Wednesday, June 18, 2008


While chastity always generates a lot of conversation and questions, obedience does much the same. Being told what to do, the threat of being pulled from something you want to do to do something you don't -- these aren't concepts many people immediately appreciate. They're not exactly how things usually work, either, but they are what often comes to mind first.

I wouldn't want to claim to be an expert on obedience by any means. Far from it, God knows. But as we were talking about the topic a few weeks ago, it hit me that I've had some limited experience of what might be the big three of obedience -- being sent somewhere you didn't want to go; being sent somewhere you did want to go; and having an assignment change based on your comments. And in each case, things worked out for the best.

After my first two years in the Jesuits, I was sent to Loyola Chicago for philosophy. And, much to my chagrin today, I had no interest in living in Chicago. We never went into the city much as kids, and although my parents were both from there, my impressions were that it was a pretty dingy, dirty place. Plus, I had the whole country in front of me, and they wanted to send me into my own backyard.

But thank God they did. The program at Loyola was excellent, just excellent. The Jesuit communities I lived in were rich and loving. Some of my best Jesuit friends and heroes today are people I met there.

Ron Gonzales, SJ and I: We lived across the hall from each other at Lewis-Bremner Jesuit Community in Chicago. Yeah. 

For regency, my teaching experience after Loyola, I was to go either to Red Cloud or Creighton Prep in Omaha. I had worked at Red Cloud once already, wanted to go back, and was eventually sent back. There, too, I had an amazing experience, met some awesome, awesome friends.

Sr. Connie Schmidt, SSND, wondering when this picture will be over.

Red Cloud seniors Heather Sierra, Danielle Deon, Alicia Mousseau, Francine Parmenter and Christy Bear Robe, about a week before their graduation, looking happy and tuff.

But even so, through the process of decision making my formation director used as were deciding on that assignment, by the time I was told, I really was open to going to either place.

For theology I asked to go back to Cambridge, and the province sent me there. That, too, proved to be a marvelous gift, some of the best years of my life in school and Jesuit community.

My diaconate ordination class. I love this group of guys. Getting ordained together that day was a special moment.

The June 17th, 2006 wedding of Weston graduates Emily Rauer and Andrew Davis. (Happy Anniversary, guys!) Emily and I were classmates at Weston, and many of the people in the photo were our classmates, too. We have a GREAT class.

In other situations, I've been heard in the decision making process and the decisions have changed as a result. And there again, all I can say is, thank goodness.

Has it all been easy? No. Definitely not, either for me or others. Especially in the year of ordination, many guys I know have gone through very difficult times with their superiors, missionings that involved little or no consultation, bizarre or impersonal conversations (like the guy whose provincial decided to have an important missioning conversation while they were standing around in the presence of others), or that were done via email.

But so what. Superiors make mistakes. So do we. It's not fun when it happens. Hopefully, you speak your mind as honestly as you can and get through it. Because for us, that's not "talking back". Jesuit obedience and mission ideally involve "manifestation", that is, both the superior and the man being missioned articulating their desires and spiritual movements. It's not just a letter on a bulletin board that tells you your new assignment, which is how things used to go.

Sometimes you still end up doing something you don't want to. And sometimes that works out anyway.

A few scattered thoughts...


shera10 said...

I thought manifestation was forbidden by Canon Law.

Does manifestation include also a confession of sins? About the vows I mean.

Jim McDermott, SJ said...

Greetings and thanks for your comment. I'm not a canon lawyer, so this answer will be soft on the law and more explanatory of the procedure. Manifestation as we do it in the Society involves the man talking about the movements in his spiritual life and apostolic life. It's a privileged, confidential conversation, and it could involve the man talking about failures or sins, but it's not the same as a confession. Rather than sacramental reconciliation, its purpose is to enable the man's religious superior to mission him well.
It may very well be there's another kind of manifestation that is in fact forbidden by canon law. Sounds like you might know more about that than me.
Best wishes to you!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

oh yeah jim did you notice non of us showed teeth?? LOL

ddunbar said...


Great to find your blog and recall our trip to Disneyland all those years ago.

I hope tertianship is going well.


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