e-mail us

Inside NCR

Jesuits grace NCR; Ruiz and MacEoin go global

A common complaint in Catholic circles is about the quality of preaching at Sunday Mass. Some parishes get lucky, though, such as St. Francis Xavier in Kansas City, Mo., where two Jesuits, pastor Tim McMahon and former associate pastor Dirk Dunfee, get consistent high marks. McMahon’s words in the past have graced this very page. Last year, a Good Friday sermon by Dunfee on the toll taken by war in the past century was used in a back-page perspective (NCR, April 30, 1999).

This year, we asked Dunfee to write reflections that will appear at the bottom of this page during the Lenten season.

Dunfee once was on a management track with Security Pacific National Bank, changed course and enrolled in the Duke University Law School, where he encountered Jesuit Fr. Joseph Burke. “He was one of those guys who had the love of God written all over his face,” said Dunfee, who went on to practice law for three years before realizing he “wanted to be like” Burke, and entered the Society of Jesus. He was ordained in 1997.

More than the campaign of John McCain, more than the hype surrounding “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” -- what galvanized the population early in the new millennium was the intellectual gauntlet thrown down by Jesuit Fr. Raymond Schroth in his Feb. 11 media column, which was about the aforementioned “Millionaire.”

In a deft quiz of his own, Schroth took on the nerds of the Western world with a series of questions that penetrated to the very heart of our culture. Many -- in fact, nearly everyone -- were scared off by the sheer intellectual rigor of the quiz, but a few responded gallantly. The moment has now arrived to announce the winners and the winning responses. A crisp dollar, if I am not mistaken, awaits the winner, though I’m not sure where -- and furthermore all queries for clarifications, corrections or further dollars should be sent to Schroth and not to my already weary self.

The correct answers are as follows:

“Four Feathers”; Jesus Christ, who was subject of biographies by Renan, Mauriac and Endo; and Thomas à Kempis, who said the rich would vanish “like smoke.”

For those who don’t remember all the details of the 1938 Korda British film, “Four Feathers,” Harry Faversham was in the Sudan, following Lord Kitchener’s army in disguise, secretly saving the lives of his friends who had sent him white feathers, symbols of his presumed cowardice. Harry had joined the army only to please his late father, so, to stay home with his fiancée, he resigned his commission right before the campaign to punish the “Fuzzy Wuzzies” for what they did to Gordon at Khartoum. As we say at the movies, they don’t make them like they used to.

There are two winners: Ken Holehouse, Fond De Lac, Wis.; and Jon W. Schlichting, Milwaukee. As one can see immediately, this was a sweep for Wisconsin, though no one has accused anyone of collusion, not yet. A further interesting aspect, though, is the fact that Schlichting is a former high school classmate of NCR publisher Thomas Fox. Now, are you thinking collusion? Each, I am told, has been sent a dollar. (That is, each of Holehouse and Schlichting; not each of Schlichting and Fox.)

Honorable mention goes to (or, in other words, the only other entrants were): Richard Shanahan of Park Ridge, Ill.; Jim O’Leary of Corpus Christi, Texas; Margaret Perry, Thompsonville, Mich.; Fran Boyce, South Bend, Ind.; and Henry H. Broer, Somers, Conn.

Gary MacEoin’s Feb. 18 interview with Chiapas Bishop Samuel Ruiz García was widely applauded by readers from sea to sea, reinforcing the impression that Ruiz is one of the most visionary and heroic churchmen of the age.

Five other publications are planning to publish the interview. One is the Revista Eclesiastica Brasileira, one of the outstanding theological quarterlies in the world, published by the Franciscans in Petropolis, Brazil. This is scheduled for June publication. The lengthy piece has already appeared in the Swiss publication Orientierung. The others scheduled in the next several weeks include The Tablet in England, Ceide in Ireland and Trefoil in South Africa.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, March 10, 2000