Election day — finally! (No, not the U.S. elections, the Jesuit superior general.) The overcast weather in Rome didn't lessen our enthusiasm. Though Mass was scheduled for 7:30 a.m. — at the Church of the Holy Spirit, across the street from our Curia — many Jesuits already had taken their places by 7:10 a.m., quietly praying about the events ahead. No one took this lightly.
My wife, Donna, and I took the vacation of a lifetime earlier this month. Thanks largely to the unexpected Christmas generosity of our four adult children and three sons-in-law, we spent the last few days of September and first 10 days of October in Europe. Most of the memorable adventure was based in Madrid, with several day trips to smaller Spanish towns, and about 48 hours were in Florence, Italy. We walked more than 150,000 steps as we visited a half-dozen cathedrals, several museums, some smaller churches, and a couple of palaces and castles.
In about a week, thousands of children will dress in costumes and assume an alter ego. On Halloween, they will dress up as movie characters, sports celebrities or scary figures. While trick-or-treating is fun, everyone knows this is a once-a-year chance to pretend to be something they will never become.
In our contemporary culture, human interactions are often transactional and impersonal. More and more, we fill out online forms to record who we are and use anonymous surveys to find out who we are becoming. For just one example, we Google others, and without ever meeting them, find all kinds of information about their demographics and social behaviors. Our personal and group identities have become so measurable and accessible that others make all kinds of accurate predictions about our lives.
To address the bishops of the U.S. mission dioceses on the topic "Economic Structures and Poverty," I spent a month poring over 300 pages of articles and reports, and I ended up reconnecting myself to some stark statistics and opening my eyes to some needed responses by us as a society.
I am settling into my cramped seat in a small aircraft when I smell it: the nauseating odor of fried food in close quarters. I turn, ready to glare, when I see that the culprit, a middle-aged man, is bowed in prayer over his meal, hands folded, eyes closed.
All is forgiven. I am a pushover for religious witness. As a person of faith, I welcome the expressions of others on their faith journey, whether my own tradition or another. I like to see people seeking God.