has informed me of the existence of the Michael Simone Fan Club, an emphatically tongue-in-cheek new blog by some of Ours in theology at Weston. Simone is a Detroit Province theologian, and his Fan Club will probably be most amusing to those of us who know him personally. Nonetheless, if you don't know Mike you may still want to take a look at the blog. Readers of the Michael Simone Fan Club blog should be edified to discover that the soon-to-be Jesuit priests studying in Cambridge are a good-natured and fun-loving bunch. AMDG.

Fall Villa at Omena . . .

. . . was pretty low-key this year, providing a badly-needed opportunity for relaxation in the middle of a frenetic fall semester. I accomplished most of the goals I had set for the weekend: I made it to Spike's (twice, in fact - once on the way to Omena and again on the way back), I attended Sunday Mass at Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Peshawbestown (Franciscan Father Andy Buvala, the robust octogenarian pastor, was in particularly good form this weekend), I picked up some new shoes at the G. H. Bass outlet store in Traverse City, and I got a lot of reading done (on one of my rare forays into fiction, I read most of Jeffrey Eugenides' Detroit epic Middlesex over the course of the weekend). On Saturday evening, several of my companions and I watched as USC beat Notre Dame 34-31 and as U-M managed an incredible 27-25 victory over Penn State on the strength of a touchdown in the very last second of the game. Driving back to Loyola House Sunday afternoon, Tim McCabe and I unexpectedly came across the Pere Marquette - the locomotive featured in The Polar Express - which happened to be making a history-making stop in Grayling. As I commented to Tim at the time, seeing the Pere Marquette proves again that Jesuit influence is omnipresent. All in all, another great experience of villa at Omena. AMDG.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bound for Omena.

It's that time of the year again - the leaves are starting to turn, there's a slight nip in the air, and the novices of Loyola House are heading up to Omena for Fall Villa. Last year's Fall Villa is chronicled in this post. Unlike last year, I don't have any World Series games involving the Red Sox to look forward to. However, now that I know that I've gotten to know and love Leelanau County I can look forward to visiting again some of the places I spent time at this summer - places like Spike's Keg-o-Nails in Grayling, Horizon Books in Traverse City, and Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Peshawbestown. I'm also looking forward to taking a break - albeit a short one - from the classes and work commitments with which I've been busy of late. Regular posting should resume on Monday. AMDG.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Nomar Garciaparra saves women from drowning.

Read all about it in the Globe and in the Herald. I was amused that the Herald carried the story in their 'Inside Track' section, which is usually reserved for catty gossip about politicians and celebrities. Cattiness is and should be a hallmark of the unapologetically lurid Herald, but all the same it's good to see them raise the bar a bit by reporting Nomar's heroic exploits. AMDG.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Jesuits withdraw from Russian parish in San Francisco.

Yesterday I received some very sad news. This past weekend, the Society of Jesus formally concluded fifty-five years of service at Our Lady of Fatima Byzantine Catholic Church in San Francisco. Though Our Lady of Fatima remains a vibrant, faith-filled parish and seems assured of a great future under the leadership of its new pastor, Capuchin Father Eugene Ludwig, the withdrawal of the Jesuits represents the apparent end of a unique chapter in the Society's history.

The story of Our Lady of Fatima is part of a larger story in which the Society of Jesus has played an important role. The Russian Byzantine Catholic Church, of which Our Lady of Fatima is a part, was born in the late 19th centuries through the efforts of Russian Christians who desired to live the Orthodox faith in its integrity in communion with the Bishop of Rome. The pioneers of Russian Catholicism endured persecution, exile and even martyrdom as they bore witness with their lives to the dream of Christian unity. In the 20th century, the Society of Jesus became involved in the pastoral care of Russian Byzantine Catholics in their homeland and in the diaspora. Initiated at the special request of the Holy See, the Society's involvement in this apostolate has taken numerous forms, from the direction of the Pontifical Russian College (the Russicum) in Rome to the establishment of Russian Byzantine Catholic missions and parishes in different parts of the world. Of the four Russian Byzantine Catholic worshipping communities in the United States, three - including Our Lady of Fatima - have gone through lengthy periods of Jesuit staffing; nonetheless, Our Lady of Fatima remains unique as the only parish among the four that was founded under Jesuit auspices. With the shrinking number of Jesuits, the number of men available for the Russian apostolate has inevitably decreased. As a result, Our Lady of Fatima found itself in recent years the only Russian Byzantine Catholic church in the United States with a Jesuit pastor. When the parish lost that distinction on Sunday, an important part of the Society's living history was inevitably lost as well.

I had the chance to worship at Our Lady of Fatima when I was in California this spring, and it's fair to say that I fell in love with the parish. I've written about my experiences at Our Lady of Fatima in a couple previous posts. This church was one of several Byzantine Rite Catholic communities I visited during my two months in the San Francisco Bay Area. These worship experiences played an instrumental role in reviving my old but long-dormant interest in Eastern Christianity, and if anything sealed the deal it was attending the Paschal liturgy at Our Lady of Fatima. This and other experiences have nurtured a deep desire to serve the people of God both in the Roman Rite to which I belong and in the Byzantine Rite that is also an integral part of the Catholic tradition. Getting to know several Jesuits who have ministered to Eastern Catholics and worshipping at Our Lady of Fatima has shown me that my desire to be bi-ritual accords strongly with the mission of the Society.

Though I've been to any number of Eastern Catholic churches, the fact that Our Lady of Fatima was a Jesuit parish made it very special to me. I retain a great love for San Francisco's Russian Catholic parish and hope to return whenever I'm in the Bay Area, but somehow it won't be the same. And yet, in some shape or form I'm hopeful that the Jesuit tradition of Our Lady of Fatima will live on - in the religious witness and warm hospitality of the parishioners, and in the apostolic desires that experiences there helped kindle within me. AMDG.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Columbus Day and Thanksgiving.

The second Monday in October is a public holiday in both Canada and the United States, albeit for very different reasons. In the United States, Columbus Day recalls the eponymous explorer's arrival in the Americas and also serves as a de facto celebration of Italian-American culture and history. Canada's Thanksgiving Day goes back to 1872, when a special holiday was proclaimed to celebrate future King Edward VII's recovery from a near-fatal case of typhoid fever. Despite its origins, for most of its history Canadian Thanksgiving has been observed as a fall harvest festival much like his American counterpart.

For numerous reasons, Columbus Day was a much bigger deal when I was a kid than it is now. At my elementary school, we were taught the traditional narrative about the circumstances of Columbus' voyage and his 'discovery' of the New World, and we were treated to enthusiastic in-school celebrations of the holiday (held in advance of the actual date, because we didn't have to go to school on Columbus Day). The 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage occasioned a lot of controversy which seems to have ultimately resulted in a general downplaying of the holiday. If memory serves, I believe I continued to get the day off on Columbus Day through my graduation from high school. However, I've had a much more mixed experience at the tertiary level - some of the universities I've attended cancel all classes on Columbus Day, and some do not. Given the way public perceptions of Columbus Day have changed over the past decade, I'd be interested to know how much awareness students of my sister's age have of the holiday. Presumably they weren't taught the traditional history of Columbus Day that I got in elementary school, but I'm not quite sure what they got instead.

I wish I could say more about Canadian Thanksgiving, but my personal experience of the holiday is quite limited. When I was leaving the Windsor Refugee Office at the end of the workday last Wednesday, one of my coworkers offered offered an instictive "Happy Thanksgiving!" as I headed out the door. This reminded me that the holiday was forthcoming, and it also reminded me that as an American I had insufficient awareness of that fact. This year I've at least partially redressed the imbalance by educating myself better about the meaning of the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday. In the future, maybe I'll be able to do more. AMDG.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Candidates and benefactors.

A couple big events this weekend at Loyola House, both involving hospitality. From Friday until this morning the novitiate community provided a warm and hospitable welcome to several men who are considering entering the Society of Jesus. This was the first of several candidate weekends we have over the course of the year; the weekends are meant to help men in discernment by giving them a chance to experience novitiate life for a few days. At the same time, candidate weekends also give us novices a chance to get to know our potential future housemates a bit better. For my part, I was very impressed by the guys who came for the weekend and I wish them well as they continue their discernment. If you think one of these weekends might be for you, click here for more info.

This afternoon the Loyola House community will partake in hospitality of a different kind as we attend the annual Detroit Province benefactors' event, formerly known as "Jesuit Tea." Every fall the novices and other area Jesuits attend a Sunday afternoon reception (usually at a benefactor's home in Grosse Pointe) to thank the people whose financial generosity makes our formation possible. I had a great time at last year's reception, and I'm looking forward to attending this one. One of the neat things about the event is learning how the different attendees got to know the Society - many are products of Jesuit schools, some are relatives or friends of Jesuits, and some simply found out about us by word of mouth and decided our works were worth supporting. I'm grateful to all of them, and I'm looking forward to hearing some of their stories this afternoon. AMDG.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A return to normalcy.

Today's Boston Herald has a short article that captures the current mood of Red Sox Nation fairly well. Here's my favorite section, in which two fans explain in apt terms what it's all about:
Heartache is the true Red Sox fan's birthright . . .

"We gotta go through it," said Megan Bol, 20, a Lesley [College] student. "It gets rid of all the bandwagon fans. They can't handle it, it's part of the mystique."

Fans aren't sure why the Sox repeat the same Theater of the Grotesque during the end of each season, teetering on the brink of collapse only to either get back on their feet or fall flat.

"They break our hearts, come back and break our hearts again," said Brendan Monahan, 17, of West Springfield. "This is the way they're supposed to be."
I couldn't read the above quotes without recalling the more famous words of the late Bart Giamatti:
[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.
As a lifelong Red Sox fan, Giamatti knew what he was talking about. As a professor of English who served as president of Yale before becoming commissioner of Major League Baseball, Giamatti had the right combination of eloquence and perception to capture the greater significance of baseball. Though I've long recognized the beauty and the truth of Giamatti's words, I'm not sure I fully appreciated them until now. Seeing your team win the World Series after an 86-year drought has a way of getting a fan's hopes up and making the return to the predictability of defeat all the more difficult. The experience of yearly heartbreak is integral to being a Red Sox fan, and going without heartbreak for a year is a good way to be reminded of that.

Despite my disappointment about last night's game, I'm proud that some my comments were included in Universal Hub's blog roundup on the BoSox defeat. A special welcome to any Universal Hub readers who are visiting this blog for the first time - please make yourselves at home as we commiserate with one another on a (customarily) disappointing end to the season. As far as increasing readership goes, what's bad for the Red Sox may be good for Novitiate Notes. Go Sox, AMDG.

Friday, October 07, 2005

No joy in Mudville.

A 5-3 win for the White Sox, and we're done. To quote an old adage referenced earlier today by my brother novice Jim Shea, "losing to the White Sox is like drowning in two inches of water." At the same time, I suppose we can take some consolation in losing to a bunch of spunky ne'er-do-wells rather than a truly nefarious opponent like the Evil Empire. As in the not-so-old days, we'll just have to wait 'til next year. Go Sox, AMDG.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Flour, eggs and Irma.

In today's Freep, columnist Susan Ager has a quirky yet heartwarming human interest story about Irma Morri, an 80-year-old widow from San Marino who has worked for the past 35 years making authentic Italian pasta from scratch at Giovanni's Ristorante in Detroit. I love slice-of-life tales like Irma's, and the details Ager captures of life in the kitchen make this tale a particularly tasty one. Reading about Irma's time-honored creations makes me want to hop in the car and head over to Giovanni's for dinner, and one of these days I just might do so. Though culinary artisans of Irma's caliber are in shrinking supply nowadays, the tradition she has kept up at Giovanni's seems assured of continued life: as the Freep reports, Irma now has a couple young apprentices. Even if the trainees manage to absorb all their teacher's knowledge, Giovanni's probably won't be the same without Irma. Mangiate bene! AMDG.

Sundry saints and blessed.

Today the Church celebrates the memory of two religious founders - St. Bruno of Cologne and Bl. Marie-Rose Durocher - and a Jesuit missionary who died as a martyr, Bl. Diego Luis de San Vitores. Rather than select one of these figures as deserving of special approbation, I'll write something about each one.

One of 11th century Europe's most eminent churchmen, Bruno of Cologne is said to have turned down a proferred bishopric to fulfill his ardent desire to become a hermit. Such were Bruno's talents that after spending six years in rural solitude he was called to serve at the court of Pope Urban II. Bruno reluctantly moved to Rome, but was so unhappy there that after a few months he left the Pope's service to return to the austerities of eremetical life. With a few companions, Bruno established a community that eventually became the Carthusian Order. Generally considered the most demanding religious order in the Roman Catholic Church, the Carthusians follow an intensely ascetic regimen that has remained largely unchanged since Bruno's day. The 'Carthusian mystique' has won Bruno's order numerous admirers - including Ignatius of Loyola, who found great spiritual inspiration in the writings of the Carthusian monk Ludolph of Saxony and who himself considered entering a Carthusian monastery before forming the resolve to form a new kind of religious community. The relationship between the Carthusian Order and the Society of Jesus continues to this day. Jesuits who feel called to explore a stricter form of religious life have long had the option of becoming Carthusians; nowadays the Trappists are also put forward as an option, but Bruno's order retains pride of place. I'd be remiss if I didn't note that the Carthusians are also known as the producers of a sublime liqueur known as Chartreuse, which I happen to be very fond of and am happy to recommend to interested parties.

As noted at the outset, Bruno of Cologne isn't the only religious founder celebrated on this date. In 1843, Mother Marie-Rose Durocher and two companions founded the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary to provide for the education of youth. From humble beginnings in Longeuil, Quebec, the Sisters of the Holy Names have grown to become an international community of religious women working in diverse apostolates but with a special concern for social justice. In 1982, the congregation's foundress was beatified in Rome. Since I entered the Jesuits, I've gotten to know the Sisters of the Holy Names in a number of different contexts but most notably through my current ministry at the Windsor Refugee Office, where my supervisor and one of my fellow volunteers are members of the Holy Names community. Working in the Refugee Office and enjoying the Sisters' hospitality at their nearby residence, I've developed a great fondness and respect for the women who've chosen to follow in Mother Marie-Rose's footsteps. Today, I'm happy to congratulate the Sisters of the Holy Names on the memorial of their foundress.

Last but not least, today the Society of Jesus remembers Diego Luis de San Vitores, a Spanish Jesuit who was martyred in the Mariana Islands in 1672. Remarkable for his tenacity, Diego knew from an early age that he wanted to be a Jesuit and a missionary. Diego argued bitterly with his parents for two years before they allowed him to enter the Society at age 13 in 1640. Though he retained a strong desire to serve in the missions, after studies and ordination Diego was initially assigned to teach grammar and theology in his native Spain. Diego's wishes were finally fulfilled in 1659 when he was sent to the missions - not to China or Japan, as he had initially hoped, but to the Philippines. After a few years teaching in Manila and preaching missions in rural areas, Diego was appointed superior of a new Jesuit mission to the Mariana Islands. Showing a great willingness to adapt their lifestyle and presentation of the Gospel to native culture, Diego and his companions were initially received well by the people of the Marianas and made many converts. Resistance to the Jesuits grew over time and some, including Diego, died for their faith. I have a soft spot for Diego Luis de San Vitores for a couple reasons. For one thing, I'm fond of Diego for the simple reason that the first homily I preached in the novitiate was delivered on this date last year. On another level - and this is a point I touched on in my homily - Diego's life is an object lesson in the dynamic tension between individual desires and the corporate mission of the Society. Above all else, Diego wanted to be a missionary, and he wanted to be one in China or Japan. Diego realized his missionary vocation only after a long wait, and he wasn't sent to either of the countries he hoped to serve in. Nonetheless, he achieved lasting renown as the founder of a new mission and died a heroic death in the course of his ministry. Such was Diego Luis de San Vitores - a man of great and holy desires, and a true Companion of Jesus. AMDG.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

So close yet so far.

Argh. And I thought things looked pretty good until the 5th. At the very least, I guess I can say the closeness of the game added some welcome suspense. Ending on a note of consolation, the BoSox have gotten out of worse situations before, and hope springs eternal. Go Sox, AMDG.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Say it ain't so, Joe.

A 14-2 win for Chicago. Hopefully Boston will have better luck tomorrow night. (Paranthetically, this unfortunate loss for the home team has given me the long-awaited opportunity to make reference to Shoeless Joe Jackson on this blog. "Shoeless Joe" was my moniker when I ran for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts Boys State in 1996.) Go Sox, AMDG.

Monday, October 03, 2005


As Rich notes in this post, first-year novice Chris Musiet left the novitiate on Saturday. Chris chose to depart after much discernment, and he goes forth in the good graces of and with the blessings of the community. For a number of reasons, I typically refrain from mentioning departures on this blog - in fact, I believe this is the first one I've mentioned specifically. Departures can be hard to be write about, both because they're difficult and painful events for a religious community and because the circumstances of each are unique.

Knowing that any of one's companions could leave - theoretically, if not practically, at any time - points to the inherent instability and uncertainty of religious life. Generalizing too much about how and why people leave is also dangerous - one can point to individual cases as examples of the 'right' or 'wrong' way to depart from religious life, but this doesn't mean the cases fit into neat and easily analyzed templates. On the part of those of us who remain, departures always raise questions that are difficult and sometimes impossible to answer - for months after someone leaves, we may still analyze the motives of one who left and try to pinpoint the 'signs' and 'turning points' that may have anticipated the individual's departure. The only thing I can say for certain on the basis of my own (limited) experience is that every case is different. In my time at Loyola House, I've seen six novices leave - three in the class ahead of me, two in my own class, and one in the class that entered this August - and the circumstances of each departure differed dramatically. Though the novitiate is a period of formation when departures are more likely, people leave religious life later in formation and even after they've been in vows for several decades.

Seeing good friends leave is something Jesuits, like all religious, simply have to get used to. And yet, even after only a year in the novitiate I suspect that seeing people leave will never get particularly easy. The only consolation I have found in all of this is that losing some of one's companions is a reminder of the spirit of mobility that characterizes Jesuit life. As men vowed to mission, we must be willing to go where the needs are greatest - even if we must leave behind people and places we love to do so. This kind of mobility can involve separation from Jesuit communities one has come to feel particularly attached to and means that the most proximate of one's companions are liable to change at times not of one's choosing. The departure of some community members - not simply those who choose to leave the Society but those who are reassigned to other works and communities - is another reminder of mobility. In many cases, you may be the person staying put while the people around you change.

The above is about as close as I've gotten to a general theory of departures from the Society of Jesus. As I observed at the outset, every case is different and one should try not to generalize overmuch. Nonetheless, the phenomenon of departures is significant enough to demand a spiritual response, and that's what I've tried to offer here. AMDG.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Wild card!

We're in the playoffs again. Now the fun really begins, as does the nailbiting. You know what I'm praying for. Go Sox, AMDG.

UDM Founders' Gala and Detroit Area Day.

A couple Jesuit-themed events that took place in Detroit this weekend are worth remarking upon. On Friday night, my classmates Mike Singhurse, Tony Stephens, Eric Styles and I attended the UDM Founders' Gala at the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. The Founders' Gala is an annual fundraising event for the university, and since they like having Jesuits there an open invitation was extended to the novices. The Gala was held in the RenCen Wintergarden, a glass-roofed atrium that affords great views of the RenCen's multiple towers and the Windsor skyline across the Detroit River. As some readers will know, the RenCen is the home of GM corporate headquarters. Accordingly, when we found the need to stretch our legs during the speakers' program Mike and I were able to take a look at the new Chevrolets, Pontiacs and GMC trucks displayed showroom-style in the building's lower-level concourse. As in any good showroom, you can sit in any one of the vehicles, look under the hood, and scrutinize the pricing data. Mike and I saw a few models that would look good in the Jesuit motor fleet, but since we aren't likely to be put in charge of purchasing any time soon I don't think you're likely to see a new Corvette or a GMC Canyon in the Loyola House driveway in the foreseeable future. To sum up the Founders' Gala, it was a great opportunity to see Jesuit friends from around the city, to chat with UDM alumni, students and benefactors, and to celebrate a school that is making a critical difference in Detroit.

Saturday afternoon the Loyola House community attended the Detroit Province Area Day at U of D Jesuit High School. Area Days are typically held twice a year in each of the province's population centers (in this province, Detroit and Cleveland; in my province, Chicago and Cincinnati) and provide local Jesuits a chance to get together both to socialize and to take part in a structured discussion on an important and timely issue - some examples from recent years include collaboration with laypeople in our apostolates, interreligious dialogue and Jesuit involvement in province development efforts. The focus of this Area Day was a workshop on racism led by Father Clarence Williams, C.PP.S., who serves as the Archdiocese of Detroit's Director of Black Catholic Ministry. After Father Williams' presentation, we had liturgy and dinner together. Like the Founders' Gala the night before, the Area Day offered another chance to catch up with area Jesuits. However, the afternoon also provided a venue for frank discussion of our experiences of and efforts to combat racism. On multiple levels, this Area Day was a success. I don't know where or when the next one will be and what will be discussed, but I'm looking forward. AMDG.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Separated at birth.

In today's Freep there's an entertaining and thought-provoking article on the way parents inculcate loyalty to particular sports teams in their children. The specific context here is the intense local rivalry between U-M and MSU fans, but I think the phenomenon the article touches on is practically universal. Growing up in Massachusetts, I was taught from birth to love the Boston Red Sox and to despise the New York Yankees. I still hold these attitudes today, so it's clear that Mom and Dad raised me well. Unlike many American Catholics, I was not raised as a Notre Dame football fan - or any kind of football fan, for that matter, since baseball was the only sport we really followed. When I got to Notre Dame, I quickly learned just how many people were raised to root for the Fighting Irish; I observed the legions of fans bearing small children decked out in ND gear with a twinge of sadness, reflecting that many of these kids were liable to be disappointed when they grew up and failed to gain admission to an increasingly more selective school they'd been raised to regard as a kind of earthly paradise. As a relative newcomer to Michigan, I don't have much invested in the U-M/MSU rivalry. If I were to root for one or the other, it would probably be U-M - mainly because I was more impressed with the game day experience in Ann Arbor than in East Lansing and because I like Ann Arbor as a community. However, if I'd grown up in Michigan and had been subject to the kind of conditioning the kids discussed in today's Freep are going through, there's no telling how I'd feel about the Wolverines and the Spartans. AMDG.