Friday, August 31, 2012

Live from Toronto.

My apologies for the silence of the past two weeks. After completing the generally awful and arduous process of packing, I drove from Philadelphia to Toronto last week with another Jesuit who generously agreed to help me make the move. My new bedroom is still filled with unopened boxes, but I've been making progress on practicalities like registering for courses, buying textbooks, and getting a new Ontario driver's license. I'm glad to finally be here and look forward to starting classes next month; I also hope to resume more regular posting on this blog in the near future, so watch this space. Best wishes to all, particularly those in transition at this time of year. AMDG.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Great moments in the process of moving.

All this week, I have been busy packing up my personal belongings for my imminent move to Toronto. Though I look forward to being in Toronto, I frankly despise the physical process of moving: from the initial phase of sorting and packing one's belonging to the final stage of unpacking everything and figuring out how to arrange it in a new place, moving is one long Via Dolorosa. Even so, the process of moving has its entertaining moments. One of these came about a couple of days ago, as I sought a book to fit into the one tiny empty space remaining in the box of missals and breviaries pictured here.

As I was looking for a book that would fit into that last little space, I came across this copy of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, given to me almost ten years ago by a college friend who studied abroad in China. Before leaving for Beijing, my friend asked me if there was anything he could bring back for me as a souvenir. In light of my interest in Cold War history, I asked for and received a copy of Mao's Little Red Book, which has sat quietly on my bookshelf for the last decade serving as an occasional conversation-starter.

Here is the Little Red Book nestled snugly in its box, serving as a very unlikely companion to my old Breviarium Romanum (which I previously mentioned here), two copies of the Jesuit Liber Devotionum, and assorted other books religious and liturgical.

At last the completed box, which currently sits by the door of my bedroom, temporarily sealed with packing tape, waiting for the drive to Toronto and eventual unpacking in my new digs.

Another of my tasks this week has been sorting through a few boxes that I brought from New York to Philadelphia three years ago and have largely neglected since. Going through the stuff in these boxes has been like opening up a personal time capsule, yielding discoveries like this Canon PowerShot S30 camera, which has an interesting story behind it.

When I was a novice, I served as house photographer, which meant that I was expected to take pictures at various community events and otherwise help to produce a visual chronicle of life at the novitiate. The PowerShot S30 was the official novitiate camera, at least until it very abruptly stopped working because of a problem with the lens mechanism. I checked with Canon and with some local camera shops and discovered that it would cost less to buy a new camera than to repair the old one, so the PowerShot S30 was retired. Though I assumed that the old camera had given up the ghost, I decided to take it with me when I moved to New York as a kind of souvenir. For the next six years, it sat undisturbed in this box.

Anyway, yesterday I came across the camera and wondered anew whether it could be made to work again. I pulled back the lens cover and, lo and behold, the camera came back to life!

Here is another shot of the now-functional PowerShot S30. I don't think I'll be using this camera very much in Toronto - I have a newer one that I'm very happy with - but I was cheered by its unexpected resurrection. Perhaps there is some kind of metaphor here, but I'll let you work that out for yourselves - in the meantime, I'm going to get back to packing. AMDG.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Notes on the Memorial of St. Dominic.

In the modern Roman calendar, today is the Memorial of St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers. Over at Dominicana, Brother Philip Neri Reese, O.P. marks the date with some sage commentary on St. Dominic, "Patriarch in Paradox":
Compared to many other saints (indeed, compared to many other founders of religious orders), we know relatively little about the person, and personality, of Dominic de Guzman. This only serves to accentuate the apparent contradictions latent in what we do know: though the patriarch of preachers, he was rigorous in silence; a man of austerity, he was renown for his warmth; devoted to study, he sold his books; ever firm in his purpose, he let himself be overruled.

For the sons and daughters of Saint Dominic, far from rendering him incomprehensible and inaccessible, these paradoxes provide a point of entry into his person, for they reveal the true nature of the Order he founded, and “the tree shall be known by its fruits.” If we find in him both contemplative canon and itinerant preacher, this is because his Order must also balance the tensions of the contemplative and active lives. If we find in him lowly poverty and high liturgy, this is because his Order must be energized by both ecclesial prayer and personal sanctity. If we find in him uncompromising austerity and generous dispensation, this is because he desired the members of his Order to be motivated by charity and virtue, not legalism or moralism.
To read the rest, click here. On this Memorial of St. Dominic, I hope that you will join me in praying for all the members of the Dominican family, both for their consolation and in gratitude for all that they have done and continue to do for God's greater glory. AMDG.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Et transfiguratus est ante eos.

For today's Feast of the Transfiguration, I'd like to share some music by one of my favorite composers, Olivier Messiaen. First performed publicly in 1969, La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ is Messiaen's extended meditation on the act of divine self-manifestation commemorated by this great feast. Messiaen's Transfiguration is an appropriately massive fourteen-movement work lasting an hour and a half in performance, scored for a mixed choir, large orchestra and seven instrumental soloists. The work's Latin libretto mixes the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration with selections from the Roman Missal, the breviary, and the Summa Theologiae, offering a deeply powerful expression of faith in the divinity of Christ.

Above, you can hear the first movement of La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ performed by the Radio Symfonie Orkest Hilversum and the combined choral forces of the Groot Omroepkoor and the Koor van de BRT Bruxelles under the direction of Reinbert de Leeuw. The text sung by the choir comes from Matthew 17:1-2 in the Latin Vulgate:

Adsumpsit Iesus Petrum et Iacobum et Iohannem fratrem eius et ducit illos in montem excelsum seorsum.

Et transfiguratus est ante eos, et resplenduit facies eius sicut sol vestimenta autem eius facta sunt alba sicut nix.


Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart.

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.

To hear the rest of the piece, check out this complete performance recorded live at the BBC Proms in 2008. Some fine commercial recordings of Messiaen's Transfiguration have been made, including the aforementioned performance conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw and a 2002 DG release with Messiaen specialist Myung-whun Chung leading the Orchestre philharmonique et Choeur de Radio France.

For more encounters with Messiaen, see my earlier posts on his opera Saint François d'Assise and on the beguiling Turangalîla-Symphonie. Prayers and good wishes for all on this bright feast. AMDG.

Saturday, August 04, 2012


Longtime readers of this blog may recall that it is common for many Jesuits to vacation together 'at villa' sometime during the summer. Since the early days of the Society, it has been common for Jesuit provinces and communities around the world to maintain villa properties, typically rustic rural retreats situated near bodies of water. Perhaps it is telling that even a quintessentially urban religious order like the Society of Jesus has always recognized that its members would have the need to get away to the country from time to time.

This year, for the first time since August of 2009, I'm joining other young Jesuits from my province at beautiful Villa Marquette on the scenic shores of Grand Traverse Bay in Northern Michigan. This is a time to catch up with people I usually don't get to see too often, and it's also a time to watch movies that I've been meaning to get for a while (like Moonrise Kingdom, which I finally saw last night after a long wait) and read the sort of books that I tend to put off until I'm on vacation (like the latest installment of Robert Caro's epic multivolume biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson, which I'm working on now). After villa, I'll be stopping in Chicago and St. Paul before returning to Philadelphia to continue packing for my imminent move to Toronto.

One of my Jesuit companions here remarked yesterday that this summer seems to have gone by unusually fast; I could say the same, but I would also hasten to add that 2012 has also moved particularly quickly for me. Though I appreciate the opportunity to slow down for a few days at villa, I'm also mindful that my time here is fleeting. Best wishes to all others who are traveling at this time of year. AMDG.