Chaldean Catholic archbishop abducted in Mosul.
Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche, and gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche.
Some sectors of the blogosphere have been buzzing lately in response to an editorial in The Hoya with the provocative title "Where Have All the Jesuits Gone?". When I first read the editorial in question, I made a prudential judgment to refrain from comment. I obviously have my own opinions, but I felt that I should defer to the Jesuits at the Georgetown and wait to see what they had to say. One Georgetown Jesuit, Father Ryan Maher, offers a response to The Hoya editorial board in the regular column that he shares with Father Jim Schall, As This Jesuit Sees It . . . In answer to the question posed by The Hoya, Father Maher says that "The Jesuits Are Still Right Where You Need Them". Most of what Father Maher says in his first few paragraphs is specific to the Hilltop, but the second half of his column touches on issues of wider import. The view that Maher's father expresses in the following lines is a view that I share, but I'm not sure that I've ever seen anything like it in print before:
My own thinking regarding these questions is greatly colored by a conversation I had with my father many years ago. We were discussing the attitudes of some Jesuits when it comes to the question of how best to perpetuate the Jesuit tradition in our schools.I share Maher's hope, and I hope that Jesuits at our other universities, colleges and high schools will engage this task with equal vigor and determination. Great challenges call for great commitment. AMDG.
At one point in the conversation, I explained to my father that there are some who argue that, when it comes to passing on our tradition, the time has come for Jesuits to leave the heavy lifting to our lay colleagues. "That's what Vatican II asks us to do," they claim. "Plus, we just don't have the numbers to do it ourselves anymore."
My father is a man of few words, an engineer by training. He and my mother raised six kids and sent them all to Catholic schools, most of them to Jesuit schools. He thought about what I told him for a couple of quiet minutes.
Finally, oracle-like, he responded. “Listen, you guys need to get your collective act together. Since the day you entered the Jesuits, you all haven’t had to pay for a single thing — not tuition, not food, not rent, not cars, not medical care, not anything. The Church has taken all of those burdens off of you. We did that to free you up to be concerned about other things. The most important thing we want you to do is safeguard, adapt and pass on the tradition you inherited from St. Ignatius and all the Jesuits who came before you. The Church has entrusted the care and feeding of that tradition to you in a unique way, especially in your schools.”
He concluded, “You guys can’t pass that obligation off to anyone else. If you think you can, then you might as well do us all a favor and close up shop as a religious order.”
As usual, Dad was right.
If you know the Jesuits, you know that we are a group of strong-willed, intelligent, passionate, opinionated men who do not shy away from a good argument. Our conversations among ourselves are not uncomplicated. Still, I am hopeful that the coming years will find an invigorated and determined Georgetown Jesuit Community that is even more engaged in the university’s project than it is today.
In some parts of the francophone world, Thursday of the Third Week of Lent is traditionally celebrated as "Mi-Carême," the symbolic middle point of the Lenten season. The most notable characteristic of communal celebrations of Mi-Carême is the relaxation of Lenten discipline: the day is typically marked by lots of eating, drinking, and festive merrymaking. The basic message of Mi-Carême is the following: we've made it halfway through Lent and Easter is in sight, so let us give thanks to God for his great mercy before recommitting ourselves to penance. Whether or not the average person approaches Mi-Carême with this exact attitude, the insight behind the celebration remains a good one.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has just released the results of a major survey of what it calls "the U.S. religious landscape," providing detailed data on the changing face of American religion and offering copious analysis of trends in religious identification. The text of the report is available on the Pew Forum website, together with various maps, pie charts and graphs that illustrate the findings. Most major dailies also have stories in today's editions summarizing the report's findings - see, for example, these stories in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times.
If you listen to A Prairie Home Companion, you probably know that Minnesota is home to a lot of Norwegians. In a more general sense, the largest Norwegian-American communities may be found in the Upper Midwest. However, there is also a small but venerable Norwegian-American community in my home region of Southeastern Massachusetts. Today's edition of my hometown paper has a short article on SouthCoast Norwegians, which I post here simply because I'm proud of where I grew up and enjoy sharing stories about the area:
David Lyng, manager of the Kinsale Inn, was a little bemused when Mattapoisett resident Luana Josvold first approached him with the idea of having his most Irish establishment host a Norwegian dinner.For the rest - and there isn't much more - click here. AMDG.
"I reminded them that the Vikings founded Dublin as a trading post and we both eat salmon and potatoes, so he agreed," Ms. Josvold said.
The idea has proved a popular one. Three of the informal dinners have been held, with another one scheduled in the future.
"It's been good for us," Mr. Lyng said. "It offers something different at what is usually the quietest time of the year."
Ms. Josvold, who teaches Norwegian language classes several times a week and plays Norwegian music on the accordion, organized the dinners as a way for the Norwegian community along SouthCoast to get together periodically.
"There are a lot of Norwegians here, mostly associated with fishing," she said. "If you look in the Seamen's Bethel, some of the earliest names there are the Larsens, the Andersens and the Karlsens. These gatherings offer us an opportunity to socialize, listen to some familiar music and eat some authentic Norwegian food."
Johan Gundersen, owner of Scandia Propeller Service on Union Street in Fairhaven, said many of the Norwegian people who came to this area to fish were from the island of Karmoy, which had long ago forged an unusual link with the United States, since the copper used in the Statue of Liberty was mined on the island.
Last June, I published a post on Peru's controversial ex-First Lady Eliane Karp and her role in an international dispute over the ownership of various Inca artifacts excavated at Machu Picchu early in the last century. The wife of Peru's first indigenous president, Alejandro Toledo, the French-born Karp embraced indigenous causes and traditions in a manner that many Peruvians found crass and somewhat patronizing. As detailed in a New York Times Magazine article from last year, Karp was especially adamant that in demanding the return to Peru of various artifacts taken from Machu Picchu in 1912 by American explorer Hiram Bingham and now held by Yale University. After lengthy negotiations, Yale and the Peruvian government have apparently come close to a final agreement for the return of the artifacts.
Today's Boston Globe reports on "a rare clash between St. Patrick's Day and Holy Week" pitting parade organizers against religious authorities in Irish Catholic communities across the United States. This year, March 17th falls on Monday of Holy Week - that is, the day after Palm Sunday - and the optional Memorial of St. Patrick (you heard me right - in liturgical terms, St. Patrick's Day is always a mere option) is accordingly suppressed. (I should note that the Solemnity of St. Joseph falls on Spy Wednesday this year; as a solemnity, the liturgical commemoration of St. Joseph will not be suppressed but will be transferred to Saturday, March 15th, the day before Palm Sunday.) In consequence, some Irish Catholics are a bit frustrated that St. Patrick's Day has to yield to a remembrance of the Lord's Passion. In some Catholic dioceses of the United States, the organizers of annual St. Patrick's Day parades have yielded to the request of local bishops that parades be held early this year in deference to the Church's calendar. In other places, including Boston, St. Patrick's Day parades will be held this year on their normal dates - even if those dates happen to fall on Palm Sunday or during Holy Week.
In the Jesuit ordo, today is the Memorial of St. Claude La Colombière, a 17th-century Jesuit who spent most of his life in the Society as a spiritual director to religious women. Together with one of his directees, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, St. Claude played a key role in establishing and promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Rather than repeat anything else that I wrote in last year's post on St. Claude La Colombière, I'll merely suggest that you visit the website of the Apostleship of Prayer. Continuing the ministry of prayer begun by St. Claude La Colombière and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the Apostleship of Prayer is perhaps one of the most popular Jesuit apostolates even if it is also one of the least visible. I won't say anything more about it than that, because I want to encourage you to visit the website and see for yourself.
It may not be 'big news' in the grand scheme of things, but I felt my undergraduate experience recede a little further into the past a few minutes ago when I read that Dean Jane McAuliffe will be leaving Georgetown to become president of Bryn Mawr College. My encounters with Dr. McAuliffe during my time on the Hilltop were very few, though I did dine at her house a couple of times as part of "Dinner with the Dean" evenings open to students in Georgetown College. That said, one of the best courses I had at Georgetown was a class on Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy taught by Professor Dennis McAuliffe, the Dean's husband. Since both McAuliffes are going to Bryn Mawr, I hope that students there will have the benefit of taking "Dante: The Vision and the Poet" (or a course much like it) with Dennis McAuliffe. My prayers and good wishes are with the McAuliffes as they prepare for this new stage in their lives. AMDG.
Ash Wednesday is one of those rare times when faith takes on a physical manifestation. The tell-tale black smudge on the forehead reveals a person observing the beginning of Lent, the traditional Christian time for repentance and re-evaluation of belief that reaches its conclusion on Easter Sunday.
But with church attendance down markedly in many parishes, some pastors and congregations are taking their church services to other, more accessible venues.
Like Stop & Shop, for instance.
"In a way, we're bringing it out to the community. If you can't get to the church, we bring it out to you," said Alice Franklin, a parishioner of the Wesley United Methodist Church on Main Street [in Wareham, Mass.].
Ms. Franklin was one of a handful of church members who took part in the Wednesday morning blessings led from 9 to 10 by the Rev. Walter Wnek, who is a familiar face at this particular Stop & Shop. Nearly every week for the past year and a half, the Rev. Wnek has visited the store to lead sessions of Christian meditation and talk to shoppers passing by.
"It was this year, as we looked toward the Lenten period, that I thought, 'Well, why don't we provide ashes on Ash Wednesday?'" he said. "And so here we are today, hopeful that people will take advantage of this opportunity to receive the ashes of repentance and dedicate the period between now and Easter to a new desire in their hearts to live a new life following more closely the commands of God and living in the wonder of God's love and grace."
As it was in the fall, Wednesday is the busiest day of the week for me this semester. Three of my four classes meet on Wednesdays - one in the morning, two back-to-back in the afternoon - and I usually feel so worn out by evening that after dinner I tend to retire to my room, shut the door, listen to something by Bach or Beethoven, do some reading, and generally avoid looking at my computer. I'm usually back to normal by Thursday morning, but I still need to take Wednesday nights off to recharge my batteries after a particularly intense day.
My alma mater is currently celebrating Jesuit Heritage Week, a yearly tradition that began while I was an undergraduate. Among various offerings on Ignatian spirituality, film screenings and social events, the calendar for the week included a panel with the provocative title, "Jesuit Education, So What? Conversations with Priest-Professors." The Georgetown Voice had this to say about the event:
At a panel discussion about Jesuit identity earlier this week, Father John O'Malley scanned the twenty or so faces in the spacious sitting room in Wolfington Hall. Fewer than half of the faces belonged to students, most of whom drifted out of the room before the discussion was finished.To read the rest, click here. Discussions of Jesuit identity at places like Georgetown tend to excite passionate disagreement. This intensity of feeling is at least somewhat understandable; questions about what it means for an institution to be Catholic and Jesuit touch upon deeply held values. As a Catholic, a Jesuit, and a Georgetown alumnus, I feel strongly about these questions myself. I discovered the Society of Jesus at Georgetown and, in a very real sense, I found my Jesuit vocation there as well.
"True to Catholic form, you're all sitting in the back," he chuckled.
O'Malley kicked off the event - titled "Jesuit Education . . . So What?" and held as part of Georgetown's Jesuit Heritage Week - with an overview of the history of Jesuit education, describing the first Jesuits as an edgy bunch that were ahead of their time.
"They faced a lot of criticism for the introduction of dance and the arts into their schools," he said. "They studied what was the forerunner of the modern, natural sciences. Jesuit universities sponsored some of the first organized sports." Beside him, Fr. Kevin FitzGerald nodded vigorously.
By point out that Jesuits were the original sports fans, O'Malley sent the same message emitted by nearly every event that the Jesuit community has hosted this week: in the contemporary world, Jesuit education is not obsolete. The same message could be heard in the Jesuit community's Spirituality Series held in Copley Crypt, where O'Malley described Ignatius of Loyola's "Spiritual Exercises" as "a remarkably adaptive book and program." This year, Georgetown's Jesuit Heritage Week seemed not only to showcase the University's Jesuit identity, but to insist upon the compatibility of Jesuit education and the contemporary world.
One Jesuit familiar with the challenge of connecting secular culture with Jesuit values is Fr. Alvaro Ribeiro. An expert in British and Shakespearian literature hailing from England [sic!], Ribeiro has a commanding voice, a spectacular vocabulary and no reservations about observing the connections between Jesuit tradition and secular literature.I also know some people who balk at the idea of priests teaching in fields other than theology. In my own life, though, the place of what someone once called "hyphenated priests" in the Society of Jesus played a key role in my own discernment. The fact that the Society had room for priests who could find God in the humanities and the natural and social sciences impressed me deeply when I was a student at Georgetown, and it impresses me just as much today. It would be very sad, I think, if Jesuit educators wrote and taught only about "things of God" in the narrowest sense. As long as we have Jesuits like Father Ribeiro - and any number of others I could mention, at Georgetown and elsewhere - I doubt that day will come. AMDG.
"When people learn that I am an English professor, they are aghast," he said, "They cry, 'You are a man of God, you are supposed to speak of things of God!' To which I tell them I find the Word to be expressed in a hell of a lot of words, including 'to be or not to be.'"
A couple times last year, I commented on news reports about the impact of proposals to tighten U.S.-Canadian border security on the neighboring towns of Derby Line, Vermont and Stanstead, Quebec - two communities that are so closely tied to one another that they even share a library. Today's Boston Globe has a story considering how new restrictions on border crossings may drive a wedge between another set of close-knit border towns, Houlton, Maine and Woodstock, New Brunswick:
Canadians are among the best customers in [Houlton, Me.], where Interstate 95 links to the Trans Canada Highway. On frequent visits fueled by a stronger Canadian dollar, they fill up their tanks at gas stations near the highway and pile their shopping carts high with milk and butter at the local IGA grocery.To read the rest, click here. For my part, I respect the need for secure borders but regret the fact that border communities that have enjoyed close and harmonious links for generations may now be driven further apart. I pray that the residents of towns like Houlton and Woodstock will find ways to stay close to their friends and family across national lines in spite of harsh new realities. AMDG.
Yesterday, as the U.S. government enforced stricter rules along its borders, requiring all travelers to show a passport or two other forms of identification, Canadians were able to cross the border and visit Houlton businesses without a hitch.
But in Maine and in Woodstock, New Brunswick, a dozen miles away, some residents said the beefed-up border will widen the symbolic distance between them and might chill their economic and social relations. The new rules end a long practice of allowing travelers to prove their citizenship with an oral declaration.
"A lot of people would like to think they could slow down and wave like they used to, but everyone knows we're not going back to that," said Ken Harding, chief administrative officer in Woodstock.
The tightened requirements, to be enforced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents along the 5,525-mile Canadian border and the shorter border with Mexico, precede a more dramatic shift in June 2009 that will require all border crossers to present passports. The rule was scheduled to take effect this year, but was recently postponed by Congress.
. . .
Relations have long been friendly between Houlton, population 6,500, and Woodstock, a town of 5,200. Americans and Canadians intermarry; youth hockey teams cross over for competitions; and some residents commute to jobs through customs, including dozens of Canadian nurses at Houlton Regional Hospital.
Many residents said that the increased security is necessary and that it does not diminish the friendliness between them.
"It's important," said Gladys Dalton, a Canadian who enters Maine twice a week to buy gas and groceries. "There's too much going on."
Others said the changes create an unwanted barrier and do little to protect against terrorism.
Lonnie Forbes, another Canadian, shopped in Houlton yesterday, but said he will balk at spending $400 for four passports for his family.
"I'm just not going to do it," he said. "We would come down to Kittery in the spring to buy a bunch of stuff, but it's like a stop sign that says, 'We don't want you.'"
Troy Obar, a Houlton native, said he has no plans to apply for a passport and will abandon his favorite Canadian wilderness and find new places to go camping when the rules clamp down next year.
"I'm a stickler for the old times," he said, "for the way it was done for years, like you were going from state to state, instead of country to country."