Saturday, December 19, 2009

"O Root of Jesse" - Visit to Fordham U, Czisek Hall

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

"O ROOT of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer."

Sonnet by Malcolm Guite based on today's O Antiphon:

O Radix
All of us sprung from one deep-hidden seed,
Rose from a root invisible to all.
We knew the virtues once of every weed,
But, severed from the roots of ritual,
We surf the surface of a wide-screen world
And find no virtue in the virtual.
We shrivel on the edges of a wood
Whose heart we once inhabited in love,
Now we have need of you, forgotten Root
The stock and stem of every living thing
Whom once we worshiped in the sacred grove,
For now is winter, now is withering
Unless we let you root us deep within,
Under the ground of being, graft us in.

Fordham University, Rose Hill Campus: The Jesuit University in New York City

I spent two happy summers on the Rose Hill Campus of Fordham University in the Bronx (1966, 1967) studying Hebrew and Aramaic.

With my Colombian friend Ivan Trujillo (who later left the Jesuits), we lived in "Martyrs Court" residence, put up with the almost unbearable heat and noise (the old Third Avenue elevated train ran just outside our window, though sometimes it seemed the trains would come through the walls) as night and day we studied Hebrew grammar, irregular verbs, etc.

The university campus has grown by leaps and bounds (with another wave of construction going on presently) but the Fordham Chapel is still a place for solace and contemplation, there is still a tiny graveyard outside the Jesuit faculty residence which I love to visit because among those buried there is a Jesuit named Fr. John Prendergast (born in Savannah, GA) as well as Fr. John Larkin, S.J., famously admired among Jesuits for having refused his nomination as second bishop of Toronto.

After admiring in Bishop's Hall the stained glass window with my coat of arms (and those of other alumni named to the episcopacy, including one whose motto was the same as mine ["In nomine Jesu"] and devotions in the chapel and cemetery), I headed off campus a few blocks to Ciszek Hall, named after the famous Jesuit priest who was captured in Russia, did time in the gulag and prisoners' camps under the Soviets and camp back to the United States in 1962.

We read his memoir With God in Russia (1963) in the dining-room at Ignatius College, Guelph when I was a novice, but much more touching were his spiritual reflections upon his ordeals in He Leadeth Me (1973), still an outstanding religious book.

Father Ciszek died twenty-five years ago this month (December 8, 1984) and his cause for canonization is in course (he is now titled "Servant of God"); for details see Here are more details on Father Ciszek from the Wikipedia entry:

Rev. Walter Ciszek, S.J. (November 4, 1904–December 8, 1984) was a Polish-American Jesuit priest known for his clandestine missionary work in the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1963.

Fifteen of these years were spent in confinement and hard labor in the GULAG, including five in Moscow's infamous Lubyanka prison. He was released and returned to the United States in 1963, after which he wrote two books, including the memoir With God in Russia, and served as a spiritual director.

Since 1990, Ciszek has been under investigation by the Roman Catholic Church for possible beatification or canonization. His current title is a Servant of God.

Here are some quotations reflecting his spirituality:

"The power of prayer reaches beyond all efforts of man seeking to find meaning in life. This power is available to all; it can transform mans weaknesses, limitations and his sufferings."

"Across the threshold I had been afraid to cross, things suddenly seemed so very simple. There was but a single vision, God, who was all in all; there was but one will that directed all things, God's will. I had only to see it, to discern it in every circumstance in which I found myself, and let myself be ruled by it. God is in all things, sustains all things, directs all things."

The altar at which the Servant of God Walter Ciszek, SJ celebrated Mass

"To discern this in every situation and circumstance, to see His will in all things, was to accept each circumstance and situation and let oneself be borne along in perfect confidence and trust.

"Nothing could separate me from Him, because He was in all things. No danger could threaten me, no fear could shake me, except the fear of losing sight of Him. The future, hidden as it was, was hidden in His will and therefore acceptable to me no matter what it might bring.

"The past, with all its failures, was not forgotten; it remained to remind me of the weakness of human nature and the folly of putting any faith in self. But it no longer depressed me. I looked no longer to self to guide me, relied on it no longer in any way, so it could not again fail me.

"By renouncing, finally and completely, all control of my life and future destiny, I was relieved as a consequence of all responsibility. I was freed thereby from anxiety and worry, from every tension, and could float serenely upon the tide of God's sustaining providence in perfect peace of soul."

When he lived at 2502 Belmont Avenue, it was known as the John XXIII Centre, which has now transferred to Pennsylvania.

Fathers Rich Zanoni (left) and Vinny Sullivan

Jesuit scholastics in "First Formation" (immediately following First Vows, they study the humanities and philosophy), some 25 in number from various Jesuit provinces live, study and pray under the guidance of two colleagues from my studies with them forty years ago: Fr. Vinny Sullivan and Fr. Rich Zanoni.

I celebrated Mass with the community and joined them for supper.
Two sisters of one of the men from Milwaukee joined the scholastics who had finished exams and handed in their papers in a game of Cha-boo (a cross between Charades, which I am familiar with, and Taboo, a game I had never heard of). It made for raucous laughter.

Some photos from adventures of recent days:

Lunch at the Edison Hotel Cafe with Fathers Bentley Anderson (centre) and Jesse Rodridguez

The climax of the Radio City Hall Christmas Spectacular

The Catholic League has a creche on Fifth Avenue at 60th Street, near one of the entrances to Central Park

The Cartier store decorated like a Christmas gift

The Christmas Tree and ice skating rink at Rockefeller Plaza

At St. Patrick's Cathedral: flowers left before the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the recent feast day

No comments:

Post a Comment