Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Senses of place.

I'm not sure when or how I fell in love with Canada. It might have started when I visited Niagara Falls with my family in 1988 or went to Quebec City and Montreal on a class trip in 1993, or it might have resulted from reading books by writers like Hugh MacLennan, Mordecai Richler, and Pierre Berton. Perhaps my love of Canada was the result of growing up watching everything from SCTV to You Can't Do That on Television to The Kids in the Hall, or maybe it had something to do with hailing from a part of the United States with deep cultural ties to Quebec and the Maritimes and where hockey is only slightly less popular than baseball. One way or another, my affection for Canada was deeply ingrained by the time I entered the Society of Jesus. That affection grew during the four years I lived in Toronto, deepened by many relationships as well as the experiences of daily living. When I moved back to the States earlier this month, I felt as if were leaving an important part of myself behind.

Though I'll miss Toronto, I'm happy to have moved back to Washington, a city that I know well and one that has been a sort of second home to me for virtually all of my adult life. Returning to Washington last year to celebrate Mass at Georgetown reminded me of the important role that this city has played in my life, and I've ruminated on similar themes since I moved back to the District a couple of weeks ago. I first went to Washington to study government at Georgetown, hoping to land an internship on Capitol Hill and launch a career in politics; to my surprise, Georgetown proved to be a springboard not to government service but to religious life in the Society of Jesus and ordination to the priesthood. Washington was the city where I found my vocation, and it was also the city where I reached adulthood and began to reckon with my place in the world.

I thought of all of this in a particularly vivid way yesterday afternoon when I saw a large group of fresh-faced Georgetown students on the Metro; some of them looked a bit confused as they tried to figure out how to buy farecards, and I gathered that they were new to the city. Watching those young Hoyas figure things out, I remembered when I was in their shoes and I wondered where their college years would take them. More generally, whenever I stand on the platform and wait for the Metro I feel as though the last two decades of my life have been suddenly compressed as I find myself, in some sense, back where I started. There is a particular grace in returning to familiar places after years away, and I am grateful to be able to do so. AMDG.