Thursday, August 31, 2006


Courtesy of Brother John Moriconi, S.J., here's a photo of the nine Chicago and Detroit Province Jesuits who pronounced First Vows on August 13th, joined by our respective provincials. This picture was taken in the sanctuary of Gesu Church in Detroit shortly after the conclusion of the Vow Mass. Please be sure to pray for the nine newly-vowed scholastics as we move into First Studies - four of us here at Fordham, and five at Loyola University Chicago. Please pray also for all the Society's new novices (Jason and Matt, for example) and for men beginning the second year of novitiate (of whom Rich is a worthy representative). While you're at it, pray for vocations to the Society of Jesus. As you make these prayers, please know that I'm praying for you too. AMDG.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Back from Cornwall.

Yesterday afternoon, the Ciszek Hall community returned to the Bronx after a communal weekend away in Cornwall, New York. While faith sharing and common prayer were at the heart of the weekend, shared recreation was also an integral part of the experience. Heavy rains on both Saturday and Sunday were not enough to prevent us from undertaking a number of group outings over the weekend. One such outing was a visit to the old St. Andrew-on-Hudson, the former New York Province novitiate just north of Poughkeepsie. Situated on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River, the building that was once home to a couple hundred Jesuit novices and juniors now houses the Culinary Institute of America, "the world's premier culinary college." Though surrounded by new construction, the old novitiate building at the heart of the CIA campus can still be recognized as a formerly Jesuit edifice. Some signs of the building's original purpose are subtle and easily to miss - like the "A.M.D.G." tilework on the floor in the entryway - but others are impossible to ignore, such as the former chapel (now an elegant dining room) with its stained glass windows depicting scenes from the life of St. Ignatius.

Another reminder of bygone days at Poughkeepsie is an old Jesuit cemetery, located close to the onetime novitiate building. Fenced off from the surrounding campus and secured by a padlocked gate, the cemetery is normally opened only by special arrangement. Before leaving for Poughkeepsie I borrowed the key to the gate from the cemetery's Jesuit caretaker, giving me and my companions a chance to visit our deceased brethren. The best-known occupant of the Jesuit cemetery at Poughkeepsie is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, buried there following his death in New York in 1955. As a longtime admirer of Teilhard, I'm happy that I had the chance to see his final resting place. One of my fellow scholastics took some photos of the visit, and if I can get copies of them I may post one or two on this blog.

Rainy days often lend themselves to film-going, so it shouldn't be surprising that I went to the movies on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday I saw Snakes on a Plane, dubbed "the most perfectly high concept film in Hollywood history" by my friend Steve Silver. Every bit as goofy and ridiculous as I expected it to be, Snakes on a Plane was also eminently forgettable; seeing the movie permits me to say that my expectations were met, but I would've been no worse off had I not seen it. The same cannot be said for Little Miss Sunshine, which I saw on Sunday. Before Sunday, I hadn't planned on seeing Little Miss Sunshine, mainly because the standard one-line summary of the film's plot - dysfunctional family accompanies small girl to child beauty pageant - failed to capture my imagination. However, positive word of mouth and favorable online reviews persuaded me to give Little Miss Sunshine a try - and I'm glad I did. A more intelligently-written and better-acted film than I had expected, Little Miss Sunshine taught me that one should never judge a movie by its title or by capsule reviews. See Snakes on a Plane if you must, but if you value good film over senseless amusement see Little Miss Sunshine instead. If you value good film and senseless amusement, see both.

Fordham's fall semester officially begins tomorrow, though my first class won't meet until Friday. Over the next couple days I'll be attempting to navigate the enrollment process, purchasing textbooks and taking care of innumerable small administrative details. Posting may be light for the remainder of the week, but when I come up for air I'll post a note here to let you all know how I'm doing. Until then, all the best. AMDG.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A weekend away.

Though the scholastics of Ciszek Hall have been missioned at Fordham to study, as Jesuits we remain first and foremost men of prayer. Thus it's appropriate that we begin the academic year with a weekend of faith sharing and spiritual reflection. This afternoon, the Ciszek Hall community heads to a Jesuit villa in scenic Cornwall, New York for a spiritual weekend away. While we're in Cornwall, we'll also have some free time for recreation and, perhaps, the opportunity to visit local attractions like West Point. I'll probably have something to say about the weekend when we return. Until then, I wish all readers the very best. AMDG.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Notes on the Memorial of St. Rose of Lima.

Today the Church remembers Rose of Lima, a Dominican tertiary of the early 17th century known during her short life as an ascetic, a mystic and a servant of the poor. Born in 1586, Rose was known even in her earliest years for the depth of her faith. Admired for her physical beauty, as a teenager Rose also began to attract notice for her austere piety and the rigor of her penitential practices. Though her parents rejected her plans to enter the cloister, Rose took a private vow of virginity and, as a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic, ultimately took the habit as well. With the help of her brother, Rose built a small hermitage for herself in the courtyard of her family home. Rose spent untold hours in prayer in this tiny refuge, but she also found time to care for Lima's poor, offering medical attention and shelter to the sick, the dying and destitute. Worn out by her austere life and apostolic work, Rose died in 1617 at the age of 31. Canonized a mere fifty-four years later, Rose became the first person born in the Western Hemisphere to be so honored.

As some longtime readers of my old blog may recall, my home parish was named for St. Rose of Lima. On this date last year, I wrote about my youthful awareness of my parish's patron - an awareness that was frankly quite minimal. My awareness and appreciation of St. Rose of Lima has grown over time, helped perhaps by a sense of nostalgia for the place where I had my earliest experiences of faith. One of the many blessings of my time in Peru was the opportunity to learn more about Rose and discover the important role she plays in Peruvian culture. The image of Peru's patron saint is ubiquitous in the nation's capital, found in the spartan chapels of the pueblos jovenes as well as in the ornate sanctuaries of downtown churches, hung on shop walls and inside public buses, borne on medals and carried by street vendors. I saw almost as much of Rose's image in Cusco as I did in Lima. In fact, the hostel where I stayed during my week in Cusco was called the Residencia Santa Rosa de Lima, run by a congregation of Dominican sisters bearing the same name. Accustomed to Rose's relative obscurity in the United States, I appreciated being in a place where my home parish's patron was widely known and deeply revered.

The photo above was taken at Rose's shrine in the center of Lima. That's me standing beside the saint's hermitage. As you can see, the only way Rose could get in and out of the hermitage was by crawling through a small opening. Through the hermitage's window, Rose could receive communion and, I imagine, converse with visitors as well. Built on the site of Rose's family home, the Santuario Santa Rosa de Lima preserves many of the saint's relics and serves as a place of pilgrimage for her devotees. The shrine does not contain Rose's tomb - she is actually buried a few blocks away at the Convento Santo Domingo, close to her friend and fellow Dominican Martin de Porres - but it clearly reflects her spirit. Santo Domingo attracts many more tourists, but the Santuario Santa Rosa de Lima seems to be a greater center of popular devotion. On the two visits I made to the shrine with other novices, my Jesuit companions and I were the only foreigners, while Peruvian pilgrims were numerous.

In contrast with many other shrines I've visited, the church and grounds where Rose is remembered have a strikingly homey and intimate feel - which struck me as quite appropriate, given that Rose spent most of her life at home. Rose's shrine is also a strikingly friendly place: on my first visit, I struck up a conversation with two Dominican sisters who run a small gift shop on the grounds of the shrine. In better Spanish than I thought I was capable of, I managed to explain to the sisters who I was, what I was doing in Peru, where I first learned of St. Rose of Lima, and how many years of Jesuit formation I would have to go through before being ordained. When I returned to the shrine a couple weeks later, the sisters greeted me enthusiastically by name as soon as they saw me, recalling details of our previous conversation and asking me how I'd been since my last visit. After another enjoyable chat, in the course of which I explained that I would soon be leaving for Cusco and thereafter returning to the United States, the sisters offered their prayers for me and my Jesuit companions. In return I promised to pray for the sisters and the work of the shrine, and the weeks since I have done so.

Since my return to the United States, I've often felt the desire to return to Peru. Whenever I'm able to make it back, I'll definitely make another visit to the Santuario Santa Rosa de Lima. The time I spent in Peru has undoubtedly left its mark on me, and it will probably be some time before I'll be able to totally appreciate the impact of the experience. Until then, I'll simply remain grateful for the time I spent in the homeland of St. Rose of Lima. AMDG.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Beginning again.

A little after two o' clock this afternoon, I arrived at Ciszek Hall in the Bronx to begin the stage of Jesuit formation known as First Studies. In contrast with the day I entered the novitiate two years ago (two years ago yesterday, to be precise), my official first day at Ciszek was low-key and a bit anticlimactic. For one thing, this wasn't really my first day in the community here - I actually moved into my room here last Tuesday, though I only spent one night in the house before heading out again to spend a few days of reflection and relaxation in New England. Unlike when I entered the novitiate, I also had the opportunity to meet and get to know most of the guys I'll be living with at Ciszek before I came here, thanks to shared experiences like the novices' history course in Denver and the national formation gathering in Los Angeles. That said, the first day of First Studies was not without fanfare. After Mass this afternoon, the Jesuit scholastics who've been living and studying here for the past year or two entertained the new arrivals at a cookout on the roof of the building (a local custom, I'm told). The cookout gave me a chance to get reacquainted with friends I made at different points of the novitiate and to talk with guys I didn't know well before I came here. Integrating oneself into a new community carries challenges as well as joys, but the experiences I had today give me great hope for the days ahead. So far, so good. AMDG.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Present at the creation.

You're reading the inaugural post of The City and the World, a new blog sharing some of my experiences and reflections as a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at Fordham University in New York City. If you're reading this, there's a good chance that you've already read my old blog, Novitiate Notes, covering most of my two years as a Jesuit novice. In a sense, The City and the World continues the story begun in Novitiate Notes, offering a window into my continuing formation as a Jesuit. My hopes for this new blog are the same hopes I had for my old blog. I began The City and the World as a means of keeping my family and friends up to date on what I'm doing and to offer other interested individuals a sense of what (one) Jesuit life is like. To all my readers, old and new, friends and strangers alike, I extend a very warm welcome. AMDG.