Archive for April, 2010

The Team Bus

April 27th, 2010 by akuzniew

Last weekend’s trip to Army with the men’s lacrosse team marked the 24th such travel for me since the first football trip to Northeastern on October 3rd, more than usual this year because of my spring semester sabbatical. I always enjoy these trips. Dr. Walsh has frequently referred to them has his mini vacations; they fill a similar function for me, only with the understanding that there is a pastoral connection. For football, there is a gameday team Mass, a pregame prayer in the locker room, and a postgame moment of prayer (best when a prayer of thanksgiving) on the field.  In basketball last year, we generally started with a small scale Mass in my room anchored by Dr. Walsh, Bob Fouracre, and the coach, plus a locker room prayer before and after the game. Lacrosse has a pregame prayer in the locker room, a small scale Mass before breakfast generally attended by a half dozen or more of the players, plus a family Mass before the awards brunch which, this year, will be next Sunday. In women’s basketball, Coach Gibbons has requested a similar pattern of Mass (especially on Sundays, families of players would attend) and assistance with invoking God’s help before the game.

Those patterns have basic similarities. It’s the bus ride that distinguishes each team.  I always get my own double seat, so the ride is comfortable–no doubling up with a 300 pound lineman on the football bus! Football favors action movies, the type I think of as high-testerone machine gun movies. Men’s basketball tends to be quiet; perhaps a movie, but many players studying, sleeping, or engaged in video games.  Women’s basketball has often favored TV shows, and also some common singing. I still remember a rousing version of “The Wheels on the bus go round, round, round” from the back of the bus on one of our trips. The lacrosse bus features movies and TV shows–on the Navy trip this year, multiple episodes of “Friday Night Lights.” They can keep the volume a little lower by running the English subtitles.

If I want to, I can opt out of the entertainment with my noise cancelling earphones and ipod.  That affords the opportunity to read, correct papers, tackle a crossword puzzle, pray, gaze out the window, doze off.  As much as I like to inveigh against the long distance travels in the Patriot League, whose geography is disadvantageous for the Cross, I have to admit that I don’t really mind the bus rides. Add to the above the chance to talk with and  get to know the coaches and players better, and to appreciate the services of the drivers who work for Fox Bus, and it turns out that the game, for me, is only one part of a rich experience.

Reflections on the Healys

April 16th, 2010 by akuzniew

Earlier this week, a reporter from the Chicago Tribune  contacted me to discuss Bishop James Healy, Class of 1849. The context was the announcement by the Archdiocese of Chicago that Father Augustine Tolton (1854-97), an African-American priest of Chicago, had become a candidate for sainthood. It was a pleasant conversation with an intelligent reporter who was trying to get my views regarding primacy: who was the first African-American priest. The context was complicated by a recent discussion at Georgetown about the fact that, for years, they had concealed President Patrick Healy’s (HC Class of 1850) racial background; but then revived it when his identity became an asset at the time of the civil rights movement and afterwards.

It’s an interesting question. My sense is that, in an era of intense racism, the Healys made the best of the situation by passing for white as sons of an Irish immigrant and his common-law wife in Georgia who was a mulatto. Their goal was “to help souls,” as St. Ignatius put it; and, since they could pass for white, they did so and accomplished great things in the vineyard of the Lord.


Father Tolton didn’t have that option. Being visibly black, he had to carry on his work in an atmosphere of hostility to persons of his race. So, was he truly the first? The best answer I could give was: yes and no.


Father Al Foley of the New Orleans Province of Jesuits  has written biographies of two of the Healys. Beloved Outcaste profiles James Healy; Dream of an Outcaste covers Patrick. James O’Toole has published an excellent history of the Healy family over several generations under the title Passing for White. They are a remarkable family, deserving of the publicity. And Father Tolton has to have been a remarkable priest. Several biographies are available and I hope to get to one of them before long.

Easter on Campus

April 5th, 2010 by akuzniew

Easter on campus is a solemn time. A strange stillness descends upon us every year on Wednesday evening, as almost all the students depart for their Easter break. This year, there were two special aspects that lent richness to Holy Week. The first was a beautiful greeting to us Jesuits from Rabbi Norm Cohen of Minneapolis, a house guest in Ciampi Hall when he visits his alma mater, a good and wise rabbi who enriches our house and campus with his presence. He had also greeted us for Ash Wednesday, another sign of support and prayerful solidarity. The other variable this year was the fantastic weather, as if God had raised the curtain on meteorological beauty after a month plagued by Noah-type deluge. The forsythia and other early bloomers fairly exploded on Holy Thursday when the sun came out full force and all the rain gear went back into the closet.

Four religious services bring the diminished community together–Fr. McFarland, Frank Vellaccio and other administrators; Alice Laffey and other faculty colleagues; a few local alumni and friends; members of teams that happen to be in residence–this year, baseball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, crew, and a few others.

Thursday and Friday services are in the Mary Chapel, the renovated space that has held its beauty for almost a decade now,  and enhances community worship by means of the centrally located altar.  It’s moving to watch the foot-washing ceremony on Thursday: after having your feet washed, you kneel and wash the feet of the next person in line. And on Friday, as the whole group of worshipers advance to reverence the cross, there’s a powerful sense of our oneness before the Lord, regardless of rank, age, or experience.

Holy Saturday,  in a good year like this, begins its service at dusk outside on the plaza with the blessing of the new fire and lighting of pascal candle. Our rector, Fr. Hayes, presided this year and braved his way through the sung Exsultet with satisfying success. And on Easter morning, again this year, Fr. McFarland presided in a space basically at capacity, as we sang the allelujas and lingered long afterwards to exchange our “Happy Easters.”

Now, on Monday afternoon, the students are returning and the oasis of tranquility has been displaced by the usual hustle-bustle. Even so, we are not exactly the same people we were a week ago.  For a few days, for those of us here to experience it, Easter became a verb. We are the richer for it.