Just Good Company
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At the beginning of August 2003, the California Province of the Society of Jesus held a five-day "convocation" at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles for some 300 members of the order and almost 200 men and women collaborating in various works of the province -- high schools, universities, parishes and the like.

You can better understand the purpose of the convocation after you read this from the province Website: http://www.calprov.org/ partnership/index.html

JustGoodCompany asked Robert Brophy, Don Cordero, Doug McFerran, Robert Rahl and Dave Van Etten -- members of West Coast Compañeros Inc. who had been invited to the convocation -- to tell us and our readers what they saw and heard and felt. Here are their reflections. At the end we have some reflections from a current Jesuit, Fr. Jim Torrens.

Convocation 2003

Robert Brophy, an emeritus professor of English at Long Beach State University, entered the Society in 1946 from St. Ignatius High in San Francisco, and left in 1968 from the University of San Francisco.

I found the “facilities” and menus to be counter-signs. We were discussing the Jesuit dedication to an “Option for the Poor” while meeting in a quarter billion dollar building the likes of which I have seldom seen. We were eating from menus featuring fantastic meals such that I never hope to see again. And I had a suite of rooms that served silence and panoramic wonderment.

“University Hall,” our meeting place, was breath-taking -- totally palatial with its miles of marble floors and decorative walls, its escalators and elevators, and its triumphs of design. I wondered whether there was not a better place to meet, one that could accommodate all and yet remind us at least remotely of the life of barrio and paramilitary. In ensuing conversations, I heard that LMU had to snatch the building at a considerably lesser price so that Pepperdine University would not move into it and intrude on LMU space. True?

Regarding the food, it has always been a question with California Jesuits, right ? Did Master of Novices Francis Seeliger ever adequately explain how and why we had first class feasts that few of us would have experienced outside? Poverty of Dependence, I think he used to say. I can hardly repeat it without smiling.

I also wondered why none of the fantastic Justice Jesuits were on any of our programs. If there was no space on the program, I wanted to see their efforts listed and described – as attesting to what outstanding works of Justice and Peace were already being pursued under their dedication.

-- John Baumann’s PICO was mentioned but not highlighted enough.

-- Steve Privett’s impact on USF (a hellhole of militarism, Vietnam patriotism, and Vat2-subversion in my day), needed notice, USF now having a Peace Review, a Peace Studies minor, and a Peace Center, headed by a world-renowned specialist in Mid East affairs, Steven Zunes. If Steve didn't do all that himself, he certainly sustains it.

-- Greg Boyle and Mike Kennedy at Dolores Mission working with gangs and underemployment in the LA Ghetto got no forum.

-- The California Jesuit response to injustice in the Jesuit Family seminars and protest at the School of the Americas by Jesuit universities, high schools, and parishes — rising to that effort at no less than radicalization (in a good sense) of youth — needed kudos.

-- The Verbum Dei community, getting students to graduate high school in Watts went unmentioned.

Steve Kelly was there. He had entered the Society in 1982 and had spent seven years in various local and federal prisons for protesting the U.S. nuclear weapons program. That delayed his tertianship; federal judges haven’t taken to his justifications for pouring blood on delivery systems. I saw him at the Convocation, but he seemed more of an embarrassment than a hero. Now finished with his tertianship, he was then “Awaiting Assignment” (probably out of province). I am an outsider and don’t know Steve's story, I think he is California’s Dan Berrigan. If he is too soft –spoken, it seems to me someone should have spoken for him. He is probably a pain in the butt to superiors; he is unrepentant, refuses to accept probations, is very austere, vegetarian, uncompromising. And, as he told me, he’s not a poet.

When I raised these questions to one Jesuit whom I respect, he said this was the start of things, an attempt to create a community on which to build justice issues. It was not to preach but to dialogue. The fact that some unlikely Jesuits showed up not only to the pre-prandials and dinners but to the sessions made me suspect he was right. I should wait and see what happens.

I could have ignored the palatial setting if only someone had addressed the issue. As far as I know, no one did. If at least we could have admitted that we were living a counter-sign every moment of our presence there! Same for the food—it should have been addressed. Should we have had cheese sandwiches as I suggested at one point? Or an alternative menu? But that would have been divisive.

I talked to other Jesuits about my reservations. One was very responsive; he saw Jesuit institutions as being stuck in the Two Standards meditation: By embracing high-cost institutions, the Province becomes sensitive to (if not enslaved by) money sources and beholden to the Murdochs and Disneys, as the Cardinal is in his LA Cathedral. I suspect that Bellarmine survived the test of that “Enemies” Playing Cards incident recently, but the outrage and uproar of the alums certainly points to those alums not reflecting the justice (and allied peace) element in their education.

And that’s still the question, isn’t it? How do Jesuits and Jesuit institutions impact on the culture? Do they in any essential way stand for “A Faith That Does Justice?” Is Faith with Justice the first thing that comes to mind when the Society is mentioned? Is that on the way to happening? As a follow-up, I recently brought the subject up to one of the outstanding teachers I had met from St. Ignatius High School. I did a quick overview for him of the SI Alumni Directory’s appendix of “career listings.” Alums, it seems, have been overwhelmingly into banking, law & medicine, accounting, advertising, agribusiness, brokerage & investments, business administration, business entrepreneurism, engineering, information systems, construction, consulting, non-elective government, finance/venture capital, insurance, hotel-restaurant management, manufacturing, merchandising/sales/marketing, real estate, military, transportation, and utilities. The listing of these goes on column after column, page after page. It overwhelms alums who work in other fields, such as education, energy resources, foundations, counseling, judiciary, nursing, clergy, etc. Of course, one can seek justfaith in any way of life. But why am I suspicious that financial success far far far far far outdistances justice issues in graduates’ minds? How much emphasis does SI put on justice? How much does it question structures of oppression and discrimination? Has there been a shift lately? Someone should do the research.

Excuse me for my wide-ranging ignorance in many things here. You asked for my reflections.

No one talked about the ROTC on our campuses. Air Force ROTC has a spacious office at the very entrance to the “University Center” building. The brochures on its racks were slick, filled with success rhetoric, and beautifully designed. We should remind ourselves that this is the same Air Force that serves as the “Shock and Awe” first strike arm of our president, the glory of wars won without casualties (on our side), the nuclear delivery system, death by remote, using the smart and stealth technology that allows the US to bully and prevail.

The Jesuits I queried found the Air Force presence only a slight embarrassment. Evidently the university profits from its presence; dropping ROTC would no doubt offend many alumni and supporters and research grants would dry up. The University of San Francisco and Santa Clara University host the Army ROTC, which does aggressive recruiting on those campuses. When my daughter Rachel went to SCU she received regular letters promising practically a free ride if she joined, a suggestion that I labeled "solicitation to prostitution". I still think that. Kids recruited out of black ghettos or the barrio probably see joining the armed forces the only way to get an education.

Don Cordero

I remember when Bill Masterson first asked the Companions if any of us wanted to attend the convocation, and I remember being surprised to find my hand go up. I recall feeling some contradictory thoughts and looking at my hand and wondering why it was up.

We were supposed to do a mini-retreat, to prepare for the convocation, and I had mixed feelings about that. However, I felt that I owed a large debt to the Jesuits for being where I am in my life today, and the retreat turned out well for me. Among other things, I reconnected with Steve Olivo, SJ. He had been in the back of my mind for a number of years. If this were all that came out of the retreat that alone would have been worth the effort. But there was more to come. Those of us there developed a good connection. We became a mini-community. After the retreat, Steve even joined us and our spouses for a lively dinner at our house. It was a warm experience.

I drove down to Los Angeles on August 1st In spite of the congestion on the 405 freeway, I arrived about 4:00 PM with feelings of apprehension. I checked in and got my room. I felt “outside-inside” and really unsure as we walked down to the social hour and dinner. However, from the moment I got in close proximity to the large group, I was greeted warmly. “Warmth” is one of the words that characterized the whole convocation experience for me. Rich Robin, SJ was the first who came up to me and threatened to kick me if I didn’t recognize him. Well, he was a bit more graphic, but that served to melt any residual apprehension. For the whole time, Jesuits came up to me and greeted me warmly. In fact, this was my experience throughout the convocation. I sensed a feeling of graciousness on the Jesuits’ part. Most of them expressed appreciation that we came.

After an excellent dinner we convened at the large chapel on campus. The level of positive energy in the church was incredible. The place was packed. I can still hear the mighty buzz of conversation and expectation. I knew at that moment that there would be more for me to receive than I would be able to give. The warmth and openness of the presentation by the Provincial, Tom Smolich, SJ set a tone for me that never left me the whole time. (Tom had also come to the Companions retreat in Santa Cruz, a mark of openness that impressed both my wife and me.) The service ended with a special movie made for the occasion. It was a thought-provoking yet subtle challenge for the rest of the week.

Rather than go through a listing of the events in the days that followed, I wish to share selected feelings and experiences. There is no doubt in my doubting mind that the whole event was a moment of grace for me. Frankly, I have great reservations about Roman Catholic belief structures and content but I could not deny that something of a profound spiritual and joyful nature was in the air. More than anything else I experienced graciousness. In fact “graciousness” was the other word that pervaded my experience. I had almost a continuous conversation with someone except for the times that I chose to be alone and reflect. I attempted in my own halting way to be continuously present to my experience and feelings and try to stay away from analyzing what was happening. It is funny, now that I reflect back, that I spoke to none of the women in any depth.

But my sense of the women in attendance was that they were a presence that was deep and one that subtly made the convocation move in a direction that will be very important for the Jesuits and much, much more for the larger church. I was impressed by the way the explicit presence of the women in the prayer services set a tone of inclusiveness. One of the opening presentations about Mary was very powerful and deeply moving for me. My immediate reaction was that only a mother, of four boys no less, could only have given her words the depth, subtlety, humor and meaning they had. (Well, it also helped that she was a little feisty and Midwestern!) Believe me; however, I have no illusions about the huge gender disparity in the Church.

Overall, I think it was a watershed event for the Society and for the Church. For myself, I am very rusty in the Spiritual Exercises and have determined to refresh some lost knowledge. While I still do not know how I can participate with the Society in this huge collaborative challenge facing them, I know that I have something of importance to give. It was also clear to me that I am challenged to follow up on my personal insights, no matter what the Jesuits do. But, honestly, I hope that I will be invited to more “nitty-gritty” interactions if that is the way they go.

Whatever happens I am personally grateful. I was glad to return to my wife. I came back a little better husband and father. It was an honor for me to be there. While I am still skeptical about the Church at large, I am joyful in my skepticism. I am also glad to have chosen to be in the Jesuits and in spite of the pain of leaving, to be where I am now in my life. God-speed to them.

Doug McFerran was a Jesuit from 1952-62. He taught philosophy in the Los Angeles Community College District until his retirement in 2003. He is the author of IRA Man: Talking with the Rebels and is currently the editor of ARCCLIGHT, the newsletter published by the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church.

Throughout the convocation, there was an explicit emphasis on just listening, whether to each other or to the Spirit within each of us. This was probably the best way to go. It didn't keep us from asking hard questions of each other, but it reduced the likelihood of acrimonious debate.

At the opening session Tom Smolich cited three reasons for coming together. First was the importance of this particular moment in the Church, highlighted by the sex scandals. It has been forty years since Vatican II, but we are still working to implement its changes. Next was the reality of the Jesuit situation with declining vocations. Finally there was the Ignatian vision of education, too important for us to be limited to the status quo.

Among the points striking me the most in the presentations in the next few days was the repeated theme of a third or "transformative" stage in religious life replacing the first (the one those of us from way back know so well) that called for relative isolation from contemporary culture and the second that called for more complete immersion in this culture. The point now was to rediscover what it meant to have a religious identity that to some extent would set individuals against their world but allow them to work to change that world. This was echoed repeatedly in the call to pursue "a faith that does justice" (especially in a presentation by Greg Chisholm that I think will be on the province's convocation website). Since one of the themes of the convocation was that of lay-Jesuit partnership, a number of folks felt called upon to parse what this means. I particularly liked the points made by Loyola's own Sister Mary Beth Inghram, who demanded that religious groups (her own as well as the Society) not see themselves as "victims" of declining vocations. The emphasis, she said, had to be on "empowering co- ministers" as much as on training new members. "The torch is not being passed; we're all holding it up together."

Santa Clara's Paul Soukup reminded folks that ours is not the first generation to experience this business of a shared ministry. He also insisted that what this means will look different in different situations. We are wrong, he said, to fear for our institutions; there is no need to protect them. (Paul, by the way, agreed to my request to probe his thoughts further, maybe for JGC.)

In many ways the convocation illustrates the 60's cliché that the medium is the message. The way we did come together, sharing living quarters and meals, meant more than anything else for both Jesuits and non-Jesuits, including the group of us with a foot in each world. There were quite possibly a number of Jesuits who were not present because they could not handle what Smolich has been demanding of the province. I was personally reassured by the men I met up with, so many of those from around my own generation as well as a few far older than me (I'm still blown away by the priests who now were seven decades in the Society) and the new kids, the novices and the scholastics who brought their own sense of excitement to the group.

Obviously, there are a lot of memories stirred by the time we spent together at the convocation. I was reminding Bernie Bush how, as a regent up at Applegate, he had been instrumental in my corruption when on a trip to Tahoe, which was supposed to be on the California side only, we somehow managed to find a casino. I had one quarter (SI guys, remember how we used to squirrel away quarters for the laundry machines?) which I played, then I borrowed a second from Lou Bishop and hit a jackpot with five silver dollars and shared the wealth. Lou completely blew my away when I was retelling the story by saying that he still had his silver dollar from that day. I keep thinking how much I would have wanted those days and that camaraderie to go on forever.

I've already said that at a personal level the convocation marked a deeper reconciliation with the Church itself. Even though I find that as we recite the Nicene Creed in the liturgy I keep wanting to say "not really" to about every point, I want the Church, mythology and all (using that term in the more cognitively neutral sense of all the stories and images of a tradition), to remain a positive influence on the world. I am again angered by those who have compromised the Church, whether by failing to keep their zippers in place or by protecting the sinning cleric from the consequences of his actions. I am saddened by the revelations of how priests and religious, instead of rescuing the victims of oppression, actively contributed to some of the real horror stories of oppression (as in Ireland with the Magdalene laundries). But I take the consecrated bread and wine because I want so much for this communion of the faithful to be a reality, and so I must put my intellectual rebellion on hold and do my best to deal with my own "cloud of unknowing."

Robert R. Rahl was a California Jesuit from 1963 to 1973. He was on the faculty of New College of California for fifteen years and twice served as Dean of the School of Humanities. He was later Director of Information Technology for the California Medical Assciation from which he retired in 1999. Married to Laurel Lane for 25 years, he has three sons and one grandson. Robert volunteers as a technical advisor to the West Coast Compañeros, Inc. and its online journal Just Good Company. He grows miniature roses and preternaturally hot peppers.

One of my most vivid memories connected with the California Jesuit Province Convocation of August 2003 comes from about four months before the actual event. In prayerful preparation for the Convocation, about ten of us "Compañeros" former members of the Society of Jesus met on the weekend of April 25-27 in the offices of the California Provincial at Sacred Heart Center, the former site of the Novitiate where we had all begun our Jesuit training at various times many decades ago. We were joined for the Saturday afternoon session by Fr. Steve Olivo who lives in the grand old building which now has been transformed into an infirmary and assisted-living center for the aging population of the Province. For many of us who left the Society in the tumultuous 'sixties and 'seventies there still persists a residual pain of loss, accented by a smoldering sense of rejection by our former comrades. In those days, when someone left it was silently and secretly, under cover of darkness, and the departer was not to be mentioned again. Some of these feelings were being aired that Saturday afternoon when Steve shared his own deep feelings in his usual slow-spoken, gentle, soft words. "You felt that we had rejected you, but we felt that you had abandoned us." So used to looking only at my own side of that terminal event, I was stunned to realize that there was plenty of pain on the other side of the closing door, too. A few minutes later the group was fishing for a single word to describe both those who had remained in the Society and those of us who had taken other roads. Steve spoke up again and offered, "We will always be brothers." A simple and obvious word but it moved the group strongly and deeply because we felt the reality of it then and there.

Against this backdrop of old wounds, the invitation California Provincial Fr. Tom Smolich extended to us Compañeros to attend the province Convocation as official delegates was a very pleasant surprise and an occasion of healing. The event itself proved to be, for me, an experience of both healing and revitalization. For the first time in the history of the Province Convocation a periodic all-member meeting non-Jesuit colleagues in the province's ministries were represented in large numbers. With falling numbers and rising median ages, the Jesuits of the United States in general and California in particular face either extinction or rebirth in a new form. Many of the Society's more enlightened members and leaders realize that the brightest hope for rebirth is in connection with their non-Jesuit compatriots in Ignatian ministries, women and men who are inspired by the same Ignatian spirituality and dedicated to the same apostolic work without necessarily being tied to either religious vows or a calling to the clerical priesthood. Convocation 2003 was an opportunity to give this hope a concrete expression in real life.

We met from the first to the fifth of August on the campus of Loyola-Marymount University which overlooks the southwestern expanse of the city of Los Angeles. The Jesuit participants stayed on for an additional three days to fulfill the requirements of their annual eight-day retreat. These were very bright, warm, sunny days in the coastal desert of southern California but the meeting planners had foreseen the weather and provided us at registration with T-shirts, caps and sun-block. Of all the meetings I've ever attended this was by far the best planned. A superabundance of LMU student-workers watched out for us and took good care of us, pointing us in the right direction for meals and meetings and liturgical celebrations and sometimes providing us with transportation in the form of king-size golf carts and trams.

During the afternoon "Happy Hour" which kicked off the meeting I ran into dozens of Jesuits with whom I had lived and worked and most of whom I hadn’t seen for decades. They included former classmates who were celebrating forty years as Jesuits. Forty-three of us entered the Society of Jesus at Los Gatos in the autumn of 1963 and nine are currently members. All but one was in attendance at the Convocation which made this a real reunion for me. Mutual affection and good will for each other was alive and well after all these years and a lot of my trepidation melted right away. In the following days the keynote in my encounters with other participants was this sense of active acceptance and good will coming from young and old, male and female, vowed "religious" and just plain folks alike.

The "agenda" for the five days was quite unusual since agenda typically means "things to be done" and there was nothing for us to do, at least nothing that we had to do. Of course there were lots of activities scheduled, meals and meetings of all sizes small, medium and large groups as well as liturgies and other prayerful and reflective gatherings, in addition to plenty of informal get-togethers. Nothing, however, was mandatory or "musting" to be done. More importantly, the point of all these events was, in Zen fashion, that there is no point. The Convocation was planned intentionally and explicitly to have no measurable outcome, no "practical" point. Its raison d'être was, instead, the creation of an environment of discernment, based on Ignatius of Loyola's notion of "discernment of spirits" in his Spiritual Exercises which lays the foundation for all forms of Jesuit and Ignatian spirituality. All the Convocation activities were designed to foster and nourish this atmosphere of openness and discernment, to allow us and encourage us to listen to each other, to ourselves and to the Spirit speaking and working in us and through us and through all the events of our lives.

What I heard and saw and felt during that time was a common bond of love in the Lord, in the all-too-human visible Church, and in the Ignatian spirit of generosity in the service of God and the people of God. The best bet for the Jesuits not only to survive but even to thrive in these changing times is to continue and build on the commitment to its Ignatian partners which showed such a promising beginning in Convocation 2003.

Dave Van Etten and his wife, Mary Ann, operate a Family Day Care for children from their San Jose, California, home. Dave entered the Society in '58, an engineering grad from Santa Clara University, spent three years as a missionary in Taiwan and the Philippines, and left in 1969 from Alma College in Los Gatos. He currently serves as a WCCI Director and Chief Financial Officer, coordinator of the Companions' annual reunion and co-moderator of their online communication activities.

We were housed 2 by 2 in beautiful and modern two-bedroom apartments in new and/or near-new dorms located close to the main entrance of the University just off of Lincoln Ave. As you enter the campus you are startled by the size of the first building on your right, University Hall. Perhaps a bit more than two football fields long, this mall-like building with a huge interior atrium was built in the 1980s to house the main headquarters of GM-Hughes Electronics. The building lay empty for some time until it was sold to LMU by Raytheon Corp. in January, 2000 for $75.5 million dollars, about a third of its fair market value. Classroom and administrative office space across the campus immediately doubled in size. If you have not visited the campus in a long time, do so at your earliest convenience. Wow! Has it changed in the thirty-nine years since I spent the summer of 1964 before departing for Taiwan!

There were five plenary sessions (i.e. main speakers) spaced through the five day period we were there. These prepared presentations were designed to set the tone for the gathering, to prepare us to be open, to listen and to be responsive to the movement of the Spirit during the Convocation. I think many of us found the first session to be a big surprise: “Mary – Partnership with God”. The centerpiece of the program was a talk by Rita Dollard-O’Malley, Director of Adult Spirituality at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, on Mary’s Annunciation and her radical openness to God’s Presence and plan, and also an understanding of Ignatian indifference. Look up “Annunciation” by Denise Levertov……..really powerful stuff. One takes a big chance these days keeping the interest of a group of this size zeroed in on a Marian theme. Rita not only did it, but she did it masterfully. Wow!

There were other highlights….and a couple of disappointments…..but I’d like to focus my reflections on what happened to me as we worked our way through these days of dwelling in the Spirit with old Jesuit companions and new lay friends.

The first thing I was moved to do was force myself to spend time with Jesuits I had not seen for a long time and seek out common ground in our relationships that had not previously been explored. I asked whoever was sitting next to me at lunch a little bit about their high school and college days (if any) and then set about attempting to discover common acquaintances from those periods. Time and time again common friends and connections were unearthed which led to conversations I never dreamed possible. It is indeed a small world……..

The larger question mark as to what this Convocation was about was gradually resolved for me to some extent through the development and exploration of relationships, expressions of friendship, the revelation of unknown and unexplored connections, and the sharing of these discoveries.

It seems that the key to “greater partnership and collaboration” in our ministries is to discover the power of fostering and growing personal relationships and friendships within our ministries. We need to set about daily to break down the obstacles that prevent us from interacting more freely with our fellow ministers in the priesthood shared through baptism, both Jesuit and otherwise.

Our personal encounters with each other – especially with those we do not know very well and with those to whom we are not naturally attracted – need focused attention in order to build bridges of cooperation.

Jesuit-lay collaboration will come about with the dissolution of the hyphenated division. As emphasis increases on the “priesthood of the people” in carrying out “ministry” there should be less emphasis… and less need, I might add…for the imposition of “rules and regulations” from the “Capital Gang” at the Vatican.

The major challenge for the Society of Jesus is the unknown that lies ahead for each of its members. Will the Society last? If not, what will it morph into? The biggest obstacle for many of the older Jesuits is the holding on to the Jesuit culture that provides a life to which each Jesuit has become accustomed.

One thing I would do in each local apostolate, in each particular sector or at the local Jesuit community is to establish and promote the discovery of relationships among/between the members of each grouping to provide a basis of connected action, i.e. a built-in periodic sharing one on one by members of each ministry to deepen understanding, friendship, etc. There may be some way to establish a means for the Jesuits to share with each other in more formal ways the benefits of their “Journeys” without reverting to feelings generated by the “exercitium caritatis”.

A contradiction: The vow of poverty vis-à-vis the opulence of the campus living quarters, the elegance of the meals and the continuing availability of every kind of alcoholic beverage at happy hour, er...Pre-prandials. An AA meeting was held every evening in the Jesuit Residence at which there were a dozen or so folks. Unfortunately the problems with alcohol and drugs are much greater than that.

Jim Torrens, SJ, entered the Jesuits out of St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco in 1948 and went the normal Jesuit course, including theology studies and ordination in Belgium. He did his graduate studies in English literature at the University of Michigan and then, in the turbulence of 1968, went to teach at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He then had two long stints in the classroom at Santa Clara University, plus a few years as community superior at the University of San Francisco. In the 1980s and 1990s, he was an editor of AMERICA in New York City. He then spent three years teaching with Mexican Jesuits in Tijuana and is currently director of the House of Prayer for Priests, a retreat house in the archdiocese of Los Angeles. His late-life publications: Presenting Paradise (a translation and commentary of Dante's "Paradiso," Scranton University Press), Reaching toward God (essays and poems, Sheed and Ward), and Uphill Running, a Jesuit Life (poems, self-published).


James Torrens, SJ

Zaccheus, besides being a classic name in California province history—and a big name, not a little one--is a very winning figure in the gospel, one of that handful of needy and feisty people who manage to catch the attention of Jesus. He’s up there in the sycamore tree just watching and Jesus calls up to him, “Zaccheus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” Saint Luke adds, “And he came down quickly and received him with joy.” “Quickly” is the key word, excitedly. That’s how happiness makes you act.

I always see this scene through the lens of an article by Paul Bernadicou who did his dissertation on this chapter in Luke, if I’m remembering correctly. What Paul found in this chapter and in this episode was an emphasis on joy in salvation. Here is a shady character, a man of dubious ethics, working with the Romans to squeeze his own people. And here is the reformer, the man of God, Jesus, who comes to this sinner’s house to make it his. How terrific!

“I must stay at your house.” This may sound like Jesuits we can remember who invited themselves to people’s houses, always for the good of these people, of course! Well, we’re in the position of Zaccheus today. Each of us is called to make our lives, our apostolic team, our community, our Order, into the Lord’s house. Our vocation is not to a given place but to a continual placement in the divine presence, which gives us our identity, companions of Jesus.

In my novitiate days, the scholastics who had taught us in high school were in Alma College, and they put out a book through the Bruce Publishing Company called Better A Day. The allusion is to Psalm 84, “Better one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. Better the threshold of the house of my God than a home in the tents of the wicked.” It’s that beautiful psalm that starts, “How lovely is your dwelling place.” Each chapter in the book was about an outstanding Jesuit brother. I especially remember the story of Nicholas Owen, the constructor of priest holes, and Wilfred Schoenberg’s essay on the brother who traveled the Silk Route through Asia. Schoenberg, whose death we heard of yesterday, was an eager and feisty character, a moving force behind the Native American museum in Spokane. The book could be written today, and needs to be written, about the Brothers who by their companionship and service and palpable faith and apostolic concern guarantee that we are indeed the house of the Lord, that we indeed exude joy in salvation.

“Salvation” is a tricky term. It’s much more relative than we may realize to our particular day and age, to what Mexicans call la coyuntura, the present conditions. Years ago in graduate school, I remember a fellow graduate student in English who had looked at a number of dissertations, many of them by Jesuits, and he claimed that the Jesuit theses all had a tricky approach which made it easier for us. Half of the thesis was on the state of the current scholarship; the rest was the original work, the solution or resolution. I’m sure he was right. It’s the Scholastic Method, the procedure of Saint Thomas, beginning with the state of the question (status questionis).

But really that’s what we have to do, be aware of just where we live. John Martin, in his homily, talked about Ignatius responding to “the calamity of the culture” in his times. A frequent name for our culture, our intellectual milieu, with its infectious proneness to doubt, its suspicion of everything, is Post-Modernism. I thought that once I got away from Santa Clara University and all the faculty discussion groups about Post-Modernism that Ted Rynes so faithfully attended, I would be free of that tar pit. But that’s where we live.

Susan Sontag just had a page in the L. A. Times Book Review about her favorite topic, photography, and this is what she claims: “The modern way of seeing is to see in fragments. To see reality in the light of certain unifying ideas has the undeniable advantage of giving shape and form to our experience, but they are misleading, demagogic, always in the long run untrue. They deny the infinite variety and complexity of the real.” In other words, reality is much too complicated for us to figure out. You can love, as she does, “the savage autonomy of the detail,” but you have to throw up your hands like Pontius Pilate and exclaim, “What is truth?” So Pontius Pilate is a figure of Post-Modernism.

Bishop Ed Clark of Los Angeles, former rector of the college seminary at Camarillo, just gave a fine lecture recently on “Characteristics of Post-Modernism,” the philosophy or outlook that’s so much in the air—in the relativism of our students as much as in the ironic mode of columnists. Bishop Clark asked, How can we speak to people thinking this way? How can we present Jesus Christ to them in a way that clicks? He gave some hints. The people who are skeptical about foundations, norms, authority are very pragmatic. They ask, Is it practical? Does it make a difference that you believe? The terrible effect of our scandals on the church as they are served up in gory detail by the media is to seem to say, It’s not making a difference.

We need to show by our lives, by our way of living “The Principle and Foundation,” that it does make a difference for us to believe in God’s plan for the world, centering in Jesus Christ. At school commencements or mission statements or wherever, that needs somehow to enter in—the big plan of salvation, as in those opening chapters of Ephesians and Colossians, and in the prologue of John, and in the Spiritual Exercises when we contemplate the Incarnation.

Certain agenda and emphases get a lot of attention today—tolerance, diversity, multiculturalism. They are crucial to the good health of our society and to living out the gospel, and they are honored in the Second Vatican Council. But they do go with the flow of Post-Modernism. They respond to the good points, the strong features, of our culture.

What is still countercultural is the emphasis on our Catholic Christian treasures of belief and our values of conduct and, in fact, the sacrificial spirit, the generous response of the Kingdom meditation. Last summer, speaking to Black Catholics convening in Chicago, Bishop Gordon Bennett encouraged their readiness to “show up” on Calvary, for the sake of the church, the Body of Christ

I had a talk with one of you a few days ago about that thorn in the heart of so many devout Catholic parents of a certain age in our country. Their children—three, four, five, six of them—so often seem to have wandered off from the faith of their fathers, that is, from religious practice and allegiance. It was very encouraging to hear Dean Brewster tell of his own way back, the hard and costly way of “invisible discernment,” where the Holy Spirit has the lead. Anyone in R.C.I.A. can match Brewster’s story many times over. They are all part of the hope we have to keep up.

What cannot be quenched in people, however skeptical they are, is their desire for God. That is put very well by Mike J. Buckley in his contribution to a book of essays that Tom Lucas just edited in honor of John Padberg (Style, Spirit, Story). There is no scarcity today of “religious hunger,” Mike writes, an “emptiness that constitutes a longing for union with God.” “Unless it is suppressed or overwhelmed with distractions or lost in unacknowledged despair, there is within the human being that sense of privation and an aspiration for coherence in which things make final sense and human longing is affirmed in the experience of love.”

Buckley concludes his essay by reminding us how much God desires to unite human beings with himself. The longing, he says, is nowhere better expressed than in chapter 15 of Saint Luke, the shepherd searching the lost sheep, the woman searching for her lost coin, and the Father on the lookout day after day for the return of the lost son.

Whether or not the pundits and the intellectuals concur, we’re here to say things do make sense. The National Geographic photographer whose video we saw has a sense of his art that is completely opposite to Susan Sontag. The difference has to do with vision, vision of the possibilities, eyes for the light that shines out from inside. “Vision controls our perception,” he says. “When vision is clear, passion and creativity flourish.” Mike Buckley said something in an issue of Studies long ago that has stuck with me. He said it’s a prime Jesuit characteristic to do everything yntensamente, intensely. Wilfred Schoenberg, Jim Gill (also just deceased) are outstanding examples. You can’t do that without a transforming vision.

Today, August 6, in world history is post-modern in the most awful and awesome sense, a look into the chasm that was opened by the explosion of the bomb in Hiroshima. That was a black hole of the human spirit. The run-up to this calamity was code-named Trinity. What a negative image of the bountiful Creator! But an equal and opposite force is celebrated today—transfiguration, our change of face into that of Jesus.

This day has always been special for me. It was my father’s birthday; he served my first Mass on this day. And in my last year of theology I did a licentiate thesis on the passages in Second Corinthians that talk about the reality of an apostle as reflecting—in action, attitude and word—the glory of Christ. You know, “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

This is the real joy that we’re called to, like Zaccheus divesting himself of whatever he needed to and could, in gratitude. Only in his conversion did Zaccheus achieve importance. John Steinbeck wrote, in East of Eden, “I guess a man’s importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories. . . If the glory can be killed, we are lost.”

It’s a daily thing, our call to glory. We live, you know, by days, not by years. I am not age 72 but 26,000. That’s pretty daunting! Fortunately they go one at a time. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Zaccheus, get down out of that observation post of yours. Today I must stay at your house.