Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Vision Article

Maggie objected to my use of the word "last" in that previous post. So, I thought I'd just throw up a link to my latest article in the Vision vocation guide, "Where My Call to Priesthood Has Taken Me." (It's on page 12 of the pdf file, page 70 of the magazine) Peace.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

One Last Thing . . .

My little sister has decided to venture into the blogosphere, so she'll be picking up some of the slack in my absence.

Check her out at I Can't Find My Other Sock.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Proclaiming a Fast

This week I've received more than the usual amount of spontaneous expressions of appreciation for my blog from readers I'm meeting for the first time, from new readers, and from those of you that have been faithful companions in the past 20 months or so since I started the blog. I am humbled, and thankful that God has been able to make use of my contributions to this blog to touch people's lives. Thank you so much.

But this outpouring of appreciation comes at something of an awkward time. You see, one of the decisions that I came to during my recent retreat was to begin a temporary fast from all non-essential internet use through the end of September. That would include taking a break from the blog. It would also involve a break from reading other blogs, so be nice to me while I'm gone. During this time I hope to engage in some discernment about several issues.

The first involves recognition of the fact that with my studies and the other writing I'm doing (including a book I have to finish writing), I am already spending a lot of time sitting on my butt in front of a computer. My internet time only increases that, by a significant amount. This also takes away from the time that I am out there interacting with people both socially and ministerially. I need to be doing more of that. I also realize that much of what I write about comes from these kind of interactions. So, the less I have of that sort of thing, the less I have to write about. This presents a problem.

I also, as I mentioned in the previous post, would like to discern how I might make better use of the internet to reach those who are not connected with the Church and try to bring Christ to them. As much as I love the kind of things I've been able to do with the blog, and the wonderful community of friends I have discovered as a result, it still seems that much of what I'm doing is "preaching to the choir." So, I'd like to explore possibilities for a more deliberate evangelical outreach on the internet, perhaps with the contributions of some others, hopefully including some of my brother Jesuits.

Finally, I do have something of an addictive personality and have become concerned about my growing obsession with things like who's reading my blog, how many people are reading my blog, where they are reading from, etc. You'll notice I've removed my sitemeter. And I've also been spending an increasing amount of time on the internet in general, and I want to examine that and be sure that I can continue to use the internet in a way that is healthy and not excessive.

So, I guess you could say I'm taking a blog sabbatical. But the blog is not going anywhere, and will still continue to be available. You can also e-mail me via the link in my profile should you want to get in touch with me--I can't really give up e-mail, so that I will still be keeping track of.

Feel free to e-mail me prayer requests, as I also hope to be devoting more time to prayer during this time. You can also add them to the New Orleans Province prayer circle.

I will also be getting on-line to maintain my NetFlix account. So, if you'd like to be one of my NetFlix friends, send me an invitation (just so long as you're not scandalized by a Jesuit watching R-rated movies).

In the meantime, check out my latest article in the Vision vocation guide, which I think is already available in some places.

Most of all, please keep this discernment process in your prayers, and I will update you all at the end of September. God bless you all.



Mountain Retreat

My escape from L.A. brought me to Denver. The Denver airport had a post office, so I took the opportunity to buy myself a set of those "super stamps" I referred to in a previous post. Then we made our way to Sacred Heart Retreat House in Sedalia, CO. If you're looking for a nice place to make a retreat, I recommend it.

Thus began our 16 day "Arrupe Experience." About a week of discussion of issues related to priesthood, with a group of guest speakers which included recently ordained priests, a Scripture scholar who spoke about scriptural foundations of priesthood and a retired Bishop who shared insights from his perspective. Really helpful stuff.

Some of also took in a Colorado Rockies baseball game, and I even got out with a few of the other guys to see My Super Ex-Girlfriend and Miami Vice. The first is good for a laugh and, while not true of all in my party, I laughed a lot. The latter is intense, stylish, beautifully shot and, despite being confusing at points, was a good action flick. Very different, however, from the TV show.

I also had the opportunity to get to know a local couple who joined us several days for Mass, Janice and Ed Connell. It was one of those chance meetings in which we discovered we had mutual friends and struck up a friendship ourselves. Jan is the author of several books on Marian themes. The meeting seemed somewhat providential, so I'm guessing that there's still more to come of it.

Well, after all that came our eight days of silent retreat, which brought many graces and consolations. I feel pretty affirmed in my call to priesthood, but Jesus had a few suggestions to make about how I might further prepare myself for ordination. Personally, I hope to commit to taking advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation more often. I also explored a desire I feel to do more in the way of evangelization, especially to young adults who aren't connected with the Church for whatever reason. After the retreat finished, we had an opportunity to share some of the graces of our retreats with each other in small groups. It's always such a privilege and a grace to hear how God is working in the lives of others!

It was a beautiful time, in a beautiful setting. Please pray with me that the graces of my retreat, and of those of my brother Jesuits, will help us in the coming years to be the priests that God wishes us to become, and that the Church needs.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Iggy in Seattle, Escape from L.A.

My travels of the last month or so have held many blessings. A quick rundown on events of my first couple of weeks:

I attended the Ignatian Spirituality Institute at Seattle University. There were far more lay people than Jesuits at the conference, and it was wonderful to see so many people excited about Ignatius and The Exercises! It was my first visit to Seattle—what a fascinating and beautiful place, if but a bit on the new agey side.

While in Seattle, I had the great privilege of meeting Matthew Fish. Matthew actually entered the Jesuits the same year I did, right after he finished high school, but soon left. Now, older and wiser, he will be teaching at our Jesuit High School in Dallas while considering joining us again, this time in my very own New Orleans province. I hope to welcome him next summer!

I also, at long last, got to meet Susan Francois, that musing discerning woman. We had time for a spot of brunch, and she was kind enough to give me a ride to the airport. We had a good few hours to chat and to allow me a bit more of a look at Seattle. It was great to catch up, and to be with Susan as she approaches that daunting day of entrance into religious life. She was a joy to be with, and I’m sure her fellow sisters will think so as well. I hope to catch her again on a future tour of New Jersey, where she’ll be making her novitiate.

From there I spent several days staying at our Jesuit parish in Hollywood while visiting my brother, his wife, and their two-year old twins, Sam and Ellie. As I walked the street of Hollywood the night I arrived, I was a bit overwhelmed. It’s a strange mixture of wealth, aspiration and poverty, and you can feel it all coming at you at once. I ducked into a local establishment for a bite to eat and was a bit disturbed when, as a homeless man entered the store, one of the women at the counter said repeatedly and loudly to him across the dining room, “I need you to leave.” It instilled in me a strange mixture of relief and shame.

Sam and Ellie are such a joy. And, as you can imagine, they have lots of energy! We had lots of fun visiting the aquarium, going to the beach and walking around Santa Monica. They live in the valley north of L.A., and while I was there they broke a temperature record—it reached 119! I especially enjoyed the bed time ritual my brother and his wife have with the kids. There is a bit of silly athletic jumping around, each trying to best imitate the other, followed by settling down into story time. We’d read some three or four books of their choice, to the sound of a soothing music mix that my brother plays every night. Kisses and hugs, etc. I can’t wait for the next visit. It probably won’t be until at least next summer. In the meantime, they are expecting another addition to the family soon!

And here’s the story of how I was almost trapped in L.A. I had an early flight, and had to return a rental car. So, departure from the parish was about 4:45 am. The parking lot is surrounded by fences, with several gates. I checked to make sure I would be able to get out, and was told that one of the gates, though closed, is never locked. It’s just a matter of getting out of the car, and opening the gate, driving out, then closing it again. So, that morning I got all my stuff together, returned my house key to the appropriate box, and left the building. Put the stuff in the car, drove up to the gate, and it was very clearly locked, and chained. Thinking maybe I got the info wrong, I drove to each of the other gates, and found each of them locked. And, remember, I can’t go back into the house, because I had to return the key before I left. So, imagine Mark in the parking lot at just short of 5 am in the morning, standing below the windows of the Jesuit house, screaming in hope that someone might wake up. Thankfully, they don’t have air conditioning, and some of the windows were open. So, I did manage to wake someone up. However, it still took a little while as the person I woke up came down, having been assured by the superior that the gate was never locked, to see for himself. He found it just as I did. So, then, we had to get the superior who, thankfully, was able to find a key for the mystery lock on his key chain. But, by then I had lost a good 20 minutes or so. Before getting to the airport I had to fill the car with gas, endure a cranky rental car shuttle driver, and, of course, my airline was the last of the stops. Somehow, miraculously, I was able to arrive at my gate while the plane was still boarding.

I’ll follow up with another post about our experience in Colorado . . .

One Book . . .

During my silence, Maggie tagged me with the one book meme. So, here goes:

One Book that changed your life:

The Spiritual Exercises by Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Not exactly a book to curl up at the beach with. It's more of a guide for the retreat director and retreatant. But no single text has had or continues to have more of an impact on my life than this one.

One Book that you have read more than once:

Poverty of Spirit by Johannes Metz. A short book that everyone would do well to read at least once. I reread it every few years.

One Book you'd want on a desert island.

The Bible. If I'm going to be stuck there for a while, this is the one book that I'm sure will continually surprise me. Some passages, no matter how many times that you've read them, always seem to hold something new.

One Book that made you laugh.

The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. One of the funniest books ever!

One Book that made you cry.

Traveling Mercies by Anne LaMott. Actually, this could easily have been in the previous category as well. This is a book of great spiritual depth and honesty which disarmingly can have one roaring with laughter on one page, and weeping the next! One of the best spiritual books of the last 10-15 years.

One Book you wish would have been written.

A follow-up to A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller. One of the best sci-fi books of all time. It's a shame we didn't have more from Mr. Miller.

One Book you wish had never been written.

The Davinci Code by Dan Brown. I actually haven't read the book, but if it had not been written it would have saved me sitting through that terrible movie!

One Book you are currently reading.

What is the Point of Being a Christian? by Timothy Radcliffe, OP. This former Master of the Dominicans is one of the wisest and most insightful men I know when it comes to Church matters this days, and just basics of the Christian life. This is a new book which offers sage insights and advice about many of the Christian church's current challenges. Note: This is pretty high praise coming from a Jesuit!

One Book that you have been meaning to read.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Yes, this is the book that I am ashamed to admit that I haven't read ("You haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird!" people say in shocked disbelief). One of the major gaps in my literary education.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

New Novices & Vovendi!

While you are praying for us, please remember these guys as well!

Seven men have been approved to enter the Jesuit Novitiate of the New Orleans Province as the Class of 2006. These Novices will arrive at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, on August 14, 2006:

Paul Frederick, Jr.

Marc Fryer

Ricky Hinkley

John Hough

Stephen Pitts

Scott Smith

Sylvester Tran

"To speak in general of those who should be admitted, the greater the number of natural and infused gifts someone has from God our Lord which are useful for what the Society aims at in his divine service, and the more experience the candidate has in the use of these gifts, the more suitable will he be for reception into the Society."

-- St. Ignatius, Constitutions of the Society of Jesus

Check out their bios here.

Also, please remember the five New Orleans province Jesuits who will be pronouncing their first vows on August 15:

Carlos Esparza

Randy Gibbens

Joe Hill

John Nugent

Pepe Ruiz

You can read their bios here.

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