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

And They Returned Rejoicing

So our Canisius Students returned home from Rio after spending a few weeks with the Magis Program and then of course with the world’s most famous Jesuit, Papa Francisco.

Look at the energy that they returned with!

A good time had by one and all. And they got a great glimpse of the Pope:

It seems that the infectious nature of the Pope has gotten into the spirit of the students here. We’ll build on that as we go.

Scott Paeplow, who you saw in the first video, led the students on the trip as their Campus Minister. He is also leaving us for graduate school at Dayton. He’ll be sorely missed, but he really brought much energy not just to the campus, but to this final trip for him and for a few of our seniors. I have told my sources in Dayton that they are to educate me and then hand him a cell phone when he gets off the graduation line to discuss where he’ll be off to next and to not get any funny ideas about stealing him from the great city of Buffalo. Nice job, sir! You lived the MAGIS!

A final note. I’m officially old. Alice Zicari is the daughter of my very own college classmates, Dan and Marcy Zicari who readers will remember fondly from this old post. I held her in my arms as an infant and now here she is all grown up as a graduate of Canisius and a leader on this trip.

This “Pope as Rock Star Celebration” continues to bring young people to the faith. And I’ll say this….This Pope seems to be the biggest “rock star” of them all.

Welcome home, folks! See ya around campus!


Picturing God

The Jesuits have a very cool blog called Picturing God and recently I submitted one of my own to the site that I forgot to mention last week. So check it out at this link.

And as a follow up here is a picture and prayer along the same theme:


New Students
New Students to care for, to pray for,
To be a mentor, a guide, a friend.

To watch them grow further into adulthood,
Although they are already adults,
More than they know.

Help them to discover all that they are, Lord…
All that they can be.
So that they will serve you, Lord…
And in doing so serve the world.

I, too, need your help, Lord.
For I am entrusted with their care
And the care of my fine colleagues.
The care of the funds to do the work
You have called us too.

It is a great responsibility
And you have gifted me already with so much
To provide me the confidence that you are always with me.

Let me spend these days knowing that
And as I keep these young men and women in prayer
As they travel to Brazil to be with the Holy Father
And with you Lord.
May their hearts be open to see your face in each other.
And be changed further to be men and women for others.
In that great Ignatian spirit that they have been taught well.

And my they come home to find us, their friends
Old and new
Waiting as you always wait for us.
With open arms.


You Know You Work at A Jesuit College When….

IMG_1237Magis…Kairos…Cura Personalis…Examen…

When students throw these words around, one can only be impressed because these are all part of a common Ignatian language. As many of you have heard, I’ve accepted a position at Canisius College, which the Jesuits run here in Buffalo. I’ve always wanted to work in Jesuit Higher Education and it’s been exciting these first three days. I’m still getting acclimated, but the wonderful colleagues that surround me have made that so much easier than expected. I’ve always found a particular, but often unnamed charism of Ignatian life to be a sincere desire to see others succeed and often that want comes from a place of great security with one’s self. I love the fact that I’m working with a bunch of very confident people who really pride themselves on doing fine work.

And that brings me to the students…because it is clear that they are being formed well in the Ways of St. Ignatius. One student gushed about Kairos Retreats and made me promise her that I would attend at least one (I was psyched for this coming into the job as I love retreats). “The Jesuits are different!” she said, noting that she didn’t want to attend a Catholic school but was pleasantly surprised by the warmth of Campus Ministry at Canisius. Another student was getting ready to go to World Youth Day in Brazil and picked my brain about my two trips to World Youth Day events and the wonderful MAGIS program that the Jesuits run during the Papal Pilgrimage. Yet another, talked about their trip to India, where they were changed by the experience of the poor and grew in desire to become “men and women for others.”

Ignatius teaches us to look for the consolation and the desolation in a daily examen of consciousness. And these days I find myself very consoled by people. New colleagues and even some old friends who work at Canisius and have welcomed me in and helped me rest easy in the comfort of their hospitality. These are the arms of Christ met in the open embrace of a new group of colleagues.

Desolation comes (as it always does) in the occasional negative thought that pushes my fear. That voice that tells me that perhaps I’m not good enough, or smart enough, or cool enough to engage these students. That we don’t have enough money or that things will get mismanaged or that the students don’t really care for religion anyway. And I’ve learned to recognize that voice as the evil one looking to manipulate all that can be good in ministry. Indeed, realizing that there is something that inevitably leads us away from God and into the throes of dread, is an important recognition and Ignatius reminds us to move away from those fears and to instead, have faith—the opposite of fear–that there are many that will bring us beyond our fears in order to bask in becoming all that Christ calls us to be.

So keep us in prayer, dear friends. As we prepare for a year of ministry with these wonderful sons and daughters of Ignatius of Loyola. May God bless our faculty, staff and students and especially all the Jesuits who are on Campus.

You know you work at a Jesuit College when only one thing happens…

You are consoled by the love that emanates from all those around you who have been clearly touched by God’s grace.

And who always return that love to each person they meet.