Thursday, September 24, 2009

William E. Schaffner, S.J.

Father Schaffner felt a strong attraction to beauty. He loved listening to classical music and loved the luminous quality of mosaics. Without Willie’s interest, most of his friends would know nothing about the Mausoleum in Ravenna, Italy, named for an Empress-Mother of the Western Roman Empire, Galla Placidia. This small mausoleum was decorated in the early fifth century with extraordinary mosaics. Because of the interest that Father Schaffner later showed in these mosaics, his visit there to view, admire and photograph them was certainly one of the high points of his life.

There was a way in which the desire perfectly to hear and to see beauty overwhelmed him. To reproduce its features engaged him. He struggled to get just the best reproduction of sound and sight. This struggle was without doubt part of a spiritual search for God; he struggled to find God in this beauty. It was a part of his prayer.

And now the struggle for this perfection of sound and sight has come to an end. Jesus now opens Willie’s eyes just as he opened the eyes of the blind. Jesus now opens Willie’s ears just as he opened the ears of the deaf. Willie sees and hears a reality in the kingdom of God which the old earthly sounds and scenes could only suggest.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

These two guys have the duty of setting the spirits of the student body at Saint Joseph's Prep on fire, win or lose. On the left is the student body president, Frank Rizzo. And on the right is Andreas Keeler. In a lively competition, Andreas won the coveted role of representing the school as its mascot, a Hawk. The football team won its first two games with persevering come-from-behind efforts. In the third game of the season, such an effort failed against highly-ranked North Penn, a large eastern Pennsylvania high school with a football powerhouse.
Pictured here is Jesuit Father Neil Ver'Schneider with some of his fans from Gesu School. The school celebrated with him on the feast of Saint Peter Claver in early September because this is the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of his work with the children of Gesu and the people of our neighborhood of North Philadelphia.

Father Neil supervises the time-out room at Gesu and is a trusted advisor to Sister Ellen Convey, the principal, and Christine Beck, the president.

For twenty years, too, he has celebrated Mass and preached in our North Philadelphia parishes. He also invites groups of men and women together for prayer and scripture study. Usually gatherings take place about twice a week. In addition he has made himself available to counsel especially neighborhood men of all ages.

When he first arrived at Gesu School in the summer of 1989, he realized at once one of my frustrations as the pastor of the parish of the Church of the Gesu. Fortunately by this time, Saint Joseph's Prep had assumed the maintenance of the grand Church. But there was still the school building that required daily attention and eventually millions of dollars in renovations. Attention to building maintenance and improvements is not my strength. But Neil graciously stepped forward, took on this duty and to this day remains intimate with all the needs of the Gesu School building.

In addition to this he is the first in the Jesuit house to make the coffee in the morning, to take out the trash on trash day and to empty the dish washer and put everything in its place. He brought a lot of gifts for us when he arrived in 1989 and he is still giving.
Pictured are the members of the Jesuit Volunteer Community in Philadelphia for the year 2009-2010. One is missing: Theresa who grew up in Media, Pa.

Clockwise from the left: Andrea from near Seattle and attended Gonzaga University; Sarah from the Scranton area and attended Holy Cross College; Christian from Minnesota and attended Notre Dame University; Eimi (sp?) from Singapore and attended Gettysburg College; Katie; Rachel from near Los Angeles and attended Loyola Marymount University.

Friday, September 04, 2009

These new freshmen at Saint Joseph's Prep arrived for orientation on September 2. Greeting them with high fives were upperclassmen who showed them around the "campus." One thing we all noticed this year: most of the freshmen look well-fed!
A word for their parents (from the Mass that opened the parent orientation, Sept 1, 2009)

Patience, humility. This is what we parents and educators need. Some days it takes every ounce of patience for parents to keep from overreacting to the behavior of their sons and daughters. For parents to consider, when a child fails to meet their expectations, that God is somehow taking care of their child is so difficult. When the child, for example, is a late bloomer or a silent non-performer or appears inconsiderate, it is tough to believe that God is leading the child along some positive path. Even worse when a child seems to defy the best judgments of a parent or teacher!

Many, many times Prep boys make mistakes or fail to measure up to their best. Sometimes the jug room fills. Sometimes it turns out even that the Prep is not the school for a certain boy.
Always in these situations it is well for us to pray for a measure of patience and humility in the face of the mystery of the human person. All of us, even our sons, even during their uncertain years, (I might say especially during their uncertain years), have the same kind of mysterious human nature that Jesus has, a nature with the potential of coming into close friendship with God and the divine purposes. Indeed we must often call our sons to task but this call comes out of our conviction that God has a path for them. This call must continue to challenge them to discover this path and to find the words to describe it.

I spent some time yesterday with a South American couple who have raised five children, four sons and a daughter. I asked them what advice they have for the parents of the freshmen boys at the Prep. They quoted a Spanish proverb (and I regret that I did not catch the Spanish) to wit:
“Spend more time talking with God about your children than talking with your children about God.” Perhaps this is overstated but it illustrates a principle. God is taking care of our boys. We can tell our boys about God. But let us spend more time praying for them and for an understanding of God’s plan for them.
Jesuit education as promoted by one of our first teachers: "institutio puerorum, reformatio mundi." Loosely translated: "Get the kids into a Jesuit school and change the world!"