Jesuits are Pro-Life

January 30, 2010

It might be a little late to write a post on the March for Life this year, but I feel that as a blog made up of Jesuit writers, we have to take every opportunity we can get to clear up the name of at least many Jesuits.  The Society of Jesus is pro-life.  There are some Jesuits who are not, such as the late Robert Drinan.  But that is the exception, not the rule. Consider these numbers, which would have been unheard of ten years ago: A mass was held – as it has been held for the past seven years or so -at St. Aloysius Church on North Captitol.  It was for students from Jesuit high schools and univiersities around the United States.  This year the church was more filled than I have every seen it.  The balcony was full, the pews were full, the homily was powerful, and the music was inspired.  It was amazing.  Fifteen men came down from the Jesuit philosophate at Fordham University in New York.  That was half the house of one of three philosophates in the United States for Jesuits. Read the rest of this entry »

Holden Caulfield: Annoying and Necessary

January 29, 2010

Ironically Catcher in the Rye is now part of the establishment. It still sells 250,000 copies a year. School kids buy, I would imagine, many of those copies for their summer reading or their classes during the year. In fact, I taught the book to sophomores for two years during my regency in Tampa, Fla. I required students to analyze and then write about the many elements of Holden Caulfield’s character, his motivations, his successes and his shortcomings. I required students to sit in small groups and discuss the reliability of this narrator Holden. As they discussed, I awarded points to students supported their opinions with quotes from the text. I awarded points to students who directly responded to something another student had just said. There were points for particularly insightful comments that elicited discussion from the whole group. There were points for just about anything that facilitated more discussion and “deeper” analysis. I gave quizzes after each reading assignment on the minutiae of the book–albeit important minutiae.  See how you do:

1. In what U.S. state does the novel begin?

2. What’s the name of the prep school from which he is most recently expelled?

3. How tall is Holden, and what color is his hair?

4. What brand of luggage does Holden carry?

5. Holden’s imagination is captured by which animals in Central Park?

6. According to Holden, what are Catholics always trying to do?

You can put down your pencils now and pass your papers to the student beside you. — Read the rest of this entry »

Bl. Matteo Ricci?

January 28, 2010


A news item: several sources suggest that the cause of Fr. Matteo Ricci, SJ (1552-1610) is moving forward due to the renewed interest of Bishop Claudio Giuliodori of Macerata, the diocese of Ricci’s birth.  Though the cause officially opened in 1984 and Ricci was declared “Servant of God” in 1985, proceedings stalled for unspecified reasons.  On January 24th, however, the diocesan tribunal finally swore in officials (including an official postulator, Fr. Tony Witwer, SJ) and opened an investigation to collect historical documentation.

Of course, since Ricci was the pioneer and architect of acculturated evangelization in China (one can find helpful information about him here and here), the news is also significant for the whole field of missiology. How does one present the Gospel to a culture that has developed for millennia without reference to it?  Certain prudential judgments of Ricci regarding the translation of God into Mandarin and the Chinese practice of ancestor “worship” were eventually condemned in the Chinese Rites Controversy.  From a distance of three centuries, however, these decisions seem to have been premature. Read the rest of this entry »

Colonial Living

January 27, 2010

The Trailhead Queen was dead. At first, there was no overt sign that her long life was ending: no fever, no spasm, no farewells. She simply sat on the floor of the royal chamber and died.

E. O. Wilson, the Pelegrino University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard, begins his gripping short story with this forlorn account of the death of the Trailhead Queen, who, by the way, is an ant.  No, she’s not your momma’s sister. She’s an insect, and before her death she had been the noble head of a teeming and successful colony for nearly twenty years. Wilson’s short story, “Trailhead,” is a beautiful tale of life, death, prosperity, poverty, war and peace. Beginning with the nuptial flight of the future Queen of the Trailhead Colony, Wilson takes us through the ups and down of life in colony–reeling off a list of details that only a research professor could know while at the same time exercising the emotional precision of the best practitioners of the short story genre. Read the rest of this entry »

Praying for Haiti

January 26, 2010

During my time as a Jesuit novice (spring 2007) I spent a month working at a children’s hospital run by the Missionaries of Charity in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  That month was probably the most moving of my two-years in novitiate, the time in my life when the Gospel most seemed to take on flesh before my eyes.

The Gospel coming to life is, of course, a wonderful thing, but it is not always an easy thing, and my time in Haiti was no exception to this rule.  I experienced several sustained moments of searing self-questioning regarding how I was living the religious life, and there was the heat, too, the lack of water, the sporadic electricity, the smell of sewage in the air—and all the sick kids in the hospital.  Malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, parasites, burns, abuse, and on and on.  Of all the places I had traveled in the world before then—Kazakhstan, East Africa, the Middle East—something about Haiti made it seem the most broken.  Read the rest of this entry »

Cotton Fields and Latin Manuals

January 18, 2010

I remember paging through a book of collected photographs and articles about Johnny Cash (above right) which Rolling Stone issued shortly after the country music icon died in 2003.  One of the authors described how we shall never have another Johnny Cash because the cultural conditions that could create a Johnny Cash—hand-picking cotton in the Southern sun, cross-country train rides, rugged stone prisons—no longer exist.

That article came to mind as I recently read of the death of the Belgian theologian Edward Schillebeeckx (above left).  To be sure, Schillebeeckx was not to twentieth-century Catholic theology what Cash was to twentieth-century country music (the argument for the Cash-equivalent would have to be between Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar, with Schillebeeckx being more of a Merle Haggard-type).  Still, the Belgian Dominican’s death calls to mind the brilliant theologians of the twentieth century, whose collective theological sun stood at high noon in the heady and optimistic 1960’s.  It also reminds one that that sun has now all but set.

In a review of Fergus Kerr’s Twentieth-Century Catholic Theologians, R. R. Reno labeled the theological giants of the last century the “Heroic Generation.”   Read the rest of this entry »

Tangled Up in Blue

January 17, 2010

For starters, the 3-D glasses are really cool, not the flimsy paper and celluloid things of the past. These are fashioned on the perennially chic Ray-Ban Wayfarers. However, the neat glasses certainly are not the main reason to go see Avatar.

Director James Cameron’s groundbreaking use of 3-D technology was enough to get me into the theater, but the breadth of his vision in bringing an alien world to life kept me glued to my seat. Many reviewers have praised Cameron’s latest project, and I don’t intend on repeating those praises here. It was a beautiful and thrilling movie. Read the rest of this entry »