Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On retreat.

This afternoon, I will begin my annual eight-day retreat at Portsmouth Abbey on the shores of Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. I've posted about Portsmouth a couple of times in the past, and I look forward to returning there after several years away. Please know that I will be praying for the readers of this blog during my retreat, and please pray for me and the monastic community at Portsmouth during these days. I will finish my retreat on July 4th, so expect posting to resume after that - with any luck, I should have a few photos to share. AMDG.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Jesuit and an astronomer?

I've posted about a Jesuit geneticist and a Jesuit chemist, so now it's time to hear from a Jesuit astronomer, Brother Guy Consolmagno, who appeared in one of this blog's very first posts and whom I'm made note of as one of an unlikely triptych of Jesuits (the other two were Bob Taft and Marc Gervais) who influenced my vocation to the Society of Jesus long before I met any of them in real life. In the above video from Catholic News Service, Brother Guy discusses the origins of the Vatican Observatory, explains what was really at stake in the Galileo Affair, and ponders the links between faith and science. The fact that this video is billed as "Part I" suggests that there will be more, so I'll post any sequels once CNS publishes them on YouTube. AMDG.

Quomodo sedet sola civitas.

To say the very least, the last few days have been particularly difficult ones for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Friday's guilty verdict in the Lynn case came a day after the local Church announced a wave of lay-offs and the elimination of some curial departments as a way of heading off a projected $17 million budget deficit. One result of the cutbacks is that the archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Standard and Times, will cease publication after 117 years. Quantum Theology's Michelle Francl-Donnay offers some reflections on these changes from her inside perspective as a columnist for the Standard and Times; meanwhile, yesterday's New York Times provided a good overview of the challenges that Philly Catholics face as the Archdiocese moves forward with plans for restructuring (which include the closing of parishes and schools) and as local courts prepare to hear further criminal cases involving Catholic clergy and other church workers.

When Archbishop Charles Chaput arrived to shepherd the local Church last September, I sounded a hopeful note. Many months later, I still recognize the Archbishop as a courageous man doing the best he can under difficult circumstances, which include the need for painful cutbacks as well as the challenge of comforting and guiding the faithful during times of turmoil and transition. The Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia will survive the current crisis, and though many Catholics will find their faith shaken and some will leave, I believe that many will persevere with God's help.

Though I remain hopeful in a sober sort of way, I'm also saddened by the awareness that much is being lost. First of all, I'm saddened by the disappearance of those who will decide, for a variety of reasons, that they can no longer support the local Church or consider themselves Catholic. I'm also saddened by the closing of many parish churches and schools built and maintained by the toil and treasure by generations of the Catholic faithful, as well as the loss of archdiocesan programs that have provided spiritual and material support to many thousands of people. Finally, I'm saddened by the broader realization that a particular kind of Catholic culture, a certain unique way of being Catholic, is coming to an end.

Like Michelle, I pray for those who will be affected by the ongoing process of reorganization in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia - those who are losing their jobs and those who have been served by the offices that are being closed, as well as those who must say goodbye to beloved church buildings and schools. I also pray for future generations of Catholics in this area; though I am sad that they will not know Philadelphia Catholicism as it once was and is even now, I pray that their faithful witness will allow the Church to remain a beacon of hope and a force for good in this region. May the city that now seems so desolate again become a place of life. AMDG.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

". . . the time you can begin being a Christian . . ."

Today is the third anniversary of the death of Father Thomas M. King, S.J., a teacher and spiritual father who likely needs little introduction to those who have been reading this blog for a while and have gotten to know something of my vocation story. As I reflect on Tom's continuing influence on my life, I find that this post written shortly after his passing still rings true in every respect. For a bit more, you may also consult this post penned last year for All Saints' Day.

For another kind of tribute to Father Tom King, take a look at this new YouTube channel featuring some of the sermons that he preached at the 11:15 pm Sunday Mass in Dahlgren Chapel at Georgetown. The above sermon on the Parable of the Two Sons (Mt. 21:28-32) should offer the uninitiated a good introduction to Father King's preaching; to hear more, go to YouTube. More importantly, I hope you'll join me in praying today in gratitude for the gift of Tom King's life and for his eternal happiness in the Heavenly Kingdom. AMDG.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


The longest day of the year is always special to me, and it also seems like an appropriate date for an announcement that I've been planning for a while: this August, I'll be moving to Toronto to begin studies in theology at Regis College in preparation for priestly ordination. As I wrote at the end of April, I feel a bit sad about having to leave Saint Joseph's University after three good years here. At the same time, though, I'm excited about moving on to theology and, I hope, moving closer to ordination. Regis College was my first choice among the available options and I asked to be sent there, so I very much look forward to the fall. Expect further updates as the date of the move approaches, and hopefully this Jesuit will continue to post here after I reach the city formerly known as the Methodist Rome. AMDG.

The photo that illustrates this post comes from Flickr.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Orleans revisited.

Last night I returned to Philadelphia after living out of a suitcase for nearly a month, so I'm feeling a bit disoriented as well as relieved to be back in my home community, even though I'll be going on the road again next week. In the meantime, I know that some readers will appreciate some visual impressions of my recent time in New Orleans, offered as a kind of sequel to this post from last year. To start, take a look at this delicious soft-shell crab po-boy from NOLA Grocery in New Orleans' Warehouse District.

La croix de Lorraine on a French Resistance armband on display at the National World War II Museum, a place that I visited with my friend Stephen before we had lunch at the aforementioned NOLA Grocery.

This is a view of the campus of Loyola University New Orleans, seen from a window of the dorm room in Carrollton Hall where I stayed for most of the week while attending a conference on campus.

As this banner on campus indicates, Loyola University New Orleans celebrates its centennial this year.

Attention, residents of Carrollton Hall: Eric Cartman wants you to take Beginning Ancient Greek this fall.

The Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life is a student center on the campus of Tulane University, Loyola's next-door neighbor. The Lavin-Bernick Center is the sort of attractively austere modern structure that I enjoy taking pictures of, so I ended up making several visits there over the course of the week.

Here is another shot of the Lavin-Bernick Center. I got the idea for this particular photograph as I was passing by one evening at twilight, sans camera. I returned the next evening around the same time, but an excess of light and a cloudy sky meant that I couldn't get an image that matched what I had seen the night before.

As seen here, PJ's Coffee boldly promises "the most satisfying cup of coffee you will ever experience." I have yet to achieve coffee nirvana in several visits to PJ's, so perhaps I'm expected to keep going back in the hope that I'll get there someday. Then again, I suppose I'm a lost cause: when in Louisiana, I prefer Community Coffee to PJ's.

The Times-Picayune has been New Orleans' daily newspaper since 1837, but that is likely to change in the near future: owner Advance Publications recently announced plans to cease daily publication of the paper this fall, instead putting out three print editions a week while posting daily news updates online. This move would make New Orleans the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper, a prospect that has generated an outcry from civic leaders as well as Times-Picayune advertisers and recently led hundreds of the newspaper's loyal readers to rally in an effort to reverse the decision.

This 'wanted' poster offers evidence of the public outcry against the Times-Picayune cutbacks. Ricky Mathews was recently named as the publisher of the three-day-a-week version of the paper, which will employ substantially fewer people than the current daily. For his part, Mathews offered a front-page editorial in last Sunday's edition of the Times-Picayune defending Advance Publications' plans for the future of the paper.

A well-established local hangout in New Orleans' Uptown neighborhood, Franky and Johnny's can't seem to decide whether the first part of its name should be spelled 'Franky' (as seen on the restaurant's menus, and on the official website) or 'Frankie' (as seen above on the sign outside the establishment). No matter how you spell the name, this charming dive is a great place to go for fried seafood.

Daily specials on a chalkboard at Franky and Johnny's.

Houses on Arabella Street in Uptown New Orleans, with a light dusting of clouds in the early-evening sky.

The Prytania Theatre claims the dual distinction of being the only single-screen movie theatre in Louisiana and the oldest operating theatre in New Orleans. I like the way the 'Prytania' lettering seems both to glow and to float in front of the brick building.

Prytania Street at twilight.

Founded in 1870, Temple Sinai is the oldest Reform Jewish congregation in Louisiana and a neighbor of Loyola University.

St. Nicholas of Myra, the only Greek Catholic church in Louisiana. Though the church building was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina, the parish has endured and rebuilt its house of worship with help from the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh and Byzantine Catholics from across the United States.

This icon of Saint Nicholas of Myra was rescued from a junk shop and lovingly restored by a parishioner of the church, an inspiring story which also serves as an apt metaphor for the recovery of the small but devoted Greek Catholic community in post-Katrina New Orleans.

The Camellia Grill, a New Orleans institution since 1946 and the place to go for classic diner food served cheap and in massive quantities by waiters who are characters. The experience of dining here reminded me of past visits to the late, great Ben's Delicatessen in Montreal. The two places are more different than alike in their particulars, but there's something about the self-consciously idiosyncratic, same-as-it-ever-was Camellia Grill that inevitably leads me to reflect wistfully on my memories of Ben's.

What would a visit to New Orleans be without a ride on the streetcar? The slowness of New Orleans' streetcars and the network's limited coverage suggests that this vintage trolley system is kept in operation more for the benefit of tourists and as a nod to tradition than as a practical means of getting around the city. Efficiency isn't everything, though, so I'm glad that the streetcars are still around. This one was spotted late at night on St. Charles Avenue, where I sincerely hope streetcars will still be rumbling around next time I find myself in New Orleans. AMDG.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Corpus Christi.

As I noted in my most recent post, I've been in St. Paul, Minnesota this weekend for the annual gathering of Jesuits from the provinces of the Upper Midwest (Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin). Yesterday, Archbishop John Nienstedt ordained our confreres Bill Blazek and Paul Lickteig to the priesthood at the Church of St. Thomas More in St. Paul. This morning, the newly-ordained Father Blazek celebrated Mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi at the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas on the campus of the University of St. Thomas. As is customary on this Feast, the Mass ended with a Eucharistic procession and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, after which we all enjoyed another sort of feast at a celebratory lunch.

In a couple of hours, I'll be heading to the airport once again, this time to fly to New Orleans for a weeklong conference. (Readers with particularly sharp memories may recall that I did roughly the same thing last year; the conference that I'm attending this week is a sequel to the one that I attended last year.) God willing, my next post will come from the Crescent City. Until then, please know of my prayers and good wishes. AMDG.

Thursday, June 07, 2012


As I travel from Detroit to St. Paul, I'd like to take a few minutes to share some photos taken over the past two weeks. I can't think of any overarching theme to tie all of these images together, beyond the fact that each captures a fragment of my experience here. Given that I'm writing from the outskirts of the Motor City, it seems appropriate to start with this photo of a beautiful 1965 Chevrolet Impala, captured in the bright light of a late May evening.

This photo was taken on the idyllic grounds of Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Bloomfield Hills, which has served as my base for the last two weeks. Though I've made retreats at Manresa in the past, I didn't fully appreciate the beauty of the grounds until I came here last month to study the Spiritual Exercises and to direct a couple of retreats. Though I generally prefer not to make my own annual retreat in the environment of a retreat house, Manresa has grown on me enough that, contrary to my usual way of doing things, I actually find myself looking forward to coming back here in the future as a retreatant. To say the very least, grace works in strange and unexpected ways.

I suspect that many readers will be surprised to learn that the above photo was taken in the city of Detroit. The Italianate arches and red-tiled roof seen here may be found on Lansing-Reilly Hall, the Jesuit residence at the University of Detroit Mercy.

This image of Mary, Queen of the Society of Jesus surrounded by Jesuit saints may be found behind the altar in the domestic chapel of Lansing-Reilly Hall.

I found this copy of Adrian Fortescue and J. B. O'Connell's The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described (6th ed., 1937) in a pile of books at Manresa that were being given away for free. Interior markings indicate that this venerable tome spent much of its life at a convent in Detroit; now the book is packed in my luggage, on its way to an eventual new home on my bookshelf.

I came across this piece of text in a leaflet of First Friday devotions. I presume that "Pius XIII" is a typographical error and that this prayer for vocations was not, in fact, written by Lucian Pulvermacher.

On Monday night, some of my Jesuit confreres and I headed to the east side of Detroit to visit the Cadieux Café, a bar/restaurant that is locally famous for what is described in the above photo as its "unique Belgian atmosphere" as well as its status as the only place in the United States where one can play a traditional Flemish game known as trabollen or feather bowling.

True to its roots, the Cadieux Café offers a wide variety of Belgian beers like Westmalle Dubbel, a product of the Trappist Abbey of Westmalle in Flanders.

Our visit to the Cadieux Café coincided with Game 3 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, which the Los Angeles Kings won 4-0 over the New Jersey Devils. Watching the game and subsequent commentary on the CBC reminded me how much I enjoyed being able to watch Canadian television when I lived in Metro Detroit.

Yesterday, we marked the end of our time at Manresa with lunch at Royak Oak's Redcoat Tavern, home to what I have found to be the best burger in Metro Detroit. If you are skeptical of my use of superlatives, take a look at this ranking of Detroit's best burgers compiled by the Detroit Free Press, this Metro Times review and the customer reviews posted on Yelp for a broader range of opinions on this area institution.

This is the Brasserie Burger, which the Redcoat menu claims was rated "Detroit's #1 Gourmet Burger" by the Detroit Free Press. I have not been able to find any independent verification of this claim beyond the general endorsement of the Redcoat's burgers offered by the Freep article linked above, but no matter: in my humble opinion, this burger is as good as they get.

Finally, because I like to photograph such things, here is the sign in the Redcoat parking lot. Somehow, I think that a bit of the unique character of the Redcoat would be lost if this sign were ever to receive a fresh coat of paint - or, for that matter, if the restaurant's dusty, gravel-covered parking lot were to be paved with asphalt or covered with concrete. Some things are better left worn and faded, bumpy and uneven.

I'm not yet sure whether I will have the chance to post while I'm in St. Paul, where I'll be attending the annual gathering of Jesuits from the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Provinces of the Society of Jesus. Today and tomorrow, we will meet to discuss the shared future of our two provinces and to honor the life and ministry of our jubilarians. On Saturday, we will celebrate the ordination to the priesthood of our brothers Bill Blazek and Paul Lickteig. Please pray for Bill and Paul as they prepare for ordination, and please pray for safe travels for all of us. As always, please know of my prayers for all readers. AMDG.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


On Monday, I took a drive down Woodward Avenue to visit Berkley, the Detroit suburb where I lived as a Jesuit novice between 2004 and 2006. There are no longer any Jesuits in Berkley - the novitiate was moved to Minnesota in 2010 - and that fact makes my two years in the town seem more irretrievably distant to me than the years I spent living in New York or even the years I lived in places like Washington and South Bend before I entered the Society of Jesus. The presence of Jesuit communities in cities around the world means that we Jesuits can make ourselves at home in many different places and cultures; the Society's departure from Berkley means that I will never again be at home in that particular place in the way that I once was, and a certain melancholic feeling inevitably comes with that.

Hartfield Lanes, a bowling alley on 12 Mile Road in Berkley. In my time, the novices bowled here as a group at least twice - not as a spontaneous expression of fellowship, but because the master of novices had decided that we would all go there for a community outing. Seemingly untouched since the 1960s, the vintage interior of Hartfield Lanes would make a good subject for photography; sadly, the place was closed when I drove by on Monday.

I never did business with Janet Davis Cleaners on Woodward, but my affection for vintage neon signage led me to take this photo. Like Hartfield Lanes, this sign expresses the particular postwar American aesthetic that I strongly associate with places like Berkley.

Just around the corner from Janet Davis Cleaners, this is a westward view down Harvard Road, heading in the direction of the novitiate. As a novice, I would regularly walk from Loyola House to the corner of Harvard and Woodward and back in order to clear my head and to get some exercise. If I walked the route today, I'm sure that I would notice many small details long hidden in the recesses of memory but still familiar enough to the subconscious to elicit a mental response along the lines of, 'oh yeah, I remember that.' (One such example that I noticed on Monday: an old Volkswagen Beetle, frequently seen on a side street off Harvard when I was a novice but hardly remembered since, is still parked in roughly the same spot.)

Our Lady of La Salette, the Roman Catholic parish church located at the corner of Harvard and Coolidge, across the street from my old novitiate. The La Salette Missionaries ran the parish from 1932 until 1994, when pastoral administration was ceded to the diocesan clergy.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola wanted Jesuits to devote themselves to "the instruction of children and unlettered persons in Christianity," a mission that I and scores of other novices in Berkley participated in by teaching catechism to students here at Our Lady of La Salette School.

This is the building formerly known as Loyola House, where I entered the Society of Jesus on August 21, 2004. Constructed in the 1950s as a convent for the Sisters of Mercy who then staffed Our Lady of La Salette School, Loyola House served as a Jesuit novitiate from 1971 to 2010. After the Jesuits left, the building endured a fate like that of many other former religious houses, being rented out by the parish to an interfaith group called the Song and Spirit Institute of Peace.

Looking west down Harvard Road, the old novitiate at left and the La Salette parish center at right, with ominous but beautiful storm clouds gathered overhead.

My nostalgic journey to Berkley led me to unearth a couple of photos that I took while I lived there. This picture, taken on December 23, 2004, is probably one of my favorite photos from Loyola House: the winter sunset, rippled clouds, bare trees, and the snow-covered backyard of the novitiate combine to make for a captivating and evocative image.

Taken the same evening as the preceding image, this photo presents the view from the front door of the novitiate, looking towards Coolidge Highway with Our Lady of La Salette Church at left. Again, there is much here that I find captivating: the twilight sky with its small speck of a moon; the red lights at the intersection, on the backs of cars, and in the windows of the video store in the middle distance (a video store that has since closed; the building is now vacant); the telephone poles, looking strangely vulnerable in the winter cold.

Later today or perhaps tomorrow morning, I hope to post a few more photos from my sojourn here in Michigan. The next set may not be as laden with nostalgia as this one has been, but I suspect that it will still convey my affection for a place that I have been happy to visit again after a long absence. AMDG.