So How Is Canisius, Mike?

That’s my most asked question these days and the answer is: “Wonderful and very busy.” We had what seemed like a hundred events at the start of the semester and now I can breathe just a bit easier as the semester begins to settle down.

I’m really enjoying my time here. It’s different from parish life as a campus minister where it was much harder to insert one’s self into the campus of a secular university. Here I am right in the thick of things. I picked up the student newspaper The Griffin (more on that later) and actually knew most of the news in it already. I was always surprised by the news I’d read at UB. I enjoyed my time at UB and especially on the parish team at St. Joe’s, but I think that this place suits my style a bit better and this is more of what I expected when I made the move to be a Campus Minister.

The workday also starts earlier for me now. As the director, I need to be in early to start the day and get things done, or occasionally I have an early morning meeting. Afternoons are usually dedicated to creating relationships with colleagues, spiritual direction with students or alumni, preparing liturgy materials, or finalizing budgets. I also meet with each member of the staff once a week and my supervisor every other week. I stay late two days a week to participate in a Christian Life Community (CLC) on Tuesdays and I often attend a ballgame once a week when there is one that fits my schedule.

I’m in on a few standing meetings: Senior Operations team, Students of Concern and the Student Affairs Directors meetings. They’re mostly informative with some work to be done before or after. In general, I’m not a huge fan of meetings, but these are good and informative meetings and I’ve learned a lot about the school from my colleagues, so I’m enjoying them.

My favorite parts of my day is when I get to spend time with students and colleagues. And when we make plans for something like a retreat, community service event, liturgy, or just something fun. I’m excited by the fact that the Career Center wants to work with me on a few events for students surrounding discernment and that I get to be on the next Kairos retreat team in October. I’ll also be doing a Winter Service trip to New York City (Yay!) and a Spring Service trip to Erie. I’ll probably also go on one of our international trips, but I’m still deciding on which one. (El Salvador, Puerto Rico or Poland–tough choices!)

I’m really enjoying the students as well. I’ve learned a lot of names and am trying not to get any wrong. It’s a lot to learn in a short period of time, but my memory is pretty good and once I have an experience with a student, I usually remember their name. I’m getting to know the faculty and staff a bit more too and am slowly thinking of ways to get them involved with campus ministry or I should say, campus ministry involved with them.

I’m going to make more time for writing. I know I’ve been lax in doing so. Lots of pre-loading on the weekends and a good deal of late nights are what it will take to keep this blog moving forward.

Speaking of writing, The Griffin has asked me to do a column. I’m meeting with them on Monday to talk about particulars, but I was honored that they even asked. I know that my pastoral experience always informs my writing and so I’ll begin to do lots of reflecting on the events of my day and I know that will percolate my thoughts.

One of the more significant moments for me this semester came when a Muslim student came to the office. He asked for the keys to the “Mosque”. This made me giggle as we don’t have a “Mosque” but rather a room in the chapel’s basement that we have turned into a prayer room for our Muslim students. Another group of students, suggested that we start a prayer room in our library for people of all faiths to be able to use. A group of Kairos retreat veterans began to meet in the library and pray together and they motivated the project.

I asked the aforementioned Muslin student, “Hey do you know about our new prayer room in the library?” “No,” he replied. So off we went to check it out. When he got there, he nearly cried. He was so touched that we were giving students of all faiths a place to pray. A colleague also told me that they headed to the space the other day and found another person using it. So word is getting out about it. We have a “book of common concerns” in there and I’m eager to see what people are praying about in there.

Mass, of course, is very vibrant. I’ve been impressed with the care people take with liturgy, especially our Jesuits who preach at both weekday and Sunday mass. Our contemporary music ensemble always lifts my spirits. And the students who gather for mass are so welcoming and joyful as we pray together.

And we have a good time together. The students have a great sense of humor, which I can appreciate. I lent my ipad to a student whose computer died over the weekend and she filled my pictures with goofy ones of her and a friend. Somehow she knew I needed a boost after a long tough week in which I lost a friend and had to spend a lot of time working hard on a budget report. On our Ignis retreat, one of our alums asked me to conspire with him against his girlfriend who is a Senior during a game where both people are blindfolded and one has to feed the other whipped cream on a spoon. Shall we say that our friend cheated and removed his blindfold and smeared whipped cream all over his girlfriend. So mean.

One evening, Denny, who has since graduated and is now in a volunteer program, said to me, “Mike, I know you haven’t been here very long, but it feels like you’ve been here for years.”

Man, did that make me feel great.

And indeed, I feel the same way. I’ve grown to respect my staff and value their opinions. And the students just have this passion and love for both campus ministry and Ignatian Spirituality that really gets me charged up.

A final note: Our Kairos team has been writing emails back and forth..a countdown to the big day of retreat. They are so excited and I cannot wait for the first retreat. I look forward to each silly note and have been responding with words like “This retreat is taking me to unknown places where it has become the benevolent ruler of all my emotions.”

Clearly I need help.

So pray for us as we continue to plan and recruit others to come on the weekend. I’ll be giving a presentation on the weekend and am carefully planning that as well.

St. Peter Canisius, pray for us.

First Day at School Memories

While many of my friends are sending their kids off to their first day of school and my wife heads in to her first day as the new after-school coordinator at her school, I’m filled with first day of school memories.

Of course, there’s nothing like that first day of school, for the first time. Mine was Kindergarten and my mother walked me to school which was one block from my house. We unexpectedly found my teacher in the hallway and my mother introduced me to her. Miss Suess took me by the hand and we walked to our classroom together and Mom went away. I was excited and anxious at the same time. What was going to happen next?

It was only a half day and I was in the afternoon class. I got switched to the morning class for some reason half way through the year and learned about getting up early.

Each year, we went school clothes shopping and I struggled to cover my books on that first day.

That first day though may very well have been my favorite memory of a first day at school, equalled only by a return to college each year.

Two worse first day memories come to mind:

The first was high school. I walked into my school and was excited. I was off to find my homeroom and was there pretty early. As I past the cafeteria smiling, I saw a group of Seniors sitting at a table. I sighed as I walked past and then I heard them:

“Duh…let’s see who I can make friends with! Stupid, freshman.”

Clearly high school was going to be a problem.

The second was middle school. I was coming into our parish school after going to public school from kindergarten until 6th grade. It started out well. I had come in three days late after a bout with some kind of illness. Mrs. Wasp my teacher, introduced herself and then looked to find me a seat.

Clearly, I was the new guy, but I was known to some in the school because I was an altar boy in the parish. One guy, Claudio, had began spreading rumors about me early and often. We had gotten into an altercation once after a bit of name calling. Apparently, he objected to me bringing up his mother in a foul way and this was his revenge.

Recess came and we played punchball–a kind of baseball game. Someone launched one far down the third base line and I raced over but it was well past me. The ball crawled under the fence before I could get to it. We weren’t allowed to climb over.

“HAYES!” Claudio yelled. “YOU OWE ME A NEW BALL!” He may have pushed me after that. What was worse was that he told all the girls that I stupidly let the ball roll under the fence. I saw someone passing by and got their attention and they retrieved the ball for us which Claudio took credit for later. But damage done. Worst two years of my life was that school and I didn’t look forward to a single day there.

But as I look to our freshman and see their excitement and yes, the jitters that still come with a new place, I recall my own college years as amazing. It fills me with much joy to be a small part of their experience and I hope that these years are a blessing to them.

Today, let’s be grateful for first day experiences, both good and bad. For even the bad ones make us more sensitive to others who may be struggling. The start of something new reminds me of God’s continual wiping away the slate of our sins and giving us a renewed chance to start again.

So as you start again…be grateful for the chance to start over and to make all that you can out of this, nothing more, but more importantly, nothing less. Amen.

Dancing Through College

So in the past few years, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon amongst millennials and I’d like to contrast it with my own college experience.

So yes, this is going to be one of those “When I was your age” moments.

Don’t worry millennials, you come out looking good in this one.

But let’s go back even further…to high school and I can remember my first high school dance.

I was terrified. Not of asking anyone to dance, but simply of dancing. I didn’t know how to dance really. My parents were older and they didn’t know any of the latest moves. I could certainly slow dance with a girl, but first I had to get a girl to like me and I was having a bit of trouble doing that. I spent that first dance pacing around the outskirts of the dance floor, under-confident and disappointed. For the next four years, I never really got dancing down, but I at least had the guts to get out there with friends and move a bit. One of our teachers, Mr. Campbell was a great dancer and he showed all of us a few classic moves.

Advance to college…dancing was still not high on my list. At the end of freshman orientation there was a semi-formal dance and when the music started, two Jesuits got out on the floor with two freshmen and started the dancing off. It was marvelous to see all of us just jump out onto the dance floor together. No partners, no pressure–just a bunch of freshmen dancing.

My college roommate then, was a fantastic dancer and had a way with the ladies. I remember him telling me that a bunch of girls out on the dance floor came over to him and said “Hey are you going out tonight?” and he would politely decline. Cool as a cucumber. I sort of danced around and one young woman and I locked eyes at one point and danced together for a bit. It didn’t turn into a relationship or anything but freshman year was off to an OK start for a shy guy who couldn’t dance too well.

Fast forward to today. I would say I’m a “passable” dancer. But something happens to me when I dance with my Marion. Everyone says it. There’s an intimacy between us that is hard to describe. Together we are pretty good swing dancers and we enjoy it. Not bad for a guy who has gained too much weight and doesn’t have the best knees anymore.

Back to our college students. I’ve noticed that dancing is different for them. There was a bit of a pecking order in my day with dancing, a kind of survival of the fittest. If you couldn’t dance, you just got left out.

But for college students today, dancing is a bit more of a communal practice. Sure people show off their moves and there are “dance battles” and some move better than others and get a bit more attention for it, but then something happens.

“Hey everyone, let’s do the wobble!”

Line dancing has a new place with this generation. And there’s a bunch of experts that will say this is because they have grown up in an over-programmed way, to the point that they can’t just get out there and boogie on their own. They need some kind of organizing mechanism to enable them to even dance.

I ain’t buying it.

The truth is that this is about inclusiveness. Milennials have a tendency to try to include everyone, to get everyone involved. I noticed this at our bonfire at Canisius the other night that when they did some kind of line dance everyone got out there and danced and when they didn’t, a good deal of people left the floor.

And then …

Cha cha slide gets everyone up again. I’ve even seen this one at the ballgame.

So I brought up my observation with my colleagues who confirmed my suspicions and then I asked some of my students about it.

“It’s the only kind of dancing we do.” That line was repeated to me many times, by many different kinds of students. One also noted that “Well, once you learn the steps, that’s all you need to know to be part of the dance. And you can learn by doesn’t take much to learn.”

True enough. It’s very inclusive and seems to be a way that even someone who can’t really dance is able to dance without fear. The dances are easy enough to do.

So you go, students. Keep dancing together.

How To Treat Freshmen

My pal, Fr Rich Andre pointed me to this piece of history from 1495 in Leipzig.

“Statute Forbidding Any One to Annoy or Unduly Injure the Freshmen. Each and every one attached to this university is forbidden to offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at them with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, any, who are called freshmen, in the market, streets, courts, colleges and living houses, or any place whatsoever, and particularly in the present college, when they have entered in order to matriculate or are leaving after matriculation.”

Leipzig University Statute (1495)

Yikes! The sad thing to realize is that they probably had to put this on the books because someone had actually done this!

And we thought modern hazing was bad.

I just spent a week or so with freshmen and a bunch have been stopping by for work study applications and just a general hello. Yesterday was the first day of classes and I imagine today will be the first day of overwhelming feelings. Indeed there will be a lot to do over the course of the year. I feel more anxiety for the freshmen this year than I have before as a Campus Minister for some reason. Perhaps it’s because I know Canisius expects much of their students. But then, I also recall that it’s up to those of us who support students to make sure that they FEEL supported, that they know they can seek us out when they are struggling. After all, we want them back here for another year so we get to be in relationship with them again and the faculty get to educate them again for another year as well.

Some wisdom from my own past:

I was the first in my family to go to college (at least in the traditional sense–my older sister returned to college as an adult and began taking part-time classes a few years before I began). I was very nervous and feared really screwing this opportunity up. I was so afraid that I didn’t want anyone else to know how afraid or how much pressure I was under.

So I hid.

I didn’t take advantage of many of the opportunities that were available to me, academically. I barely went to the library. And I didn’t choose my major with any true sense of discernment. I really didn’t know how to study, nor did I know how to manage my time all that well either. I spent far too much time in the radio station and too little time reading.

That said, I got by. I’m a smart guy and was able to do well enough to get my degree. I did pretty well as a Sophomore. I made my share of mistakes as a first time manager at the radio station. I got an internship at the biggest all sports radio station in the country and they eventually hired me to work there 3 days after I graduated–the only three days of my life that I have ever been unemployed.

But it wasn’t until I went back to Graduate School that I really began to appreciate the value of learning. It wasn’t until 10 years after I received my first degree that I really appreciated the value of education. It indeed is a privilege to be educated, to learn from others who have mastered this material and now pass on that knowledge to you.

I was an excellent graduate student. I enjoyed every minute of being in class with colleagues and my professors for the most part really engaged us with the materials. I was clearly more interested in the material as well and did lots of extra reading and more importantly I asked a lot more questions and got a lot more help from professors and the university. I revised and published my Master’s Thesis which was the genesis of this blog.

So dear freshmen, I look to you today and say the following: You are beloved. We want you to be with us and engage with us in conversation that can stimulate your minds and challenge you to think and become critical of the world around you. You are our hope for not the future, but the present. It is our hope that you will see what we have not seen and uncover what is to be discovered about so many things.

But in order to do that you must become studious and you cannot do this alone. Never again will you have an entire institution dedicated to you. So take advantage of all the people here that want to help you and want you to be successful. That’s good for us as well as for yourself. You are the future that Canisius hopes to profess. You are the legacy that we invest in now. And the faculty and staff here are dedicated to your learning, your maturity, your development.

One of my goals for each student I come to know is that they will be able to articulate their own spiritual experience. “Just who is this God that I have come to know? How do I see God in all things? How can I deeply reflect upon my experiences so that I might know what my deepest desires are and how might I find a mentor to help me look at that experience more deeply and less superficially. You are adults and your spiritual experience needs to reflect that just as much as your brick and mortar academic knowledge in any of the disciplines you come to develop an expertise in.

You are our students. And we are Canisius.

Now get out there and knock ’em alive!

And most of all don’t let anybody “offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at (you) with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, you or any, who are called freshmen.”

Or they’ll have to answer to me.

Praying and Playing with God

This past week was orientation week at Canisius and we’ve met tons of newly minted college students. They are abuzz with the anticipation and nervousness that comes along with that first year of college and for many the first time out on their own.

I remember well my own first year at college and remember how the Jesuits reminded me to not take myself so seriously. That we need to pray with God often, twice daily, as per Ignatius’ recommendation for the daily Examen. But that we also need to take time to “play” with God. To notice God in playful ways in ways that enliven your soul and make you laugh with wonder.

On Friday, we got to lead the “Wake Up Your Spirit” presentation. It’s a bit of a rah-rah event at the start of the day that gets people energized for the day. It’s also been a bit silly–where we get people to just get a little out of their protective zone and let their guard down just a bit with one another.

I had to write a good deal of this and get my campus ministry team to participate in it. I started the proceedings by trying the psyche up the crowd who dragged themselves out to the quad in the morning for the event. You could feel the energy dragging just a bit as we told them to spread out. Their peer orientation leaders helped greatly by getting them a bit more organized. Then I put on my best Michael Buffer….and asked:

“So Canisius….Are….You…..Readddddy?”

Mumble…yeah….mumble….from the crowd. Even with the orientation leaders trying to be the best cheerleaders.

“I don’t think you are! I asked…ARE….YOU….READY?”

Screams…hoots and howls shot back my way.

“One more time…..ARE….YOU…..READY?”

Wild cheering….jumping….hooting louder now.


We didn’t record this….but if ya need a visual from the acclaimed Michael Buffer here ya go.

We woke up our bodies by stretching:

First the tree pose: Stretching up and reminding ourselves that we are now grown up into giant trees–no longer the little saplings that our parents nurtured.

Then the Rocky Hill pose: Knowing that all times will not be easy we bring our hands to our heads, pointing the elbows up and hunching down–knowing there may be much to overcome this year.

Then the crescent moon pose: We need rest from our journey. And so we sleep and refresh our bodies underneath the crescent moon.

And finally we breathe our arms up and place them in the prayer position pointing towards God and slowly bringing them down to our hearts as a sign of gratitude.

So everyone got those poses down and I told them that “Now we’re going to put that to music…”

Here’s the music we chose:

Hee-hee! And they all fell for it.

Freshman year’s gonna be tough!

God in All Things: Coin Flips, Flat Tires and a Pizza Delivery Guy

Denny, far left and Nick with the yellow shirt in the center with others on the Campus Ministry staff.
Denny, far left and Nick with the yellow shirt in the center with others on the Campus Ministry staff.
I’ve met some cool students here in the short time I’ve been at Canisius. Two are recent grads who I wish I could hold onto just a bit longer. Nick Wiltsie is off to Columbia Law School and Denny Long will do a year of service with the Sisters of St Joseph in Rochester and they have both been such sincere and a great men during their time here and simply put, are great guys to be around.

These two decided, as young and old men are wont to do together, to go get a beer and celebrate the few days they have left together and share some memories of their college days, now behind them.

They biked on over to the establishment, had a beer, shared some memories and then thought about a second beverage. They decided to let a coin flip decide whether they would stay or go and the odds ruled in favor of leaving. Only one problem: Denny’s bike had a flat tire. They hit a service station and repaired it only to have it flatten out a second time and so begrudgingly they began the long walk back to campus.

Nick picks up the story here:

The walk wasn’t too bad, taking only about an hour. We laughed about the situation and recounted old stories in order to pass the time. Eventually, when we were almost back, having reached Delevan Ave., something strange happened. Sitting in the middle of Main Street in front of the cemetery with his foreways on and trying to ignite his engine was a middle-aged gentlemen in an SUV-esque vehicle. Cars were flying by in every direction. Although Denny and I were initially unsure if there was anything we could do to help, we eventually realized we could push the car out of the road, at least.

We greeted the gentleman who was glad to have our help. Just as we were contemplating where to move the vehicle, another car pulled up and stopped to help. A man in a La Nova (a local Buffalo pizza chain) uniform stepped out of a La Nova car and took charge of the situation. He commanded us where to go, where to push the truck, and how to stay safe. This gentleman was perfectly calm and collected with his italian accent, he could have been a character out of the Godfather. In no time the truck was pushed into the cemetery entrance and out of danger. The Italian savior asked the driver of the truck what happened, and he explained how he ran out of gas at the worst possible moment. All was well, though, because the Italian helped proclaimed “I have a gas can in my car, get in, we’ll get you some gas.”

As the man-in-need climbed into the La Nova car, the Italian savior came up to Denny and I, shook our hands, and said “Thanks for serving with me, brothers.” It was at this time that it struck me I should ask his name. “Saint” he said.

Whether Saint was joking or being sincere, he spoke the truth. Just as Pope Francis recently stated that we need more Saints in everyday clothes, this man was a Saint.

Read the whole story here.

And here’s something for my two new friends to chew on as well:

Both of YOU are also “Saints in everyday clothes.” We need to remember that we all strive to be saints which is, as Thomas Merton learned, “to simply be myself.” Better stated, to become the best version of myself, to be all that I can be. Nothing more, but more importantly, nothing less.

I’m not sure if others would have stopped that night to help push that man out of harm’s way. Think of all the cars that could have simply pushed his car with their own into that driveway with ease and they chose to ignore him. How many would have also let fear drive their instincts, thinking that perhaps the man could be dangerous or that the stopped car could be a ruse? Props for being like our Pope and connecting with people despite some security risks.

As you move into the next phase of your lives know that I have seen you already be “men for others” in just the short time I have known the two of you. You are indeed the body of Christ in the world. So now go and be Christ’s hands and feet on whatever road you choose to walk on.

But He Did Not Know What He Was Saying

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration in which appears one of my favorite lines in all of scripture in Luke’s gospel:

“As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But he did not know what he was saying.

It makes me laugh each time I read it.

But then it makes me think…

How many times, Lord, did I not know what I was saying? How many times have my words been haughty, or arrogant, or just downright hurtful? How many times did I rush to talk to try to impress someone and have it blow up in my face when I said something stupid? How many times did I think I had all the answers and in reality had none and needed to take more time to listen before I would speak?

And then, how many times have I heard others say things that I found hurtful or mean and reacted with the same kind of hatred back perpetuating the cycle of violence in speech?

I did not know what I was saying.

There are plenty of times that I react harshly when just waiting in silence and contemplating what I should say would do nicely.

And here Peter clearly misses the forest for the trees. Jesus is overlooking Jerusalem, where his exodus will take place. Alongside Elijah and Moses, Jesus sees both His end and our beginning–a new kind of promised land.

And while Peter witnesses this…a foretaste of what will be for us…a glimpse of the Resurrected Christ…he also responds with the wacky…

“Let’s build some tents! Let’s never leave! This is awesome.”

Um, no…rockhead. You don’t know what you’re saying.

We can’t ever stay on the mountain top. We need to go to Jerusalem and it is there that we will need to suffer in order to die and rise to new life.

photo 1[2]I just welcomed back a group of women from Canisius who spent three weeks at an orphanage in Poland and if anyone knows about this it is them. They had their emotions pulled and prodded throughout that time of being with the children. How many would they have liked to take home with them? How many of them wanted to stay there forever? Jen, (pictured with me, right) the group’s leader even flirted with the idea of not returning.

But she did not know what she was saying.

For she was changed on this “mountaintop experience” and now the real work begins—for after we are transfigured, we can no longer be the same. We have been changed. When we experience Christ’s transfigured life and realize that this too is meant for us…we can no longer live in the happy-go-lucky world of the mountaintop. We need to go and do whatever this change calls us to do. For these women it might be to be more sensitive to children who need someone to parent them, even if for a short time. It might be to consider the needs of adoptive children here in the United States and to see how we can change laws so that children can find good families to keep them safe and loved. It might be something else.

What mountaintop do you wish to stay on that keeps you from the scary Jerusalem experience of your life? The place where you will most be changed is where you will meet Jesus on the cross and then transforming from THAT experience is where you will be changed the most. It is where you will most appreciate and find new life, better life.

And it is where you will most find God, even if you think it is somewhere else where you are comforted most by God’s presence.

In spiritual direction, I often tell people that it’s the things and the places that most frighten them, that God is probably calling them to look at most carefully. It’s in the relationship that needs to change or the job that just doesn’t work.

God just might be offering you something else.

And that might be a bit scary.

But it is also what gives us a deeper experience of God in our lives and allows us to live more richly.

For the women of Canisius who have returned from Poland, we say “Well done.” You left the comfort of the United States and ventured to another country and were a bit uncomfortable in serving the needs of others. And now we continue to challenge you to go beyond the next hill. To come down from this amazing experience of Poland and to see where you have changed. And to be changed again. To become women for others in a different way, one that may be difficult for you, but nonetheless, better for your growth as a person and better for the world who experiences the gift you are to all of those you encounter.

And most of all, know that on that journey you will meet God. And that finding that presence of God in these new experiences will be life-changing and will provide more than enough for you to be all that you are, nothing more, but more importantly nothing less.

And that gift of yourself is all that God asks of you.

And dayenu, it is enough! You are enough! And you are a blessing to each of us and to all you meet. Amen.

Celebrations Continue

bodyImage-1Our celebrations continue here at Canisius this week as Pat Kelschenbach, who has served as an administrative associate here for the past 19 years, retires today! Pat, greeted me as I moved in my stuff before my first official day and was kind enough to open locked doors and helped me get the office “up and running” long before my first day.

We Irish need to stick together and Pat and we have done so in these early days. She recently returned from my father’s homeland and returned with great stories that warmed my Irish heart.

“Those narrow streets were really something. When we got to the hotel the woman said to us: “Well, you did pretty well–you’ve got both your mirrors!”

Pat is a peaceful soul who calms all of us down with her grace and her good humor and she will be greatly missed. After so many years of faithful service, she too, deserves much time with family and for leisure.

Your spirit will remain here, Pat, with us despite your leaving us today. You have given much to the students and even more to each of us on the staff here in Campus Ministry. While it has only been a few weeks that we have worked together, I will miss you greatly and will often keep you in prayer.

Ugh. It’s been a month and I’m losing two great people who have given over 5 decades of service to this wonderful place. It’s an amazing testament to the spirit of “family” here at Canisius.

So blessings today on Pat. We will enjoy lunch today. And remember many good memories.

And simply rejoice.

One Day More…with Carolyn

bodyImageSo I have been blessed in these early days at Canisius with the gift of Carolyn Birner. In short, she’s a character and has been an institution at Campus Ministry for three decades. She was kind enough to delay her retirement to stay with my predecessor Lu Firestone, who served as the interim director while they searched for a permanent director (‘lil ol’ me!).

And then, as if that was not enough, Carolyn gave me the gift of a full month of being with me in the early going of this new job to make sure I got acclimated to the place. And she has indeed been gift to me. Dayenu!

Tomorrow is her last day here at Canisius and we will have a small celebration. After more than three decades of work she deserves a wonderful time of retirement with her family.

So thanks Carolyn, simply for being you. You have made my transition so much easier simply by being you. The students especially will miss you and I’m programming your phone to be on speed dial for the inevitable day that we need to know “What the heck do we do NOW?”

My new motto for the office is a simple one: WWCD. What would Carolyn do? And it will remind us to be warm, inviting and to always go the extra mile for the students here at Canisius, because that is what you have been for so many people who have passed through these doors. While it has only been one month, it has been a wonderful one filled with much love and laughter. As I did my daily examen over the course of the month, many times my moments of grace were of you.

So blessings, friend. And know that as we gather around the table here you are united with us at your table wherever you are.

For now, let’s just enjoy the moment. For tomorrow…you ride!

If Not For a Cannonball…

180px-Ignatius_LoyolaSome words of reflection on the Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola

If not for a cannonball
He would not have looked more deeply
At the life he had led
A full, and yet still, empty life
A rich, but yet to be richer, existence
That would have floated away.

If not for vanity’s sake
Hoping for a walk without a limp
Would convalescence have not provided the time
For reflecting just that much deeper?

If there were only more books
Of ribald tales
Near pornographic materials for the time
If only there were one or two more of those books
Would the Life of Christ and His great saints
Have not been touched by another saint’s hands?

The shattering of that leg
Shattered Iñigo’s heart as well
His life was no more
Who would want a gimpy-legged man after all?
And perhaps wallowing,
He read of what could have been
Priming his mind for the tales
Of Francis and Dominic
Who were more like the man he was about to become

If not for that cannonball
There would be no St. Ignatius
No Isaac Jogues, no Francis Xavier
There would be no Canisius, no Fordham
No Georgetown, No Boston College
James Martin may still work for GE
And Greg Boyle would not have become a Homeboy
If a cannonball did not change everything
For Iñigo and for us.

For Iñigo is now Ignatius of Loyola
And Ignatius reminds us that it is in moments like these
Where a simple, or not so simple, event
Can harken God’s presence to us
If we, but pay attention to the cannonball

So what are the cannonballs in our lives?
Those moments that cause us to turn,
if only for one brief moment in time
Towards God

That moment that caused us to see ourselves
A bit more clearly
And invited us into the place
Where we could be just a bit more
Than we thought we could

Perhaps we laughed at the thought
As old Sarah did at her potential pregnancy
Or perhaps we feared a future
As Isaiah did because of youth.

But a moment in time
Where we notice the Lord
Calling us
Is all we need to be not just
All that we are
But all that we can be for others as well

What is your moment in time?
That caused you to turn
Just a bit, or perhaps more drastically,
To be who God calls you to be?

A classroom, a bedroom, a bar room,
Those moments happen there.
A birth, a death, getting fired, an invitation
to something new,
something different,
something that changes us
To be renewed by God’s grace
Which is all we need and nothing more.

It might be that
we just sat at the right table
And met someone
Who changed our lives
With their invitation
That led to a new job
Or marriage
Or something else

Perhaps one dared to
Point out a flaw or the thing that is missing
And asked us to just consider that
Because they saw clearly when we could not?

Even the Pope has these moments
Like when the ballots swung
In his favor
And led him to remember the poor
In the princely, papal palace
And chose to be different.

What is your Ignatian moment?
Your cannonball?
That shatters your world
For good
And changes you
To be all that God has called you to be?

Happy Feast Day