Saturday, December 31, 2005

The last post of 2005.

It's already 2006 in most of the world, but where I am we're still in the last hour of 2005. Kiddie Conference concluded this afternoon with Chi Prov Jesuit Pat McGrath's ordination as a transitional deacon at Loyola Academy. (Pat will be ordained a priest in July.) This evening I moved into the Jesuit residence at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, where I'll be staying through early May. Thanks to Pat Fairbanks for giving me a ride here from the Academy. Pat, Ross Pribyl and I just got back from seeing the new remake of King Kong, about which I hope to write more tomorrow. I may also say something about Kiddie Conference, moving in at SICP and other topics. For now, please accept (again) my best wishes for the new year. AMDG.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Starbucks on the SouthCoast.

I'm currently enjoying a restful and uneventful visit home with family. The old neighborhood hasn't changed much, but the landscape is still a bit different than I remembered. Until earlier this year, my parents could look out their kitchen window into what appeared to be limitless woods; the backyard view still includes a few trees, but thanks to a new condominium development it now includes a few houses as well. Renovations to Old Rochester Regional High School have changed my alma mater almost beyond recognition. Tonight the local cable access channel aired an installment of Bulldog TV, a student-produced program reporting on recent goings on at ORR; segments featuring teachers I remembered provided reassuring continuity, but the classrooms and hallways seen on the show were disconcertingly new to me. When Bulldog TV turned its attention to the laptops the school apparently now issues to students, I started to feel like an old-timer. Using laptops at school was an unimaginable prospect when I was at ORR. If memory serves, when I was at the school students had access to a lab with perhaps a dozen computers with word processing software - it bears noting that none of these machines had Internet access (there were only two computers in the school that did, and students weren't allowed to use them). Though I'm only in my mid-twenties, the access to high technology that today's teenagers take for granted strikes me as remarkable.

On this visit, I was surprised to discover that Starbucks has arrived in Southeastern Massachusetts. The coffee retailer's local presence is pretty paltry - limited to a couple coffee shops and a kiosk in a mall - but Starbucks' appearance in these parts is still a major milestone. Justly considered the heartland of Dunkin' Donuts, Southeastern Massachusetts reputedly has more Dunkin's locations per capita than anywhere else in the world. Until recently, this area in which one could seemingly find a Dunkin' Donuts on every corner had literally no Starbucks to speak of; I realized what a unique situation this was when I came to live in other places where Starbucks locations were seemingly omnipresent while Dunkin' Donuts outlets were either rare or entirely absent. It'll be interesting to see what Starbucks' arrival on the SouthCoast will mean for the region. I suppose that Starbucks could chip away at Dunkin' Donuts local dominance, but I'm also reminded of what happened when Red Lobster opened a restaurant in North Dartmouth about a decade ago - in an area flush with popular locally-owned seafood restaurants, Red Lobster flopped on the SouthCoast. Time will tell whether the same will happen with Starbucks.

In a related story, actor Michael Vale died on Christmas Eve at age 83. As the man who played Fred the Baker in innumerable Dunkin' Donuts commercials in the 1980's and '90's, Vale became the face of the chain. When I was a kid, I thought that Fred the Baker was a real person, not a fictional character played by an actor. Remembering the Fred the Baker ads with the "time to make the doughnuts" tagline, I also recall my many early experiences with Dunkin' Donuts, like enjoying a box of Munchkins every week while watching Saturday morning cartoons. Fred the Baker and Dunkin' Donuts were a part of my childhood, so the death of Michael Vale strikes a chord. Ave et atque vale.

After an enjoyable but - as always - too brief visit home, tomorrow morning I head to Chicago for the annual Chicago and Detroit Provinces' Jesuit Formation Conference. Right after the start of the new year I move into the St. Ignatius Jesuit Community and begin my Long Experiment at SICP. I'll try to post an update sometime in the next few days. However, if you don't hear from me, let me say it now - Happy New Year! AMDG.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve at Loyola House.

Tonight the Loyola House community will celebrate Christmas as it does every year - with Mass followed by dinner and a reception at which we open our "Secret Santa" gifts. Tomorrow morning, the novices are free to go home for a few days' visit before reporting on December 29th to the annual bi-province formation conference (nicknamed "Kiddie Conference" because all the young Jesuits are required to attend), held this year at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, Illinois. Thus, the next time I post I'll probably be writing from my parents' house in Rochester, Massachusetts. 'Til then, I wish my readers a happy and holy Christmas. AMDG.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Comings and goings.

Say it ain't so, Johnny . . . this was bad news to come home to after the retreat. "Many fans angry, disillusioned at Damon's move to archrival Yankees," says the Globe, understating things a wee bit.

Johnny Damon's betrayal aside, it's good to be back at Loyola House after a fine retreat. Pat Fairbanks delivered a number of eloquent and affecting talks on the theme "Questions of Advent." At the end of the retreat, Pat and I also had an opportunity to talk about St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago - where he just spent five years and where I'll be spending the next five months. Yes, it's official: I'm going to SICP for Long Experiment. It's not yet clear exactly what I'll be doing - ideally, some combination of teaching, campus ministry and assistance with extracurricular activities. I was very impressed with SICP when I passed through there on Vo To 05 in March, and I'm looking forward to spending the spring semester there. This will be my first experience working in a high school and my first in-depth experience of Jesuit secondary education, so I'm sure I'll learn a lot. If I'm lucky, the students at St. Ignatius will learn something from me as well. Expect more details on what I'll be doing when I settle in at SICP in early January. In the meantime, your prayers for me and my brother novices - who are variously looking forward to their own postings for Long Experiment or to making the Long Retreat - are greatly appreciated. AMDG.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Dad's birthday and an imminent retreat.

Today is my Dad's birthday - happily he and my Mom are spending the day on vacation in Florida. Dad typically likes to keep the occasion low-key, so I hope he doesn't mind my mention of the date here. Happy birthday, Dad!

In other news, the novices of Loyola House head out tonight for a three-day silent retreat at Manresa. This is the same triduum retreat we have each year, and as in years past we'll be joined by the first-year novices from Jamaica. After the retreat, the Jamaicans will join us for Christmas and the bi-province formation conference in Barrington, Illinois before heading to Gloucester with the primi for their Long Retreat. This year's triduum will be directed by Jesuit Father Pat Fairbanks, who served until recently as director of pastoral ministry at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago and who also - as I only just discovered - has a blog. In addition to listening to Pat's presentations, during the retreat we'll have time to relax, pray and catch up on spiritual reading - I'll be bringing along The Pilgrim's Tale, a relatively new translation of a Russian devotional classic perhaps better known to English-speaking audiences as The Way of a Pilgrim. Expect some comments on the retreat, if not a full report, when I return to Loyola House on Thursday. AMDG.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Now my head's well-read.

Every so often - the last time was when I returned from summer villa at Omena - I like to post some notes on books I've been reading recently. When I graduated from Georgetown, I promised myself that, no matter how busy I was, I would make some time each day for pleasure reading. I'm proud to say that I've kept that promise, even though it has had the result of creating a perpetual pile of books-to-be-read alongside my bed. Most of the books I read are never mentioned on this blog. However, once in a while I think it's good to make note of a few, both to give readers a sense of the kind of books I read and to single out titles that deserve attention for one reason or another.

I recently read two books by Russian Orthodox liturgical theologian Alexander Schmemann: For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy and The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom. The accessible and concise For the Life of the World presents the Orthodox worldview as it is revealed in the church's sacraments. Written in the early-1960's, when many Christian theologians were grappling with the effects of secularization, For the Life of the World calls on Christians to affirm that Christ is presence in the world despite what can sometimes seem like overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In a blurb on the back cover, Thomas Merton suggests that "every novice read [For the Life of the World] twice" - something I just might do. The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom, which Schmemann completed shortly before his death in 1983, offers detailed reflections on the meaning of each part of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy. Though I found The Eucharist a bit dense for a non-specialist like myself, I nonetheless derived much spiritual nourishment from Schmemann's insights. The only defects I could find in Schmemann's final work stem from the author's premature death; at various points, Schmemann promises to elaborate upon particularly provocative or significant ideas in appendices at the end of the book - appendices he didn't live to write. If you've read nothing by Schmemann, The Eucharist probably isn't the place to start. By contrast, For the Life of the World would probably be profitable reading for any committed Christian - Catholic, Orthodox or otherwise.

On the heels of the Schmemann books discussed above, I read two newly-published memoirs that caught my eye for different reasons. One of these was Made in Detroit: A South of 8-Mile Memoir, Paul Clemens' account of his experiences growing up in the city of Detroit in the 1970's and '80's. Raised as a white Catholic in a series of Detroit neighborhoods that were each in the process of becoming predominantly African American and mainly non-Catholic, Clemens has had life experiences that make for a unique memoir. Clemens' complex and constantly evolving feelings on the subject of race are at the heart of Made in Detroit; however, the author's Catholicism also forms an important part of the story. Raised in a close-knit parish environment and educated in Catholic schools, Clemens was formed by a religious culture in the process of dispersion - a culture now represented in Detroit mainly by churches devoid of parishioners and erstwhile parochial schools that are now occupied by community organizations or by one of the city's umpteen charter academies. Raised as a white Catholic in a series of Detroit neighborhoods that were each in the process of becoming predominantly African American and mainly non-Catholic, Clemens has had life experiences that make for a unique memoir. Written by a Gen Xer, Made in Detroit nonetheless seems like an account of everyday life in a bygone age.

The second memoir I read recently provides another unique Gen X Catholic perspective: Peter Manseau's Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son. In vivid and often touching detail, Manseau tells how his parents grew up, discerned vocations to the priesthood and religious life, fell in love and embraced a new vocation of marriage, and raised a family together. All these events unfold against the backdrop of late 20th century Massachusetts, a religious and social world that I know very well. Numerous memoirs have been written by Catholics who entered religious life in the pre-Vatican II Church and then left during the turbulent days of the late '60's and early '70's, but Vows is the first book I've seen that examines the era from the perspective of the son of a former nun and a former priest. (I should note, however, that Manseau's father disputes the "former," and his struggle to be recognized and accepted as a married Roman Catholic priest are an important theme in the book.) Though Manseau's viewpoint is ostensibly what makes Vows unique, the most interesting sections of the book are those discussing events that took place before his birth, namely his parents' courtship and the controversy that surrounded their 1969 marriage. By contrast, the author's suburban upbringing comes across as surprisingly unexceptional. In college, Manseau studies world religions, develops an intense interest in Buddhism and considers becoming a Trappist; though the author draws a link between these experiences and his parents' past, his religious seeking seems fairly typical of his generation. Vows is far from a perfect book, but it is an interesting and well-written one that I am happy to recommend to interested readers.

Among books I've read in the last couple weeks, I'll note two. The first is Beginning to Pray, a short but remarkable work by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, late Russian Orthodox archbishop of Great Britain and Ireland and author of numerous other books on prayer and spirituality. A book that could be read attentively in under two hours, Beginning to Pray is nonetheless chock full of insights, offering instructive and foundational advice on prayer that I'd never before seen in print. Indicative of how much I enjoyed the book is the fact that I not only plan to purchase a copy for myself but also foresee buying several copies in order to have some to give away to others. I didn't get quite as much out of another recent read, Poverty, Celibacy, and Obedience: A Radical Option for Life, by Diarmuid O'Murchu, M.S.C. A priest and psychologist who writes from an emphatically interdisciplinary perspective, O'Murchu offers a reevaluation of the vows of religious life with nonviolence as a paradigm. Poverty, Celibacy, and Obedience contains a number of provocative insights, some of which I found thoughtful and constructive and others of which were edgy to say the least. Nonetheless, O'Murchu adds an intriguing voice to a larger conversation on the role of religious life in the modern world. I don't quite know what to make of the book Poverty, Celibacy, and Obedience - there were some things I agreed with, other things I disagreed with, and other things I'm not sure about. Unlike Beginning to Pray, I will not be handing out copies of Poverty, Celibacy, and Obedience anytime soon. In any case, all the books I've discussed here are available from, and you're free to order any that attract your interest. Happy reading, AMDG.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Forever leaving . . . again.

Yesterday was my last day working at the Windsor Refugee Office. Though I had a very different experience in Windsor than I did at my last refugee gig in San Jose, the feelings I experience in leaving both ministries have been similiar. As I wrote in this May post on my last day at Catholic Charities, saying goodbye to individuals and ministries one has come to love is one of the most difficult and yet most characteristic aspects of Jesuit life. Our vows call us at one and the same time to an availability that includes a willingness to get up and go where we're most needed as well as to a care to people and places that should make moving from one apostolate to another a bittersweet experience. I recognize that as a Jesuit I'll sometimes be called upon to leave some ministries behind in order to being others, but I also expect each move will bring a certain amount of sadness. This is as should be - if you don't miss a place where you feel you made a positive impact, you probably didn't make as much of an impact as you could have.

Leaving the Windsor Refugee Office is sad for me, not simply because I'll miss the people I got to know there but because I know they'll miss me too. I'll miss the coworkers who have become friends, and I'm consoled by the thought that I'll be able to drop in and visit them when I'm back in Detroit in May. (Speaking of which, expect a post soon on Long Experiment.) As sad it is saying goodbye to my coworkers at the WRO, in a sense it's sadder saying goodbye to the refugees, most of whom I'll probably never see again. Having spent a lot of time working one-on-one with individual refugees, getting to know them on a personal level and helping them with small tasks like filling out forms or running errands, I got to see how I could make a positive difference in others' lives, one person at a time. Reflecting the very concrete and tangible ways in which I was able to improve the lives of the refugees I worked with at the WRO, I can also foresee the difference that my absence will make in their lives.

If there's some sadness in the above reflections, there should be some consolation as well. Knowing that I'll be missed by the people I'm leaving behind helps me realize how valuable a contribution I've been able to make to the work of the Windsor Refugee Office. Knowing that I'll be missed by the people I worked with at the WRO offers proof that, as novitiate experiments go, this one was successful. AMDG.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

U.S. Senator Eugene J. McCarthy, 1916-2005.

Having completed my academic obligations for the semester - I turned in my Contemporary Religious Movements paper last night - I'm now free to comment on a news item that engaged my interest this past weekend. On Saturday, former United States Senator and longtime political gadfly Eugene J. McCarthy died at his home in Georgetown at 89. Check out the obituaries in the New York Times, in the Washington Post and at McCarthy's alma mater Saint John's University for more details. McCarthy was, to my mind, one of the most intriguing characters to appear on the stage of American politics in the second half of the 20th century. One of the most intriguing things about him - and something few people other than myself would likely find intriguing - is the fact that McCarthy spent a few months as a Benedictine novice at Saint John's Abbey in the early-1940's. Few American politicians can claim experience in a monastery, and if Dominic Sandbrook gets it right in his superb biography of McCarthy, the five-time presidential candidate was strongly influenced by the Benedictine tradition. Knowing that he lived in the neighborhood, I always wanted to meet McCarthy when I was a student at Georgetown. Sadly, I never got the chance.

McCarthy made his biggest splash with his 1968 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, upsetting a sitting president in the New Hampshire primary (driving that president, Lyndon Johnson, out of the race) and attracting a devoted following of young antiwar activists who went "Clean for Gene" to campaign for McCarthy. In the words of rival candidate Robert F. Kennedy, the bookish McCarthy's White House bid attracted all the A students while the C students campaigned for Kennedy. For his own part, McCarthy had appraised the 1960 crop of Democratic presidential candidates that included RFK's brother with this classic quip: "I'm twice as liberal as Hubert Humphrey, twice as smart as Stuart Symington and twice as Catholic as Jack Kennedy."

As has happened with many another political maverick, McCarthy's fortunes declined pretty quickly after the euphoria of his first presidential campaign. Though he made several additional bids for the presidency and attempted to regain his old Senate seat in 1982, McCarthy was never again a serious candidate after 1968. For the remainder of his life, he remained in the public eye as an increasingly curmudgeonly and quixotic commentator on American politics and as a prolific and versatile writer (his published work includes some fine poetry). To my mind, McCarthy was an outstanding representative of a classic American archetype: the public man who runs for political office not to win but to contribute a unique and important perspective on debate about critical issues. In that regard, McCarthy played a role somewhat like the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures - he was as an ornery and idiosyncratic figure who told people things they needed to hear, even when they didn't want to. For these and other reasons, I'll miss Eugene McCarthy. Ave atque vale. AMDG.

Friday, December 09, 2005

One down, one to go.

As I noted (albeit paranthetically) in my last post, I haven't had much time to devote to this blog over the past week because I've been busy studying for a final exam and working on a term paper. I had the final - an oral examination for my Social Ethics class at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary - last night. Given that this was my first oral exam, I went in with considerable apprehension. However, I'm pleased to report that the exam went well.

The exam was based upon two questions taken from a list of thirty-four given to students in advance by the professor; each student could choose one question to answer, with the second being chosen at random from the remaining questions. Each question embraces a broad topic of inquiry and provides the starting point for a dialogue between professor and student aimed at determining how much the student knows about a particular topic from the class. For example, the question I chose to answer asked for an explanation of the traditional natural law theory of just war. On the basis of my description of the conditions for ius ad bellum and ius in bello, the professor asked a number of questions testing the depth of my knowledge and reflection on the just war theory. I felt like I knew the theory pretty well going in, and the professor seemed pleased with the answers I gave to his questions. As to the second, randomly selected question, I lucked out by getting another question I knew well - one asking about the place of Catholic social teaching in the Magisterium of the Church. So even though the lead up to my first-ever oral exam was fairly nerve-racking, the exam itself was a cinch.

Over the weekend, I'll be devoting most of my attention to my term paper for the Contemporary Religious Movements class I'm taking at UDM. Due Monday, the paper must be at least twenty pages in length, though the professor's insistence on 14-point font makes it the functional equivalent of a fifteen-pager. The only concern I have about completing this paper is finding all the books and articles I need, as this is the first time I've had to write a graduate-level academic paper without access to the riches of Notre Dame's Hesburgh Library. I'm trying to make the most of the situation by structuring my paper in such a way that I can rely primarily on online resources, but I still feel somewhat challenged. I'll post an update on the situation on Monday, after I turn in the paper. In the meantime, your prayers are greatly appreciated. AMDG.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Notes on the Feast of St. Nicholas of Myra.

Today the Church in both East and West honors St. Nicholas of Myra, the 4th century Byzantine bishop widely identified (for better or worse) with the figure of Santa Claus. Because I have a Social Ethics exam to study for and a term paper to write, I can't write much about St. Nicholas at the moment. (More generally speaking, posting will be light this week on account of the exam and the paper.) In line with what several other bloggers have already done, I'm pleased to call your attention to the splendid St. Nicholas Center website, which provides exhaustive information on today's saint and the many different ways in which he is remembered around the world. A popular and widely venerated saint in the Byzantine churches and a broadly recognized (if often misunderstood or misrepresented) symbol of generosity and good cheer in the West, Nicholas of Myra can be regarded as an ecumenical figure and a symbol of Christian unity. On this day when Catholics and Orthodox alike honor St. Nicholas, I'll be praying that we make the most of this opportunity for greater mutual understanding. AMDG.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Notes on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier.

Today the Church remembers Francis Xavier, a Spanish nobleman who became one of the first Jesuits and served with ingenuity and zeal as a missionary in India, Japan and the Molucca Islands (part of present-day Indonesia). One of the six men who joined Ignatius in making private vows at Montmartre on August 15, 1534 - a date sometimes regarded as the birthdate of the Society of Jesus - Xavier was also part of a more select group I like to call "the first of the First Companions." Enrolling at the Collège Sainte-Barbe in Paris in 1525, Xavier roomed for several years with the Frenchman Pierre Favre; in 1529, the two roommates were joined by a new student from Spain, Iñigo de Loyola. Gathered together seemingly by chance, Ignatius, Xavier and Favre would become perhaps the most fateful trio of roomies in the history of collegiate residence life. Setting sail for Goa not long after the Jesuits won papal approbation in 1540, Xavier enjoyed great success as a missionary in Asia but died without achieving his most ambitious goal - entering China. Even so, Xavier's heroic exploits won widespread admiration in Europe and inspired future generations of Jesuit missionaries - men who would make to China, and to many other places besides.

A lot can be said about Francis Xavier - and a lot will be said about him in the coming months, as the Society of Jesus marks a Jubilee Year commemorating the 500th anniversary of the birth of Xavier and Favre and the 450th anniversary of Ignatius' death. For all the differences between his times and ours, Xavier nonetheless serves as an important model to modern Jesuits as we seek to live out our charism in the modern world. In the words of Decree 2 of GC34, "entry into cultures" and "dialogue with other traditions" are essential elements of the Jesuit mission. Xavier embodied these aspects of our mission perhaps most particularly through his missionary efforts in Japan. Discovering that the strategies that had won thousands of converts in India wouldn't work in Japan, Xavier adapted his approach to match the culture in which he found himself. In doing so, Xavier had to recognize that he had as much to learn from the Japanese he came into contact with as they had to learn from him.

In my own humble way, I believe I've learned a thing or two about "entry into cultures" and "dialogue with other traditions" through my work with refugees in California and Ontario. I've learned a lot from my experiences of serving people whose cultural and religious backgrounds are very different from my own. In listening to them and in accepting their hospitality, I've had the opportunity to experience in a partial way some of the traditional cultures of countries like Afghanistan, Burundi, Somalia and Vietnam. I could write a lot more about this, and perhaps I will in the future. For now, I'll content myself with the thought that by helping people from other parts of the world make a home for themselves in North America I've also helped continue a great Jesuit tradition that began with my brother Francis Xavier. AMDG.

Ingmar Bergman and the Society of Jesus.

Last night Jake and I attended a screening of Ingmar Bergman's Saraband at the DFT. The octogenarian Bergman has said that Saraband, which he wrote and directed for Swedish television, is his final film. As is often the case, this last work of a great artist isn't quite on the level of the earlier work that cemented his reputation. A sequel to Bergman's 1973 classic Scenes from a Marriage, Saraband shows what happens when the couple from the earlier film (played by Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson) briefly come together again three decades after their divorce. On a lark, Marianne (Ullmann) decides to pay an unannounced visit to her aging ex-husband Johan (Josephson) at his summer cottage in the Swedish countryside. Though Johan expresses annoyance at Marianne's sudden appearance, he doesn't seem to object when she moves in with him for several months and concerns herself with the problems of Henrik (Börhe Ahlstedt), Johan's son from another marriage, and Henrik's teenage daughter Karin (Julia Dufvenius), who live nearby. A former orchestra conductor whose life has started to unravel since his beloved wife Anna died of cancer, Henrik spends much of his time giving cello lessons to his daughter. Karin possesses sufficient talent to win admission to prestigious conservatories, but Henrik's ambivalence about letting her go generates considerable friction.

Saraband ends up being more about Henrik and Karin than it is about Marianne and Johan, as the latter characters spend much of their time reacting to the conflict between father and daughter. With only four characters and the structure of a stage play, Saraband is hardly an ambitious film. While viewing it, the thought occurred to me that Saraband is the kind of film an elderly writer-director may be naturally inclined to make - small in scale and concerned more with the past than the present. As I suggested in the previous paragraph, Saraband is hardly among Bergman's greatest films. In spite of the caliber of the director and actors involved, Saraband isn't even a particularly affecting or memorable film - it's adequate film, but that's about it. Nonetheless, as Bergman's last it necessarily serves as a kind of coda to his body of work. In that sense, I suppose, Saraband is significant not so much in itself but in terms of its relationship to its creator's life.

On a side note, I should point out the incidental connection between the work of Ingmar Bergman and my own Jesuit vocation. I can't say that Bergman has influenced me in any particular way, though I've appreciated his films (Wild Strawberries, Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Light are my favorites). However, when I was a candidate for the Society I discovered that one of the world's foremost Bergman scholars is Canadian Jesuit Father Marc Gervais, a longtime film professor at Montreal's Concordia University and a regular at the Cannes Film Festival. Though I've never met Gervais and I can't say he had anything more than a neglible impact on my vocation, the fact that the Society of Jesus has room for a Bergman scholar has always impressed me. In the same way, I've always been impressed by the existence of Jesuit architects, astronomers, biologists, geologists, mathematicians, photographers, sculptors and the like. In the Society of Jesus, one finds a group of men dedicated to finding and serving God in a multiciplicity of ways. I've heard it said that practically every ordained member of the Society is in some sense "a hyphenated priest" - a priest-artist, a priest-doctor, a priest-social worker, a priest-teacher, or what have you. The creativity and the diversity that can be found in the Society of Jesus helped bring me here. I have no ambition of becoming an expert on the films of Ingmar Bergman like Marc Gervais, but I'm proud that there are Jesuits like him. It is partly to such men - the "hyphenated priests" of the Society - that I owe my vocation. AMDG.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Notes on the Memorial of SS. Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell and Companions.

Today the Church remembers Jesuits Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell and their Companions, known collectively as the Martyrs of England and Wales. During the 16th and 17th centuries, hundreds of English Catholics - secular priests, members of religious orders, and laypeople - were killed for refusing to renounce their allegiance to the Church of Rome. In 1970, forty of these martyrs, including ten Jesuits, were raised to sainthood by Pope Paul VI.

Edmund Campion and Robert Southwell are the best known of the martyrs we remember today, in no small part because both were gifted writers. A brilliant student and later a noted lecturer at Oxford, Campion studied to become an Anglican priest but found himself increasingly drawn away from the established church and toward Catholicism. Spurning an invitation from Queen Elizabeth I to enter into royal service, Campion ultimately entered the Society of Jesus instead. While exercising a clandestine priestly ministry that found him constantly on the move, offering Mass and hearing confessions in the homes of Catholic sympathizers, Campion also found time to write a number of apologetic works of which his Brag is the most famous. When captured by the royal authorities, Campion faced yet another offer from the Queen: if he agreed to renounce his Catholic faith and become a minister of the established church, he would be allowed to go free. Predictably, Campion said no to Elizabeth a second time and was hanged at Tyburn on December 1, 1581. Five years later, Robert Southwell returned to his native England after completing his Jesuit formation in Europe and followed in Campion's footsteps as an underground priest. During his secret ministry and later in prison, Southwell produced many letters and poems which would, when published, give the priest a considerable literary reputation. After his inevitable arrest, Robert Southwell died in the gallows of Tyburn on February 20, 1595.

Notwithstanding their obvious literary and historical associations, the stories of Edmund Campion and Robert Southwell have a grittily contemporary quality to them. I can't read about long-ago martyrs like these without thinking of those in more recent times who have endured the same trials and often given their lives serving the faithful in countries where Catholics cannot practice openly. In these modern witnesses, we can find an example every bit as heroic as that of Edmund Campion and Robert Southwell. So as we remember the Martyrs of England and Wales, let us also be mindful of the martyrs of our own time. AMDG.