Friday, September 29, 2006

A Tale of Two Vocations, Part II.

A couple days ago, I posted some reflections in response to two questions that a reader named Gavin had posed about the development of my Jesuit vocation in the context of my experiences as a law student. I answered Gavin's first question in my last post, explaining "what led me to law" and how I ended up in law school. Today, I'm going to take up Gavin's second question - what led me "away from law" and, by implication, toward a vocation to the Society? As a preliminary matter, I hope Gavin (and other interested readers) will forgive me for restating this question as follows: did my vocation to the Society lead me away from a vocation to law?

Choosing to enter the Society and choosing to practice law are not necessarily mutually exclusive options. I know a number of Jesuits who possess law degrees, some of whom are practicing attorneys, some of whom teach law, and some of whom do other forms of ministry that may or may not make use of the knowledge and skills that they acquired in law school. Like me, some of these Jesuit lawyers had their legal training before they entered the Society. Others entered the Society without law degrees but obtained them later on, finding that their Jesuit vocation grew to include a legal vocation as well. As a group of men committed to finding and serving God in all things, the Society of Jesus quite naturally includes men who serve God as attorneys.

In my experience, there are as many different ways of integrating a legal vocation into a Jesuit vocation as there are Jesuit lawyers. As noted in the previous paragraph, I know Jesuits who practice law, others who teach in law schools, some who work in ministries that possess a secondary legal dimension, and some whose ministry has no legal dimension at all. In my own experience, limited as it has been, my law degree has helped me minister more effectively. In some instances - particularly when I was working with refugees - the legal knowledge and analytical skills I honed at Notre Dame enabled me to better recognize and respond to the problems of the individuals I wanted to help. Though I've engaged in other ministries in which my law degree made no difference at all - visiting nursing home residents, for example - on balance I'd say I've made good use of my J.D. since entering the Society.

The above paragraphs serve as a somewhat lengthy prologue to what I hope will be a satisfying answer to Gavin's question. To answer that question very simply, during my three years at Notre Dame Law School my sense of vocation moved not only toward the Society but away from legal work. When I entered law school, I lacked a strong desire to practice but presumed I would use my law degree in some form of public service. Initially, I understood this to mean working for the government or becoming a politician. However, at Notre Dame I became deeply interested in international human rights law and started to think I might want to work in this area. I actually did so for a summer during law school, serving as a program intern for Global Rights, a Washington-based NGO that mentors and supports local organizations working to strengthen human rights protections in countries around the world. My engagement with human rights issues both in class and as an intern helped me understand better how one could live out the legal vocation as a commitment to service grounded in faith.

While my understanding of the legal vocation grew at Notre Dame, I could never fully shake the sense that following my deeper desires would lead me away from legal work altogether. I still felt drawn, as I had as an undergraduate at Georgetown, to a life of teaching and scholarship. I had somewhat diverse academic interests in history, political science and theology, so I still didn't know exactly what I would teach and write about. Through spiritual direction and frequent contact with Jesuits, I had also grown more and more convinced that God was calling me to apply to the Society. Whether or not I was accepted by the Jesuits, I knew that I didn't feel called to legal practice, so I opted not to take the bar exam. Shortly after receiving my J.D. from Notre Dame in May 2004, I received word of my acceptance into the Jesuit novitiate. While most of my law school classmates crammed for the bar exam, I enjoyed a relaxing summer visiting friends in different parts of the country and spending time with my family.

I don't regret not having taken the bar, nor do I regret having gone to law school. I still don't feel called to legal practice, and I still hope to eventually go into academia. If I could get a doctorate in another discipline and teach classes straddling the border between that subject and law, I'd be very happy. I feel more drawn to the prospect of teaching undergraduates than to teaching in a law school, but that desire has yet to be tested by experience. Given that I'm still a recently-vowed scholastic with many years to go before I am ordained (God and the Society willing), it remains to be seen what kind of "sub-vocations" will emerge within my Jesuit vocation. Right now, all I can really do about such ultimate questions is pray for God's guidance and for my own patience. This is, I suspect, a somewhat longer answer to Gavin's question than may have been expected. However, if the above ruminations inspire some readers to reflect more deeply on their own desires and their own sense of vocation, I'll feel as though I've done my job. AMDG.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Tale of Two Vocations, Part I.

Nearly a month ago, a reader named Gavin posted a comment that I've been meaning to reply to. Gavin raised a couple of thoughtful questions which I'd like to answer, albeit belatedly and with apologies for the delay. Here's what Gavin wrote:

. . . I don't think you've ever addressed this on your blog, but I'm very curious: what led you to, and then away from, law? I assume a greater calling led you away from, but what led you to law in the first place? Did you know before Notre Dame that you [would] take this (more important, more valuable) path? Very curious. And I'll keep reading.

What led me to the law? The easiest and best answer I can give is that politics led me to the law. I've been interested in politics for as long as I can remember, and for a long time I aspired to political life. While I was in high school and college, I attempted to lay the foundations of a career in public service - I volunteered on many political campaigns, I spent several summers as a legislative intern at the Massachusetts State House, and I earned a degree in American Government at Georgetown. (In fact, my decision to go to Georgetown was motivated in the first instance by my interest in politics, in that I wanted to study in the capital.) During these years, the idea of going to law school was always somewhere in my mind. I'd heard from many people - everyone from my parents to legislators and political operatives I'd worked with - that a law degree was a useful credential for a public servant to have. In some sense, I always assumed that I would go to law school - not because I aspired to a career as a practicing attorney, but because I believed that legal training would be a good preparation for a life in politics.

By the time of my senior year at Georgetown, I remained interested in law school but had also begun to consider other possibilities. One of these was university teaching, leading me to consider graduate school. The problem with going to grad school was that I didn't know what I would do there; I had strong interests in history, political science and theology, and I couldn't figure out which of these disciplines spoke strongly enough to my heart that I would want to teach and write about it for the rest of my life. At the same time, I had already begun to feel the first stirrings of a vocation to the Society of Jesus. Though I was intrigued by the prospect of becoming a Jesuit, I didn't feel at all ready to enter the Society. Compared with grad school or the Jesuits, law school strangely felt like the path of least resistance - applying to law school didn't entail choosing a discipline and area of specialization as grad school would have, and continuing my studies wasn't the major life choice that entering the Society would have been. So I went through the arduous process of applying to law school, ultimately ending up at Notre Dame.

The above paragraphs attempt to explain, in greatly condensed form, "what led me to law." That leads me to Gavin's second question: what led me away from law? This is a much harder question to answer, one that requires a more detailed reply than Gavin's first question. Accordingly, I'll answer this question in another post (A Tale of Two Vocations, Part II), which I hope to deliver in a couple days. Until then, stay tuned for more on this subject. AMDG.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

College seminarians "a fraternity of faith, dwindling but resolute."

Today's New York Times has an article profiling four diocesan seminarians at the Cathedral Seminary Residence of the Immaculate Conception in Queens. At a time when most aspirants to the priesthood begin seminary studies after finishing college - years afterward, in many cases - these college-age men have chosen the less-traveled road of the undergraduate seminary. Here's some of what the Times has to say about them:
When Emmanuel Ko broke the news to his girlfriend that he had decided to become a priest, he clutched a rosary in his right pocket for resolve as she wept. "It's not like I didn't like her anymore," he said. "I'm doing this because I love him more."

Mr. Ko, 22, is one of four young men from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn who decided to take the first step toward priesthood this fall, enrolling at the Cathedral Seminary Residence of the Immaculate Conception in Douglaston, Queens.
Decisions like his are increasingly rare, especially now that the priesthood, hit with a series of sex scandals, has become suspect in many people's eyes. There were fewer than 1,300 college-level seminarians in the country last year, down from more than 13,000 three decades ago, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

The seminary in Douglaston, which serves both the Brooklyn and Rockville Centre dioceses, was once a bustling place, a fully functioning college with faculty and several hundred students.

Today, just 25 seminarians live there. They occupy a handful of pews in the school's cavernous chapel. The men take most of their classes now at nearby St. John's University, returning to the seminary campus for the other aspects of spiritual and character development that make up the continuing process known in the Catholic Church as "discernment."

"They're exploring their call," said Bishop Octavio Cisneros, the
seminary's rector. "That's what we offer, the opportunity to explore that."
To read more, click here. Despite light touches of God or the Girl-style sensationalism, the Times article does a good job describing the different paths that led its subjects to the seminary and revealing some of their hopes and struggles. Though the article is far from perfect, it offers a fairly positive look at seminary life and may lead some readers to take the idea of a priestly or religious vocation a little more seriously. The topic of vocations gets very little attention from the secular media, making today's piece in the New York Times something of an unexpected blessing - a small blessing, perhaps, but a blessing all the same. I commend the article to your attention and, as always, I ask for your continued prayers for vocations. AMDG.

Friday, September 22, 2006

NYT: Reports of Chomsky's death are greatly exaggerated.

From today's New York Times:

At a news conference after his spirited address to the United Nations on Wednesday, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela expressed one regret: not having met that icon of the American left, the linguist Noam Chomsky, before his death.

Yesterday, a call to Mr. Chomsky's house found him very much alive. In fact, he was struggling through "10,000 e-mails" he had received since the remarks by Mr. Chávez, who urged Americans to read one of Mr. Chomsky's books instead of watching Superman and Batman movies, which he said "make people stupid."

At 77, Chomsky has joined the exclusive club of luminaries, like the actor Abe Vigoda and Mark Twain, who were reported dead before their time, only to contradict the reports by continuing to breathe.

If you're interested in reading the rest of the article, you can find it here. The Times further reports, "Mr. Chomsky said that he had taken no offense at Mr. Chávez's remarks about his being dead. In fact, Mr. Chávez's promotion of the book [Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance] propelled it yesterday into Amazon's top 10 best sellers." So far, there's no word on whether Chomsky will use his higher book earnings to hire an assistant to help him answer all the notes of condolence he must be getting. AMDG.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Meet the community.

The Ciszek Hall website has been newly updated to include profiles of all the Jesuit priests and scholastics who presently reside in the community. As shown by the brief biographies on our website, the men who make up Ciszek Hall are fairly diverse in age, background, education, work experience and personal interests. This kind of diversity has been characteristic of the Society of Jesus since its inception. Indeed, the First Companions were themselves a fairly motley crew, drawn together by circumstance and by a common desire to serve the Lord. In the same way, today's Jesuits are a disparate group united by the desire to labor under the standard of the Cross. This is true of the universal Society, and it's also true of individual Jesuit communities like the one at Ciszek Hall. If you'd like to learn more about the guys I live with and what we're all about, check out the links above. AMDG.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Learning Greek.

Shortly after I arrived at Fordham, the director of the First Studies program here told me that I was going to have "a very Greek semester." He was right - all the courses I'm taking have something to do with Greece. I have classes on Plato and Aristotle, two Greeks whose work laid the foundation for much of the Western philosophical tradition. I'm also taking History of Christianity I, a theology course covering the Church's first fifteen-hundred years. (The Reformation and subsequent developments are treated in a separate semester-long course, appropriately entitled History of Christianity II.) In the early centuries of the Church much of the action was in the Greek-speaking East, so the course's readings incline heavily toward figures like Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzen and Maximus the Confessor. Rounding out my course schedule, I'm also taking a tutorial in New Testament Greek. Somewhat to my surprise, my Greek tutorial is proving to be both the most challenging and the most rewarding course of the semester.

Like many of the best courses I had as an undergraduate, New Testament Greek is a class I chose on a lark. Not long after arriving at Fordham, I learned from word of mouth that an older Jesuit on campus was offering a tutorial in Greek to interested scholastics. Ciszek Hall residents who had taken the class before recommended it highly, so I decided to sign up. I was attracted not only by the prospect of reading the New Testament in its original language, but of building a foundation for further study - if I could read the Bible in Greek, perhaps with added effort I could make my way through the Church Fathers as well. As one who owes his vocation to the example of a few Jesuit professors of a certain age, I also relished the prospect of studying Greek with an old-school Jesuit classicist. So far, my experience of New Testament Greek has been positive. I've managed to get the alphabet down pat and have had little trouble memorizing the new vocabulary assigned for each class.

Even though I've learned the difference between epsilon and eta and omicron and omega, I'm still having my fair share of difficulties in Greek. Foremost among these has been learning the intricacies of Greek grammar - as is the case with other tongues, there's a myriad of rules that one must simply learn by rote or assimilate through practice and continued exposure to the language. Though I spend some time each day reviewing my Greek lessons, progress can be frustratingly slow at times. Discouraging as they may be, the challenges I've faced have deepened my commitment to learning Greek. At the same time, I hope I'm able to accept and appreciate the deeply humbling experiences of confusion and struggle that are an indispensable part of language learning. Mindful of the greater glory that is the aim and purpose of my studies, I pray that I am able to find God not only in the joy of new knowledge gained but also in the pain and toil that I encounter along the way. AMDG.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Congratulations, Guy!

Later this morning, Vatican astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno will profess Final Vows in the Society of Jesus at the University Church on the campus of Fordham University. Unlike most religious orders, in which members take renewable temporary vows before they profess binding permanent ones, the First Vows that Jesuits profess at the end of the novitiate are intended to be permanent, representing the individual's commitment to life as a Jesuit for the rest of his life. Final Vows, taken after many more years of further probation and work as a Jesuit, are in some sense the Society's response to the choice an individual makes at First Vows. Just as the individual Jesuit makes a permanent commitment to the Society when he professes First Vows, the Society in some sense makes a permanent commitment to the individual Jesuit by calling him to Final Vows. Guy and the Jesuit community here at Fordham will celebrate that commitment today, and your prayers would be appreciated. If you'd like to learn more about Guy Consolmagno and his work, check out this profile published this past May in the Guardian. AMDG.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years ago today.

I remember that Tuesday morning very clearly. I was a couple weeks into my first semester of law school at Notre Dame. At the time, I lived a couple blocks east of the ND campus in an apartment that I shared with three other students. I woke up at ten to eight (this being September in the days of Indiana East Time, South Bend was then an hour behind New York) and got ready to head for school in time for my nine o' clock Torts class. Listening to NPR during the short car ride to campus, I heard what I first took to be a police tape of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Not recalling the exact date of the '93 attack, I briefly wondered whether September 11th was the anniversary of that event.

I didn't begin to understand what was really happening until I arrived at Notre Dame Law School. Walking into the law school lounge, I encountered a mass of silent, motionless people. All eyes were glued to a TV mounted on the wall. Casting a quick glance at the television as I walked by, I saw and heard Peter Jennings as he calmly stated that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had both been hit by airliners. The impact of Jennings' words left me feeling at once bewildered, stunned and numb. At the time, I didn't know quite how to react to what was going on. In those early hours, I lot of people faced the same predicament. While some of my classmates stood or sat in the lounge staring at the TV, seemingly too shocked to move, others went about their routine as if the impact of the still-fresh tragedy had yet to hit them. This seemed to be the prevailing mood of students in my Torts class - as I walked in, students chattered in pairs or small groups about this and that, some talking about the attacks and some not. Our Torts professor seemed to be among the ranks of those who hadn't yet felt the impact of the morning's events - after making brief reference to the unfolding tragedy at the start of class, he launched into a discussion of the assigned reading.

Some readers may be shocked that my Torts class went ahead as usual that morning, but I don't recall feeling any surprise at the time - what I remember, beyond the feelings of bewilderment and numbness already mentioned, is the sense of being caught up in a surreal experience akin to a waking dream. For a couple hours on the morning of September 11th, the routine of an academic day continued at Notre Dame despite a palpable sense of disquiet and worry. The uneasy normalcy of those hours seemed strange to me then, and it seems even stranger now. By the time the university community gathered for a hastily-organized memorial Mass at three in the afternoon, an appropriately somber mood had set in. Though memories of that Mass and the rituals of mourning that followed seem more "correct," what I remember most about 9/11 is those surreal first hours when I - and many others - just didn't know how to react.

As a coda to the above reflections, I'll mention an experience that took place a little more than three months before 9/11. It was the morning of my graduation from Georgetown University. Identically attired in black gowns and mortarboards, my fellow graduates and I sat together in McDonough Gymnasium waiting to become "sons and daughters of Georgetown forever," as the university president deemed us. During the ceremony I sat next to a classmate I'd never spoken with before, a Chicago-area native named Vanessa Kolpak. Though Vanessa and I exchanged few words beyond superficial pleasantries, I'll never forget what happened during the recessional following the graduation ceremony. As we marched past rows of assembled family and friends on the way out of the gym, I heard a voice in the crowd shout, "Vanessa!" I glanced over at a woman whom I took to be Vanessa's mother, standing beside a man with a video camera recording the day's events for family posterity. At the time I didn't make much of this small incident, but it came to mind in mid-September of 2001 when I came across Vanessa Kolpak's name in a news article listing those missing and presumed dead following the 9/11 attacks. Though I can't claim to have known her, I mourn for Vanessa Kolpak, for she remains my most tangible personal link to the events of September 11th. I suspect most readers of this blog can claim a similar connection to those tragic events; some of you may claim a much stronger connection, having lost a friend or relative on that day. Today, I'll be praying for all who died five years ago today, particularly those who may remain unknown and unremembered.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace, Amen.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Congratulations, Lukas!

In your prayers today please remember Lukas Laniauskas, who will profess First Vows in the Society of Jesus this evening at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Cleveland, Ohio. A native Clevelander and a proud Lithuanian-American, Lukas grew up in a Jesuit parish (the very one where he is professing his vows) and studied at Loyola University Chicago before entering the Society in Lithuania in 2004. Though Lukas was abroad for most of his novitiate, he also spent several weeks at Loyola House earlier this spring, where my classmates and I had the chance to get to know him. After professing vows today, Lukas returns to Chicago for First Studies. I regret that I'm unable to be in Cleveland to witness Lukas' vows, but he'll be in my thoughts and prayers today as he publicly commits himself to a life of service in the Society of Jesus. Please join me in praying for Lukas, and (as I've asked before) please pray also for all Jesuits in formation and for vocations to the Society. AMDG.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Notes on the Memorial of SS. Melchior Grodziecki, Stephan Pongracz and Mark Krizevcanin.

Today the Church remembers Saints Melchior Grodziecki, Stephan Pongracz and Mark Krizevcanin, three courageous priests who died as martyrs in the Slovakian city of Kosice in 1619. Following the religious wars of the early 17th century, the Catholics of Kosice were left bereft of spiritual support and found themselves surrounded by Hungarian Calvinists. In response to pleas from local leaders, Jesuits Melchior Grodziecki and Stephan Pongracz were sent to Kosice to minister to the people. Joined by Mark Krizevcanin, a diocesan priest from Croatia, Grodziecki and Pongracz won the gratitude of local Catholics and attracted scorn from area Calvinists for the ardor of their ministry. Calvinist troops occupied the city of Kosice in September 1619, imprisoning the three priests and threatening them with death if they refused to renounce their faith. Unwilling to apostasize, Grodziecki, Pongracz and Krizevcanin died under torture on September 7th. Canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1995, the Martyrs of Kosice now stand before all the Church as an example of heroic witness to the faith.

In the consciousness of North American Catholics, Melchior Grodziecki, Stephan Pongracz and Mark Krizevcanin are comparatively obscure figures. Even among Jesuits, they do not attract the same attention received by saints like Edmund Campion, Paul Miki and Jean de Brebeuf -near-contemporaries of the Martyrs of Kosice who died under similar circumstances, ministering in areas where Catholics were persecuted and apostasy was publicly rewarded. Though the particulars may differ, Christian martyrs may be found in every place and in every age. The Jesuit martyrology continues to grow year by year, as the names of men like Richie Fernando, Elie Koma and Martin Royackers are added to the list of members of the Society who have lost their lives in the service of the Gospel. To those of us who enjoy the comfort and relative security of North American life, the martyrs of the early Society and contemporary Jesuit martyrs offer a reproach and a challenge. The martyrs reproach us for too often remaining complacent in the face of injustice and for closing our eyes to the many forms of sinfulness that surround us. At the same time, the martyrs also challenge us to recognize the more subtle form of martyrdom that we are ourselves face each day - the martyrdom of those who seek to remain faithful to the Gospel in a secular and materialistic society. As we remember our brothers Melchoir, Stephan and Mark, may we take courage and gain strength from their example. AMDG.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A book meme.

Lisa has tagged me for a book meme, and I'm happy to oblige:

1. One book that changed your life: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius have had a profound impact on my life, intellectually as well as spiritually. My first encounter with the book of the Exercises came in a course on Ignatian spirituality that I took as a senior at Georgetown. Reading the text of the Exercises helped me understand some of the dynamics of Ignatius' thought and gave me a better sense of "what makes Jesuits tick," as the Jesuit who taught the course put it. During the Long Retreat, I encountered the Exercises in a much more intimate and ultimately transformative fashion. If reading Ignatius' text in class had helped me understand the Society of Jesus a bit better, making the full Exercises deepened my sense of being a companion of Jesus. In the Exercises, I encountered a Jesus who ministered to people in a deeply personal way, treating those he served not as representatives of a class but as unique individuals with particular needs. There's a lot more I could say about my experience of the Exercises, but for the moment I'll simply say this: you should experience them for yourself.

2. One book that you've read more than once: One book I have eagerly reread (and hope to return to) is With God in Russia, by Walter J. Ciszek, S.J. and Daniel L. Flaherty, S.J. In With God in Russia, Ciszek writes the twenty-three years he spent in the Soviet Union as a political prisoner and as a priest ministering in the underground church. With God in Russia and its companion volume He Leadeth Me were first recommended to me by Jesuits at Georgetown, but I didn't read either book until I was at Notre Dame. Both of Ciszek's books moved me and influenced my vocation, and I found great confirmation and consolation in rereading each of them as a novice. In his lifetime, Ciszek described With God in Russia being "the book they [i.e., his superiors and publishers] wanted me to write" and He Leadeth Me as "the book I wanted to write." Though many readers share Ciszek's preference for He Leadeth Me over With God in Russia, I don't believe you can fully appreciate either book without reading the other as well. With God in Russia provides a vivid and detailed narrative of Ciszek's experiences, while He Leadeth Me largely eschews narrative in favor of thematic chapters offering diverse spiritual reflections on the experiences recounted in the earlier book. Though He Leadeth Me is the more purely spiritual of the two books, many pearls of spiritual wisdom may be found within the pages of With God in Russia as well. Personally, I also derive much spiritual benefit from the details of Ciszek's harrowing and ultimately inspiring life story, which is probably why I'm such a fan of With God in Russia.

3. One book that you'd want on a desert island: I'd probably want Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, though one could question whether a seven-volume novel counts as "one" book or several. As a teenager I read the first volume, Swann's Way, but as of yet I have not picked up any of the subsequent volumes. Though I'd like to start over at the beginning and read all of In Search of Lost Time, the sheer length of the novel and the many other books that I'd like to read in the meantime tempt me to despair. Left alone on a desert island with nothing to read but In Search of Lost Time, I could use the isolation and solitude of my locale to finally get through Proust's magnum opus. More realistically, some time in the next few years I hope to budget the time (most probably during the summer) to give Proust his due.

4. One book that made you laugh: Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall left me in stitches, as have other satirical novels by Waugh and his contemporaries. I have a dark and very dry sense of humor, and I love social satire, so the books that make me laugh are very often British.

5. One book that you wish had been written: I'd love to see a general history of Jesuit involvement with the Eastern Churches. The Society of Jesus has had diverse and often extensive engagement with Eastern Christians - Catholic and Orthodox alike - from its earliest days until the present, but the scholarly literature devoted to this area is limited and in general this aspect of Jesuit history isn't particularly well-known. I hope that someday a qualified scholar will step forward to write a work that will fill this lacuna in Jesuit studies.

6. One book that you wish had never been written: I can think of a few, but following Rich's lead I'm going to keep my answer in pectore.

Most of the blogs I read regularly have already featured this meme, so there aren't many people I can tag in turn. That said, I'm interested in how Matt would answer the above questions. AMDG.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Gray skies and Jesuit skywatchers.

With what's left of Hurricane Ernesto sweeping across the Northeast, all day today we've been having windy, intermittently rainy and generally miserable weather. Braving the squall, I ventured out earlier this afternoon in search of the Daily News and the New York Times; ordinarily, copies of these two newspapers are purchased each morning by Ciszek Hall's minister and left in the dining room for members of the community to read. (For the benefit of readers who don't speak Jesuitese, I should explain that a "minister" is a Jesuit placed in charge of the physical maintenance and administrative maintenance of a Jesuit community - in other words, he's the guy who makes sure there's food in the pantry, who ensures that the bills get paid on time, and who fixes things when they break.) Because our minister is out of town, this weekend the task of picking up the daily papers falls to willing volunteers. So it was that I found myself searching this neighborhood's numerous small convenience stores for the day's newspapers.

Though I found the Daily News at the first store I visited, finding a copy of the New York Times proved well-nigh impossible. Each store seemed to have thick piles of today's Daily News and New York Post as well as Italian and Spanish-language dailies, but no Times. When I got back to Ciszek, I spoke with two scholastics with previous experience living in the Bronx, both of whom affirmed that newsstand copies of the Times are rarer than hen's teeth in these parts. However, another scholastic told me that he'd heard from someone else that one store on 187th Street sells the Times, though he didn't know which one. My explorations today took me down 188th and 189th, but I never made got as far as 187th. If I try there tomorrow, perhaps the Sunday Times (a surprisingly elusive prize) will be mine.

Even if I couldn't buy a copy of the New York Times, my wanderings earlier today yielded a surprise reunion with a Jesuit I got to know during my sojourn at Santa Clara - none other than Brother Guy Consolmagno. An astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, Guy is apparently going to be spending the coming academic year at Fordham as a visiting professor. As an employee of one of the world's oldest and most prestigious astronomical research institutions, Guy spends several months out of each year in Arizona and Italy and also has the opportunity to do research in exotic locales like Antarctica. When I first met him, Guy was spending a few months at Santa Clara as part of his tertianship. A period of spiritual probation that prepares one to take final vows in the Society of Jesus, tertianship also typically involves an experience of ministry that is different from one's normal work. In Guy's case, this meant taking a break from astronomy to do research on the relationship between faith and technology in Silicon Valley. I always enjoyed talking with Guy Consolmagno at Santa Clara, and I'm looking forward to more conversations with him over the course of the coming year.

Running into Guy Consolmagno today reminded me how much my vocation has been influenced by the diversity of ministries that Jesuits engage in. I've never contemplated becoming an astronomer - even though I enjoy stargazing - but the fact that there are Jesuit astronomers who see their contributions to science as a form a ministry is a source of great joy and consolation to me. In a similar vein, when I was a candidate I was intrigued to discover that one of the leading scholars of the films of Ingmar Bergman is a Canadian Jesuit, Father Marc Gervais. (For more on Gervais and his impact on my vocation, see this Novitiate Notes post from last December.) I don't expect to become the next Marc Gervais - though I am something of a film buff, and I particularly appreciate the work of Ingmar Bergman - but I'm proud of the contribution that Gervais and other Jesuit film scholars make to the common mission of the Society. In an important sense, Jesuits like Marc Gervais and Guy Consolmagno remind us of the spiritual essence that underlies all of Jesuit ministry. As men formed in the Ignatian spiritual tradition, Jesuits are committed to finding God in all things - and in many different kinds of work. This has been true throughout the history of the Society; to provide one very topical example, Jesuits have been working at the Vatican Observatory since the 16th century. The Jesuit tradition of creative engagement in diverse apostolates continues to nourish and shape my sense of vocation. Running into Guy Consolmagno today gave me a chance to reflect on this, leaving me surprisingly grateful for the frustrating experience of trying to buy a newspaper on a soggy afternoon. AMDG.