Wednesday, March 26, 2008

George Weigel & the Jesuit Charism

I had this to say in response to George Weigel's column for the week of February 20, "Questions for Father General":

And, yes, the 'broad brush' approach of Weigel and Neuhaus suggest that they are not really interested in seeing what is good in the Society of Jesus. And the fact that they keep trotting out the same tired examples of what they take to be indications of overall Jesuit failure says to me that they are not really interested in looking any deeper.

While I expect that George Weigel cares little about my opinion, I am happy to stand corrected, to an extent, by his latest column, "The Ignatian Possibility Today." In it he offers, while not wholly uncritical, a refreshingly positive view of the Society of Jesus and what the Society has to offer the Church.

In my ten years as a Jesuit I have become convinced that we find ourselves at a time when the life and spirituality inspired by Saint Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises are needed more than ever. This is a gift to the Church and the world that the Society of Jesus is uniquely qualified to offer. I think this is something of what Weigel is trying to get at it when he suggests that the Jesuit religious charism might be seen as something permanent. However, from my perspective, the question of whether it is permanent isn't as important as my conviction of its necessity now, and that is why the stakes are so high for the future of the Society of Jesus (a future that I am much more optimistic about than some).

Indeed, I am not saddened by the anecdote with which Weigel begins his article, surprised and saddened as he was by the fact that a few Jesuit interlocutors were not convinced of the permanence of the Jesuit charism. For me, it represents the very humility which Ignatius himself had and encouraged in his companions. Ignatius encourages us not to be passionless about the future or the permanence of the Society, but to be indifferent about it. Ignatius expressed his awareness of the possibility that there might come a time when God no longer had use for the Society and, if that time should come, that Jesuits should recognize it as sure a sign of God's will as was his institution of the Society. I am happy to agree with Weigel that this time has not come, and is unlikely to come soon (as much as our detractors would like it to be so). The Pope, in his gracious and encouraging words to our recent General Congregation, affirmed that the Church is still very much in need of what we Jesuits have to offer.

Still questions about what shape this future contribution will take certainly remain. Both the Pope and Cardinal Rode spoke of the need for Jesuits to continue to engage the "frontiers" of the Church and the world, despite the attendant risks. Their challenge was also clear for us to further our understanding of all aspects of our charism, including the sentir cum ecclesiae ('thinking with the Church') and our fourth vow of obedience to the Pope with regard to mission. These are as much aspects of our charism as the service of faith and the promotion of justice, aspects deserving of more reflection.

Pope Benedict also pointed to the enduring nature of our charism by affirming the words of Paul VI: "Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme fields, at the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, there has been and there is confrontation between the burning exigencies of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, here also there have been, and there are, Jesuits." If our charism is indeed to be permanent, I believe that Paul VI also aptly expressed here what must be one of its enduring characteristics.

I have said more than Weigel does in his column, but I hope it to be in the same spirit. Obviously, I am a Jesuit and he is not, so there is a bit of difference in perspective. But, nevertheless, I am happy to say that I share in his concluding conviction:

Like my column, my work with Jesuits has been an expression of my conviction that the Ignatian charism ought to be a permanent one— and my hope that the community which gave the Church such heroes as Francis Xavier, Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell, Isaac Jogues, Miguel Pro, and Alfred Delp might be renewed in the image of their radical fidelity.

A.M.D.G., indeed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Strife is O'er

Only in the Church can the acronym STD signal good news.

My immediate future is beginning to take shape. I'm more than halfway through my final semester as a seminarian. Ordination is less than three months away. I've made plans to spend the summer in Frankfurt (Germany, not Kentucky) to study German and serve as a priest at an English-speaking parish. And, in August I will be returning to Boston to begin my studies for and STD (Doctor of Sacred Theology) in Moral Theology at the new Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Yippee!

Thanks to everyone for your prayers in recent months!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Painting Update

I've got a line on the painting! It's called "San Ignacio de Loyola y la Santisima Trinidad," and it is attributed to an 18th century Mexican painter named Francisco Martinez. It's on display at a small museum in Mexico, and I've gotten a hold of someone there. There's a possible that they might be able to get me the high quality digital image of it that I've been looking for! Keeping my fingers crossed.

Uma, Oprah, Mossa, Massa

Some of you are aware that, save for one vowel, I share a name in common with another Jesuit, I being Mark S. Mossa, S.J. and he being Mark S. Massa, S.J. (this is why I tend not to use my middle initial when I write). Some have even speculated that we may in fact be the same person. To prove those conspiracy theorists wrong, we took a photo together when Mark visited here for a lecture this past month. We are so often confused by people--not because we look alike--that I often say that it is a good thing I like him. One of these days, however, I think we'll have to write a book together just to confuse everyone further.

Reflections On Being a Deacon

I haven't been doing much extra-curricular writing lately, but I did contribute a short piece to our province magazine recently. The photo with the article is from my trip to the March for Life Last year. Here's another with a couple of my companions on the trip (it was cold).

You can read the article here. It's on page 7.

Painful Irony

Yesterday was an interesting day. I finally received the official regret letter from that University in Indiana. A friend here who also faired similarly with them commented that because of the way their process works, “you get to get rejected twice.” Yesterday was also the day that the committee met to consider the STD applications, so I was a bit on edge all day about the results of that process. I think I should know by Monday.

However, in the midst of all this, I got blindsided by something I could never have imagined. It started innocently enough. I received an e-mail from a friend saying “I was reading so-and-so’s blog and was wondering if maybe you are the Jesuit at Weston with the many aliases making nasty comments on her blog?” Now I hadn’t even read a blog in weeks and, because I know that the person he was referring to knows me pretty well, I immediately wrote back saying that it couldn’t possibly be me the person was referring to as that person knows that I never comment under an alias and that furthermore I’m in the habit of writing things I do have to say in private personal e-mails rather than in comboxes. I almost left it at that.

I’m glad for the sake of the truth that I didn’t, though not for the sake of my feelings. I found the post he was referring to and, indeed, though my name was never mentioned it was clear to anyone who has been paying attention whom was being referred to—unbelievably, me! The accusation was so vile that I could hardly believe what I was reading. That I wrote things about this person’s family. That I had made comments about that person’s appearance. Things that I have never done, nor ever would do. As one of the commentors suggested, a simple e-mail or phone call would have been enough to learn that this certainly was not the case. Whether there should have been any doubt to begin with is of equal concern.

So, I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon feeling hurt and violated. How could someone, especially someone with whom over the past few years I’ve shared some pretty intimate things with, even begin to think me capable of something like this? And, though thankfully there were a couple voices of reason among the commentors on that post suggesting that perhaps that person had sped too hastily to judgment based on scant evidence and without even simply asking me, there were also those who were all too eager to believe it. That I could be so unthoughtfully lumped in with the many in the blogosphere who make such comments regularly and revel in them—far too many—is not only personally painful, but also causes me great concern. I fear that such nastiness has become so a part of even Catholic blog culture that it may be too easy to think someone guilty of such unchristian behavior than to give him or her the benefit of the doubt. So, one can react without having all the facts, and without any thought as to how painful this might be for the person under attack, especially if one has gotten it wrong.

I once had dreams that I could bring something positive and helpful to this Catholic blogosphere, but this is a crushing blow. The person has already apologized to me personally, and for that I am thankful. But I’m still waiting for an apology as public and as extensive as the attack that was made on me. That will go a long way toward healing our friendship, and maybe do the blogosphere a bit of good. We’ll see . . .

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hope for the Less Focused Among Us

Fr. Michael Heller, this year's winner of the Templeton Prize, has this to say:

"It is my little joke that my main drawback is I am interested in too many things," Heller modestly told the Ottawa Citizen in an interview. "So my talents, if I have any, are too-easily dissipated into too many things."

Read more

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Any Art Experts Out There?

Props and my enduring gratitude to anyone who can identify the artist and/or location (the physical location, not the world wide web location) of the painting below. Thanks!

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