Saturday, July 29, 2006

St. Ignatius Day.... (part the first)

“live Maine Lobsters… I have never had an account like that before”

These were the words of the Kitchen manager here at Georgetown to me about her preparations for the annual feast which follows mass on the feast of St. Ignatius. Live. Maine. Lobsters. Now as a New Englander by birth, I have to admit, live Maine lobsters evoke a ton of memories. Memories of being kids and having lobsters race across the kitchen counter, memories of steaming them on the beach, and of course all of the memories of Ignatius Days past. (all 4 of ‘em) As a Jesuit, there’s a part of me which has some moment of trepidation, because while live Maine lobsters are a little pricey at home, they seem extravagant here in the land of the soft shell crab from Chesapeake bay. This of course brings me to the point of real tension which is of course with the vow of poverty, but that’s another discussion for another time because while Live Maine Lobsters evoke something extravagant, they also point to another reality, the reality of the importance of celebration.
We mark extraordinary moments in our lives with extraordinary gestures. We have feasts for weddings, ordinations, baptisms, first communions, and then the more common occasions of Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. Food serves as a symbolic medium of what is most important, the closeness of people who are important in our lives to mark the important days and moments together. For Jesuits, St. Ignatius day, as the feast of our founder, has an especially significant meaning. In celebrating Ignatius we celebrate the saint of course, but we also celebrate the society of which we are a part, and I think we celebrate being Jesuits, and just what that is. For some of us it is a celebration of having survived the year, for others it is a moment of profound gratitude and joy.
Our lives aren’t perfect, and even though we strive to be the companions of Jesus, we find ourselves so often like the disciples running away on Good Friday. We can grow faithless when the road grows dark like anyone else. We can be stupid, confused, and broken. There is some reassurance in that though, because as surely as we can be the disciples running away on good Friday, there is still I think in us a bit of the rabble that feasted with Christ in Matthew’s house. That rabble, which could hear, could see, and leave all behind to follow Christ who sought them out first at a feast.
I often hear (and hate) the phrase “the poor you will always have with you” quoted as a reason why someone shouldn’t do the kind of work for justice I do. Taking Christ so horribly out of context repulses me. In context there was a certain admonition that the extravagant things which sometimes happen in life (and should probably only happen sometimes) mark the more important reality which lies underneath. The feast of Ignatius is not about those live Maine lobsters, and I have been without them on Ignatius day before, but that extravagant moment reminds us of the specialness of the occasion which is born out of the joy of our brotherhood, the grace of our vocation, and the beauty of the world in which we are called to act as companions of Christ.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Shout Out

I would like to give a shout out to Mark Mossa, S.J.'s Blog, and to Mark in general for putting a link from his older, more established, blog to mine. If you haven't checked his blog out yet, you definitely should. Its called You Duped Me Lord and its very cool. Oh and I would also like everyone to go to John Brown, S.J.'s quasi Blog and encourage him to start writing. Ok that's all for now..... OH and if anyone can tell em why I can't upload pictures lately leave a comment I would appreciate it!

Why The Red Sox Make Everything Better.

I have a confession to make….. I am not simply a Red Sox fan, I think it goes beyond that now. Fanaticism bordering on obsession is probably a better description of my situation. I follow the Red Sox for a bunch of reasons. I think I like to believe that to some extent the once long suffering status of a Red Sox fan finally relieved in my presence (yes I was at Busch Stadium in St. Louis that fateful night) makes me believe in the great possibility of what seems futile bearing fruit. Maybe it is that the Sox provide me endless hours of entertainment. Perhaps it is the suspense wrapped up in the events that occur every time a certain team from the Bronx tries to win in Fenway. I don’t know. In the end it is something long engrained something that becomes a part of who you are.
If you are a Catholic from New England like me you grow up with your parents taking you to Church, (in the case of Rhode Island) drinking Dell’s Lemonade, and taking you from a young age to Fenway Park to see the beloved Red Sox. It becomes a little religion unto itself sometimes with observances like wearing lucky jerseys. It is a little sort moral observance that bears certain words to be foul language (i.e. Buckner, Boone, and Bucky (bleepin’) Dent). There is a sense of pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Red Sox Nation in the Fens, and if you can’t make it there, there are parish churches in Portland, Lowell, Pawtucket, and Ft. Meyers which are nowhere near as glorious, but still satisfying. There are also the great saints, by the names of Williams, Yastrzemski, Fisk, Petrocelli, and Pesky. Along with those saints there are also the fallen in Ruth, Clemens, and Damon (Strangely close to Demon, no?) Finally, of course there is a cosmic struggle of Good verses Evil, Steinbrenner vs. Henry.
So now that I have quasi-heretically put my fandom in Catholic terms, what’s the point? Well I think the point is this, we all have certain things in our lives which, put in proper perspective bear a certain sacramentality to them. In truth, I love the Sox, but not so much for who they are but for what they mean to me. To me the Sox are a sacramental because they remind me of the sacred. Boiled down more specifically, they remind me of the love of my father (earthly) for my brother and I over the years, and now my sister as well. (As we try to initiate the precious 9 year old into our little dose of insanity) That love, which manifested itself every summer in hot dogs and “Spohts Bahhs” (as my father says to this day) along the first baseline of Fenway park, and in the constant morning declaration of “Sawx Win, Sawx Win” over the morning paper as we got ready to go to school, is a sure sign of God’s presence, God’s care, and I think in the real and genuine delight which God takes in the things of this world put into proper perspective, heck he did “see that it was good” after making it all. So I cheer for the Sox, but more because my heart warms when I think of all of the good memories and same heart is filled with gratitude for my father whenever I check the box scores………

Ch ch ch changes......

OK so after a while the whole "life and times of Mike Rogers S.J." thing began to feel a bit, hmmmmm egotistical, and while I still intend to publish much of the same sort of stuff here (and not go too crazy with a new style, new types of content, etc) I decided to change some things, the name of this blog included, around. This being the period of time leading up to the feast of St. Ignatius it seemed appropriate, so I went for it. I also decided it prudent to better embrace some of my Jesuit roots and be more explicit about them. So yeah it was just time, I hope you like this blog as things get updated more frequently over the next few weeks, and perhaps I get a bit better at “blogging” ok that’s all. Enjoy!

Monday, July 03, 2006

What the Sith and Jedi teach us about how we use "The Force"........

Ok so its summer, and I am doing honest work as a hospital chaplain which is tiring stuff, so I haven't posted as much. I may post something on Ellacuria and Marxism soon just for kicks, but not yet.

Anyhow I am taking a long weekend at the Jesuit Villa (which is the unexpected result of spraining my ankle last week) and I have had somequiet time to think and realized I hadn't posted in a few weeks, so heregoes.

So I am here out on a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay staring off at our boat down on the dock and thinking about something I heard last night ironically enough while watching Star Wars Episode III of all things. Now I am not a huge Star wars fans, and I think any comparison between Jedi knights and the Roman Catholic Priesthood or life in a Religious order more specifically to be odious at best, however something struck me last night when I was watching the movie with two other Jesuits, and though I think it is applicable to my life specifically, it had broader implications for the life of a Christian as a whole.
At some point when comparing the life of the Jedi (the good guys) to the life of the Sith (the bad guys) young Anakin Skywalker, who is not yet Darth Vader, points out that the Sith draw their power from their passions, that they are focused inward, while the Jedi are completely selfless, and draw their power from their service to others. And here is the catch, I know I have in many ways lived on both sides of “the Force.”
The Gospels remind us that we can’t cling to closely to our lives or we inevitably lose them. If we become so obsessed with our feelings, with self-preservation, and self-care, we miss out on the things that make life worth living. We miss out on genuine relationship with friends and family, we miss out on experiencing beauty, joy, and love. We can miss the experience of being an incarnation of the Glory of God, which St. Iraneaus calls “The human being fully alive.” Christ himself points us out from ourselves and makes clear that the life of one who chooses to follow God is best exemplified by one is focused out onto the world which God made, and ultimately and most importantly on God himself.
So often the world tries to tell us that it is our angst that makes us interesting; that it is the thing which makes us special. It is some existential pain that is supposed to tell us that we are, in fact alive, and we (and by we I mean younger people specifically) buy into it. Look at the popularity of emo music, and Comic book super heroes who have “issues,” look at the popularity of the drama that goes on on T.V. Shows like “The Real (sic) World.” This is of course not the first generation to feel that angst, to want to be set apart by the passions which can rule us, and from which we can seek to draw some sort of strange solipsistic meaning. Our parents and grandparents did it before us, but somewhere it got out of control and became less about who a person is in the world, and more about what the world had done to the person. We have found this angst without responsibility and used it to turn our emotions into a decadent form of living by the drama we create. The result is a non-integral life focused not on gratitude but on mourning a life which will never exist. The result is a constant attempt to be immersed in the strange hedonism of suffering which individuates that person who is suffering precisely by their suffering.
As Christians we must learn better. The beatitudes lead us to the life of Christ itself, a life which is completely outward focused, a life which can be honest about what one feels, as Christ is in the garden and many other times particularly in the Gospel of Mark when expressing frustration at his disciples, but one which is convinced that it is beatitude which makes the person special, and it is the love of God, so often made manifest in the world around them, which makes them an individual. It is a life which can and should be dissatisfied with a world in which people starve and are oppressed, but one which fights for righteousness and liberation out of a sense of a deep and abiding love for others, and for Christ himself, and not one which is bound up in the salving of one’s guilt or the projection of one’s interior pain onto the situation of injustice. It is a life which can revel in the beauty of art, a life which can laugh long and hard with friends, a life which can savor the beauty of a sunset, and praise God in the conquering splendor of the sunrise. It is a life that looks less into one’s gut, and seeks to understand how what is within can help those on the outside. It is one that seeks to understand how all of our curses, pains, and agonies can become blessings to ourselves and the world around us. It is a life of beatitude, and the life of a man or a woman for, with, and united to others..