Monday, September 19, 2011

Mass of the Holy Spirit

Catholic colleges and universities run by the Jesuit Fathers practice a beautiful September tradition of opening the academic year with the Mass of the Holy Spirit.

On Thursday, September 15, Loyola University New Orleans canceled all 11 a.m. classes so that all members of the Loyola community might attend this Mass if they wished to do so, including the international students of the Loyola Intensive Engish Program (LIEP). Before proceeding to a description of Thursday's Mass of the Holy Spirit, we will look at three questions:
  1. Who are the Jesuit Fathers?
  2. Who is the Holy Spirit?
  3. Saint Ignatius Loyola
  4. What is the Mass?
JESUIT FATHERS: The Jesuit Fathers are an organization of Catholic priests founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola, who lived from 1491 to 1556. The full name of the organization is the Society of Jesus, usually shortened to Jesuit. The special mission of the Jesuit Fathers is the education of high school boys and of college and university men and women. In front of the Danna Center (Loyola's student center) stands a stature of Saint Ignatius Loyola.

The Holy Spirit represented as a dove
HOLY SPIRIT: The Holy Spirit is God Within Us, inspiring us as we live our lives. The Holy Spirit is often represented as a white dove of peace. 

The Mass
MASS: Mass is the great prayer of the Catholic Church. During Mass, Catholics remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The climax of the Mass is the consecration of the bread and wine as the body and blood of Jesus and the receiving of this consecrated bread and wine in Holy Communion.


The Mass of the Holy Spirit at Loyola is not only a prayer but also a glorious pageant. It is held in the beautiful Holy Name of Jesus Church on Saint Charles Avenue.

Holy Name of Jesus Church
The Holy Spirit as tongues of fire
The Mass begins with the entrance of a long red streamer carried by two dozen students and stretching up and down the aisles of the church. Red is the color of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit's inspiration is often represented as fire. When the Holy Spirit first came upon Jesus' followers, observers saw tongues of fire burning above their heads.

Once the red steamer is in place, the faculty of each of Loyola's five colleges process into the church, carrying the banner of their respective colleges: College of Business, College of Music and Fine Arts, College of Law, College of Natural Sciences and Humanities, College of Social Sciences. Student organizations follow in procession, wearing their distinctive t-shirts.

Then come the Jesuit Fathers, robed in red vestments for celebrating Mass. Finally, Loyola's ballet students dance down the aisle in colorful tulle skirts. During this procession, the organ resounds and the Loyola Choir sings, as they do throughout the Mass.

When all the Jesuit Fathers have reached the altar, the Mass begins. We pray for God's blessing on our academic year, listen to Bible readings, observe the consecration of the bread and wine, and if we are prepared to do so, receive Holy Communion. We enjoy the uplifting music of the Loyola Choir and the Genesis Gospel Choir.

Then, the final blessing is given, and we depart to carry on our lives and work with new inspiration.

The Mass of the Holy Spirit is an Ignatian tradition. Our next post will highlight a project of the Advanced LIEP Listening & Speaking class, focusing on the Ignatian values that a Jesuit education strives to instill.

Visit with Author John Biguenet

On September 12, the Pilot Program class of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) visited with Dr. John Biguenet, the Robert Hunter Distinguished Professor in the English Department of Loyola University New Orleans. Two of Dr. Biguenet's short stories were chosen as this year's common reading for all first-year students at Loyola. This common reading is part of Loyola's First-Year Experience Program for first-year students.

Many of our Pilot students are first-year students at Loyola. (Pilot students take two credit-bearing intensive English courses at LIEP and two academic courses at Loyola.) Accordingly, in our Pilot Reading class, we read and discussed the First-Year Experience common reading: "The Vulgar Soul" and "I Am Not a Jew" from Dr. Biguenet's collection of short stories, The Torturer's Apprentice.

The Torturer's Apprentice
The stories in The Torturer's Apprentice raise important questions. In "The Vulgar Soul," a nondescript and nonbelieving lapsed Catholic named Tom Hogue develops the stigmata--the five wounds of Jesus Christ's crucifixion--in his hands, feet, and side. Devout Catholics of the Society of the Paraclete soon begin flocking to Tom to see his stigmata, which strengthens their faith. Tom cooperates with this, despite his unbelief, but eventually Tom's stigmata fade and disappear. When Tom encounters a former member of the Society of the Paraclete, whose faith has faded along with Tom's stigmata and who is now dying of cancer, Tom faces a crucial decision.

In "I Am Not a Jew," Peter Anderson, a tourist in Germany, encounters four threatening neo-Nazis while alone in a Jewish cemetery at twilight. Fearing for his life, Anderson insists, "I am not a Jew!" and manages to run to safety. While it is true that Anderson is not a Jew, his wife questions his behavior. In a setting where neo-Nazis divide the world into two camps--Nazis and Jews--Mrs. Anderson insists, "We are all Jews." Anderson is left with the question: What should he have done?

Dr. John Biguenet
The Pilot class met with Dr. John Biguenet in the comfortable Library Living Room of Loyola's Monroe Library. Below are some highlights from our chat with Dr. Biguenet.

AUTHOR: Dr. Biguenet clarified the difference between being a writer and being an author. "You can write about anything," he said, "but you can only be an author in an area where you have authority." Authority, Dr. Biguenet told us, comes from personal experience or from in-depth research.

QUESTIONS: "The author's role," said Dr. Biguenet, "is to ask questions, not to provide answers." Each of Dr. Biguenet's short stories asks a question of the characters and of the reader.

EMBODIMENT: Dr. Biguenet's short stories embody a question within particular characters and a particular setting. This enables us to grapple with the question in a concrete way. In "The Vulgar Soul," Tom Hogue and his stigmata embody the question: How might matters of the spirit play out in a non-religious situation? In "I Am Not a Jew," Peter Anderson and the neo-Nazis embody the question: What is our responsibility toward those who suffer at the hands of others?

SEEDS: Dr. Biguenet, who initially wrote poetry, finds that the seeds of his short stories come from words. The seed for "The Vulgar Soul" came from a conversation at a literary dinner party in London. A guest asked Dr. Biguenet, "What is the role of religion in U.S. life?" Whereupon the host of the party remarked, "Religion is not a matter for discussion among adults; it is for children." The seed for "I Am Not a Jew" came from what Dr. Biguenet was seeing and reading in the media about the genocide in Bosnia in the 1990s. Dr. Biguenet believed that the questions of responsibility and involvement raised by the Bosnian War could best be explored in the more familiar context of the Holocaust.

TIME: Some of us thought that Dr. Biguenet wrote his short stories in a matter of days. We were amazed to learn that he actually spent a year or more on some of his short stories.

PAST: "New Orleans is a city where the past is always present," said Dr. Biguenet. "Families have been here for generations, and we can feel the influence of those ancestors." Accordingly, the past within the present is an important element in Dr. Biguenet's writing, for example, in "I Am Not a Jew" and in the three ghost stories included in The Torturer's Apprentice.

Our visit with Dr. Biguenet enriched our understanding of his short stories "The Vulgar Soul" and "I Am Not a Jew" as well as our awareness of the questions that life asks us. Thank you, Dr. Biguenet!

Dr. John Biguenet and the Pilot class
Our next post will describe the Mass of the Holy Spirit. This is a beautiful September tradition among Catholic universities run by the Jesuit Fathers--to ask God's blessing on the academic year.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Welcome to New Orleans - Van Tour

We are delighted to begin our Fall 2011 semester at the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) with 29 new and returning students!

Of these 29 students, 17 are full-LIEP students who take 20 hours per week of intensive English courses, and 12 are Pilot Program students who have been admitted to Loyola University New Orleans and who take two credit-bearing intensive English courses at LIEP and two academic courses at Loyola.

Our students are from Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Brazil, China, Ecuador, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Poland, Puerto Rico, Turkey, Venezuela, and Vietnam.


On Wednesday, August 31, we introduced our LIEP students to New Orleans with an afternoon van tour of the city. Advanced LIEP student Luis Morales of Venezuela, an experienced amateur photographer, documented our tour with photos.

Please join us as we tour New Orleans by van!
All aboard!

 We drive up Saint Charles Avenue, passing Tulane University (next door to Loyola), the beautiful Audubon Park, and many lovely old New Orleans homes. Saint Charles Avenue is also served by historic streetcars.

At the Riverbend, where the Mississippi River makes a 90-degree turn, we also turn onto the shady oak-lined South Carrollton Avenue. We take a brief detour onto Oak Street to see its many restaurants and shops. Oak Street is within walking distance of Loyola's campus. Here are just three of the many places to eat on Oak Street.

Oak Steet Cafe - breakfast & lunch

Ninja - Japanesse

Cowbell - famous for burgers
Back on South Carrollton, we drive out to City Park, the largest park in the city and the site of the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Sydney & Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. Then we drive along Bayou Saint John out to Lake Pontchartrain.

Bayou Saint John
Approaching Lake Pontchartrain
We drive along the vast lake, which is spanned by a 24-mile causeway, and then head toward the Central Business District and the French Quarter, taking Canal Street. Along Canal Street, we notice an expanse of above-ground cemeteries. The dead are buried above ground in New Orleans because of the high water table. Many of these houses of the dead are beautifully and elaborately decorated.

We drive into the French Quarter and stop for coffee and beignets (delicious square fried donuts topped with powdered sugar) at the famous Cafe du Monde, pausing to admire the view of Jackson Square and Saint Louis Cathedral from the Mississippi River levee.

Saint Louis Cathedral
Cafe du Monde
Finally, we return to campus along Freret Street, another street with interesting shops and restaurants, within walking distance of campus. Here are two places to eat on Freret Street.

Dat Dog - hot dogs and sausages of all kinds
Village Coffeehouse - soup, sandwiches, pastries
Soon we are back at Loyola, ready to embrace the fall semester in the wonderful city of New Orleans! Thank you to our van drivers, LIEP Instructors Karen Greenstone and Jess Haley. And a big thank-you to Luis Morales for these vivid photographs!
Luis Morales
Our next post will describe the visit of our Pilot class with author John Biguenet of Loyola's English Department. Two stories from Dr. Biguenet's short story collection, The Torturer's Apprentice, were chosen as this year's common reading for first-year students at Loyola. Our Pilot students read and discussed these stories in class and then had the wonderful opportunity of talking about the stories with Dr. Biguenet, their author.