A Miracle in Boston

I love the Jesuits. I pray for their conversion daily.

Maybe my prayers are going to be answered. While lounging in my hotel room last week, on a business trip to Boston, I was jolted, upright, by the TV news announcer who related that Boston College, a flagship of the Society of Jesus, i.e., the Jesuits, had placed crucifixes in 151 classrooms at the school over the Christmas break. This was done, reportedly , at the instructions of President Rev. William P. Leahy, as a means of reconnecting with the college’s “Catholic Mission.”

As one who attended a Jesuit high school, college and law school, during the long, slow downward trajectory of the 1960s and 1970s, who cringed at the once proud order’s flirtation with heterodoxy and secularism, this was an astounding turn of events.

Imagine: a Jesuit school embracing the cross. This was so un-hip, so un-modern, so un-American, so…Catholic. And I mean Roman Catholic.

I am the third generation of my family to attend Jesuit schools in this country. Among my father, my grandfather and me — forget about my uncles and cousins — we have close to 40 years logged in Jesuit institutions if you throw in medical school internships and residencies. We all owe a great debt to the many fine men of faith who also valued knowledge, learning, and scholarship; who saw no inherent conflict between reason and revelation; and who lived a distinctly Catholic form of pietas as first embodied by Virgil’s Aeneas about whom we all read in Jesuit prep schools.

I have known or known of Jesuits who worked on Indian reservations, in psychiatric wards, in the stacks of the Vatican library (my alma mater, Saint Louis University, had the whole collection duplicated on microfilm!), in classrooms, and laboratories. There was one who could spend a whole semester demolishing every rational proof for the existence of God, only to spend the closing weeks of class arguing for the reasonableness of Scripture (interpreted through Tradition, of course).

I knew another Jesuit, whom I never had in class, who coached high school debate and oratory, sort of. He really just asked penetrating questions, listened, patiently, to our obnoxious pontificating, and kept forcing us to learn through trial and error and honest self-criticism. He helped me put together a reading list for the summer between my first and second years of college that was better than any one syllabus I ever had thereafter.

But, as the dreary decades wore on, many prominent members of the order seemed to specialize in dissent and even outright opposition to the Church and its Magisterium which they had vowed to serve. Moreover, following their issuance of the 1967 Land O’ Lakes (WI) Statement, the Jesuits turned over their colleges and universities to lay boards in order to curry favor with Caesar and make peace with the Zeitgeist. With the decline in vocations, the institutional and Christian culture of their schools was diluted even further.

There are many exceptions, individual and institutional. My old high school actually sends a good number of students to the local archdiocesan seminary.

Catholicism is a sacramental religion. Placing the crucifix at the center of its intellectual life, nay, amidst all its labors of both mind and body, is most appropriate since it reminds us of the ultimate sacrifice by the One who, to use a phrase common to the Jesuits, is truly a man for others.

So bravo for the Jesuits of Boston College! The Lord does work in mysterious ways.

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  • KMc

    It is so sad that the Jesuits have become more famous for their dissent than their faithfulness. My older siblings attended St. Louis U and it was an unending heartache to my parents as their steady stream of attacks on the Catholic Church came home each semester – and those same kids tried like heck to drag us younger kids in the the “enlightened” so-called PC Catholicism preached by the Jesuits. One sibling told me I would be brain washed at Steubenville. If their example of coming home from college and bashing the faith of our parents was what they considered “holy” I wanted no part of it – thru the grace of God I ended up at Steubenville, with tears in his eyes my dad said sadly on my graduation day, “I wish we could have sent all the kids here. You are blessed to get a solid foundation in your faith.”
    I lived in New England for years and saw how those Jesuit schools (from high school on up) embraced the politically correct mindset over faithfulness. Schools that hailed Hilary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village” nonsense as visionary, schools that host pro–abortion events under the guise of academic freedom, schools that support a contraceptive lifestyle while claiming to be pro-life and spend more of their time catering to dissenting groups who are mad at the church for not changing morality to suit their personal choices than on those students who want and need the truth, in faith and morals, that have sustained the church thru two thousand years.
    As much as it is hearbreaking to see a legacy of ignorance established by once great schools it is sadder still that so many bishops never corrected the errors when they started and let them just keep going – bishops who are now stepping up to the plate will be “media martyrs” for daring to correct what their predecessors did not.
    God Bless Boston College – may it be a true and focused effort to bring back what has been lost and ignored for far too long!! KMc

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    I’m not certain I can agree, marcey. Steubenville may well have given us Nicholas Cafardi, but the dissent of one child does not define the father. The Jesuits have been so far gone for so long that anything that helps bring them back to the sanity of the Church is a good thing. But even so, there are a great many Jesuits who have never dissented or knowingly disobeyed. Father Mitch Pacwa of EWTN fame may merely be the most famous of the many faithful Jesuits still out there. Indeed, in many respects, the problems with the Jesuit order are neither worse nor deeper than the problems with the Church as a whole. Disobedience is rampant among the laity. Should it surprise us that a once-great religious order and an up-and-coming university should also have problems with it?

    Yet Steubenville’s problems are not nearly as difficult as those of the Church as a whole, and they are much shallower. Indeed, if you condemn Steubenville on the basis of Mr. Cafardi’s dissent, you would also have to condemn St. Augustine on the basis of Martin Luther’s dissent. Luther was, after all, a validly ordained Augustinian priest who had access not merely to the living counsels of his order’s patron saint (which are accessible to all of us through Augustine’s many writings) but also to the prayers before the throne of heaven of St. Augustine himself. And yet Luther strayed — and the fruit of Luther’s dissent is found today in every mainline Protestant church, all of which officially support abortion. The logic of fruits, then, would mandate that St. Augustine gave us justification for abortion — a line of poo that Nancy Pelosi also tried to sell. But it makes no sense.

    Better would be to recognize the great good that remains at Steubenville and to continue praying for the Jesuit order — as well as for Mr. Cafardi and the rest of the Church — asking both St. Francis and St. Augustine to interceded before the Holy Spirit for contrite hearts and conversion for all.

  • Les

    I’d like to see that reading list!

  • Sharon

    As a mother of one Steubenville alumnus and two Jesuit university students, I can assure you that there is no college more faithfully Catholic or more uncompromisingly prolife than Franciscan University of Steubenville. Sending our daughter there was one of the best things we ever did as Catholic parents. Her education in the faith was absolutely orthodox in every way.

    As for Cafardi, though I don’t know all the details of his tenure on the Board of Trustees, I would note that Steubenville did not “give” him to the voters of 2008. He was not a product of their educational system, and his stand during the election cycle was apparently a shock to many in educational circles who knew him. (Perhaps you could better blame Duquesne University School of Law, where he was dean.) His views were publicly repudiated by the entire Steubenville community — administration, faculty and students alike — and his tenure on the board there quickly came to a rather abrupt end.

    I was in Boston two weeks ago with my husband, who like the author, is a product of Jesuit high school, college and law school of the 60’s and 70’s. We were intrigued by the news reports on the local uproar caused by the placement of the crucifixes in the classrooms at Boston College. Considering the usual media bias, it was hard to tell whether there were many students or only a few vocal ones objecting to the crosses, but we were glad to see that the Jesuits were actually making some concession to having a “Catholic mission.” We hope this is a sign of good things to come.

  • matthens

    Actually Cafardi’s stand on abortion is that is an “unspeakable evil”. His problem is that he has lost hope. For more on this refer to the Oct 2008 LifeNews article at http://www.lifenews.com/state3523.html

    Let us pray for ourselves and for those who have lost hope or lost their way from time to time. Let us also rejoice in crucifixes coming back into a school or such other signs that God gives us to show that He is with us always, even to the end of the age.

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    In response, moreover, to the assertion that the “pro-life movement has permanently lost,” it is worth observing that it has been lost thus before — not just as pertains to abortion but likewise to contraception. And the Church stuffed those genies (as the secular fundamentalists put it) back into their respective bottles.

    It wasn’t easy then, and it remains difficult today. Moreover, this battle may indeed be like to the construction of a medieval cathedral: it may take several generations to win. But it will be won.

  • KMc

    Marcey –

    I never claimed that Franciscan Univeristy was perfect – only openly orthodox. I had decided not to attend college at all due to not being able to find a Catholic college that actually advertised as a CATHOLIC school – every one I looked at spend all their time telling me about their co-ed dorms, party scene, and “enlightened” approach to theology (if they even mentioned the faith at all). I now know there are a number of faithful Catholic colleges and I am grateful my children will have that choice…but I am deeply grateful for all that Franciscan University taught to me, I will not apologize for finally receiving what I should have gotten at CCD my entire life.
    That someone who graduated from Franciscan University did not “Live” the Catholic ideal is no news to me – going to Steubenville does not guarantee a faithful Catholic anymore than attending a well known dissenting school like Notre Dame or SLU guarantees a dissenting Catholic. The fact is that A LOT more faithful Catholics attend and graduate from Franciscan University and A LOT more dissenting Catholics attend and graduate from places like Notre Dame and SLU.
    Look at Steubenville’s history: they were one of Playboy magazines TOP 10 PARTY SCHOOLS at one point…if they can have that kind of conversion so can BC, Notre Dame, SLU and the hundreds of other “Catholic” schools across this country. I do not hold Frabciscan University as a “beacon”, I hold it for what it was to me and still is: a CATHOLIC school not ashamed to preach and teach the truth – they make every effort to incorporate the faith into every aspect of campus life. I had had years of fluff theology and the fours years I was blessed to spend there were by no means “perfect” in the worldy sense, I was presented with a challenge I could accept or deny…Cafardi obviously denied that challenge. I will pray for his conversion as I pray for these same schools – both have a grave responsibility to live and teach the truth.