Monday, October 16, 2006

Faith and Charity

"Charity is accordingly said to be the form of faith, because it is through charity that the act of faith is made perfect, and brought to its form."

--St. Thomas Aquinas

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Not So Motivating

Well, a few of my friends have posted their entries for a motivational poster contest going on in the Catholic blogosphere. At first, I thought this might be kind of a fun thing to participate in. But then I went and looked at--admittedly only about half--of the entries in the "humorous" category. Now, I think I have got a pretty good sense of humor, but I can honestly say I didn't find any of them humorous--vicious, maybe, but not humorous. So, in that spirit, here's my "humorous" entry:

(and, just in case this is not clear, this is meant to be read satirically)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lucky 13 & the 30-day Retreat

Please pray for our New Orleans province novices (pictured above). The seven second-year men are off, each for six-week visits, to one of our high schools.

The six first-year men begin the 30-day silent retreat, following the Spiritual Exercises, today. Please pray especially for them. This is one of the most special and grace-filled, but also the one of the most challenging times of a Jesuit's life.


Monday, October 09, 2006

"Prison" Rules?


I’ve been watching Season One of “Prison Break.” When I first heard about the show I wondered if you could sustain a series basically centered around one main plot. So, I didn’t really take the time to watch it when it aired. But now, after watching 7 episodes, I think I might be hooked. I’m fascinated by the way each episode stands as part of a deliberate plan taking place in the midst of so many questionable variables. This means sometimes the potential kinks seem a bit contrived, but isn’t everything in a story really contrived in the end? It heightens the drama, even if the little twists that will put everything back on track seem a little bit predictable. But, so far, I’m interested in why those things are predictable. For example, one of these turned on the question of the warden’s integrity, and because you have a sense of his integrity, you can see it coming. That’s not so bad. Indeed, I find myself seeing under the surface of the narrative certain “rules” coming through. It seems absolutely imperative that even in the chaotic and immoral environment that is the prison, that the two main characters not be guilty of something that would impugn them in the eyes of the audience. So, for example, the success of any part of the plan cannot ride on them deliberately killing someone. When a guard discovers their plan, for example, it is impossible for them to kill him. But if, against their wishes, a character we already know to be depraved does it for them, then we can accept it. And their remorse even convinces us more of their moral worth. I wonder if the writers early on come up with a list of rules—what the main characters can or cannot do in pursuit of their goal. Or maybe it’s a bit more organic to the writing process—one writer says to another “Michael wouldn’t/couldn’t do that!” Maybe our TV writer friend Karen Hall could enlighten us on this?

Anyway, now you know what a nerd I am, when I seem more interested in how the story is written than the story itself! But if you’re thinking of watching, the story is pretty good too—especially with the ensemble cast they’ve created of breakout (no pun intended) actors with seasoned veterans like Stacy Keach and Peter Stormare.

"Wonderfully Untranslatable Exchanges"

If you teach college freshmen, you might want to check out my review of A Student's Guide to the Liberal Arts which appeared in the most recent issue of Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education. An excerpt:

". . . the essays are sufficiently dissimilar to appeal to students of various learning styles, while still managing to answer the question: Why on earth would I want to study that? My favorite, and one that is likely to have broad appeal among students, is M. Kathleen Madigan’s essay on “The Study of Language.” It made me eager to study another language! She shares passionately “How I Fell In Love With Languages” and offers a challenge “to think of your study of languages as a lifetime journey which will transform you and increase your understanding of your own language and culture, while enabling you to enter into wonderfully untranslatable exchanges with others.” This, in some ways, sums up the message of each of these essays."

The Flower of Imagination

"I was lucky as a child in being given a lot of solitude. Some of this was happenstance because of my father's illness and my lack of siblings. But it did provide me with an atmosphere in which imagination could flourish. And nobody told me it was childish to believe in angels. And so I was able to do a few impossible things.

For instance: when I was a small child, visiting my grandmother at her beach cottage, I used to go down the winding stairs without touching them. This was a special joy to me. I think I went up the regular way, but I came down without touching. Perhaps it was because I was used to thinking things over in solitude that it never occurred to me to tell anybody about this marvelous thing, and because I never told it, nobody told me it was impossible.

When I was twelve we went to Europe to live, hoping the air of the Alps might help my father's lungs. I was fourteen when we returned, and went to stay with my grandmother at the beach. The first thing I did when I found myself alone was to go to the top of the stairs. And I could no longer go down them without touching. I had forgotten how.

Did I, in fact, ever go down those winding stairs without touching them? I am convinced that I did. And during the years enough people have timidly told me of "impossible" things they have done that I am convinced that the impossible is open to far more people than we realize--mostly because we are fearful of being ridiculed if we talk about it. Ridicule is a terrible witherer of the flower of imagination. It binds us where we should be free."

--Madeleine L'Engle

Wisdom From Miss Flannery

“I think most people come to the Church by means the Church does not allow, else there would be no need for getting to her at all. However, this is true inside as well, as the operation of the Church is entirely set up for the sinner; which creates much misunderstanding among the smug.”

--Flannery O’ Connor

Friday, October 06, 2006

New Deacons, My Visit to Georgetown

Saturday, October 7 is diaconate ordination day here at Weston. Please pray for the Jesuits and Capuchins who will be ordained here in Cambridge.

I'm looking forward to the Mass, and am conscious of the fact that this means that my diaconate ordination is only a year away!


The Georgetown panel was interesting, though people didn't quite keep to their five-minute limit. So, when it came time for me to speak, I was asked to sum up what I was going to say in 30 seconds! It took some of the pressure off, but also had me wondering a little why I came all the way from Boston to do that!

But, alas, it wasn't for naught. Post-presentation I had a number of very good one-on-one conversations with people who had come for the panel. I even signed a few books! I was especially moved by one young man who is at Georgetown after having spent a year with the military in Iraq. Just war theory offers no easy answers when you're in the middle of a war! I wish I'd had more time to hear his story. And, maybe I will, he's interested in the Jesuits!

Happy Columbus Day weekend!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Just War in Washington

I'm sitting on a panel at Georgetown University this Wednesday. If you're in the Washington area, come out and see us! Here's the details:

Crucial Questions: What makes a war just? What makes peace possible?

This forum will expand the discussion found in the new book Just War, Lasting Peace: What Christian Traditions Can Teach Us.

Ongoing serious conversations seem crucial in light of our national security doctrine which emphasizes preemptive war and preventive war. Equally important is an exploration of ways individuals and groups can engage in peacemaking.

Panelists include: Dolores Leckey, John Kleiderer, Mary Ann Cusimano Love, Mary Dennis, Mark Mossa, Robert Royal. Reception and book-signing immediately follows.

Sponsored by the Woodstock Theological Center. Admission is free. 202-687-3532

Bunn Intercultural Center Auditorium, Georgetown University

October 4, 2006 7:30pm

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I'm Back, Sort Of

So, last week a Jesuit friend asked me, “Do you miss the blog?” My answer, though I think this was the first time I articulated it, was quick and, given my experience of the last month and a half or so, unsurprising: “Not at all.” Now, before you take offense, this is not to say that I don’t miss my interaction with the many wonderful people that make up my “blogging community.” And the e-mails that I’ve received lately from many of you have served to remind me of my affection for you. But I think it was especially during the uproar over the Pope’s recent remarks that it really hit me—how refreshing it was not to be connected to the Catholic blogosphere during such a moment. How refreshing it was to be free of the exaggerated sense of importance that so many things take on in that milieu. I just tried to read a couple of blogs, even some of my favorite ones, and I couldn’t generate a lot of energy or interest. I know now that it is unlikely that I will return to the level of blog reading/writing that I had gotten to. And I’m still unsure, as a result, what shape this blog might take from this point forward. Since Doubleday has now taken to sending me free books, I suppose I’ll have to throw up the occasional book review. So, look for some comments on Saints Behaving Badly and The Catholic Home (which just arrived yesterday) some time in the near future. What you can count on is that my blogging will be far from regular, more sporadic than before. My blogging will also less concerned with the fights, arguments and rants of fellow bloggers (as I will be reading fewer blogs, and with far less frequency). It’s not because I don’t love you, I just need to focus a lot of my energy on other things as I prepare to be ordained a deacon in a year, and a priest some eight months after that. I’ve got about 10-15 hours of reading to do each week for class, not to mention the commitments of my apostolic work. There are also class papers, articles and books to write. Taking a break from the blog has allowed me to find some balance in all that (except, of course, this week which is going to be crazy!). I need to try to maintain that balance.

So, expect to hear from me from time to time, but in ways that will be a little more low-key. My deepest thanks for all your expressions of support and encouragement! God bless you.

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