Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Philosophy as therapy?

Earlier this week, the Washington Post published a story on the growing field of philosophical counseling. Here's an excerpt:
Patricia Anne Murphy is a philosopher with a real-world mission.

Murphy may have a PhD and an intimate knowledge of Aristotle and Descartes, but in her snug Takoma Park bungalow, she’s helping a broken-hearted patient struggle through a divorce.

Instead of offering the wounded wife a prescription for Effexor — which she’s not licensed to do anyway — she instructs her to read Epictetus, the original cognitive therapist, who argued that humans often mistake their feelings for facts and suffer as a result.

Murphy is one of an increasing number of philosophical counselors, practitioners who are putting their esoteric learning to practical use helping people with some of life’s persistent afflictions. Though they help clients cope with many of the same issues that conventional therapists do — divorce, job stress, the economic downturn, parenting woes, chronic illness and matters of the heart — their methods are very different.

They’re like intellectual life coaches. Very intellectual. They have in-depth knowledge of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist theories on the nature of life and can recite passages from Martin Heidegger’s phenomenological explorations of the question of being. And they use them to help clients overcome their mother issues.
To read the rest, click here. For some reason, reading this article made me recall Pierre Hadot's book Philosophy as a Way of Life, which sought to retrieve the ancient understanding of philosophy as a practical approach to everyday living. If philosophy can be a way of life, can it also be a form of therapy? Consider this quotation from the WaPo article, taken from a woman who turned to a philosophical counselor to help her deal with relationship difficulties:
"I wasn’t depressed or fighting bipolar disorder. I didn’t need Paxil. I just needed the skills to think clearly about what went wrong . . . I heard online about these shrink-thinker types who used John Milton, Adam Smith and Socrates, and I called right away. I wanted to know how our greatest minds would see my situation."
Leaving aside the question of whether or not John Milton should be regarded as a "philosopher," I do think that this anonymous counselee is on to something. At different times, we all face crises or dilemmas which do not require medical intervention and do not oblige us to 'get in touch with our feelings' or to 'listen to our hearts' or to embrace the perspective of a particular school of psychology in hopes of finding a solution. In many cases, all that we really need are "the skills to think clearly" - skills that can often be honed through philosophical inquiry. Philosophical counseling cannot solve every problem - neither can psychotherapy or psychiatric treatment - but, as the WaPo suggests, it may be just the help that some people need.

What does all of this mean for me as a teacher of philosophy? I am not a licensed counselor, and I certainly don't think of teaching as a form of therapy. Nonetheless, I do seek to persuade my students that philosophy is relevant to their everyday lives. In every course that I've taught, I have sought to transmit knowledge that will be meaningful to students long after the course has ended. I am committed to the idea that knowledge is its own good, worth having regardless of whether it has any visible utility, but I also believe that philosophy can provide a training in practical reasoning that can be usefully applied to real-world problems. If some of what I teach helps students to deal with the dilemmas that they will face in the future, I will have offered them something good.

In a week when I'm intensely focused on preparations for the start of the fall semester - which begins here next Monday - I ask your prayers for me and my colleagues on the faculty as we look forward to a new academic year. Please pray also for our students as they prepare to grapple anew with the wisdom of the ages. AMDG.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Munich miscellany.

Written in the same spirit as a recent post on New Orleans and following up on my St. Ignatius' Day post, this post is a sort of photo-essay on the Sunday I spent in Munich at the end of July. Starting things off, the above photo was taken at the end of the Hochamt (High Mass) celebrating St. Ignatius' Day at the Jesuitenkirche St. Michael. As you can see, the Mass was a standing-room-only event; befitting the feast, the liturgy featured about a dozen servers in red cassocks and white surplices, lots of incense, and a Monteverdi Mass setting performed by a professional orchestra and choir.

At Neuhauser Straße 14, just down the street from St. Michael's, one finds the Bürgersaalkirche, longtime base of Jesuit Father Rupert Mayer (1876-1945). As a military chaplain during World War I, Father Mayer lost his left leg in a grenade attack and became the first Catholic priest to be awarded the Iron Cross. In the interwar years, he achieved great renown as a preacher, retreat director, and leader of the Marianische Männerkongregation, a men's sodality that served as a forerunner of today's Christian Life Communities. Already a foe of the Nazis in the 1920s, Father Mayer endured regular harassment and imprisonment under the Third Reich and spent most of World War II under house arrest at Ettal Abbey. Living just long enough to witness the defeat of Nazism and to regain his freedom, Father Mayer died of a stroke on All Saints' Day of 1945. In 1987, Rupert Mayer was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

Here is the crypt of the Bürgersaalkirche, where Blessed Rupert Mayer is buried. Though things were relatively quiet when I stopped in on a Sunday morning, I could tell that Father Mayer receives many visitors. During the time I was in the crypt, a steady stream of locals came in, knelt for a brief prayer before the grave, and then went on their way. The few tourists who came in maintained a respectful silence, helping to keep the crypt a place of prayer.

The grave of Blessed Rupert Mayer.

A bust of Father Mayer in the crypt of the Bürgersaalkirche, rubbed to a shine by the hands of countless pilgrims.

A manhole cover in Munich's central Altstadt bearing the city's coat of arms. The stylized representation of a young monk (the Münchner Kindl) is a reminder that Munich was founded by Benedictines.

The main building of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU), a place that I visited on account of its connection to the anti-Nazi resistance group known as Weiße Rose (White Rose), which was largely made up of LMU students.

The plaza in front of the LMU main building is named Geschwister-Scholl-Platz in honor of siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, Weiße Rose members who were arrested and executed by guillotine in February 1943 for distributing leaflets urging resistance to the Nazi regime.

Set into the stones of Geschwister-Scholl-Platz, this memorial to the members of Weiße Rose reproduces the group's anti-Nazi leaflets.

Directly across the street from Geschwister-Scholl-Platz, Professor-Huber-Platz is named for Kurt Huber, a professor of musicology and Weiße Rose member who was arrested shortly after the execution of the Scholl siblings and was killed a few months later.

On the door of a university building overlooking Professor-Huber-Platz, I noticed the traditional Epiphany inscription seen above. This was the only 'C+M+B' that I spotted during my brief visit to Munich, but I suspect that the tradition is still widely observed in heavily Roman Catholic Bavaria; having spent comparatively more time at both ends of Austria, I am happy to report that 'C+M+B' is chalked on many doors in Innsbruck and Vienna.

Continuing my pilgrimage, I traveled to the outskirts of Munch to visit the Friedhof am Perlacher Forst, where several Weiße Rose members are buried together with their families. The cemetery plot seen above contains the graves of Hans and Sophie Scholl as well as their parents Robert and Magdalena, together with their friend and fellow Weiße Rose member Christoph Probst (executed with the Scholls in February 1943) and his mother Katharina.

The graves of Hans and Sophie Scholl. Though Weiße Rose was not an explicitly religious group, its leading members were guided by shared Christian convictions. Lifelong Lutherans, Hans and Sophie Scholl also drew inspiration from the writings of Augustine, Aquinas and John Henry Newman.

The graves of Christoph Probst and his mother, Katharina Kleeblatt. Christoph Probst grew up in a secular and free-thinking household, which ensured that he would always be deeply skeptical of National Socialism but also deprived him of any religious roots. Partly thanks to his association with Weiße Rose and his reading and discussion of the Christian classics with the Scholls, Christoph Probst felt a growing attraction to Catholicism and was received into the Church shortly before his death in Munich's Stadelheim Prison.

Not far from the final resting place of Christoph Probst and the Scholl siblings lies the grave of the man who brought Probst and the Scholls together: Alexander Schmorell was a high school classmate and close friend of Christoph Probst and met Hans Scholl during compulsory military service. Schmorell later introduced Probst to the Scholls, and eventually all four became active members of Weiße Rose. Arrested shortly after the execution of the Scholls, Schmorell was guillotined alongside Professor Karl Huber in July 1943. Alexander Schmorell is buried with his father and stepmother, Hugo and Elisabeth Schmorell.

This three-bar cross appears at the base of Alexander Schmorell's headstone. The son of a German father and a Russian mother, Alexander Schmorell always remained faithful to the Orthodox faith of his mother (who died of typhus while he was still an infant) even though his father was a Protestant and his stepmother and siblings were Catholic. As Jim Forest notes in a fine article about Schmorell and his ties to Weiße Rose, efforts are underway to have Alexander Schmorell recognized as a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Not directly related to Weiße Rose but in the same cemetery, here is a memorial ground containing the remains of 4092 victims of the Nazi regime; the dead whose ashes are buried here include people who were imprisoned at the nearby concentration camp in Dachau as well as victims of Nazi euthanasia policies. The inscription written around the pool in the center of this photo reads, Den Toten zur Ehre, den Lebenden zur Mahnung, which may be translated, "To honor the dead, [and] to always warn the living."

Another inscription, this one noting who is buried in the above space. My translation: "Here are 4092 victims of Nazi despotism laid to final rest." To this I can only add: may their memory be eternal.

The above photos capture much of what I saw during an exceedingly brief visit to Munich. I only spent about six hours in the Bavarian capital, but I was sufficiently captivated, intrigued, and moved by what I saw that I hope to return. Please say a prayer for me that I may make it there again. AMDG.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Photo of the day.

I have not been paying much attention to World Youth Day 2011, but I must admit that I was deeply moved by the above photo posted this morning on Whispers in the Loggia. I like the idea of the Pope taking time to hear confessions; as edifying as I found this photo to be, I'd be even more edified if it were someday revealed that, during his pontificate, Benedict XVI had discreetly and anonymously served as a regular confessor at Saint Peter's or - even better - in a local parish in Rome. My impression is that the current pope is the kind of person who would probably appreciate such an opportunity, even if security concerns and fears of attracting publicity may militate against it.

My prayers today are for the pilgrims from around the world gathered this week at World Youth Day. May they find much joy and consolation during their time in Madrid, and may they be able to share that joy and consolation with others when they return home. AMDG.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NYT: End of an era at North Dakota monastery.

Because I was on the road this past weekend and lacked access to the New York Times, I missed this story when it appeared in print on Sunday. Having learned of the story today from another Jesuit, I decided to share it here:
The lowing of cattle seemed a perfect prelude to the chants and hymns that followed at evening prayers, an unlikely pairing of soothing sounds that the monks of Assumption Abbey say they will miss.

For 51 years, Brother Placid Gross has tended the 1,900-acre ranch that has helped to define this Benedictine monastery in the crumpled hills of western North Dakota, providing only modest income, perhaps, but a rich connection to the earth as the monks go about their days of prayer and humble work.

But at 76, this wrangler-monk can no longer do the strenuous work required by a herd of 155 black angus cows, 155 calves and 8 bulls. Even with the help of a few colleagues, he cannot manage the cycles of baling hay in summer, nurturing cows through bitter winters, birthing and sometimes bottle-feeding calves in frigid early spring, and repairing fences and rounding up the herd, which is done these days on a small all-terrain vehicle rather than a horse.

Younger monks are scarce anyway, and none feel this calling. "They’re not cattlemen," Brother Placid says. "They’re more interested in the intellectual stuff." Hiring outsiders to do the work would be prohibitively expensive and out of synchrony with the "work and pray" mandate of the Benedictine order.

So this fall, the abbey will sell off not only calves, as it has every year for decades, but the entire herd. Some of the alfalfa fields and the rolling pastures — shades of green in this wet summer and scented with sage — will be rented out to neighbors.

"It’s so good to have the animals here, to see cows when you look out the window or go for a walk," said Brother Placid, who is still sorting out the profound change looming for the monastery and, most of all, for himself. "I’ll miss it a lot," he said, "but I know that there comes a time in life when you have to retire."
Later in the article, reporter Erik Eckholm provides more information on the current state of the 118-year-old monastery and its community of 57 monks:
The last new American monk was accepted in 2002, and nine have died since then. "It’s frightening," Father Brian Wangler, the abbot, said of the downward trend. "But what it challenges is one’s faith. Who’s in charge here? Is God in charge or are we?" He said that six men joined the abbey from 1997 to 2002, most of them presenting themselves out of nowhere.

. . .

For decades, the abbey grew its own food and raised pigs, chickens and dairy cows for consumption and profit, but as these became unprofitable, beef ranching became the last vestige of a farming heritage. Brother Michael Taffe, 51, who earned a doctorate in psychology before becoming a monk at 40, said the loss of the cattle would cause "a grieving process."

Brother Michael is in charge of recruitment efforts, which include visits to Catholic schools and advertisements in Catholic magazines. He said four men had seemed like potential candidates in recent years and came for trial stays, but decided the life was not for them.

Many of the monks entered in their teens or early 20s, in some cases after attending the boarding high school and two-year college the abbey ran until 1971, when the cost became prohibitive. In today’s world of vaster choices, the abbey would be wary of someone so young, Brother Michael said. Candidates must truly know, he said, that "this will make me whole."
Brother Michael has a point, I suppose, but somehow I think I relate more to what Brother Placid has to say near the end of the article:
Brother Placid, displaying the taciturn nature of the northern Plains, stumbled as he tried to explain why he joined the abbey at age 22. Growing up in a large North Dakota family, he had quit school after junior high and worked on his parents’ farm.

"There was no revelation," he said after a long pause. "God has a plan for everybody, and I feel I’m serving God."
To read the rest, click here. While you're at it, take a look at the Assumption Abbey website. AMDG.

(More) August afternoon music.

Once again, simply because I'm in the mood, here is some music for an August afternoon: just Chopin this time, performed here by Polish-Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki. The first two selections, presented above, are Études Nos. 11 and 12, Op. 25.

And this is Waltz No. 2 in C-sharp minor, Op. 64. For more on Jan Lisiecki, consult his official website and his Facebook fan page. Best wishes to all on another musical August afternoon. AMDG.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Notes on the Dormition of the Theotokos.

For today's Feast of the Dormition, here are some reflections by Father Alexander Schmemann, taken from the third volume of his collected sermons:
In August the Church celebrates the end of Mary's earthly life, her death, known as her Falling Asleep or Dormition, a word in which dream, blessedness, peace, calm and joy are all united.

We know nothing of the circumstances surrounding the death of Mary, Jesus Christ's mother. Various stories, embellished with childlike love and tenderness, have come down to us from early Christianity, but precisely because of their variety we are under no compulsion to defend the "historicity" of any one of them. On Dormition the Church's commemoration and love are centered not on the historical and factual context, not on the date and place where this singular woman, this Mother of all mothers completed her earthly life. Wherever and whenever it occurred, the Church looks instead at the essence and meaning of her death, commemorating the death of the one whose Son, according to our faith, conquered death, was raised from the dead and promised us final resurrection and the victory of undying life.

Her death is best explained through the Dormition icon placed in the center of the church on that day as the focus of the entire celebration. The Mother of God has died and lies on her deathbed. Christ's apostles have gathered around her, and above her stands Christ himself, holding his mother in his arms, where she is alive and eternally united with him. Here we see both death and what has already come to pass in this particular death: not rupture, but union; not sorrow, but joy; and most profoundly, not death, but life. "After giving birth you remained a Virgin and after falling asleep you remained alive," sings the Church, gazing at this icon. "In giving birth you preserved your virginity, in falling asleep you did not forsake the world . . ."

The words of one of the deepest and most beautiful prayers addressed to Mary now come to mind. "Rejoice, bright dawn of the mystical Day!" (Akathist Hymn). The light which pours from the Dormition comes precisely from that never-ending, mystical Day. In contemplating this death and standing at this deathbed we understand that death is no more, that a person's very act of dying has now become an act of living, the entrance into a larger life, where life reigns. She who gave herself completely to Christ, who loved him to the end, is met by him at these radiant gates of death, and there at once death is turned into joyful meeting - life is triumphant, joy and love rule over all.
Prayers and good wishes for all on this bright feast. AMDG.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Later this morning, I will be watching as the nine second-year novices of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Provinces of the Society of Jesus profess First Vows at St. Thomas More Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. As I do so, I will be mindful of the fact that I made my own first profession in Detroit five years ago on this date. The Society tends not to make much of vow anniversaries – the anniversary of the date that one entered the novitiate gets a lot more attention – and five years of Jesuit life would seem to count for little when one considers that many more Jesuits have spent fifty, sixty, seventy, or even eighty years in the Society. Even so, I can’t help but reflect on the course of my own Jesuit vocation as I watch nine of my brothers make the same commitment that I made five years ago.

The words of the Jesuit vow formula are incredibly powerful, whether one recites them aloud, reads or prays over them silently, or listens to others recite them. Elegant and poignant in equal measure, the words of the vow formula are also bracing and frankly challenging. Of all the words in the formula, the ones that invariably strike me with the greatest force come at the end of the following sentence: "I promise that I will enter this same Society to spend my life in it forever."

To spend my life in it forever. Forever? No matter what? Even if something that seems better (whatever that might mean) happens to come along? Yes, "forever" means remaining faithful to the existential commitment that one has made even when something "better" seems to present itself. Living out my Jesuit vocation day by day, I tend not to worry much about the permanent nature of this commitment; I'm at peace with this "forever," even if many of the details (i.e., where I'll be and what I'll be doing five, or ten, or fifty years from now) remain uncertain. Of course, this kind of uncertainty is hardly unique to Jesuit life, or religious life in general - it's a part of every human life, whether we care to admit it or not.

In a very real sense, the acceptance of uncertainty is part of what makes commitments of the "forever" kind so meaningful. Whether one is promising to spend the rest of one's life in a religious order or promising to spend the rest of one's life with a particular person in marriage, one must embrace much that is unknown. In effect, one must be able and willing to say that one loves the other (whether that "other" is a human individual or an institution) so much that all other considerations are secondary, if they even matter at all.

Making permanently-binding promises isn't easy. The stakes involved are high, not simply in terms of accepting the uncertainty that comes with "forever" but also in recognizing what such promises mean for one's own sense of personal integrity. In A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt has Thomas More say that "[w]hen a man takes an oath . . . he's holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then — he needn't hope to find himself again." I think that many would affirm the point that More (or rather Bolt) is making here. Of course, we also know how very difficult it is to remain faithful to oaths, vows, and other promises once they've been made; each of us knows people who have made such promises in good faith and with the best of intentions - in the context of religious vows, in marriage, and so on - but have later found themselves unable to keep them forever.

"What is an oath, then, but words we say to God?" This is another line spoken by Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons. The vows that we Jesuits profess - whether recited publicly before friends and family, or taken secretly in times of persecution, or repeated silently during private prayer - are fundamentally "words we say to God," even if others happen to be listening as we say them. To say "forever" to God is to do something very courageous, as I hope the foregoing reflections have shown. Thus, when the nine vovendi profess First Vows later this morning, they will have not simply my prayers but also my respect and admiration. I hope they have yours as well. AMDG.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Music for an August afternoon.

Simply because I felt like it, here are two selections for cello and double bass to enliven an August afternoon. First up, Edgar Meyer's Duo for Cello and Bass, performed here by Efe Baltacigil (cello) and Fora Baltacigil (bass).

Second, Alfred Schnittke's Hymn No. 2 for Cello and Bass, performed by Daniel Arias (cello) and Edicson Ruiz (bass).

I hope that you enjoy the music - best wishes to all at a generally quiet time of year. AMDG.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

New Orleans miscellany.

Way back in June, I wrote that I hoped to produce a post on New Orleans; this is that anticipated (but unfortunately long-delayed) post, which follows the template set by my post-retreat posts (Part I and Part II) by offering miscellaneous photographs taken on a Sunday afternoon in the Crescent City. To start off, here are some eye-catching mailboxes on Royal Street in the French Quarter.

A pedestrian passage called Pirate Alley runs between St. Louis Cathedral (right) and the Cabildo (left), connecting Jackson Square to Royal Street. As idyllic as the setting might appear here, this photograph was taken just a few steps away from streets crowded with tourists, panhandlers and street vendors, all of which I'll leave to your imagination.

Jean Lafitte's Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street is said to be the oldest continuously-operating bar in the United States, a claim that should probably be considered in the same light as the Union Oyster House's claim to be the nation's oldest restaurant. General Andrew Jackson visited this bar in December 1814 to ask privateer Jean Lafitte for help in defending New Orleans from invading British troops. Jackson's U.S. forces went on to win the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815, a short time after the Treaty of Ghent had brought an official end to the War of 1812, but before news of said treaty had reached the Western Hemisphere.

Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo, a Bourbon Street tourist trap which probably has nothing to do with the real Marie Laveau. I didn't go inside and accordingly cannot comment on the wares, but I figured the House of Voodoo was at least worth a photograph. I can't say the same for most of Bourbon Street, which I generally found to be as boring as it is seedy; there are a lot of enchanting places in New Orleans, but this street isn't among them.

The task of preparing for a new fall course at SJU meant that I had to take some work with me to New Orleans. A good friend who is a native of the area told me that if I insisted on trying to get serious reading done in New Orleans, I should do it at Café du Monde so that I could soak up the local atmosphere at the same time. Following that advice, here I am reading De Civitate Dei with a cup of chicory coffee at Café du Monde.

A New Orleans institution since 1894, Meyer the Hatter is the South's largest hat store and also boasts of having been named one of America's seven best hat stores by GQ. This is a real old-school men's hat store, with old-school lettering to match.

Didn't I just write that Meyer the Hatter was an old-school men's hat store? Well, I think this display window offers even more proof. I would have gone inside the store to sample the merchandise and perhaps take more photos, but Meyer the Hatter isn't open on Sundays - a fact that I found very edifying, even though it prevented me from doing business there.

Fides quaerens intellectum: faith seeking understanding. These words may be found over the door of the Jesuit residence on Baronne Street where I spent the last two days of my stay in New Orleans; I don't believe that I had ever seen Anselm's classic dictum inscribed on a building before I visited the Crescent City, but I certainly approve.

New Orleans is also the first place where I can recall having seen a parking garage named after Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette, who was one of the first Europeans to map a substantial portion of the Mississippi River but did not, as far as I know, make it this far south.

I spent the better part of an afternoon at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, which is devoted to diverse forms of painting, photography, and sculpture produced in the American South from the 1890s to the present. I really liked the Ogden and hope to return next time I'm in New Orleans; if you'd like to learn more about the place, visit this page for a two-part podcast interview with the Ogden's former chief curator, David Houston.

From the Ogden collection: Lord, I Don't Want to be Buried in the Storm, a 1970 self-portrait by Sister Gertrude Morgan. Though Morgan was an Alabama-born Baptist who spent half her life in New Orleans, elements of her story may remind one of some of the great Catholic mystics: a series of visionary experiences led her to leave her home and family at the age of 38 to preach in the streets and work with the poor and later to adopt a white habit and to identify herself as a bride of Christ. Regarding visual art as a complement to her preaching ministry, Morgan also produced paintings like the one seen above.

Also in the Ogden, a 2005 work by Texas-born painter John Alexander called The Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The day that I visited the Ogden happened to be Trinity Sunday; the exhibition catalogue suggests that Alexander intended this painting to convey something of the ecstatic love shared by the three persons of the Trinity, so I suppose that the work suited the day of the liturgical calendar.

One of the works that intrigued me the most in the Ogden collection was Herbert Singleton's Leander Perez (1992). According to the Ogden, Leander Perez is "a narrative work . . . about the longtime segregationist boss of Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish and the aftermath of Hurricane Camille in August 1969. Perez, a truncheon-wielding policeman at his side, is shown haranguing the city blacks who have come to help clean up the storm wreckage. He is warning them not to incite the Plaquemines Parish blacks . . . who were under Perez's iron hand." There is at least one problem with the Ogden's description: Perez died in March 1969, five months before Hurricane Camille. I'm not sure whether the mistake was artist's or the museum's - perhaps the scene depicted actually occurred, but after an earlier hurricane - but seeing this painting gave me the desire to learn more about Louisiana history as well as Singleton's work.

While we're on the subject of Louisiana history, here is a mysterious memorial marker I spotted in Elks Place Park in New Orleans' Central Business District. Given the dedication date of October 20, 1950, the marker's language regarding "the democratic principles of free enterprise and individual liberty" is rather curious. Built just a few months after the start of the Korean War, at a time when McCarthyism was gathering steam domestically, the marker could have been intended as a local assertion of faith in Cold War Americanism. On the other hand, the marker's wording could also have been intended as a coded statement of segregationist defiance at a time when the Civil Rights Movement was growing in strength. I have wondered whether the name of the park may provide a clue of some kind - perhaps the Elks Lodge was involved somehow - but so far the marker's origins and meaning remain a mystery to me.

I hope you've enjoyed this first-time visitor's impressionistic tour of downtown New Orleans. I also hope that my first visit to New Orleans will not be my last; when I return to the city, I may have something more to say about it on this blog. AMDG.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Wien, Wien, nur du allein.

Last Thursday, I returned to the United States after a bit more than a month in Austria. Though it's good to be home, I do miss Vienna - as I knew I would, even before I left. Until I go back there - and I'm quite sure that I will - I'll have to content myself with memories and images like the above photograph, taken from a scenic overlook called the Kahlenberg on my second-to-last evening in Vienna.

In the hope that you'll forgive me a little old-fashioned sentimentality, I'm posting late German tenor Fritz Wunderlich's rendition of a classic Wienerlied, Rudolf Sieczyński's Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume, also known as Wien, Wien, nur du allein, a title taken from the song's wistful, almost lullaby-like refrain. For complete lyrics in German as well as an English translation, click here.

Though I've barely started to unpack from my last trip, I'll be on the road again tomorrow; I'll be spending most of this week vacationing in central Wisconsin with other Jesuits, after which I'll be heading to St. Paul, Minnesota to watch the second-year novices of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Provinces of the Society pronounce First Vows.

I doubt that I'll have much access to the Internet over the next week, but I have scheduled a couple of posts to publish automatically while I'm away. Prayers and good wishes to all in the interim. AMDG.