Saturday, October 30, 2010

The streets of Innsbruck.

Among the small details of Innsbruck's urban geography that I came to appreciate this summer were the street signs - most especially, the distinctive brown and white signs that you see in most of the photos accompanying this post. Each of these signs includes a short narrative on the namesake of the street or square in question. As a visitor with an interest in history, I was so intrigued by these signs that I decided to photograph a few of them before I left Innsbruck.

During my time in Innsbruck, I lived at the Jesuitenkolleg on Sillgasse, a street named for an old mill stream, the Sillkanal, which was apparently "abandoned" sixty-five years ago.  A sometime resident of the Jesuitenkolleg who may have seen the Sillkanal with his own eyes was the late Father Karl Rahner, who gave his name to Karl-Rahner-Platz, a broad plaza in front of the Jesuitenkirche where Rahner is interred alongside many other Jesuits who lived and worked in Innsbruck.  As much as I like the old-style script used on the signs identifying Karl-Rahner-Platz, I regret that the city didn't see fit to install one of the brown and white street signs on the plaza.  Perhaps the municipal bureaucracy decided that Rahner had lived recently enough that no one really needed to be told who he was; as you can see in the above photos, the same apparently cannot be said of eighteenth-century luminaries like farmer and cartographer Blasius Hueber and the Empress Maria Theresa, both of whom receive the full benefit of the brown and white treatment.

The two World Wars took their toll on Innsbruck - a bit more on this in a later post, perhaps - and they also show up on a few of the city's street signs.  The loss of South Tyrol to Italy in the post-1918 dismemberment of the Habsburg Empire is called to mind by street names like Brixner Straße and Bozner Platz (Brixen and Bozen are both in South Tyrol) as well as by the square that fronts the Innsbruck train station, Südtiroler Platz (a name also found in Vienna and other Austrian cities).  The naming of Edith-Stein-Weg should require little explanation here, partly because I have discussed its namesake previously on this blog. On the other hand, I suspect that the name of Franz Mair will be new to most people who read these lines. Mair was a local high school teacher and leader of the anti-Nazi resistance who lost his life in the closing days of the Second World War.  Prof.-Franz-Mair-Gasse is a pedestrian passage that runs past the institution where Mair taught, the Akademisches Gymnasium Innsbruck, and also serves as a useful shortcut between two major streets, Museumstraße and Universitätstraße, both of which I took daily in my walks to and from class. Frequently passing by the sign honoring Mair's sacrifice, I tried to make a mental note to pray for all the victims of what this and other public markers refer to as "die NS-Zeit."

Cultural Catholicism is pervasive in Innsbruck, influencing the smallest of daily rituals (including the phrase that most people use to say hello, "Grüß Gott," a shortened way of saying "May God greet you!") as well as the naming of streets. I never found a brown and white sign explaining the name of Dreiheiligenstraße - "Three Saints Street" - but you can find an explanation of the name in one of the comments on this post. Other signs of Catholic presence come in streets named for religious institutions of various kinds. Klostergasse is home to Stift Wilten, Norbertine abbey founded in the twelfth century and still flourishing today. Pfarrgasse - "Parish Lane" - is the street leading to Innsbruck's Roman Catholic cathedral, which was an ordinary parish (albeit a prominent one) until the establishment of the Diocese of Innsbruck in 1964. Though Innsbruck lacks a Jesuitengasse - this despite a Jesuit presence that dates back to 1562 - there is a Kapuzinergasse, named for a still-active commmunity of Capuchin Franciscans that has been working in the city nearly as long as the Jesuits have.

I still have a few more Innsbruck-based posts up my sleeve, though they may be slow in coming.  I beg the patient indulgence of any readers who have been waiting for a provocative sequel to the 'monuments, memory, and meaning' post from a couple of weeks ago.  When I do find the time to complete this series, I hope that the results are worth the wait.  AMDG.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fuzzy geography, or, "need some quote from supporter."

If you follow American politics with particular interest, you may know that Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District is the site of a lively contest between longtime Democratic incumbent Barney Frank and Republican challenger Sean Bielat.  Representative Frank's national profile and Bielat's success in generating buzz around his candidacy have helped draw media attention to the race, which interests me personally because I'm a native of the 4th District and my family still lives there.  Right after September's primary I speculated that this would be a race worth watching, and it seems to have become just that: though Frank so far leads in all public polls, his failure to pass the fifty-percent mark as well as strong fundraising and effective grassroots organizing on Bielat's part have led even some observers on the left to speculate that the GOP may have a chance of picking up the 4th District seat.

Speaking of polls, the Boston Globe yesterday released the results of a University of New Hampshire survey giving Frank a thirteen-point lead over Bielat.  This isn't too far from an earlier poll by Providence TV station WPRI putting Frank twelve points ahead of Bielat or a poll commissioned by the Bielat campaign suggesting a ten-point gap.  Even so, it bears mentioning that the Globe/UNH poll comes from the same people who claimed that Martha Coakley had a fifteen-point lead over Scott Brown a week before Brown defeated Coakley by roughly five points.  Polls like these have an effect on fundraising and party strategy as well as public perception of the candidates, but it remains true that the only poll that really counts is the one that takes place when the voters go to cast their ballots.  Whether or not Barney Frank merits a sixteenth term in the United States House of Representatives will be decided a week from today by the only people whose views on this particular question actually matter: the voters of Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District.

Given that the voters in the 4th District are the only people who really have a say in who wins the race between Bielat and Frank, I was bemused by this part of yesterday's Globe story on the contest:
In the Fourth District, Bielat, a business consultant and ex-Marine from Brookline, has become a fixture on conservative talk radio and favorite of Republican activists nationally, but voters in the district, according to follow-up interviews, seemed unsure of his positions, background, or even that he was running at all, while many voiced support for Frank, who has represented the diverse district for three decades.

“I think he’s served us very, very well over many, many years. My impression is he’s a very bright man, very funny, and very liberal,’’ said Hugh Coffman, a pediatric psychologist in Brookline. “I don’t know anything about his opponent.’’

Nancy Glynn of Marshfield, 48, an unemployed mortgage underwriter, said she was not voting for Governor Deval Patrick, but was supporting Frank because of his support for the fishing industry.

“He’s been a great guy,’’ she said.

But Manuel Ganz, 71, a retiree from Brookline, said he would be voting the GOP party line in the election.

“Basically, I’m a conservative. I don’t care who it is, I’m voting for the Republican,’’ Ganz said.
Nancy Glynn may appreciate what Barney Frank has done for the fishing industry, but it's not clear how she can show her support for him on Election Day given that Marshfield isn't in the 4th District.  If it's true that "many voiced support for Frank," why did Globe reporter Alan Wirzbicki feel obliged to use a supportive quotation from an individual who presumably isn't eligible to vote for Frank's re-election?

It isn't at all surprising that a Globe story on the 4th District race would be favorable to Frank, but it seems rather egregious to stack the rhetorical deck in the incumbent's favor by quoting "voters in the district" who don't actually live in the district.  Even if one supposes that the Globe is guilty of nothing worse than journalistic sloppiness, the fact that an obvious error in reporting went uncorrected is still distinctly unflattering to the newspaper.  On November 2nd, we should receive a more reliable indication of what the voters of the 4th District have to say.  AMDG.

For the origin of the phrase "need some quote from supporter," click here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Bedford synagogue closing after 118 years.

Today's Standard-Times reports that New Bedford's Ahavath Achim Synagogue, one of two Jewish congregations in the city, will be closing in December after 118 years of existence.  The reasons behind the synagogue's imminent demise may sound familiar to readers who have gotten used to hearing similar stories regarding many Catholic parishes:
Nearly 120 years after it opened, Ahavath Achim Synagogue is slated to close at year's end, a victim of declining membership and support.

Ahavath Achim — it means "Brotherly Love" — was founded mostly by Lithuanian immigrants from Vilna. From the old photographs and plaques honoring deceased members to the Torah scroll that local resident Reizel Hiat had handwritten in Jerusalem in 1913, in memory of her husband, Yaakov, the Orthodox synagogue beats with a rich history.

Its congregants received the news via letters from the board of directors sent earlier this week, according to member Stuart Forman, who was asked by Jeffrey Horowitz, board president, to contact The Standard-Times.

"We are all very saddened by this," Forman, a Fairhaven resident, said. "There's a dwindling membership and, therefore, dwindling financial status and it just cannot be kept going."

Rabbi Barry Hartman said he learned about the closing Sunday.

"Money's always been a problem for many years here. We've always struggled along," he said Monday at his office on Ahavath Achim's grounds. Set back from County Street on a leafy lot, the buildings include a social hall, classroom space, a small adjacent chapel and an expansive chapel adorned with brigthly colored velvet, and wood in shades of dark brown and blonde.

. . .

In the summer edition of the [local Jewish] federation's publication, "Jewish Messenger," President Horowitz wrote that due to financial shortfalls, the synagogue was being put up for sale.

"The original plan was to downsize ...," Horowitz said in a Monday e-mail to The Standard-Times, "but after the building didn't sell and our members and donations declined further, we felt it was time to call it quits."

In a separate e-mail, Horowitz wrote that the impending closure, while necessary, "has left a tremendous hole in the hearts of our board."

Nevertheless, Secretary Martin Lipman said he hopes when the building does find a buyer, its proceeds will allow Ahavath Achim to continue in some form.
To read the rest, click here. Articles in the news media often draw attention to the closing of Roman Catholic parishes and falling Mass attendance, but one seldom comes across news stories relating these phenomena to broader trends in religious involvement. Once in a while, the media does take note of the larger issues - as, for example, the Boston Globe did last month in a story about former churches and synagogues going on the real estate market - but articles like these are fairly exceptional. The key point here is that the closure and sale of religious properties due in part to falling attendance isn't simply a 'Catholic problem' - as the story of Ahavath Achim reminds us, it's an issue for other religious groups as well.

Reading about Ahavath Achim, I thought of some well-established Protestant churches in the area where I grew up that have closed in recent years because their shrinking congregations couldn't afford the upkeep of their church buildings. In some cases, the historic churches left vacant by these closings have been converted to secular uses. Not far from my parents' home, the 142-year-old Marion United Methodist Church closed its doors in 2007; the old church was later sold and converted into a preschool and children's daycare center. When the nearby East Rochester Congregational Church closed permanently in 2002, the few remaining members donated their 145-year-old church building to the local Rochester Historical Society for use as a museum.  Despite roots stretching back to 1820, Fairhaven's Centre United Methodist Church closed in 2004 after its membership had dwindled to a handful of mostly elderly attendees. I could add other examples, but I think these three are enough to make a point.

When I consider how many churches in my home area that have closed their doors in the last decade or so, I inevitably begin to think about the larger social trends that are at work. As far as I can tell, the broad decline in civic engagement that political scientist Robert Putnam identified a decade ago in the book Bowling Alone has continued apace. I sometimes wonder whether there is any kind of correlation between the decline in involvement in community organizations and the growth of various kinds of Internet-based 'virtual' communities; I'm sure that most people still have the desire to connect with likeminded individuals, but modern technology gives them the option of doing so at arms length and with less of a sense of personal investment.

To say the very least, it will be interesting to see where the apparent trend toward greater civic disengagement and disaffiliation leads us as a society. Speaking as one who has made a strong and inescapably public commitment to communal and organizational life, I hope that more of my peers and the generations that follow us will come to realize that they need to be part of real-world communities as well as virtual ones. To conclude by returning to the story that prompted this post, I also hope that the congregants of Ahavath Achim Synagogue can find some consolation and a sense of peace as they contemplate an uncertain future. AMDG.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Monuments, memory, and meaning.

For a while, I've been meaning to start a series of posts reflecting on the time that I spent this summer in Austria. The theme that I hope will link these posts together is collective memory - the means by which people make sense of their shared past, deciding which aspects of the past they want to remember (and which they want to forget or ignore) and finding ways to communicate their version of history to the world and to succeeding generations. I've been interested in memory questions for a while, and my time in Austria provided me with a lot of new data for reflection. The idea of producing a series of posts on memory began to take shape in my mind while I was in Innsbruck, but I haven't been able to find the time to begin work on this series until now. My hope, therefore, is that this post will be the first of several.

My German studies this summer took place at the Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck, which received its double-barreled name on account of having been founded by one Habsburg emperor (Leopold I) and reestablished by another (Francis II). The campus of the University of Innsbruck features many reminders of the institution's long history, including the eagle-topped monument that you can see in the above photos. The eagle serves locally as a symbol of Tyrol, the historical region and Austrian federal state of which Innsbruck is the capital. The words chiseled on the three sides of the monument's base are Ehre, Freiheit, Vaterland ("Honor, Freedom, Fatherland"), a slogan which has served as the motto of student fraternities at many German-speaking universities since the early years of the 19th century. In and of itself, this motto provides little clue as to the purpose of the monument, and no sign or plaque stands nearby to tell strangers who or what is being commemorated here; after doing a little research, I finally discovered that this monument was erected in the 1920s to honor students and faculty of the University of Innsbruck who died in the First World War.

Public monuments are capable of multiple meanings, regardless of - and sometimes contrary to - the intentions of the people who built them.  Though built to honor those who died in a particular conflict, the monument shown above is now regarded as a memorial to the fallen of both of the World Wars of the last century. In the first instance, this means individuals who died in uniform - not just the uniform of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but also, unavoidably, the uniform of the Third Reich. The lack of a plaque explaining the monument's purpose might be partially understood as a way of avoiding the politically sensitive question of how such a plaque should be worded; at the same time, this silence about the monument's 'official' meaning helps create more of a space for the emergence of additional and even contradictory meanings.

I probably wouldn't have found this monument so intriguing if it weren't for a couple of small plaques affixed to its base. Added many years after the construction of the monument, these two plaques honor war dead of a very different kind. The first of these plaques recalls the memory of Christoph Probst, a member of Weiße Rose (White Rose), an anti-Nazi student group based at the University of Munich. Probst and fellow White Rose members Hans and Sophie Scholl were arrested in February 1943 for distributing anti-Nazi literature and were executed a few days later. Though Probst spent most of his life in Bavaria, at the time of his arrest he was a medical student at the University of Innsbruck. In the 1980s, the University decided to remember Probst with the commemorative plaque that you see in one of the above photos. I suspect that some observers may find it ironic that a committed foe of National Socialism now shares a memorial with fellow students who died for the same regime that he opposed (I personally don't find it particularly ironic, for reasons that I hope will become more apparent in coming posts).

The second plaque on the base of the university war memorial honors two victims of a conflict that unfolded far from the mountains and valleys of Tyrol. Ignacio Ellacuría and Segundo Montes were two Spanish Jesuits who studied theology at the University of Innsbruck in the late 1950s and early 1960s. After completing their studies, Ellacuría and Montes went to El Salvador and later joined the faculty of the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas. Outspoken defenders of the poor and powerless in a country riven by political and social conflict, Ellacuría and Montes were ultimately murdered, in the words of this plaque, "because of their commitment to peace and justice" (wegen ihres Einsatzes für Frieden und Gerechtigkeit). Together with four other Jesuits and two laywomen killed on the same night in November 1989, Ellacuría and Montes are remembered by many as the Martyrs of the University of Central America.

Some may find it odd that a monument originally erected to honor people who died fighting in the First World War could ultimately come to serve also as a memorial to an opponent and victim of the Nazis as well as two Jesuits who lost their lives in a civil war halfway across the globe. I do not know how the decisions were made to add the names of Christoph Probst, Ignacio Ellacuría and Segundo Montes to the war memorial at the University of Innsbruck, nor do I know how these decisions were viewed at the time they were made. I do know that I'm fascinated by matters like these, and I know that my time in Innsbruck gave me abundant opportunity to think about them. I hope to reflect more on all of this in a number of posts to come. In the meantime, please spare a thought for Ignacio Ellacuría, Segundo Montes, Christoph Probst and the war dead of the University of Innsbruck, who have come to share an unexpected place in the field of memory. AMDG.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The new Manny?

Yesterday morning, Boston arts blogger Joel Brown raised a question that I couldn't resist sharing for the benefit of some readers whom I know to be fellow members of Red Sox Nation as well as classical music fans: is James Levine the next Manny Ramirez? Brown certainly seems to think so:
OK, it's silly, but think about the parallels:

He makes his living swinging a stick.

He's a superstar paid millions to help a Boston institution regain greatness.

He's got crazy hair.

And at the moment, his status with the team is iffy.

By the accounts of those who were there, James Levine's gala seventh season opener with the Boston Symphony Orchestra last Saturday night was a musical triumph. In a Globe review, Jeremy Eichler called it "easily the most artistically rewarding season-opener I have attended in Symphony Hall." He also notes that "the stakes could not have been higher." An April operation to correct back problems is the latest in a series of health problems that have clouded Levine's future with the BSO. . . .

Levine is 67. His latest medical crisis caused him to miss more than half of his scheduled BSO appearances last season and the entire summer at Tanglewood. Some of the fans who pay big money for tickets were disheartened to find themselves watching replacement conductors. And that's hardly a new phenomenon, as various Levine health problems extend back several seasons.

When he's on the podium, he's not in a musical slump - quite the opposite. But over the course of this latest absence, the relationship between him and management seems to have deteriorated. Levine is by all accounts a brilliant man solely focused on his art, and the BSO has always handled him with kid gloves. But this year BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe has talked openly of Levine's unsigned contract and of needing to resolve the uncertainties created by Levine's health problems.

The eccentric slugger Manny Ramirez once existed inside a protective PR coccoon of "Manny being Manny." But ultimately the problems between him and the Red Sox became public, centering around his attitude and commitment to his work.

In light of his health problems, the fear is that Levine is too committed. Volpe went so far as to send Levine a letter - the Times called it a "rebuke" - expressing concern about this weekend's schedule. The subscription season opens with Mahler's "Resurrection" symphony at Symphony Hall tonight and Friday afternoon. Levine's grueling back-and-forth itinerary then has him conducting "Das Rheingold" at the Met on Saturday afternoon and the Mahler again with the BSO on Saturday night. Hope the Chinatown bus runs on time.

. . . [W]hile no one is concerned about Levine dogging it at the podium . . . clearly there are questions about the wisdom of his scheduling decisions. There are doubts about whether he can continue to serve both the BSO and the Met. . . .

Manny helped the Red Sox break the curse and win a World Series or two. But when he was seen to be a problem to the team, he was broomed anyway, in 2008.

This is not the first time Levine has returned to the podium at Symphony Hall vowing that he's restored and fully ready to carry on. It will be great if he conducts the BSO in good health for years to come. When he's hale, he and the orchestra swing for the fences and often connect. But if Levine misses more concerts, Volpe and company are going to have some difficult decisions to make, with no good options.

WWTD? (What would Theo do?)
The parallels are there, I think. Like many others, I'll be waiting to see whether Levine makes it through the season with his schedule intact (at the Met as well as in Boston). In the meantime, though, Mark Volpe might want to give Theo Epstein a call. AMDG.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Why Jesuits teach.

In the op-ed section of the latest edition of The Hoya, Georgetown University's newspaper of record, Father Ryan Maher, S.J. explains in very eloquent terms why Jesuits teach:
All Jesuits, in one way or another, are teachers. Teaching is a natural “vocation within a vocation” for us because of the experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola that undergirds everything we do and informs the imagination out of which we do it. In the Exercises, Ignatius provides a framework that enables us to discover that the spirit of God is active and laboring in every human life, whether people realize it or not. The Church asks Jesuits to help people realize exactly that and, further, the Church asks Jesuits to find ever more effective ways of inviting people, especially young people, to cooperate more fully in the grace-fueled project of their own lives.

That Ignatian two-step — helping people recognize reality with a capital “R” and inviting them to choose to cooperate with it — is what Jesuits do. That’s why our guts call us to go where people are asking tough, smart questions about themselves, God, the world and what really matters. That’s why the order gravitated so early and so easily to work among young people in schools. We came to that challenge with a particular way of proceeding, one born of great confidence in the power of the Spirit and steely-eyed trust in the ability of an honestly searching human heart and intellect to grow in understanding and trust to the point of being ready and willing to be grasped by God.

That’s why we’ve always been more concerned with coaxing people to ask the right questions than with trying to force them to memorize the right answers. We know that real learning takes time, sometimes a very long time. We understand our work in education in a strategic and optimistic way because we know that life is messy but good, that truth is elusive but knowable, that people learn by trial and error, and that God is very patient.

What happens in our classrooms will bear fruit (or not) decades and decades from now in the lives our students will choose to live. Ultimately, our success will be assessed not by some metric that can be displayed on a spreadsheet, but in the content and quality of the conversations that will take place between our alumni and their Creator before the judgment seat of God at the end of history. We believe that what we do at Georgetown can influence and inform those conversations. So Jesuits teach. So Jesuits love teaching.
To read the rest - and I hope you will - click here. Further on in the piece, Father Maher references recent conversations with other Georgetown Jesuits about the vocation of teaching.  "Not some abstract theory of teaching," Maher emphasizes, "but the actual human undertaking of a professor standing up in front of a group of intelligent young people and asking, 'OK, so what do you think of this?' and then engaging wholeheartedly in whatever happens next."

When I began teaching at SJU last fall, I quickly learned that "whatever happens next" isn't always that exciting; students may greet their professor's earnest question with inscrutable silence, or they may give answers that suggest that they missed the professor's point entirely. Over time, though, I've found that part of what makes teaching enjoyable as well as rewarding is the creative challenge of always striving to do better; if every question that I ever asked in the classroom provoked lively discussion or if every student gave brilliant answers, I would have little opportunity to grow as a teacher.

Over the past year, I've also become grateful for the unpredictability inherent in "whatever happens next." Individual students can react to particular books and articles in surprising ways, offering new insights that I might never have come to even after repeated readings of the same text. On a broader level, each class takes on its own unique collective personality - talkative or taciturn, acquiescent or skeptical, eager or wary - which necessarily affects my own approach to teaching. The element of mystery in all of this keeps things interesting, even as experience allows me to gradually hone my sense of what generally works best in the classroom.

The last two paragraphs are a long way of saying that I love teaching. As Father Maher's op-ed suggests, teaching is also an important part of who I am as a Jesuit. In a sense, one could also say that teaching is a part of why I am a Jesuit - both insofar as I discovered my vocation through the inspiration and good example of Jesuits who were college professors, and insofar as my attraction to the ministry of higher education helped confirm my desire to enter the Society of Jesus. I hope and pray that the work that Jesuits do in education - including my own humble efforts in the classroom - may be for God's greater glory. AMDG.

In the photo at the start of this post, legendary Georgetown professor Father Thomas M. King, S.J. stands before the blackboard during one of his lectures. Though I arrived on the Hilltop some years after this photo was taken, I can remember Father King drawing the same map on the board during class.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Saint François d'Assise.

I've never had any sort of devotion to Saint Francis of Assisi, whose feast is celebrated today.  Il Poverello may be beloved by millions of people around the world, but he has never captured my heart or inspired my imagination - one reason, I suppose, why I became a Jesuit and not a Franciscan (there are many other reasons, of course, and this particular one is far down the list).  On the other hand, though, I am a fan of Olivier Messiaen, an intensely Catholic composer who made Saint Francis the subject of his only opera

Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise isn't performed very often, for understandable reasons - it's long (about four hours, not counting intermissions), it doesn't offer much in the way of a conventional narrative (the story, such as it is, consists of a series of essentially self-contained vignettes from the title character's life), and the likely audience isn't that large (though he was a great composer, Messiaen isn't exactly a household name). 

Though live performances of Saint François d'Assise are few and far between, the opera is well worth hearing.  Considered in religious terms, Saint François d'Assise is as much an expression of Messiaen's own intensely mystical Catholicism as it is a tribute to a great saint.  The opera also stands as a fine example of Messiaen's unique musical style, which was shaped in part by the composer's fascination with birds and the music they make; as Messiaen put it, he chose Saint Francis as a subject "because he is the saint who most resembles Christ, and also for a more personal reason: he spoke to the birds, and I am an ornithologist." 

In the video presented at the start of this post, you can hear how Messiaen decided to present Francis' sermon to the birds.  The somewhat abstract staging conceived by American director Peter Sellars for the first Salzburg Festival production of Saint François d'Assise was reportedly not to Messiaen's liking, but the singer you see and hear above, Belgian bass-baritone José van Dam, was the composer's personal choice for the role of Saint Francis.  I hope that you enjoy this selection from Saint François d'Assise, and, even if you are not moved by Messiaen's music, I hope you will appreciate the sincere devotion that inspired his work.  AMDG.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Here and there.

Regency has been keeping me even more occupied than usual lately, partly on account of the work involved in preparing a new course that I hope to have approved for the Spring 2011 semester.  A number of would-be posts have taken shape in my mind over the last couple of weeks, only to remain unwritten for lack of time and energy.  Things seem to be settling down a bit - my course proposal is more or less finished - so some of the posts that I've been contemplating may yet see the light of day.

This blog received some print exposure this week thanks to Michelle Francl, a regular reader and commenter here who maintains her own very active blog and also writes a regular column for the local Roman Catholic diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Standard and Times (not to be confused with my hometown newspaper, the New Bedford Standard-Times, which I occasionally mention on this blog).  As a married mother of two  and a professor of chemistry who also happens to be a prolific writer, Michelle keenly appreciates the challenge of finding a place for God in the midst of a busy life.  In her latest column, which she also shares on her blog, Michelle refers to my late August post sharing ten maxims on prayer, which I in turn borrowed from a post on Wan Wei Hsien's blog Torn Notebook

I'm pleased to see the maxims reach a larger audience, and I encourage readers who may be unfamiliar with Michelle's writing to take a look at her blog, Quantum Theology, as well as her column in the Catholic Standard and Times.  At the same time, I'd like to extend a special word of welcome to anyone who may be reading this blog for the first time thanks to Michelle's column; if you found the ten maxims worthwhile, I hope that some of the other content here will be helpful to you as well.  AMDG.