Saturday, December 31, 2005

Lawlessness on Blog Island?

A sobering indictment of the blogosphere by Kathleen Parker of the Orlando Sentinel:

Each time I wander into blogdom, I'm reminded of the savage children stranded on an island in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Without adult supervision, they organize themselves into rival tribes, learn to hunt and kill, and eventually become murderous barbarians in the absence of a civilizing structure.

What Golding demonstrated -- and what we're witnessing as the blogosphere's offspring multiply -- is that people tend to abuse power when it is unearned and will bring down others to enhance themselves. Likewise, many bloggers seek the destruction of others for their own self-aggrandizement. When a mainstream journalist stumbles, they pile on like so many savages, hoisting his or her head on a bloody stick as Golding's children did the fly-covered head of a butchered sow.

Schadenfreude -- pleasure in others' misfortunes -- has become the new barbarity on an island called Blog. When someone trips, whether Dan Rather or Eason Jordan or Judith Miller, bloggers are the bloodthirsty masses slavering for a public flogging. Incivility is their weapon and humanity their victim.

I mean no disrespect to the many brilliant people out there -- professors, lawyers, doctors, philosophers, scientists and other journalists who also happen to blog. Again, they know who they are. But we should beware and resist the rest of the ego-gratifying rabble who contribute only snark, sass and destruction.

We can't silence them, but for civilization's sake -- and the integrity of information by which we all live or die -- we can and should ignore them.

But here in the Christian and Catholic Christian blogosphere we're different, right?

Can people reasonably expect that we would be, or is that asking too much?

Hat tip to Penni.

Read the whole story.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Greetings from New Orleans

I returned for the first time today to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. It's almost like being in a different city. Familiar neighborhoods appear as if I'd never been there before. Yet, there are signs of life. And the anticipation of more soon as college students return. I don't think New Orleans will ever have been so happy to see its students return! I gathered with my Jesuit brothers in formation these past few days, which is always a joy. Tonight, I'm off to support the New Orleans economy . . . Coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde!

More soon . . .

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Blessings for Christmas, Peace in the New Year

Consider the images.

John the Baptist proclaims: “In the desert, prepare the way of the Lord.”

Christ is born in a cave, in a stable.

How unfitting for the Savior of the World!

Yet, despite our unworthiness, despite our incompleteness, despite our divisions, God is incarnated among us, Jesus is born as God with us, and calls us all to worship Him.

May you all have a blessed Christmas. I am grateful for the many ways in which many of you have been Christ to me this past year.

Peace for the new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Darth Damon

Seems it's true. Johnny Damon has turned to the Dark Side. Yet, given one reaction of a Boston fan in today's Globe:

''He was Jesus to us," said bank employee Salma Haikal, 41, of Brockton, as she headed to lunch with a colleague. ''He was the Messiah. And he's going, actually, he's not coming."

. . . Maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Who thought this would be the answer to WWJDD? Or should the question be WWJDD for 52 million?

But, alas, this week we celebrate the real Jesus' coming, and that's a much bigger headline!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Must Be an MIT Thing?

I have my bloglines set to give me headlines for news happening in Cambridge. It keeps me aware of some interesting things. But every once and a while I have no idea what they're talking about. Take one of today's headlines:

Synthesis and optical properties of well aligned ZnO nanorods on GaN by hydrothermal synthesis


I'll Have a Ticket for King Kong, and a Dramamine

Got out to see King Kong tonight. A few changes, and a few homages to the original, but the basic plot is more or less the same. Peter Jackson was probably a bit too self-indulgent with certain scenes, making it a very long film. It's also very intense, but I liked it. A heart-warming story with a pretty serious body count!
A warning though: I'm not prone to motion sickness or vertigo, but by the end I was feeling a little bit of both. So if you have a tendency in those directions, bring the proper medication!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas, Christmas Time is Near . . .

Monday, December 19, 2005

One Fruit of My Advent Examination

In the course of reflecting on the things I discussed in my previous post, I feel compelled to offer the following words:

Dear friends,

When I began my blog a little over a year ago, I decided that I would do my best to provide an alternative to many of the nasty Catholic blogs which I found out there at the time. And though I at times offer criticisms, I always try to do so in a spirit of charity. And I’m happy to observe that overall Catholic bloggers have seemed to move in a more positive direction in the past year. I have been pleased in the course of the year to find a number of fine blogs which I’ve been happy to add to my blogroll. That doesn’t mean they always agree with me, or I with them, but for the most part these are people that, I think, attempt to speak the truth in charity. I enjoy our exchanges. I look forward to continuing them.

However, as many of you have recognized, the blogosphere, and the certain amount of recognition that comes with it can be a seductive thing. A couple of months ago, I took a certain amount of pleasure, and indicated so, in an increase of traffic that came due to a mention of my blog in the Catholic World News’ “Off the Record” section. In the intervening months I have become more aware of the purposes of that column and its author, who only goes by the pseudonym “Diogenes.” These purposes do not seem to be in the interest of charity and, though some might disagree, in my mind do not serve the greater glory of God and the Church. I know nothing of Diogenes, as he or she does not choose to identify him or herself, and so I cannot speak to his or her character or precise intentions. Perhaps they are good. But if so, this is not reflected in the content of the “Off the Record,” the intentions of which appear to be largely malicious. I regret having celebrated being associated, however briefly, with that publication and its author.



For more context on this matter, check out the following links:

"Off the Record"
Disputations on Diogenes

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Today's Fun Fact

According to today's Parade magazine, the word "wedgie" has made it into the dictionary.

My question: What took it so long?

Not Exactly the Fiat

This weekend was a homily after my own heart. The call of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was suggested as something of a contemporary retelling of the Annunciation. Teenage girl's life is interrupted to be told that she is called to a higher purpose. It fits. But, as you might imagine, Buffy's response isn't exactly "let it be done unto me." She's, well, a bit more resistant, but eventually embraces her role in the saving of Sunnydale. Here's a couple of her responses:

From the 1992 film:

“All I want to do is graduate from high school, move to Europe, marry Christian Slater, and die. Now that might not sound too great to a sconehead like you, but I think it's swell. And now you show up and tell me I'm a member of the hairy mole club so you can THROW things at me? I don't THINK so.”

From the 1997-2003 TV series:

“I thought, Homecoming Queen, I could open a yearbook someday and say 'I was there, I went to high school and had friends and for just one minute I got to live in the world.' And then there'd be proof. Proof I was chosen for something other than this. Besides, I look cute in a tiara.”

No, Buffy most definitely is not Mary, but at least in this regard is, I think, a pretty good model for accepting one's vocation. I discuss Buffy and Joan of Arcadia as contemporary models of vocation in a piece I did for Busted Halo.

Blessings to you all in your last week of Advent!

A Prayer and Examination for the Last Week of Advent

One more note on the America ad, and I promise that’s it. According to America’s apology, the ad was meant as a deliberate “assault on Catholic faith and devotion.”

It is clearly that.

But I have to wonder if those behind the ad also were attuned enough to the American Catholic scene that they knew that instead of blaming them, Catholics here would use it as an opportunity to blame and denigrate each other.

To me that’s the real tragedy here. That the prejudices within our Catholic family are so ingrained that it’s much easier for Catholics to think the worst of each other than to see that we’ve all been duped by a common enemy.

This Christmas Christ is born for all of us, whether you prefer reading America, First Things, Catholic World News, all three or none of the above. Christ is born humble in a manger, and goes to his death out of love for us, yet so often we exhibit neither humility nor love when dealing with each other, all the while proudly claiming ourselves some form of exemplary “faithful,” “Vatican II,” or “JPII” Catholics.

Could we this Christmas proclaim our unity, in humility and love, in the celebration of Christ given to us? Could we celebrate Christ who does not call us all to be the same, but who does pray that we all be one? Could we forget about the labels and just bless each other, as God has blessed us in sending us his only son?

Or will we be looking disdainfully at those Christmas-only Catholics, and turning our nose up at those who don’t celebrate Christmas the “right” way?

My prayer is that we will recognize in God-with-us the opportunity to let go of the things that prevent us from making a place for him in our lives and in our Church.

This will be my personal prayer and examination in the coming week. If you’d like, I invite you to pray it with me.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

America Apologizes (update)

America's on-line apology and e-mail response to concerned readers:

Following up on the previous post, the following Editor's Note can be found in the Letters section of the most recent issue of America appearing on the magazine's website:

Editor's Note

We apologize for publishing an advertisement in a recent issue that was offensive to readers and to ourselves as well, once it was pointed out to us by several subscribers. The item offered for sale was intended by the advertiser, as he acknowledged in correspondence with a concerned reader, to be an assault on Catholic faith and devotion. Unhappily, the offending elements passed undetected through our advance review process. We regret this and will continue to do our best to detect such trickery by potential advertisers in the future.

Of course, some will call this just more Jesuit trickery, but it seems like just your basic apology to me.

Thanks to Kevin for also pointing out the response that concerned America readers received to their e-mails:

Dear Reader:
We too are offended and very much regret we did not catch the mistake prior to publication. We are returning payment for the ad and protesting the abuse to the artist.

The problem was not evident in the black and white proofs we have used to check final copy.We are taking a number of new steps to review advertising in advance of publication.

Thank you for being so attentive.


Drew Christiansen, S. J.
Editor in Chief

Conveniently Ignoring the Obvious

America magazine made a mistake. It ran a deceptively presented and offensive advertisement in its December 5 issue. I find the advertisement offensive and so, by the way, do the Jesuits at America. This should come as no surprise.

Yet, what was obviously an oversight by whomever is responsible for vetting the advertisements, has become another opportunity for the tiresome anti-Jesuit voices to chastise us bad Jesuits.

Bill Cork is “shocked” and “outraged,” and for good reason, but his shock and outrage is misdirected. He should be shocked and outraged at Steve Rosenthal, the artist who duped America magazine into running what, at first glance, looks simply like an ad for a piece of devotional artwork.

Yes, somebody at America obviously dropped the ball on vetting the ad copy. But to even suggest that the offending advertisement was included deliberately and conscious of what, at second glance, the ad seems obviously to be selling is disingenuous.

And how should a responsible Catholic journalist act when coming across such an obvious oversight? If it were me, I would charitably contact the magazine and make them aware of the problem, so they can catch it before the next issue comes out. But that's just me. I would not write a caustic commentary as Joseph Bottum does. And Diogenes’ acerbic rant against “America’s thinking Catholics” shows very little thought itself.

Criticize the magazine for the oversight, if you want. That's fair. But don't be so silly as to imply that it was knowingly done. That, too, is offensive.

Friday, December 16, 2005

From Harvard Back to New Orleans

From a nice piece in the Harvard Crimson by a Tulane student headed back to New Orleans:

So Long, and Thanks

Published On Friday, December 16, 2005 12:40 AM

. . . These people made my past few months as close to a normal semester as I could have hoped. They are the real gems of the Harvard community. In five years, I might not remember everything I learned about French history or Spanish literature, but I will never forget the people I met here. To all of you, I am forever indebted. The situation after Katrina was worrying and confusing at first, and it threw my life plan more than a little off track, but thanks to the amazing generosity and support I have found here I am surely a better person for it.

Mindful of the manners my mama taught me, however, I am careful not to overstay my welcome, and I am always looking for ways to repay the kindness that I have been shown. This is the real reason I am so eager to return to New Orleans. I have learned so much in my time here, including the real difference that students can make. There is a zeal for service at Harvard unlike I have ever seen, and I hope I can carry that back to New Orleans to help restore the city that is so close to my heart. I know that all of the visiting Tulane students want to make the Harvard community proud, by giving to those even less privileged the way that you gave to us.

The hospitality you have shown the Gulf Coast students here in Cambridge has been overwhelming, but I look forward to showing you a welcome in the Big Easy like you have never seen. All the students from New Orleans, whether they have lived there a year or a lifetime, love it fiercely and know what an amazing city it is. They also know that no one will rest until it is returned to all of its former glory. I want to restore New Orleans to the heaven on earth that I brag about so often; then I can have you down and show you around. If there is one thing I love it is to have guests in my home and show off the many wonders of the Crescent City. You can bet there will be a few spots in my living room reserved for Harvardians come Mardi Gras 2006. So as we change our snow boots for sandals and that dirty water for the dirty South, I thank you again, and I hope to see you soon.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Read it from the beginning.

There Are Not Enough Priests in Boston (or Rome) . . .

. . . to take care of this pastoral need:

Influential Jesuit says bad driving is sin, should be confessed

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Driving inattentively, after drinking or when one is tired is a sin that should be confessed, said the Jesuit director of an influential magazine.

Poor driving "places at great risk one's own life and the lives of others, certainly much more than seeing a provocative film, something people confess much more easily because they feel more at fault," wrote Father GianPaolo Salvini in mid-December.

The priest is director of La Civilta Cattolica, a magazine reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State prior to publication.

Father Salvini noted that in late November, Pope Benedict XVI publicly asked people to drive more carefully in order to save lives.

read the rest

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Time's Best Photos, A Year of Sadness

Time has published its "Best Photos of 2005." Readers at Amy's Blog are complaining they are too sad. They are. But should we pretend that this wasn't a year that brought us face to face with some of the greatest human challenges we face today? And the price we can pay by denying them? Take a look at the photos (these aren't them, by the way), be sad, and ask: what can I do to make things better? I'm going to do the same. Let's face it, it was a sad year. But out of sadness, comes great hope.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bear With Me

Just discovered today that the changes I made to my blog design, which look pretty good on the Firefox browser, don't quite work the same way on internet explorer.

I'll try to make the necessary adjustments. In the meantime, if you want to see how great it looks, use the Firefox browser, which you can download for free!

If anybody can give this novice web designer a hint as to how I can stop internet explorer from throwing my sidebar to the bottom of the page, I'd appreciate the help!



Say it Ain't So: Eddie and Val

Since so many celebrity marriages fail, and fail quickly, I have to say I was very sorry to hear that after 24 years of marriage, Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelii have filed for divorce.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Prayers Please--Nigeria Plane Crash

You may have heard about the plane crash in Nigeria. It's kind of hit home here because there are a few Nigerian Jesuits here, and about 65 of the victims of the crash were students at our Jesuit high school there, Loyola Jesuit College. It's a terrible tragedy. One of the religious sisters from Nigeria studying here lost her niece in the crash also. Your prayers for the victims and their families would be appreciated. Here's a report from a Jesuit in Nigeria:

“By this time most of you would have heard the news of the air crash involving many of our LJC students. Today, Saturday, about 75 of our students boarded a Sosaliso plane from Abuja to Port Harcourt. About a dozen got off in Enugu. The plane was landing in Port Harcourt in a rainstorm, and some reports say it caught fire before landing, but we don't know for sure. But it crashed on the runway, broke into pieces, and fire consumed almost everyone. Out of 110 people only about 7 survived, including one LJC student who was taken to the hospital very badly burned. We believe somewhere between 63 and 65 of our students were killed, but still do not have confirmation. The accident took place at about 2:30 this afternoon. We still have only preliminary reports - news agencies in Nigeria are still not allowed to carry the story. Marc R and George Q hope to go to Port Harcourt on Monday and begin the difficult process of trying to console the families. Peter S is on retreat in Cape Coast, but we hope he will be back on the scene as soon as possible. Please remember the souls of these children in your prayers, and remember the grief-stricken families who have so much pain to try to process at this time.”

Monday, December 12, 2005

What Were You Moshing to at the Senior Prom?

Another Meme

Go to the music outfitters and type in "100 top songs" and the year you graduated from high school in the search box. What pops up is a list of the top 100 songs from the year you graduated from high school. Bold the songs you loved, strikethrough (or italicize) the songs you wished were wiped off the face of the earth, and leave blank the songs you either don't care about or have no idea what they are.

1. Careless Whisper, Wham!
2. Like A Virgin, Madonna [I prefer the Moulin Rouge version!]
3. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Wham!
4. I Want To Know What Love Is, Foreigner
5. I Feel For You, Chaka Khan
6. Out Of Touch, Daryl Hall and John Oates
7. Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears For Fears
8. Money For Nothing, Dire Straits
9. Crazy For You, Madonna
10. Take On Me, A-Ha
11. Everytime You Go Away, Paul Young
12. Easy Lover, Phil Collins and Philip Bailey
13. Can't Fight This Feeling, REO Speedwagon
14. We Built This City, Starship
15. The Power Of Love, Huey Lewis and The News
16. Don't You (Forget About Me), Simple Minds
17. Cherish, Kool and The Gang
18. St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion), John Parr
19. The Heat Is On, Glenn Frey
20. We Are The World, U.S.A. For Africa
21. Shout, Tears For Fears
22. Part-Time Lover, Stevie Wonder
23. Saving All My Love For You, Whitney Houston
24. Heaven, Bryan Adams
25. Everything She Wants, Wham!
26. Cool It Now, New Edition
27. Miami Vice Theme, Jan Hammer
28. Lover Boy, Billy Ocean
29. Lover Girl, Teena Marie
30. You Belong To The City, Glenn Frey
31. Oh Sheila, Ready For The World
32. Rhythm Of The Night, Debarge
33. One More Night, Phil Collins
34. Sea Of Love, Honeydrippers
35. A View To A Kill, Duran Duran
36. The Wild Boys, Duran Duran
37. You're The Inspiration, Chicago
38. Neutron Dance, Pointer Sisters
39. We Belong, Pat Benatar
40. Nightshift, Commodores
41. Things Can Only Get Better, Howard Jones
42. All I Need, Jack Wagner
43. Freeway Of Love, Aretha Franklin
44. Never Surrender, Corey Hart
45. Sussudio, Phil Collins
46. Strut, Sheena Easton
47. You Give Good Love, Whitney Houston
48. The Search Is Over, Survivor
49. Missing You, Diana Ross
50. Separate Lives, Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin
51. Raspberry Beret, Prince and The Revolution
52. Suddenly, Billy Ocean
53. The Boys Of Summer, Don Henley
54. One Night In Bangkok, Murray Head
55. If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, Sting
56. Obsession, Animotion
57. We Don't Need Another Hero, Tina Turner
58. Material Girl, Madonna
59. Better Be Good To Me, Tina Turner
60. Head Over Heels, Tears For Fears
61. Axel F, Harold Faltermeyer
62. Smooth Operator, Sade
63. In My House, Mary Jane Girls
64. Don't Lose My Number, Phil Collins
65. All Through The Night, Cyndi Lauper
66. Run To You, Bryan Adams
67. Glory Days, Bruce Springsteen
68. Voices Carry, 'Til Tuesday
69. Misled, Kool and The Gang
70. Would I Lie To You?, Eurythmics
71. Be Near Me, ABC
72. No More Lonely Nights, Paul McCartney
73. I Can't Hold Back, Survivor
74. Summer Of '69, Bryan Adams
75. Walking On Sunshine, Katrina and The Waves
76. Freedom, Wham!
77. Too Late For Goodbyes, Julian Lennon
78. Valotte, Julian Lennon
79. Some Like It Hot, Power Station
80. Solid, Ashford and Simpson
81. Angel, Madonna
82. I'm On Fire, Bruce Springsteen
83. Method Of Modern Love, Daryl Hall and John Oates
84. Lay Your Hands On Me, Thompson Twins
85. Who's Holding Donna Now, Debarge
86. Lonely Ol' Night, John Cougar Mellencamp
87. What About Love, Heart
88. California Girls, David Lee Roth
89. Fresh, Kool and The Gang
90. Do What You Do, Jermaine Jackson
91. Jungle Of Love, The Time
92. Born In The USA, Bruce Springsteen
93. Private Dancer, Tina Turner
94. Who's Zoomin' Who, Aretha Franklin
95. Fortress Around Your Heart, Sting
96. Penny Lover, Lionel Richie
97. All She Wants To Do Is Dance, Don Henley
98. Dress You Up, Madonna
99. Sentimental Street, Night Ranger
100. Sugar Walls, Sheena Easton

Tagging Maggie, Lisa, Kalanna and Penni

Go Frap Yourself!

Check out our Frappr!

Join my 32 wonderful friends from points near and far on my Frappr map!

Those Darn Jesuits . . . Baghdad College

The alumni of the Jesuit-run Baghdad College in Iraq are fiercely loyal even though the school ceased to exist decades ago. And three of them are the front-runners in the upcoming Iraqi elections. An interesting story in today's New York Times about the Jesuit legacy in Iraq.

Boys of Baghdad College Vie for Prime Minister

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 9 - The priests have long since departed, but the elite Jesuit high school called Baghdad College still looms over the swirling world of Iraqi politics.

The three Iraqi political leaders considered most likely to end up as prime minister after nationwide elections this week - Ayad Allawi, Ahmad Chalabi and Adel Abdul Mahdi - were schoolmates at the all-boys English-language school in the late 1950's, fortunate members of the Baghdad elite that governed Iraq until successive waves of revolution and terror swept it away.

Now, with most of Saddam Hussein's interlopers locked up and the Iraqis preparing to select a full-term Parliament, the boys of Baghdad College, now men in their 60's back from exile, are ready to assume their place on top of the social hierarchy that they and their families once assumed would be theirs forever.

The three men are now flag bearers for three very different visions of Iraq's future: Mr. Allawi for a secular state, Mr. Mahdi for an Islamic-style democracy, and Mr. Chalabi for a program that would purge Iraqi society of those associated with Mr. Hussein's rule. Hard feelings have erupted at times, in particular between Mr. Allawi and Mr. Chalabi, who struggled bitterly in the 1990's over the leadership of the Iraqi exile movement.

But what unites the three former schoolmates could prove more important than what sets them apart.

Clashing banners and personal ambitions aside, Mr. Allawi, Mr. Chalabi and Mr. Mahdi say they are ready to strike political deals that might involve tossing aside some ideological differences. Mr. Mahdi and Mr. Chalabi say they aim to form a "national unity" government with Iraq's main political leaders, presumably including Mr. Allawi.

Mr. Allawi, among others, says that is highly unlikely. Even so, the ties that go back to childhood and to the musty corridors of Baghdad College suggest that the hard clashes that lie ahead in this polarized land may yet be softened by three men who grew up together.

"Ahmad was a year ahead of me, and we used to go swimming together," Mr. Allawi said. "Adel and I were friends, our families knew each other. He was a good basketball player."

"Politically we are very different now," he said. "But those were nice days then."

read the rest here.

Fall in Love

One of my favorite bits of wisdom from Pedro Arrupe, S.J., who was Superior General of the Jesuits from 1961-1984:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling

Richard Pryor, the sometimes troubled inspiration to many a comedic actor died yesterday at 65. He died of a heart attack, but also suffered in recent years from Multiple Sclerosis. He was an academy-award nominee for 1972's Lady Sings the Blues. I have to say that I loved his buddy films with Gene Wilder like Stir Crazy and Silver Streak.

"At one point the highest paid black performer in the entertainment industry, the highly-lauded but misfortune-dogged comedian inadvertently became a de facto role model—a lone wolf figure whom many an up-and-coming comic from Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock to Robin Williams and Richard Belzer—have paid due homage. Pryor alone kicked stand-up humor into a brand new realm."


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Because Beset By Weakness . . .

At a time when there are lots of questions about what is required of a potential priest, what the most important roles of a priest are and the important question, in light of Vatican II, of how the priestly vocation differs from the lay vocation, I was happy to be reminded of an ordination homily once delivered by Michael Buckley, S.J.:

There is a tendency among us Americans, common and obvious enough, recommended by common sense and successful practice, to estimate a personís aptitude for a profession or for a career by listing his strengths. Jane speaks well, possesses an able mind, exhibits genuine talents for leadership and debate; she would be an excellent lawyer. John has recognizably good judgment, a scientific turn of interest, obvious manual dexterity and deep human concerns; he would make a splendid surgeon.

The tendency is to transfer this method of evaluation to the priesthood, to estimate a man by his gifts and talents, to line up his positive achievements and his capacity for more, to understand his promise for the future in terms of his accomplishments in the past, and to make the call within his life contingent on the attainments of personality or grace. Because a man is religiously serious, prayerful, socially adept, intellectually perceptive; possesses interior integrity, sound common sense, and habits of hard work--therefore he will make a fine priest.

I think that transfer is disastrous. There is a different question, one proper to the priesthood as of its very essence, if not uniquely proper to it: Is this man weak enough to be a priest? Is this man deficient enough so that he cannot ward off significant suffering from his life, so that he lives with a certain amount of failure, so that he feels what it is to be an average man? Is there any history of confusion, of self-doubt, of interior anguish? Has he had to deal with fear, come to terms with frustrations, or accept deflated expectations? These are critical questions and they probe for weakness. Why? Because, according to Hebrews, it is in this deficiency, in this interior lack, in this weakness, that the efficacy of the ministry and priesthood of Christ lies.

"For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted ... For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning ... He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward since he himself is beset with weakness." (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15; 5:2).

How critically important it is for us to enter into the seriousness of this revelation, of this conjunction between priesthood and weakness, that we dwell upon deficiency as part of our vocation! Otherwise we can secularize our lives into an amalgam of desires and talents; and we can feel our weakness as a threat to our priesthood, as indicative that we should rethink what was previously resolved, as symptomatic that we were never genuinely called, that we do not have the resources to complete what we once thought was our destiny and which once spoke to our generosity and fidelity.

read the rest here.

with thanks to Rob Marsh, S.J. for the reminder

Friday, December 09, 2005

Narnia, Evangelicals & Catholics

I mentioned in the comments in a recent post the observations some are making these days about how some Catholics are starting to look like evangelicals, and some evangelicals like Catholics. Andrew Greeley expresses a similar thought in a discussion of Narnia in today's Chicago Sun Times:

it seems to me that the evangelicals slip dangerously close to Catholic idolatry when they embrace a wondrous allegory as a summary of the biblical story. Jesus is not and never was a lion like Aslan in the film. To interpret him as a lion is to go light years beyond literal, word-for-word inerrancy. The evangelical enthusiasm about the sufferings of Jesus in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" put them one step away, it seemed to me, from importing crucifixes and Stations of the Cross into their churches. I'm afraid that their enthusiasm for both films shows just how seductive the Catholic temptation is. We delight in pictures and stories and allegories and symbols and signs because they appeal to the whole human person and not just to the rigid, rational mind.

We are a church designed for the media age with its deluge of pictures and stories -- though we usually don't know what to do with the opportunity.

There are certainly risks in this Catholic imagination, superstition and idolatry among others -- though it does make the world a warmer and a more human place.

Gibson's imagination is certainly Catholic, though perhaps with a certain masochistic twist. In his retelling of the Gospel in allegorical form, C.S. Lewis goes back to the miracle and morality plays of the Middle Ages, in a sense as if the Reformation never happened.

However, I think someone should warn the evangelicals that they are playing with, one should excuse the expression, fire. They are drifting into an imaginative world where the Whore of Babylon lives and dominates. They had better beware. They are sliding towards oblivion on the day of the Rapture.

On the other hand, many Catholics ashamed of their imaginative heritage may be drifting in the opposite direction.

Hat tip to Amy Welborn.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Speculative Catholic has alerted me to an interesting facial-recognition site.
From a pool of about 2400 celebrities, according to the analysis of my photo, these are the celebrities I most resemble--Bogart being the highest percentage of the group, and Costner the lowest.
What do you think?
I'm not so sure, but I think Kirsten Dunst might be the closest match of the bunch!
I'm just happy that two of them star in two of my favorite movies--Casablanca, and Field of Dreams.

25 Years Without Dorothy Day

The New York Times
featured a nice little piece on the Catholic Worker today:

From the Bowery to Guantánamo With Dorothy Day

The Catholic Worker movement has now officially lasted 25 years beyond the death of its founder, Dorothy Day, and looks sturdy enough to last another 25.

There is something of a riddle in that. The harsh rules that limit the shelf lives of utopian impulses would seem to spell doom for an institution as shapeless and impractical as Day's. Lots of organizations want to lift up the poor, oppose war and reshape society, but few try to do so with no governing structure, no official means of support, no paid staff members and - since Day's death on Nov. 29, 1980 - no leader.

That oddity was on full display last week on the Lower East Side, where about 80 people - Catholic Worker members and former members, and their relatives and friends - gathered in a cramped, dingy auditorium at Maryhouse, the group's home for women on East Third Street, to celebrate a Mass in Day's memory.

The stage was closed off with white bedsheets draped on a string. Down in front, between a lectern and a Yamaha keyboard, a potted ficus and a table lamp gave the makeshift sanctuary the feeling of a living room. Pictures of Woody Guthrie, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. lined the walls. There was lots of rumpled gray hair and baggy overcoats, women in turtlenecks and men with canes, a few young couples, a child or two.

The motley gathering was at the literal center of commemorations for Day, the Greenwich Village bohemian and journalist who converted to Catholicism and founded the Catholic Worker in 1933 with a fellow radical, Peter Maurin. She spent her final years at Maryhouse, leaving behind a mountain of writings but not much else in the way of stuff or structure. Her movement has been called not an organization but an organism, an anarchic experiment whose most improbable achievement may be its own survival.

Members still dedicate themselves to voluntary poverty, nonviolence and hard work. They make soup, give away coats, visit prisoners and the sick, protest against war and publish a newspaper that sells, as it did in the 1930's, for a penny.

read the rest.

Shameless Self-Promotion: Just War, Lasting Peace

The latest issue of the Woodstock Theological Center's Woodstock Report includes an announcement of a forthcoming book, which I know you will all be very interested in!:

Woodstock's next book will be Just War, Lasting Peace, the results of a project undertaken in partnership with the U.S. Jesuit Conference. The book, to be released this spring by Orbis, originated with a November 2003 symposium sponsored by those two organizations.

While there is extensive debate over “the” just-war tradition, the forthcoming book examines three traditions or schools: that of strict non-violence or pacifism, the contemporary just-war perspective (which closely reflects developments in official Catholic teaching), and the classical just-war school. Noted proponents of the latter school have recently endorsed the idea of preventive warfare.

“We are aiming toward a broad audience, from college students and parishes to Sunday schools and justice-and-peace groups,” said senior fellow Dolores R. Leckey, the volume’s general editor. She collaborated with three coauthors: the Jesuit Conference’s John Kleiderer, Mark Mossa, S.J., and writer Paula Minaert.

More info on this and other upcoming Woodstock offerings can be found here.

The Pope Movie

CBS' John Paul II wasn't a masterpiece (a bit too episodic, the dialogue a bit hokey at times), but I have to admit that I did enjoy it.

As I got teary-eyed during a few of the scenes, it confirmed something that I've been suspecting lately--I'm still not quite over John Paul's death. As I find my theology studies challenging me, and setting me a bit adrift at times, I'm feeling the loss even more of the person who so long had been a constant in my faith life and experience of the Church.

I think Jon Voigt and Cary Elwes did pretty well with a very tough role.

(The Triangle was good too!)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Where Do You Read Your Blogs?

Hopefully not on the toilet.

Samantha Burns prefers that you not read hers there.

I'm inclined to agree (stick to the newspaper!).

Blogoversary Gift

Maggie asks, "What is the traditional gift for a one year blogoversary?"

HTML code, maybe?

But, if I can get serious for a second, I would be greatly honored if any of you might consider a gift to two institutions near and dear to my heart, both of whom are struggling financially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I understand that many of you have already given significant help to other Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. In that case, let this serve merely as a means to make you aware of a need, and something to pray for.

The cost of formation for the 40 or so men preparing for the priesthood (including myself) in my province is enormous, and Katrina dealt our province a significant financial blow. There are several ways that you can help us financially which you can find at the New Orleans province website.

Loyola University, New Orleans, where I worked for the last two years, has also been significantly impacted. This was exacerbated by the university's admirable decision to continue to pay salaries through the Fall semester. Classes will resume this January, but not without significant challenges and budget cuts. You can find out about opportunities to be of help to Loyola New Orleans at their website here.

Prayers always help, so please be generous with those!

(This is not a post for expressing negative opinions about Jesuits or Jesuit education, there are plenty of other places you can do that. In this case, if you are so tempted, I ask that you be respectfully silent. Thank you.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Happy Blogoversary To Me!

It's now been a year since my first post. Since then I've had approximately 15,000 visits to the site, and am now getting about 130 per day. By numbers commenting, here's a look back at some of my greatest hits:

Some Questions for Young Catholics

Piety, the Communion of Saints and Coincidence

Evil Distractions

Dangerous Devotions?

Our Seminarians, Young Brothers, and Young Priests

Who Said the Cafeteria is Closed?: Weighing Harry Potter Against the Iraq War

In the Presence of the Saints of God

How About a Caption for This One?

Vocatio Neo Maximus

Drawing Water, She Weighed Her Lines

Great Novels

Championing the Poor


Researching the Research on Young Catholics

Greatest Movie Lines . . . What's Missing?

From Liberal to Conservative to Uninvolved

Disease, Identity & God's Providence

A heartfelt thanks to all my visitors. Y'all come back!

Jesuit Mission & Identity

Here's a good example of why we need to do a better job promoting Jesuit mission and identity at our universities. The editors of the Boston College student newspaper seem to think that compassion and understanding are Jesuit ideals but not Catholic ones:

Because it has long been a goal of BC's to be not only one of the country's top universities, but also the premier Catholic university in America, it would seem not only logical, but required that the University should abide by these doctrines.

But the problem isn't that simple.

The question at this point is whether BC is willing to sacrifice its Jesuit ideals of compassion and understanding in order to stay in the good graces of the Vatican.


Maybe this also says that the Vatican needs to do a better job promoting its mission and identity?

Read the whole story.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Revisiting the Triangle

When I was a kid one of the things I enjoy reading about the most was unexplained phenomena. One thing that I read quite a bit about was the Bermuda triangle. There hasn't been too much talk about the Triangle in recent years, but tonight Scifi began a new miniseries called The Triangle. It's not one of its terrible low budget numbers like "Frankenfish." This one has some star power--Sam Neill, Eric Stoltz, Bruce Davison, Catherine Bell. I watched episode one tonight, and so far it's pretty good. They will repeat episode one tomorrow night at 7:00, followed by episode two at 9:00. Bryan Singer of X-Men and Superman Returns fame is producing it.

It's also nice to revisit my childhood fascination with mystery. Something we can all use reminding of now and then!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Disease, Identity & God's Providence

I was 20 years old when I had my first seizure. Talk about the worst time in life to learn that you have a chronic disease! Just when I was finally coming to some sense of who I was, who I was suddenly changed! There was no cure. The doctors couldn’t even identify precisely what was wrong. But, they said, I was probably going to have to get used to the fact that I was probably going to be this way the rest of my life. And, oh yeah, if I wanted to be healthy I was going to have to also probably take medication for the rest of my life, and there could be side effects. I didn’t take it well.

Instead, I was stubborn. If they couldn’t even tell me what was wrong (and if they didn’t even know precisely how the medication worked, just that it did), how could they say that this was going to be a lifetime condition! It could just be a freak occurrence. For a while I took the medication. But, since I was embarrassed to have a disease, I was very tight-lipped about it. Nobody needed to know how weak I’d become. I tried to pretend I wasn’t really sick. After a while on the medication, I convinced myself I wasn’t and stopped taking it. Things went OK for a couple of years after that, but then the seizures came back, three in quick succession. I missed a job interview, and later almost blinded myself in a racquetball game (thank God for safety goggles!). Eventually I resigned myself to going back on the medication permanently. And I started to admit to myself and to others that I had a disease. And I started asking God: why me?

When you suffer from epilepsy, it becomes part of your identity. Once you accept it, there’s always that possibility lurking that despite the fact that the medication has it under control, a seizure could always strike without warning. I live with the fear that one day, some trauma or strange sequence of events might set off a serious epileptic fit that might cause permanent damage. It can’t not be part of who I am. And once I did accept it, I discovered freedom, and even a reason.

Suddenly, I started having these seemingly coincidental encounters with people who, for unknown reasons, would share with me that they suffered from seizures. And it became clear to me that I had been placed in this situation to share my own experience of vulnerability and disease with them. I discovered the immediate intimacy, the holy intimacy, that can come from encountering someone who suffers as you do. No one else can speak to your situation in the same way. It started to become apparent that God aimed to bring some good out of my disease. That’s when I stopped asking God to take it away.

When I realized that God was calling me to become a priest, I was afraid my epilepsy might get in the way. Was a chronic illness an impediment to becoming a priest? I was almost afraid to ask, for fear that the answer might be yes. But I did ask, and I was assured that as long as my seizures were under control, it would not be a problem. God wasn’t setting me up for a disappointment.

While I generally don’t run around telling everyone I’m an epileptic, I find in many ways that my own experience of weakness and dependency as a result of it makes me a better minister to God’s people. Especially with those who are stubbornly facing the new reality of their weakness and disease as I did so many years ago. And, most especially, with people who are epileptic, as I am. I am amazed and humbled by how often God places me in these people’s lives and allows me to bring Christ to them.

My vocation as a Jesuit and my call to be a priest are so important in my life, and that vocation has been so enhanced by my experience of illness, I can hardly conceive of my identity without any of these things. If my epilepsy had been an impediment back then, or if for some reason it were to go out of control and prevent me from becoming a priest now, I would be crushed, I would be heartbroken. I would wonder how God would be so cruel to have led me on as he did. And I wouldn’t know who I am. These things are so inextricably linked to the core of my identity and, at least thus far, a clear indication of God’s providence. That’s why, though it may seem strange, I thank God for the gift of my disease, for the gift of my vocation and for the great privilege of serving God and his people. And I look forward to continuing to do so.

Passing on the Faith

Here I am, reporting from Rye, NY.

I'm at a meeting of the Fordham Center for American Catholic Studies' 3-year study on passing on the faith.

What a great crowd, about 100 people from places throughout the Church here to work together on how we can better pass on the faith to the younger generations. As you know if you're a regular blog reader, this is one of my passions. Members of the group will be publishing books and articles on the topic over the next few years. And we will be holding several symposia as well. So keep an eye out!

It's so great to spend a weekend with people who are concerned about the future of the Church and with better bringing Christ to our young people!

Please pray for our work!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Birthday Buddies

There are many people who have contributed to who I have become as a Jesuit, and I just realized that two of them share the same birthday!

So, Happy Birthday to my good friends:

Lisa Militello. Lisa and I worked together in youth ministry in South Carolina for several years. Lisa is a frequent guest speaker at the Steubenville conferences in the summer.

Fr. Eddie Gros, SJ. Eddie was one of my "bosses" for the last two years, and one of the greatest people in the world to work for. He's the Dean of University Ministry at Loyola New Orleans.

Many of my best ministry instincts are as a result of my work with these two friends and role models. So, I wish both of them a very Happy Birthday!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Check This One Out

I recently happened across an interesting blog. She's an artist, mom, grandmother and a nun!

You'll see that the name of her blog also has a certain affinity to mine, though that might not be apparent right away (so have a look!) : Flavor of the Month

The content of this site is the responsibility of its author and administrator, Mark Mossa, SJ, and does not necessarily represent the Society of Jesus