Tuesday, February 5, 2008

They Say It's Your Birthday

February brings two big birthdays in the McDermott clan. First, on this very day, February 6th, my nephew Jack Pontow (left) celebrates his fourth birthday. I understand Jack has been having lots of fun in the snow. One wonders if this picture of him moments before nailing his sisters with a snowball has a duplicate somewhere in childhood photographs of his father. I’m thinking yes…

And on the 10th, his great aunt Kathleen, my dad’s sister, once again turns 37. Aunt Kathleen is the director of the South Madison Coalition of the Elderly; she’s spent her whole life as a social worker working with elderly people, and we’re all very proud of the commitment she has kept all these years. (We also love her because she and my aunt Eileen really did spoil us rotten growing up. Every Star Wars figure I have (and oh, I have a lot of them…someday they’re going to be worth a lot of money you know!) dates back to her and my aunt Eileen.) Happy Birthday, Aunt Kathleen!

February appears to be scholars’ month on the birthday calendar, as well, particularly if you’re a theologian. Kevin Burke, dean at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, systematic theologian and editor of a book on the essential writings of Pedro Arrupe (former general of the Jesuits), turns 54 on the 21st. BC moral theologian Jim Keenan celebrates his on the 15th. And Stanley Marrow, scripture scholar at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, has a birthday of his own to celebrate on the 10th.

All three of these men were great teachers at Weston when I was studying theology there. Kevin led my class in a great year-long seminar on major themes of Christianity, like sin, grace, Jesus, the resurrection. Kevin can push you to rethink your position (and rewrite your paper!) like nobody’s business.

Jim Keenan taught a seminar on the foundations of moral theology that I go back to again and again as a priest. (I frequently recall his idea that the sins we really have to worry about are not the ones we’re confessing and which we regularly pay so much attention to, but the ones we’re ignoring, the ones we don’t see.)

And Stanley Marrow is quite simply one of the great gentlemen of the Society of Jesus. His readings of John and Paul always challenged and left you thinking both about the scriptures and their implications today for me. A member of the New England Province of the Jesuits and originally from Iraq, Stanley was supposedly once asked by a scholastic when did his family convert to Christianity. Stanley, who really is the image of graciousness, politely said that they’d always been Christian. But the student persisted, and persisted, until Stanley finally told him, while your ancestors were painting their faces blue and dancing naked in the woods, my family was already Christian. Or so the story goes… (May he forgive me for this picture of the Blue Man Group.)

Keeping up the streak of Moran birthdays, Shannon Moran, daughter of Tim and Mary Beth, turns 8 on the 2nd. Greg Lynch, my ordination classmate and first mass partner, turns 39 in Omaha on the 25th. And my vow classmate Pat Malone will be having a fiesta Dominican style on the 13th. His age has been classified by the Bush Administration; he wishes only to remind people that he’s one year younger than our classmate Greg O’Meara (above).

Everyone’s funny Valentine, Albert DiUlio, rings in a new year on the 14th. Jenny Deon, militant Buddhist and Mike Shashaty-worshipper, has her birthday on the 16th. (By the way, if she’s out there, Mike would like her to know that she still owes him a paper. If she doesn’t get it in soon, he really will have to lower her grade.)

And at America, it’s editor-in-chief birthday month, with both former editor Joe O’Hare (pictured left with former circulation assistant Nidia Augustin) and current editor Drew Christiansen celebrating, on the 12th and the 20th. (Tom Reese, Drew’s immediate predecessor as editor-in-chief, and also the guy who hired me (yes, blame him), celebrated his birthday last month on the 11th, and fellow former editor-in-chief George Hunt also had a birthday in January. It’s like the perfect storm of editorial birthdays.)

Happy Birthday to one and all!