The official blog of Rev. Francis X. Hezel, SJ

1
When Did the Impasse Begin?
2
So, Why Those Empty Pews?
3
Whatever Happened to the Church?
4
Be Careful Who You call Heroes
5
“Somewhat”: A Lesson to be Learned
6
San Vitores: Hero or Villain?
7
Here We Go Again!
8
Farewell, Nico

When Did the Impasse Begin?

Bear with me, folks, but we have to go back to the 60s, when the big movement for freedom, at least in its recent incarnation, began. When those hippies, with their long hair and their outlandish dress, flourished. You might not have witnessed it yourself, but you must have seen it on the screen. Shots from the Woodstock Music Festival in 1968. Or in “Forrest Gump”  during flashbacks on the life Jenny, Forrest’s girlfriend, lived when she left him.

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So, Why Those Empty Pews?

Once upon a time all the Sunday services were filled—or at least so we imagine. Where did all those former worshipers go?

Let’s go back to the 1960’s when the drop-off in church attendance began. The ‘60s was a time of social revolution when people protested on all kinds of issues: Black rights, the Vietnam War, and free speech. By the end of that decade, however, the clamor was for the freedom of the individual person from social conventions and anything else that might confine it. “Give me the freedom I deserve to become whatever I wish. Let me be me!”

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Whatever Happened to the Church?

Ah, the good old days! When the pews were filled at Sunday mass. When the stores were closed out of respect for the commandment to keep holy the Lord’s Day. When we all knew clearly what was a sin and what was not. When the church music was commanding and the liturgy mysterious but devotional. Where did it all go?

We’ve all heard those laments for the church of the past—that is, the church of the 1940s and 1950s, before all the changes began to strip away the old features that many of us found so comforting.

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Be Careful Who You call Heroes

“Heroes” is what the press in many places would often call them. In the Big Apple they often went by the name of “New York’s finest.” They are the men and women in uniform who serve our city, our island, our nation, in the eyes of Americans. These uniformed heroes included police officers along with firemen and members of the US military. In past months COVID-19 nurses and doctors have joined their ranks as well. All of them deserve the highest honor their fellow citizens can bestow on them, since they put their lives on the line to provide the security and comfort that we enjoy. 

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“Somewhat”: A Lesson to be Learned

Year ago, when I was teaching at Xavier during my first assignment in Micronesia, my students baffled me with the response they would make to nearly all my questions. Did you understand the algebra lesson we did today? “Somewhat,” they would reply. What about the short story we read last week? Were you satisfied with the ending? “Somewhat” was the usual answer.

Well then, let’s talk about your own family break-up you were telling me about a few days ago. Do you feel that your father was to blame? “Somewhat,” was the response.

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San Vitores: Hero or Villain?

Stand outside the new Guam museum and read what’s inscribed on the wall:  “Before these (Spanish) people arrived, we didn’t know rats, flies, mosquitoes… and disease.”  Just to underscore that point, there are the statues of the chiefs (Hurao and Aguarin) who resisted the foreigners, those despoilers of this land.

Cross the street and catch the Sunday mass at the cathedral, with its own array of statues, its spirited singing, and its faithful followers. This all started, of course, with Diego Luis de San Vitores and his companions, who came to share their faith with the people of these islands.

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Here We Go Again!

A few years ago I wrote an autobiographical essay that I called “How My God Has Changed.”  Not just my notion of God really, but my whole thinking about life as I aged. This piece, which may never be published, is a reflection on how all those sharp distinctions I learned when I was young have been blurred over time. Saints and sinners, body and soul, spiritual and secular as a starter. But also: us and them, friends and enemies, native and foreigner, and so much else in life that had been divided by rigid boundary markers.

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Farewell, Nico

Everyone used to call him Nico, but I preferred using first names. So I asked him one day why his parents had named him Adolfo. He smiled as he reminded me that Spain was involved in a violent civil war when he was born, and that the leader of one of the nations strongest in its support of the “Catholic side” of the war was a guy by the name of Adolf.

Nico, Adolfo, or whatever you want to call him, was the provincial of Japan about the same time I was superior in Micronesia. That was how we became friends. At the weekly semi-annual meetings of the superiors in the assistancy, I came to know and like him more and more during our time together.

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