Tuesday, June 28, 2011


In about an hour, I'll be leaving for the airport on the first leg of a trip that will take me to Vienna for a month of German language study. Naturally, I'll write more once I get there. In the meantime, here is some music appropriate to the start of a journey: the Prelude to Das Rheingold, performed above by the Bayreuther Festspielorchester under the direction of Daniel Barenboim. (Warning: the music doesn't actually start until about the 1:25 mark, preceded by a silent tableau devised by stage director Harry Kupfer.)

Just for fun and with a nod to a similar post from around this time last year, I'm also happy to present this second musical selection: a string quartet cover of Weezer's "Across the Sea" courtesy of the Vitamin String Quartet. Auf Wiedersehen! AMDG.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A particular sanctity.

Here is another perspective on today's anniversary, courtesy of my Georgetown contemporary Andrew Staron:
Rev. Thomas M. King, S.J. died of a heart attack on June 23, 2009. Despite the fact that he had broken his hip some seven years prior and had undergone several painful surgeries over the intervening years in a never-fully successful attempt to repair the damage done that day he slipped on the ice, he had continued his service to the Georgetown University community until his death. He had taught a couple of theology courses that previous spring term: Problem of God and Teilhard and Some Theologies of Evolution — the latter course on the theology of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, will undoubtedly not be continued at Georgetown. He had just completed another of his forty academic years of celebrating Mass at 11:15 pm six nights a week — a tradition also not to be continued. He was scheduled to teach in the coming autumn. And on May 9, 2009, he celebrated his eightieth birthday.

I met Fr. King in 1998. Having failed to get into his Problem of God course, I began attending Mass a couple of nights a week, although I don’t remember exactly why I began going. My attendance ebbed and flowed over the next four years. I was never a regular, yet I met some of my closest friends at the post-Mass soirées — "not just a party," Fr. King would always remind us, "a high class party." There was something about Fr. King softly, but intensely, leading the congregation in the celebration of the Mass in the flickering candlelight that made it just a little easier to believe. There was no doubt in my mind that he believed in what he was doing. And he seemed to live his life close enough to all things mystical that he made me want to trust him. He was always fully himself, always faithfilled, always open to the students around him. The more clearly he was himself, the more clearly he was pointing away from himself. I trusted Fr. King, and Fr. King believed.

Try as he did to convert me into a Teilhardian, I was neither scientist enough nor mystic enough to understand what the paleontologist/theologian/Jesuit was doing. However, what did strike me — and strike me deeply at that — was the courage Fr. King attributed to Teilhard. Fr. King painted a picture of a deeply religious man whose faith drove him toward creation itself in a passionate search for the fingerprint of the Creator. Nothing that was true was unrelatable to God and theology. Fr. King himself embraced such a perspective, too. That courage is one of the main reasons I began to study theology and one of the main reasons I have continued to do so. In fact, it was his professorship that I have held, for ten years now, as a model for what I would hope my own career would grow to become. I feel fortunate to have been able to tell him that on his eightieth birthday.
To read the rest of Andy's post, click here. AMDG.

Selig sind, die da Leid tragen.

Today is the second anniversary of the death of Father Thomas Mulvihill King, S.J., a longtime professor of theology at Georgetown University who served as a teacher, pastor, mentor, and friend to countless Georgetown students, including myself. For more on Tom's life and legacy, read these reflections written shortly after his passing and this post sharing one of his finest short essays from The Hoya.

In observance of this anniversary, I'd like to share the first movement of Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem, presented above in a 1988 performance featuring the Wiener Symphoniker and the Wiener Staatsopernchor under the direction of Nikolaus Harnoncourt. I first heard Brahms' Requiem while I was a student at Georgetown, and since then it has become one of my favorite works. Tom King knew this piece as well; he may not have counted it among his favorites, but I believe that he would appreciate its use in this context.

In contrast with the traditional Roman Catholic requiem text asking God to show mercy toward the departed, Brahms' Requiem emphasizes the grief and ultimate consolation of the living. Here is the text of the first movement, presented first in Brahms' original German (taken from the Luther Bible) and then in English translation:

Selig sind, die da Leid tragen,
denn sie sollen getröstet werden.

Die mit Tränen säen,
werden mit Freuden ernten.
Sie gehen hin und weinen
und tragen edlen Samen,
und kommen mit Freuden
und bringen ihre Garben.


Blessed are they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted.

They that sow in tears
shall reap in joy.
They that go forth and weep,
bearing precious seed,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
bringing their sheaves with them.

May God grant consolation to all who remember Father Tom King on the anniversary of his passing, and may his good example and his prayers continue to bear fruit in our lives. Eternal memory! AMDG.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The longest day of the year.

In the Northern Hemisphere, today is the summer solstice, the year's longest day as measured by the time between the rising and the setting of the sun. By a coincidence of the calendar which I had never thought about until this year, today also happens to be the Feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, one of the greatest Jesuit saints. I don't have anything more to say about the shared date of today's feast and the summer solstice, but I will say that the longest day of the year has always held a special attraction for me. This is a day that I always take note of and often try to observe in a special way by doing something summery around the time of sunset; with that in mind, once I've posted this I intend to get some ice cream.

At the moment, I'm briefly back in Philadelphia after nearly a month away. I spent all of last week and the weekend of Father's Day in New Orleans attending a conference on management and leadership in Jesuit institutions; this conference marked my first-ever visit to Louisiana, a state which made a very positive first impression. I hope to write a bit more about my time there, but for now I'll at least share the above photo taken Saturday evening of Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.

My summer travels continue apace: next week, I fly to Vienna to resume the study of German that I began last summer in Innsbruck. I hope that my time in Austria will allow me to consolidate what I learned last year and gain greater facility in speaking and reading German. Though I'll be busy for the next few days preparing for the trip, I hope to have time to compose at least a couple posts for this blog. Good wishes and prayers for all. AMDG.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mahler on Pentecost.

Here's something for the Feast of Pentecost, celebrated today. The Roman Catholic convert Gustav Mahler is not known for his liturgical compositions - in fact, he never wrote any music intended for the liturgy - but he did produce a very fine musical setting of the Pentecost hymn Veni Creator Spiritus. Mahler's Veni Creator Spiritus forms the first part of his colossal Symphony No. 8, dubbed the "Symphony of a Thousand" on account of the alleged size of the choral and orchestral forces massed for the work's 1910 premiere. If Mahler had ever actually written a Mass, perhaps it would sound something like his setting of the Veni Creator Spiritus.

In the recording featured above, Leonard Bernstein leads the Wiener Philharmoniker together with the combined choral forces of the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor, the Wiener Singverein, and the Wiener Sängerknaben, joined by soloists Edda Moser, Judith Blegen, Gerti Zeumer, Ingrid Mayr, Agnes Baltsa, Kenneth Riegel, Hermann Prey, and José van Dam. The combination of multiple choirs, assorted soloists and a thunderous organ all contribute to an exceptionally powerful listening experience; I once heard the work live (performed by the Staatskapelle Berlin, led by Pierre Boulez and joined by most of the same soloists captured on this CD) and I can testify that Mahler's 8th makes an even stronger impression in person.

For more on the Veni Creator Spiritus, check Wikipedia for the Latin text, a loose English translation and some historical notes and take a look at this page on the website of the REC Music Foundation for Mahler's version of the Latin (slightly different from the original) and a rather better English translation. I'd like to write more about all of this, but I need to get ready to fly from Cincinnati to New Orleans this afternoon for the next stop on my busy summer itinerary. Until next time, please know of my prayers for a blessed Pentecost. AMDG.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Congratulations, Joel!

This post comes to you from Cincinnati, where my friend and brother Jesuit Joel Medina was ordained to the priesthood earlier today at St. Francis Xavier Church by Archbishop William D'Souza, S.J. of Patna, India. I first met Joel eight years ago, when he was a first-year novice and I was a candidate for the Society; the fact that he is now a priest reminds me how quickly time flies and also makes me feel somewhat longer in the tooth than I felt yesterday.

Please join me in praying for Father Joel Medina as he begins his priestly ministry; please pray also for all others who have recently been or are preparing to be ordained, and please pray for vocations to the priesthood and to religious life. AMDG.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Retreat miscellany, Part II of II.

For your edification, here is the second in a two-part series of photos taken during and after my recent eight-day retreat in Chicago. The first post may be found here.

If you've spent time in Chicago, you know that the city has a lot of streets that bear "honorary" names in addition to their everyday, official appellations. Appropriately and probably unsurprisingly, these two streets named for Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky and Bishop Jaroslav Gabro may be found in Ukrainian Village.

The interior of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral. I attended the Sunday liturgy here during my retreat and returned for Ascension Thursday.

The cornerstone of the same cathedral.

A few blocks north of St. Nicholas, Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral peeks out from above the trees. I didn't step inside Holy Trinity during this retreat, but I have attended services there before and hope to do so again.

In Rogers Park, just north of Loyola University, one finds a long and very colorful concrete bench providing a place to sit facing the beach and the Lake. Various community groups were permitted to paint different sections of the bench, but I don't know exactly who was responsible for this representation of the Chicago skyline.

In most cases, the groups responsible for painting particular sections of the bench are clearly identified. Rogers Park is a thoroughly multicultural neighborhood, so I wasn't at all surprised to learn that there are Bahá'í Children's Classes there.

The bench again. Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa said, "Genuine art tells the truth." I'm sure that many Christian theologians would agree.

Now we're in Edgewater, the neighborhood directly south of Loyola University. I've noticed the appealing vintage storefront of Granville Picture Framing at the corner of North Broadway and Granville on a number of previous visits to the area; I've never done business with them, but perhaps I would if I lived here.

As you already know from the Granville Picture Framing photo, I'm interested in vintage commercial signage - which includes signs like this one for Heileman's Old Style Beer outside an Edgewater bar.

Still in Edgewater, this is the Indie Cafe, where I had dinner with a friend after the retreat. The Indie Cafe is a great restaurant, so I hope that you'll give it a try if you're in the area. AMDG.

Retreat miscellany, Part I of II.

Last week, I wrote that I might post some photos from my retreat; here is the first of two posts on that topic, with captions for each photo. The second post may be found here.

This was taken on the first night of the retreat, at the intersection nearest to the the Jesuit residence where I was staying.

The view from my window, Chicago, Illinois, May 24, 2011, 2:00 pm.

Looking west from the third-floor balcony of the Jesuit residence, May 30, 2011, 2:50 pm.

Chicago's Hartigan Beach on the first evening of the retreat.

Lake Michigan shrouded in fog.

Loyola University's Madonna della Strada Chapel, obscured by the aforementioned fog.

Looking north along Lake Michigan on a stormy day; I love the color of the sky and the water in this image (incidentally, a torrential downpour started just a few minutes after I took this photo - I got back to the house just as the first raindrops began to fall).

Once again, Lake Michigan - captured here in a still moment at low tide.

Looking north towards Evanston at sunset.

This may look like the surface of the Moon, but it's actually a flood-lit Hartigan Beach captured late at night.

More photos to follow shortly - I hope that you enjoy them. AMDG.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


This post comes to you from the campus of Loyola University Chicago, where I completed my eight-day retreat on Tuesday afternoon; my thanks to those who offered prayers, which I very happily reciprocate. Spiritually refreshed, I'm now enjoying a few days of relaxation in Chicago. Since I am a practitioner of contemplative photography, I naturally took many pictures during the retreat; I may post a wider selection of retreat images in the coming days, but for now I think that the above photo is a good fit for today's Feast of the Ascension. To all who are celebrating today, I offer my prayers for a blessed and happy feast.

For your aesthetic and spiritual edification, here is the Latin introit for today's feast, Viri Galilaei, performed by the Choralschola der Wiener Hofburgkapelle. My celebration of Ascension Day will include music of a very different sort, as I attend a concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performing Mahler's Symphony No. 9 under the direction of Bernard Haitink. This concert brings together one of my favorite ensembles and one of my favorite conductors, playing some of my favorite music, so I have much to look forward to this evening. In a larger way, as I found on my retreat, I have very much to be grateful for, so I hope to experience this concert in a spirit of great gratitude to God. AMDG.