Saturday, April 28, 2007

Photographer explores ubiquity of Dunkin' Donuts.

Reading my hometown newspaper online this morning, I spotted this article on a new exhibit of photographs currently on display in Providence, Rhode Island. Here are some excerpts:
When Anna Low moved [to Providence] from Chicago, the professional photographer found something puzzling and strangely eye-catching wherever she looked.

A familiar orange-and-pink coffee shop logo.

So Low set out to photograph all the Dunkin' Donuts near her home in Providence in what she describes as a "tongue-in-cheek" project. The result is a new exhibit at Providence City Hall called "36 Dunkin' Donuts in a Three-Mile Radius of Home."

"When people give you directions, they'll say, 'Oh, go straight until you see the Dunkin' Donuts on your left and then take a right,'" said Low, 34, who professes an interest in shooting "industrial junk and rusty stuff."

"It's everywhere. It's so pervasive," she said of the coffee and doughnut chain.

. . .

Dunkin' Donuts has headquarters in Canton, Mass., and more than 2,000 shops in New England. Rhode Island has 169, and while Low initially contemplated photographing every shop within a 5-mile radius of her home, she rejected that idea as overwhelming.

Susanne Norwitz, a spokeswoman for Dunkin' Brands, issued a statement calling the exhibit a testament to Dunkin' Donuts' popularity.

As for Low, she said she's not a big fan of chain restaurants or even of Dunkin' Donuts - though she and her husband once had coffee and doughnuts there while she was working on the project.

"Like any chain store, you lose personality, you lose variety, you lose diversity," she said.

Low said she was still trying to understand the depth of loyalty Rhode Islanders seem to feel for the coffee chain.

"I would love to know where that comes from," she said.
Admittedly, I'm not from Rhode Island. However, I do come from an area where loyalty to Dunkin' Donuts was just as deep as Low finds it to be in the Ocean State. Dunkin' Donuts is, as a 2004 article in the New Bedford Standard-Times put it, "[The] SouthCoast's most popular wake-up call". This article presents the closest thing I've seen to a sociological analysis of the Dunkin' Donuts phenomenon, so I recommend it to those who share Low's curiosity. To say the very least, Dunkin' Donuts is a pervasive presence in Southeastern Massachusetts. The Standard-Times offers some instructive statistics:
. . . 43 Dunkin' Donuts are squeezed into the 28 miles between Fall River and Wareham. Not a single Starbucks brews a cup of coffee along that same swath of land. [Editorial note: Strictly speaking this is no longer true, but given that Starbucks has only established three stores on the SouthCoast in the last three years, they aren't really giving Dunkin' Donuts much competition.] A handful of Honey Dews and mom-and-pop shops gallantly fight the steady onslaught of magenta and orange.

But as customers flock to Dunkin' Donuts each morning like prairie animals to a watering hole, the SouthCoast has established itself as one of the company's most profitable areas. With one store for every 7,000 people - in some cases, locations are situated so customers do not have to make an extra left turn - only Boston and Providence compete in importance, Dunkin' Donuts representatives said.
Coming from the Dunkin' Donuts heartland, I'll admit that I've played my part in maintaining the SouthCoast's intense brand loyalty. I'm hard-pressed to explain the phenomenon - though the Standard-Times' analysis makes a lot of sense to me - but I'll admit that it's something very real. There's something about Dunkin' Donuts that shouts "home" to me - not simply because the chain is omnipresent in the area where I grew up, but because I can connect Dunkin' Donuts with specific memories of my childhood and adolescence, like devouring a box of Munchkins while watching Saturday morning cartoons.

Despite the nostalgic associations that Dunkin' Donuts has for me, I am not an uncritical fan of the franchise - in my view, the quality and variety of doughnuts available at most Dunkin' Donuts outlets has declined since the chain started to expand their menu to include bagels, muffins, sandwiches and the like. Nonetheless, I still felt a strange sense of pride in stumbling upon a number of Dunkin' Donuts in Lima, as though a small piece of my home had been transplated to South America. So, while I can't explain to Anna Low where Dunkin' Donuts loyalty comes from, I can affirm that it's real. AMDG.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Notes on the Memorial of St. Peter Canisius.

Today the Society of Jesus remembers our brother Jesuit Peter Canisius, a great 16th century theologian whose remarkable contribution to apologetics and catechesis helped preserve the Catholic faith in Germany during the time of the Protestant Reformation. Canisius' life and career bear witness to the international character that the Society of Jesus had even in its earliest days. A native of Nijmegen in the Netherlands, Canisius was educated in Cologne and chose to enter the Society of Jesus after making the Spiritual Exercises under the direction of one of the First Companions, the Frenchman Pierre Favre. After serving as a peritus at the Council of Trent and teaching at the Jesuit college in Messina, Canisius embarked on his great career as a Catholic apologist in the German-speaking lands of Central Europe. Though Canisius taught and preached in Germany, Austria, Bohemia and Switzerland and wrote scores of books, his greatest contribution came in the form of the short catechisms he wrote for students and children. Presenting the Catholic faith in clear, straightforward terms and answering criticisms commonly offered by Protestants, Canisius' catechisms became very popular and remained in print well into the 20th century. For his efforts, Canisius would be remembered as "the second Apostle of Germany" (the first being St. Boniface) and would be declared a Doctor of the Church at the time of his canonization in 1925.

Given the success of his apostolic labors and the international scope of his ministry, it should come as no surprise that Peter Canisius has given his name to Jesuit institutions in various countries. Canisius College in the saint's hometown of Nijmegen counts Jesuit Superior General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach among its alumni. The German Jesuits sponsor Canisius-Kolleg and St. Canisius Church, both in Berlin. The parish has an attractive website and a strikingly modern sanctuary, which I hope to examine in person if I have the chance to visit Berlin. The Austrian Jesuits also staff a church named for Canisius in Vienna, the traditional architecture of which offers a vivid contrast with its counterpart in Berlin. The missionary endeavors of the European Jesuits have brought the name of Peter Canisius to places he never visited and probably never even thought of. The Congolese capital of Kinshasa is home to the Institut de Philosophie Saint-Pierre Canisius, where many African Jesuits complete their studies in philosophy. Jakarta, Indonesia has its own Canisius College, founded by Dutch Jesuits in the 1920's. Buffalo, New York is home to Canisius College and Canisius High School, two reminders of the 19th century German Jesuits whose missionary territory in the United States extended from Boston to Toledo. In short, the name of Peter Canisius has gotten around. Today, I pray that this great Doctor of the Church will intercede for all who work, study or worship in institutions bearing his name. AMDG.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A family weekend in the Bronx.

My family made a much-appreciated visit to Ciszek Hall this past weekend. In addition to getting to see the house and to meet some of the guys I live with, they had a chance to profit from the first decent weekend of the spring to see three of the four attractions that draw people to this neighborhood: Fordham University, Arthur Avenue (a.k.a. "Little Italy in the Bronx"), and the Bronx Zoo. (The fourth major area attraction, which no Koczera has yet seen, is the New York Botanical Garden.)

Though the cluster of Italian restaurants, bakeries and pastry shops that dominate Arthur Avenue are mere blocks away from where I live, the nature of my schedule and the limitations of my budget have so far kept me from sampling the area's renowned Italian eateries as much as I'd like. Nonetheless, I've been slowly getting to know the various dining places in the neighborhood. I'm particularly fond of Ann and Tony's at 2407 Arthur Avenue, which is where I took my parents when they visited in the fall for a Red Sox-Yankees game (the Sox won, 5-2). This time we went to Giovanni's at 2343 Arthur, followed by dessert at Palombo's Caffe' at the corner of 187th and Arthur. Though the comparative merits of the various restaurants on Arthur Avenue are the subject of much debate, I've enjoyed every meal I've had there. The area also attracted favorable reviews from my family, so I'll be sure to bring them back there next time they're in town.

Zoos aren't really my thing, but as far as I can tell the one in the Bronx is quite good. I'm told that the Bronx Zoo was one of the first to start exhibiting animals in free-range settings that approximate their natural habitats - a distinction the staff and directors ought to be proud of. The glorious weather we had on Sunday made for a good visit to the zoo, concluding an enjoyable if too-brief family visit. I'm thankful for the opportunity to see my folks, and I'm happy to have had a chance to get to know my neighborhood a little better. AMDG.

Archbishop's appeal: Save Iraq's Christians!

Though we've entered the season of the Resurrection, the Passion continues for Iraq's suffering Christians. Rome-based Catholic news agency AsiaNews (which has offered far more complete coverage of this crisis than the secular media) has posted two articles in the last couple days that show that the situation of Iraqi Christians is worsening even in the ostensibly 'safe' region of Nineveh. Yesterday, AsiaNews published a pressing appeal from Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, who has emerged as one of the most articulate and outspoken leaders of the Church in Iraq. Archbishop Sako warns that in his country "the Church is disappearing under continued persecution [and] threats and violence carried out by extremists who are leaving us no choice: conversion or exile." Long subject to blackmail, kidnapping and terrorist attacks in major urban centers like Baghdad and Mosul, Iraqi Christians now face similar violence in Nineveh, an area promoted in recent months as a viable 'safe zone' where Christians could take refuge. According to Archbishop Sako, attacks on Christians in Nineveh are meant to send a very clear message: "It's almost a political gesture, as if to say, 'We can hit anywhere, nowhere is safe.'"

In a chilling confirmation of Archbishop Sako's words, the Christian village of Tell-el-skop near Mosul was hit yesterday by a suicide bombing. The blast wounded 140 and killed 10, including two children, and caused substantial damage to a Catholic primary school run by Dominican nuns. Following the attack, Chaldean Catholic Bishop Rabban al-Qas of Amadiyah and Erbil issued what AsiaNews calls a virtual "ultimatum" to the Holy See: "Find a way, a means to save us. The Church in all of Iraq is in great danger. We beg the Vatican to help us bring our voices to the world." Though I hope and pray that the voices of the Chaldean bishops will be heeded, I also wonder what can be done to improve a very desperate situation. Archbishop Sako and other members of the Catholic hierarchy in Iraq have issued many previous warnings on the growing persecution of Christians in the country - see these posts from October, November, December and January. Archbishop Sako has also offered strong opposition to the Nineveh safe zone plan backed by the U.S. Catholic Bishops. The Archbishop has urged that, instead of packing Christians into a small enclave where they could be more vulnerable to attack, the Iraqi government should make stronger efforts to protect the rights of religious minorities at a national level. With the threat to Christians rising across Iraq, Sako's worst fears are apparently being realized. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: pray for the people of Iraq, and tell others - including your elected officials - what is happening to them. AMDG.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Father Herman J. Muller, S.J., 1909-2007.

Jesuit Father Herm Muller died yesterday at the Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan, a few days after his ninety-eighth birthday. A Jesuit for seventy-nine years and a priest for sixty-six, Father Muller spent nearly a half-century on the faculty of the University of Detroit and its successor institution, the University of Detroit Mercy. Arriving at U of D in 1956 to teach history, Father Muller remained at the university until late 2005, when declining health forced him to move to Colombiere.

Herm was sent to U of D at a time when Jesuits typically didn't learn of their next assignment until they saw it posted on the community bulletin board. In this way, Herm Muller learned that he would be teaching economics as well as history. Never mind the fact that Herm had never studied economics himself - in those days, Ours were often asked to teach in fields outside their area of specialization. Like many other Jesuits in similar straits, Herm managed to learn enough about economics in the short time between learning of his assignment and the beginning of the semester to start teaching the subject. He continued to teach history and economics for the next five decades.

Though he acquired emeritus status in 1978, Herm continued to teach well into his nineties. By the time I entered the novitiate, Herm had given up teaching but was still tutoring students. He also remained an active as a scholar, seeking to add to the books he had already written on Jesuit and university history. I recall speaking with Herm about a trip he was planning to make - at the age of ninety-five - to St. Louis to do research for a book he was writing on a 19th century American Jesuit. Until he moved to Colombiere, Herm also stayed active as a chaplain to UDM's athletic teams, even traveling to far-off away games.

As a novice, I was always impressed by Herm Muller's dedication and generosity. In his nineties he remained mentally agile and deeply engaged in the university community he had belonged to for the greater part of his life. Unfailingly charitable and generous toward his fellow Jesuits, Herm was always interested in meeting younger Jesuits and hearing about their activities and their dreams for the Society. Though I'll miss Herm, I'm confident that he continues to pray for the Church and the Society in heaven. As I pray for his repose, I pray also that his example will continue to inspire other Jesuits and the students he served so well. AMDG.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Saving Assumption.

In today's edition of the Windsor Star, the daily newspaper serving the Ontario city right across the border from Detroit, there's a story on the ever-worsening structural damage threatening Assumption Church, a venerable Roman Catholic parish I know well from my time in the novitiate. As the Star reports, the constant flow of commercial traffic on the nearby Ambassador Bridge is causing significant stress to Assumption's 133-year-old sanctuary:
Church faithful have already remarked upon the phenomenon of "the wandering filing cabinets" at Windsor's oldest Roman Catholic Church.

But, says Rev. Paul Walsh, pastor of Assumption Church, the annual displacement by a few inches of the office's "500-pound" cabinets does not call for exorcism. Nor is it a sign from above. It is, he says, more likely explained by incessant vibrations from transport trucks crossing the Ambassador Bridge overhead.

While the priest of the region's most historic place of worship, founded in 1728 as a mission on what is now Huron Church Road near the banks of the Detroit River, says it is difficult to blame the big rigs for all the damage done to the building's structure, he adds the constant rumbling may be a significant contributing factor.

Walsh said preliminary exploratory work is being done to assess what renovations may be necessary to restore the landmark building. He suggests the cost of shoring up the structure, repairing cracks, stone cutting and brick work may amount to $6 million. But, he says, restoration is imperative.

"The current building is the fourth church built on the site," says Walsh. "It's the oldest in Canada west of Montreal. The bell tower and sanctuary were completed in 1874. You need to go to Quebec to find any other church as historic. It's a legacy, irreplacable."
Read the rest here. Assumption Church is a place near and dear to my heart, and I'll be praying for the success of the parishioners' efforts to raise the considerable funds needed to save their historic building. Unmentioned in the Star article - but referenced in this post from my old weblog - is the fact that Assumption was founded as a Jesuit mission and was served off and on by priests of the Society of Jesus for over a century. Though the Basilian Fathers have pastored Assumption since 1870, the parish's Jesuit heritage is still attested to by historical markers at the entrance to the church and in nearby Assumption Park, where you can also find an unusual modern sculpture of several Jesuit blackrobes that I wish I had a picture of.

As a novice, I frequently attended Mass at Assumption and came to have great affection for the parish. Assumption's historic link to the Society of Jesus, the beauty of the church building, the quality of the liturgy and the invariably excellent homilies I heard there always drew me back to the parish in spite of the fact that I had to cross a national border and pay a two-way toll to get there. I'll be praying for the people of Assumption as they work to raise the money they need to save their church, and I hope you'll do the same. AMDG.

Monday, April 16, 2007

New Bedford's Nativity Prep wins praise, approval.

Today's edition of my hometown paper has an enthusiastic article on New Bedford's Nativity Preparatory School, a tuition-free independent middle school serving boys from low-income families. Part of the Jesuit-inspired Nativity Network, Nativity Prep gives inner-city youth a chance to succeed with an academically rigorous curriculum and a demanding schedule that keeps students in school six days a week and includes a mandatory after-school study hall and extracurricular activities during evenings. Though not sponsored by the Society of Jesus, Nativity Prep explicitly acknowledges its debt to the Ignatian tradition and remains the closest thing to a Jesuit apostolate in New Bedford. (As an aside, I find the lack of a Jesuit presence in New Bedford unfortunate - smaller cities like New Bedford have all the same needs and problems that larger cities have, but owing to their size they don't get enough attention either from religious communities or from other groups seeking to better society.) Founded in 2000 and now serving 60 students in grades five through eight, has just passed an important milestone by receiving accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. I'm proud of the fine work that Nativity Prep is doing in the area where I'm from, and I wish the school continued growth and success. To learn more about Nativity Prep, I encourage you to check out their website. AMDG.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007.

The pen of one of the past century's literary titans was forever stilled on Wednesday when Kurt Vonnegut died at 84. A gifted satirist whose iconoclastic wit and gloomy pessimism often prompted comparisons with Mark Twain, Vonnegut held a privileged place in American literature as an icon of the '60's counterculture and as a favorite author of several generations of high school students. I don't believe I was ever assigned a Kurt Vonnegut novel in an English class - he wasn't that kind of writer, and the Am Lit classes I took in high school tended to focus on 19th-century New Englanders. However, as a brainy adolescent who enjoyed reading for pleasure as well as for class I sometimes turned to Vonnegut. I never shared his worldview, but I always appreciated his sincere grappling with the problems of human existence. In high school, I particularly liked Slaughterhouse-Five and Mother Night on account of their historical themes; though I haven't reread either novel in the past ten years, I'd like to return to them at some point. In the meantime, I'll enjoy rereading this 2001 Boston Globe profile of Vonnegut, which a fellow Jesuit and loyal reader of this blog called to my attention. The Globe piece captures something of Vonnegut's initimable personality and includes a number of choice anecdotes, my favorite of which involves Vonnegut donating copies of his novels to college libraries with incomplete collections. "I'm Kurt Vonnegut," the author reportedly told one librarian, "and this is a book by Kurt Vonnegut." Requiescat in Pace. AMDG.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In requiem aeternam.

Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Born 1 May 1881

Entered the Society of Jesus 19 March 1899

Died 10 April 1955

R. I. P.

Every priest, because he is a priest, has given his life to a work of universal salvation. If he is conscious of his dignity, he must no longer live for himself but for the world, as He lived whose anointed representative the priest is. I feel, Jesus, that this duty has a more immediate urgency for me, and a more exacting meaning, than it has for many others - far better men, too, than I ... To bring Christ, by virtue of a specifically organic connnexion, to the heart of the realities that are esteemed to be the most dangerous, the most unspiritual, the most pagan - in that you have my Gospel and my mission...

Because I am a priest, I would henceforth be the first to become aware of what the world loves, pursues, suffers. I would be the first to seek, to sympathize, to toil: the first in self fulfillment, the first in self denial - I would be the most widely human in my sympathies and more nobly terrestrial in my ambitions than any of the world's servants.

The above words come from an essay Teilhard wrote in July 1918 called "The Priest." At the time, this young Jesuit priest was serving in the trenches of the Western Front as a stretcher bearer for the French Army. Teilhard's war service played a pivotal role in his intellectual and spiritual development, helping him to develop some of his major philosophical and social ideas and deepening his sense of his vocation as a priest in and for the world.

Forbidden to publish and sent into virtual exile in the last years of his life, Teilhard would find a measure of vindication and official rehabilitation after his death. Teilhard shouldered the burden of censure with patient humility, accepting his situation while hoping that his writings might later be appreciated and understood. The year before his death, Teilhard told some of his friends, "If in my life I have not been wrong, I would like to die on the Day of the Resurrection." Teilhard died in New York on Easter Sunday of 1955, fifty-two years ago today.

Later today, I'll be joining some other Jesuits for a drive up to the old novitiate in Poughkeepsie to visit Teilhard's grave. As we pay our respects, we will give thanks for ways in which our brother Jesuit has touched our lives and the lives of many others. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. AMDG.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Christos Voskrese!

On this joyful Feast of Christ's Resurrection, I am pleased to present to you this homily of St. John Chrysostom, which is read at Paschal Matins in the Byzantine churches. The words of this great Father of the Church provide a reflection on the Easter event that I believe all Christians can appreciate:

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry.
Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed death by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

May God grant us great grace and consolation this Easter season, and may we be bless one another as He so richly blesses us. AMDG.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Holy Week hiatus.

My apologies for my silence during Holy Week. Amid the usual crush of academic work and my efforts to prayerfully prepare for the Paschal Triduum, I haven't had much time to devote to this blog. My desire to celebrate the Triduum as free of distractions as possible means that I won't be doing any blogging over the next three days, though you can expect to hear from me on Easter Sunday. Until then, I hope that the Triduum offers you a privileged opportunity to enter into the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. In celebrating these holy mysteries, I pray that you - and I - can appreciate in a new and deeper way the gift of God's redemptive and self-emptying love for us. AMDG.