Thursday, May 26, 2005
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
1. Total Number of Books I've Owned. Impossible to Calculate. Though, technically, I don’t own any books now, still there’s probably a couple hundred in my room.
2. Last Book I Bought. I just bought several at once:
The Chicago Manual of Style
Memory and Identity by John Paul II
Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Making Us Smarter by Steven Johnson
Getting a Life: How To Find Your True Vocation by Renee LaReau
3. Last Book I Read. I’m usually reading several at once, so here’s the latest:
How To Be Good by Nick Hornby
Swimming With Scapulars by Matthew Lickona
The Autobiography of Saint Ignatius of Loyola
4. Five (Six) Books That Mean A Lot to Me.
The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (politics aside, it’s a good read)
The Autobiography of Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Poverty of Spirit by Johannes Metz
The Confessions of St. Augustine
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
5. Tag five people and have them do this on their blog.
· Letters to Ryan
· Living Bread
· Some Have Hats
· Musings of a Discerning Woman
· Sister Christer
Sunday, May 08, 2005
On "Loyal Opposition"
The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of another Catholic journal based in New York, First Things, which is more conservative than America, said yesterday, "It would be fair to say that during the pontificate of John Paul II that America apparently saw itself or at least certainly read as a magazine of what some would describe as the loyal opposition. And, needless to say, there's dispute over the definition of 'loyal' and the definition of 'opposition.' "
I'm not sure what to make of Fr. Neuhaus' comments. As a Jesuit, I often look to Saint Ignatius for guidance about such things. Karen Hall points out on her blog that Saint Ignatius is famous for saying:
"To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls. Because by the same Spirit and our Lord Who gave the ten Commandments, our holy Mother the Church is directed and governed".
However, in practice, Saint Ignatius, though with intent to be obedient in the end, would not back down when he believed it was God's will that he should oppose something being proposed by the Church. For example, some in the Church thought the name Society of Jesus too presumptuous and sought to have it changed. But Ignatius was convinced that name was God's will and strongly opposed any such attempts. Saint Ignatius also required that a Jesuit who had serious reservations about something that was being asked of him by a superior make that reservation known and explain why he thought God's will might be otherwise. The superior might still insist, and the Jesuit, then, would be expected to obey, but it is the Jesuit's responsibility to be open to his superiors in this way, so that the superior might best make the decision in accordance with God's will.
One story which I think well illustrates Saint Ignatius' "loyal opposition" was during the time when some were seeking to make St. Francis Borgia, a Jesuit, a cardinal. St. Ignatius gave the matter considerable prayer, and then wrote the following to Borgia:
“I have felt, and now feel, that it is God’s will that I oppose this move. Even though others might think otherwise, and bestow this dignity on you, I do not see there would be any contradiction, since the same Spirit could move me to this action for certain reasons and others to the contrary for other reasons, and thus bring about the result desired by the emperor.”
I think the key to both quotes are the words "same Spirit."
May that same Spirit be with us all!
Saturday, May 07, 2005
On the Changes at America, With Thanks to Fr. Reese
I had the privilege of working with Tom Reese last summer. He’s a fine man, a fine priest, a fine Jesuit and a fine editor. I sat in on editorial meetings, and I know that Tom always did his best to offer a variety of perspectives on many topics, and also that he was very careful not to publish anything that he thought Rome might disapprove of. Those are hard calls to make sometimes, especially when your magazine is meant to engage intellectually and critically many aspects of Catholic life. He did not back down from controversial issues, but he also tried his best to place appropriate limits on the content of articles on such issues. In my experience, if anything, he was too careful sometimes. As a Jesuit and writer myself, I know all too well that fine line we walk as journalists and intellectuals who are also representatives of the Church. One can love the Church and still be critical of it sometimes, as Tom does, and as I do. And, frankly, we don’t always know if we’ve stepped over the line until we’ve done it, as Tom did discover on a couple of occasions during his tenure as editor.
That said, the average term for a Jesuit assignment is usually about six years, so it’s really not so unusual that Tom would be moving on at this point. Tom brought a lot of good things to America magazine, but any magazine has to guard against becoming stale, as might happen if one editor is there too long. I’m sure Drew Christiansen as the new editor will offer things to the magazine that Tom couldn’t, and thus the magazine will grow.
I’m thankful for the good job that Tom has done as editor of America, and the only reason I’d be concerned about the circumstances of his departure is if he was hurt by it and he felt that his integrity was being impugned. I hope that’s not the case. But, if it is, I still wouldn’t be looking for the “Tom Reese expose.”
I think we all should just say, Thank you, Father Reese, for dedicating several years of your life in service to the Church to being editor of America. It wasn’t an easy job, and you did it well.
Monday, May 02, 2005
The reading today from John’s Gospel might well be referred to as the beginning of “The Long Goodbye.” Because the short reading we just heard come from a much longer discourse in which Jesus is basically saying goodbye to his friends. It lasts for about five chapters. Repeatedly, Jesus tells them, hey, by the way, did you know I’m not going to be around much longer. But don’t worry it will be OK. Just keep doing that stuff that I told you to do. And don’t worry we’ll see each other again. And besides, there’s this holy spirit that’s kind of going to take my place, and make sure everything is OK. Really, I have to go, and besides, it’s better that I go, because if I don’t go, then the Holy Spirit won’t be able to come, and so just remember you’re my friends, and keep doing what I said, and you’ll be OK, and don’t forget, the Holy Spirit, I’m leaving you with the Spirit, and then, you know, eventually, we’ll be together again, cause, well, you’re my friends, so don’t be afraid, don’t worry, it’ll be OK.
After a while, you wonder: Is Jesus trying to convince them? Or is he trying to convince himself? Maybe you’ve had a similar conversation recently? Or maybe it’s time for you to have one? I know in my final days here at Loyola, I’ve been kind of avoiding these conversations myself.
So, I’ve been thinking, maybe today’s readings are helpful. Maybe it’s helpful to think that we’re not alone in feeling this way. Maybe it’s helpful to realize that it seems like, maybe, Jesus had trouble letting go, too.
But let’s stop and think for a minute. Is Jesus’ goodbye really about letting go? Of course Jesus was sad at the prospect of losing his friends! He was human, after all. But he also knew what one senior told me he learned here at Loyola: “not to be afraid of hard times, because suffering is what makes you stronger, more at peace, wiser and comes with the acceptance that this strength isn’t ‘of me,’ rather it is the strength that comes from allowing who I am to become whom I am designed to be.” Jesus had to become who he was meant to be, and so did the Apostles, and that meant a painful separation. But Jesus wanted to assure his friends, himself and us who like the Apostles, gather around this table with him today, that we have been given a gift--the gift of Jesus, the gift of each other, manifested in that Holy Spirit which he left us to guide us into becoming all that God wishes us to be.
Jesus’ message, though couched in sadness, the pain of separation and absence, and the fear of an uncertain future is ultimately one of hope: “I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you. I live and you will live also.” If we love God, if we are believers in God’s plan, then we know that “goodbye” is just a necessary step in coming closer to what God wants for each one of us. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not sad, or painful, or scary.
The second reading from the first letter of Peter speaks of hope. We are called tonight to be people of hope. And can we really be hopeful if we are not sometimes sad, unsure or afraid? Saint Peter begins by urging us to “sanctify Christ in your heart.” Because our hope is in Christ who despite the pain of leaving his friends and in spite of his fears, went forward in hope, “graduating” into the future that God had planned for him, a “graduation” that each of us is called to imitate according to whatever hope God holds for you and I. Each of us must make it our business to come to know that hope which God has for us. How else can we be prepared to do what St. Peter says we must: In today’s reading he says:
“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”
So, I ask you: What is the reason for your hope?
Perhaps your answer is like the one I heard from another senior. She told me:
“I would have to say that the greatest gift I have received while at Loyola is gratitude. I have been so blessed with wonderful friends, classes, activities, and experiences. I know that all of my blessings come from God and that I should do everything in my power to use them to glorify God.”
What is the reason for your hope? Maybe it’s something like mine.
I came to Loyola about two years ago, hopeful but also fearful. Things had not gone well in my previous job. I’d put all I could into making it successful, and though I had some successes, I had to admit at the end of the year that overall the job had been a failure. Though I still felt confident that God was calling me to be a Jesuit, the experience of that year had made others uncertain. That’s when a job offer came from Loyola. That’s when I met many of you in the classroom, in the quad or on retreats. You shared with me, some of you, your love for learning, your sadness and your struggles, and your joys and your hopes, and I was able to share mine with you. And through that joy of discovery and pain of loss I shared, gratefully, with many people in this chapel, and many others besides, I discovered what it means to be a priest and a renewed hope and desire for that vocation which in these days I graduate to as I move on to my final stage of studies.
What is the reason for your hope?
Perhaps it’s something even more simple. Look around you, at the people here with you, and perhaps it is as simple as the words to a song I heard today as In was preparing this reflection that seemed, like the Gospel reading, particularly appropriate:
It goes something like this:
Hey kid . . . your time has come to change . . .
Though I need you more than I’ve needed anyone in anyway tonight.
Hey kid . . . I know it won’t be long
The Captain’s calling . . . Come to see you back where we belong.
Something inside me is breaking
Something inside says there’s somewhere better than this
Sunset sailing on April skies
Bloodshot fire clouds in your eyes
I can’t say what I might believe
But if God made you . . .
He’s in love with me
(“If God Made You” by Five for Fighting)