Sunday, August 31, 2008

Remembering W. Norris Clarke, S.J.

A member of Fordham's philosophy faculty for over fifty years, Father W. Norris Clarke, S.J. died in June at the age of 93. I was out of the country when I heard about Father Clarke's death, and I regret that I was unable to attend his funeral. Nonetheless, I'm glad that I was able to take part in the final class that Father Clarke offered at Fordham, a seminar on personalist philosophy that covered works by Martin Buber, Gabriel Marcel and Emmanuel Mounier as well as Clarke's own book Person and Being. Still sharp at 92, as a teacher and writer Clarke remained fully engaged in the discipline he had taught for much of his life. Father Clarke also remained engaged with the wider world: until a few months before his death, he regularly traveled to conferences and gave public lectures, and he also continued to get around New York on the subway and to give rides to other senior Jesuits - most younger than he - who couldn't drive. After Father Clarke himself was advised that he should no longer get behind the wheel of a car, he ruefully remarked that he had been "going full-speed until age ninety-two," and he was right.

The latest issue of America includes a fond remembrance of Father Clarke by the magazine's associate editor emeritus, John W. Donohue, S.J. The full text of the article is regrettably only available to America subscribers, but the following excerpt (about half of the total article) should give you a good idea of the content:
On a summer day in 1933, William Norris Clarke, an 18-year-old from Manhattan, was hurrying along a pier in Cherbourg toward a trans-Atlantic liner about to leave for New York.

Norris, as he was known to his family and friends, had a few months earlier finished sophomore year at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and was planning to enter the novitiate of the Maryland-New York province of the Society of Jesus on Aug. 14.

In Paris, Norris had bought a dozen new books and stuffed them into a knapsack. As he ran, one of the satchel’s straps broke and the books skittered across the wharf. Years later Norris’s eyes twinkled with secret glee when he recalled the choice that had confronted him: abandon the books or miss the boat. While he was rounding up the books, the ship sailed without him.

That was the way he told the story, for he would never have blunted a good anecdote by adding anticlimactic details. But, of course, he did secure another passage, and he did enter the novitiate at St. Andrew-on-Hudson in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., as scheduled. When he died on June 10 of this year, he was 93 years old and had been a Jesuit for nearly three-quarters of a century. He was ordained a priest on June 17, 1945, and joined Fordham University’s philosophy department 10 years later. After he was named professor emeritus in 1985, he continued to teach part-time at Fordham and as a visiting professor elsewhere.

Never in all that time did his mind idle in neutral. He wrote eight books, including, most recently, The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics (2000), and some 70 learned articles. He was also a founding editor of the International Philosophical Quarterly. As recently as the spring 2008 semester [sic: it was actually fall 2007], he conducted a seminar on “Twentieth-Century Personalism” for some young Jesuits studying philosophy at Fordham.

That was an appropriate topic for a farewell tour, because Norris believed, as he once said, that Thomistic metaphysics needs to be enriched by the descriptions of the actual lives of real persons that phenomenologists provide.
In short, W. Norris Clarke was a great philosopher, a great teacher, and a great Jesuit. Though he'll be missed by his many friends and former students, he leaves behind a worthy legacy in the form of his published writings and - perhaps more importantly - in the lives of those who were influenced by his teaching and example. May he rest in peace. AMDG.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

NYT: Nun's retirement marks the end of an era.

Today's New York Times includes a profile of Sister Lucita Cangemi, M.S.B.T., who is retiring this week at the age of 87 after half a century as a social worker on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As NYT reporter Jim Dwyer notes, Sister Lucita's retirement marks the end of an era for a congregation of women religious that has served New York's poor for decades:

Sister Lucita is the last working New York member of an order of Catholic religious women, the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, who have served as social workers with Catholic Charities since 1953. Having taken vows of chastity, obedience and poverty, they became experts in prostitution, jails, diapers, rent, drugs and jobs.

"This is really not about me, but about the exodus of a community that has worked hard in New York, that loved New York and loved their work, and gave services to the city for 50 years," Sister Lucita said.

The base of their operations for many of those years was on the Lower East Side. Long before the clever restaurants and dress shops, the streets and tenements were home to poor people. The same human problems run across every class and culture, but on the Lower East Side, those problems lacked the insulation and camouflage that money can buy. Another member of the community who just retired, Sister Marion Agnes, worked to salvage abandoned apartment buildings through sweat equity, and more recently converted an old Catholic school into affordable housing.

Sister Lucita spent her early years helping people in trouble with the law. She had an office on Lafayette Street, and the city’s Probation Department would send her people who had just gotten out of jail. She advised judges in family disputes.

To read more, click here. It's worth noting that Sister Lucita will begin her 'retirement' by moving to Mexico to start another ministry. Like many other Roman Catholic religious - male and female - Sister Lucita is still working at an age when most laypeople would be long retired.

The NYT piece on Sister Lucita Cangemi offers a snippet of what has surely been an extraordinary life, but the more remarkable thing is that many other sisters, brothers and priests of advanced years live equally extraordinary lives that are never reported in the paper. As Sister Lucita sagely observes, it's not about her - it's about the great work that God has accomplished through her and many others. AMDG.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cardinal Dulles' 90th.

Fordham's own Avery Cardinal Dulles celebrated his ninetieth birthday today in the company of family, friends and brother Jesuits. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had the good fortune of taking part in the final seminar that Cardinal Dulles offered as Fordham's McGinley Professor of Religion and Society; wanting to pay my respects to a great theologian and a fine teacher, I made a point of attending the Mass of Thanksgiving offered today in celebration of the Cardinal's nine decades of life. At an outdoor reception following the Mass, New York Archbishop Edward Cardinal Egan offered tribute to Dulles and led the assembled company in a birthday toast. As you can see in the second photo from the top, the ordinary also took the lead in cutting the birthday cake. I like the fourth photo because it appears to show Cardinal Egan pointing at the camera; in fact, the Archbishop of New York was pointing to lend emphasis to something he was saying as part of a humorous anecdote regarding his personal history with Cardinal Dulles - an anecdote that Dulles and the audience seem to have appreciated, given their smiles and laughter.

Though worsening paralysis has robbed Cardinal Dulles of the ability to speak, in written remarks read on his behalf at the conclusion of the Mass he expressed his gratitude for God's many gifts to him and mentioned how his growing infirmity has brought him closer to God. As I pray in thanksgiving for the gift of Cardinal Dulles' life and his contributions to the Church, I also pray that he may continue to find comfort and consolation in a time of suffering and weakness. Today and in the coming days, I hope that my readers will join me in praying for these intentions. AMDG.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mount Athos goes wireless.

This morning I read that six of the twenty Orthodox monasteries on Mount Athos now have wireless Internet access. My initial knee-jerk reaction to this news was something along the lines of "there goes the neighborhood," jarred as I was by the strange mental image of Athonite monks surfing the Internet - or, for that matter, pilgrims bringing their laptops to the Holy Mountain in the knowledge that they'll be able to check their e-mail and keep current on world news during their monastic sojourn. If the Internet has reached Mount Athos, I thought, is any oasis of faith safe from the influence of contemporary secular culture?

On further reflection, though, I felt a sense of surprise that the introduction of broadband Internet access in Athonite monasteries was even considered newsworthy. Mount Athos has had an official website for some time, which suggests that the monks may already have had access to the Internet (though I suppose that the website could be hosted elsewhere and maintained by other parties). Furthermore, I don't believe that living out a contemplative or monastic vocation obliges one to fast completely from modern technology. When I was in Jerusalem, I was surprised how many of the Orthodox monks I encountered had cellphones. For example, when I went to attend an Ethiopian vespers service at the Holy Sepulchre, I saw several monks remove cellphones from their pockets in order to turn them before prayer. One monk apparently forgot to do so, and to his visible embarrassment his phone started to ring during the service!

If monks can make prudent use of cellphones, they can certainly do the same with the Internet. Among the various blogs I check from time to time is one produced by Ukrainian Catholic Abbot Joseph Homick, Word Incarnate. By blogging, Abbot Joseph is able to share the riches of the Byzantine spiritual tradition with people far beyond the monastery in which he lives. Perhaps the monks of Mount Athos will make similar use of modern technology to bring Christ to others. Though the introduction of wireless Internet will perhaps inevitably bring more worldly influences to the Holy Mountain, I hope this development also brings more of Mount Athos to the world. AMDG.

Monday, August 18, 2008

San Alberto Hurtado.

Today the Church remembers St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, a Chilean Jesuit canonized in October 2005. Raised in poverty, Alberto Hurtado attended Santiago's Colegio San Ignacio on scholarship and later earned a law degree before entering the Society of Jesus in 1923. Following his ordination to the priesthood in 1933, Father Hurtado earned a doctorate in education at Louvain and returned to Chile to teach and to give retreats to youth. In the 1940s, Father Hurtado turned his attention to social ministry, playing an important role in the development of the trade union movement in Chile and founding a social service organization known as Hogar de Cristo. At the same time, Father Hurtado continued his work in the intellectual apostolate by publishing numerous books on social and ecclesial questions and by founding Mensaje, a monthly magazine offering a Catholic perspective on current affairs. (As a proud Hoya, I also feel obliged to note that Hurtado's academic career took him to Georgetown for a brief spell in the 1940s.) Though Father Hurtado's apostolic life came to an early end - he died of cancer in 1952, at the age of fifty-one - the work that he began continues today through Hogar de Cristo and Mensaje. Hurtado's memory also lives on in the hearts of the people he served, many of whom journey to visit his tomb at the Santuario Padre Hurtado in Santiago. Another appropriate memorial to this great Jesuit is the Universidad Alberto Hurtado, a Jesuit university in Santiago founded in the 1990s.

In light of today's memorial, I thought I would share a few of the photos I took this summer at the Santuario Padre Hurtado. As I mentioned in an earlier post, during my stay in Santiago I lived in a Jesuit community a few blocks away from Father Hurtado's shrine. I made the fifteen-minute walk from my residence to the Santuario several times, stopping to pray at Hurtado's tomb and to observe the Chilean pilgrims who came to pay homage to the saint. The tomb (third and fourth photos) attracts a constant flow of devotees, and many who have sought the intercession of Father Hurtado leave behind plaques giving thanks for answered prayers (fifth and sixth photos). Known during his lifetime as an apostle to Chilean youth, Father Hurtado continues to inspire young people; the pupil in the seventh photo (the one looking at the poster of Father Hurtado with the slogan, "Tell me... I'm listening to you") is one of many student-pilgrims I saw during my visits to the shrine.

For me, the example of St. Alberto Hurtado provides great hope and consolation. As one of his contemporaries observed, Hurtado was a "fire that lights other fires," an energetic and zealous follower of Jesus Christ who inspired countless others to lead lives of faithful discipleship. During my time in Chile, I found myself greatly impressed by Hurtado's continued impact on Chilean society; it's no accident that Alberto Hurtado was one of ten historical figures nominated for the title of "the greatest Chilean" in a contest mounted by one of the country's leading television networks. On this Memorial of St. Alberto Hurtado, I pray in gratitude for the witness offered by this outstanding Jesuit. I pray also for the people of Chile, especially for the poor who seek the support of Hogar de Cristo and for all who have taken inspiration from Father Hurtado's example of Christian service. San Alberto Hurtado, ruega por nosotros. AMDG.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dormition Abbey.

In honor of today's feast, I thought I would post a few photos of one of my favorite places in Jerusalem: Dormition Abbey. Founded in the early years of the twentieth century by Benedictine monks from Germany, Dormition Abbey sits atop Mount Zion just outside Jerusalem's Old City. The monks of Dormition Abbey have adapted their vocation of ora et labora to the realities of life in one of the world's most contested cities, praying daily for peace in the world and working to foster reconciliation among the various communities present in the Holy Land. I made several visits to Dormition Abbey during my recent retreat in Jerusalem, once attending Mass with the monks and stopping in at other times to pray in the crypt of the monastery church (seen in the bottom two photos).

Dormition Abbey remained very much in my consciousness even on days when I didn't set visit the place, as I could see the monastery from my room at the Pontifical Biblical Institute - the top two photos in this set offer views of Dormition Abbey from the grounds of the PBI. Though I'm somewhat disappointed with the fuzzy image I captured of the monastery's upper church (fifth photo), I like the soft glow of the light in the photo of the church's statue of St. Benedict (sixth photo) as well as the pictures I took in the crypt (seventh and eighth photos). Taken as a whole, I hope that this set gives readers a vivid sense of a holy place which has meant a great deal to me. On this solemn day, I'll be praying in a special way for the monks of Dormition Abbey and for their intentions. AMDG.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The arrival of a Patriarch.

On the same day that I attended the Greek Orthodox service of Orthros at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I witnessed a historic event in the life of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land: the enthronement of a new Latin Patriarch. After twenty years as Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Michel Sabbah officially retired on June 21st and was succeeded by Archbishop Fouad Twal, his coadjutor since 2005. The following afternoon, Archbishop Twal marked the beginning of his service as Latin Patriarch with his solemn entry into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, accompanied by bishops, clergy and seminarians of the Latin Patriarchate as well as assorted ecumenical dignitaries and laypeople.

The photos presented above should provide some sense of what the solemn entry of a new Latin Patriarch into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre looks like. The afternoon's events began with a procession from the offices of the Latin Patriarchate to the Holy Sepulchre; as shown in the first photo from the top, the streets along the route were festooned with paper flags bearing the emblem of the Latin Patriarchate. While the procession slowly covered the short distance from the Latin Patriarchate to the Holy Sepulchre, a diverse group waited to greet the Patriarch at the entrance of the holiest site in Christendom. Included in the group (second photo) were Franciscan Friars of the Custodia Terrae Sanctae as well as the fez-clad Palestinian laymen who act as enforcers of the status quo regarding the division of the Holy Sepulchre among several Christian communities. In the third photo, representatives of three of these communities - Latin, Greek and Armenian - smile and laugh in an apparent display of ecumenical good humor. The man standing before the church doors in the fourth photo is Wajeeh Nuseibeh, the Muslim doorkeeper of the Holy Sepulchre. The privilege of opening and closing the doors to the church has been the exclusive prerogative of the Nuseibeh family for centuries; keeping this task in Muslim hands plays a role in maintaining the fragile balance of power among the different churches that claim the right to worship in the Holy Sepulchre.

The multitude awaiting Archbishop Twal's arrival also included a fair number of tourists (fifth photo) as well as unruly hordes of press photographers and reporters. When the new Patriarch finally appeared, marching beneath a canopy held aloft by various attendants (sixth photo), he was preceded by a retinue that included numerous bishops and clergy (seventh photo) and a large number of seminarians from the Latin Patriarchate (eighth photo). The crush of people was such that when Archbishop Twal reached the doors of the Holy Sepulchre (ninth photo), very few people were actually able to follow him inside. Instead, the multitude stood gaping at the entrance in an effort to see what was going on within the darkened confines of the church (tenth photo). As one among the multitude, I felt very lucky to watch history unfold at close quarters. AMDG.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Taking advantage of the abundant free time offered by a week at Omena, I've decided to post a few more batches of photos from my time in Jerusalem. I wanted to finish this task in late June while the memories of my retreat in the Holy Land were still fresh in my mind, but I had to suspend the project when I left for Chile. Hopefully readers will consider my efforts better late than never.

The set of photos included with this post were taken before and during the Greek Orthodox service of Orthros (Matins) in the Church of the Anastasis (a.k.a. the Holy Sepulchre) on the morning of Sunday, June 22nd. The Orthodox chapel known as the Katholikon is located in the very center of the church, just east of the Tomb of Christ. Though some scholars complain that the Byzantine decoration of the Katholikon clashes too much with the Crusader architecture of the Holy Sepulchre, I found this chapel to be one of the most beautiful and prayerful parts of the church. The service of Orthros was appropriately moving and impressive, though it certainly didn't approach the pomp of the celebration of Pentecost that I had attended the previous Sunday in the same space. Looking at these photos, I'm particularly pleased by the effect provided by the beams of light streaming into the Katholikon from the windows in the domes of the church - note, for example, the way the light illuminates the clouds of incense surrounding the deacon in the third and fifth photos from the top. I hope you enjoy these photos, and I hope to present another set tomorrow. AMDG.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Notes on the Memorial of St. Dominic.

Today the Roman Catholic Church remembers St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers. The Dominican motto 'Veritas' and the emblem of the order are visible in the photo above, which I took outside the Dominican church in Lima in July 2006. Educated in public schools and in universities founded by the Society of Jesus and the Congregation of Holy Cross, I've had very little direct experience with members of the Order of Preachers. This will change in the fall, as I'll be taking a course with an English Dominican who teaches at Fordham. More indirectly, I've come into contact with the vibrant intellectual tradition of the Order of Preachers through my reading of works by Thomas Aquinas and other Dominican luminaries.

The relationship between the Dominicans and the Jesuits has not always been positive: at the end of the sixteenth century, Pope Clement VIII had to intervene to resolve a heated dispute between Dominican and Jesuit theologians over grace and free will. Nonetheless, the Society of Jesus and the Order of Preachers share a strong and enduring commitment to the service of faith through direct evangelization and learned ministry. On this Memorial of St. Dominic, I'll be praying in thanksgiving for the gifts that the Dominican charism offers to the universal Church. AMDG.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Yesterday morning I returned to New York on a red-eye flight from Santiago. Ten hour flights are hard enough to bounce back from, but switching languages, hemispheres and seasons in the process makes the transition even more challenging. Still very disoriented, I nonetheless have to pack and prepare for another trip: this afternoon, I leave for Michigan to take part in the annual Jesuit formation villa at Omena and to attend First Vows in Detroit.

Please join me in praying for Chicago and Detroit Province vovendi Matt Dunch, Hung Nguyen, Cyril Pinchak and Christian Wagner as well as all the other Jesuit novices preparing to take vows in various locations this month. Hopefully I'll have something to say about the vows once they happen. In the meantime, pax et bonum. AMDG.