This is a post in honor of Mike Leach. An editor and former publisher at Orbis Books, Mike is the author of the recently published book Why Stay Catholic? Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question (Loyola, 2011) and the blog of the same title. I was humbled by Mike’s inclusion of my blog, DatingGod.org, in a post listing some of his favorite blogs. In a recent blog entry Mike volunteered answers to 21 questions that he had asked a number of other authors. Here I’d like to take the 21-question interview that I had not been asked, but that I offer with the simple hope that you might find it interesting to read and might consider your own answers to the questions.
- Dan, how are you an average Catholic?
Just like every other baptized Christian, I am a member of the Communion of Saints, which makes all of us average Catholics: Canonized Saints and the worst sinners alike!
- What is your favorite word?
Regicide (not a fan of the action, but love the sound of the word).
- What is your least favorite word?
Don’t know that I have a least-favorite word.
- What sound or noise do you love?
- What sound or noise do you hate?
My own singing voice.
- What is your favorite book?
Ohhh, that changes regularly. In recent months some of my favorites include Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom,” Slavoj Zizek’s “Violence: Six Sideways Reflections,” and pretty much anything John D. Caputo writes.
- Do you have a particular Catholic role model?
The Little Poor Man From Assisi.
- What is your favorite movie?
Like books, favorite movies change frequently — I read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies (I know, “boring”). In addition to “Of Gods and Men,” I really enjoyed “Inception” recently and I also really like “500 Days of Summer.”
- What music is in your car disc-player right now?
I have a little CD case I take with me in the car. Right now it includes albums by: Jason Mraz, Foster the People, David Haas, Marty Haugen, Billy Joel, Simon and Garfunkel and, of course, the soundtrack to “Garden State.”
- What TV shows do you watch regularly?
The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Happy Endings and whatever is in the 9pm Sunday HBO slot, if I happen to be in a house or near a TV with HBO.
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
A Priest (yeah, I know, didn’t see that one coming), an emergency-room doctor and a photographer. Two out of three ain’t bad!
- How old were you when you knew what you wanted to be when you grew up?
I suppose I was in fifth grade when my great-grandmother died. I knew I wanted to be involved in her funeral in a special way, at the time all I wanted to do was be an altar server, but hadn’t yet begun the training. That’s the earliest I can recall strongly desiring to be directly involved in the Sacramental life of the Church. That passion became clearer as I got older and reached its zenith when I was in college and came to fully realize that it was as a Franciscan that God had invited me to live, ordained ministry and everything else was secondary to that calling.
- What do you like most about what you are doing now?
I spent the last year teaching in the department of religious studies at Siena College and loved everything about it, even the frustration that comes with the territory of teaching college students. I can’t imagine a better job.
- Have you ever said something or done something that was outside the boundaries of Church rules because you knew it was the right thing?
The very last words of the very last canon in the Code of Canon Law (can. 1752) reads: “The salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes.” Although the immediate context is the mundane business of transferring pastors, the wisdom of the concluding text speaks to the purpose of all “Church rules” — the “salvation of souls.” I have and never will intentionally do something outside the boundaries of the “supreme law of the Church,” which is the salvation of souls. That might mean that some of the lesser laws of the Church cannot in right conscience be observed as clearly, the supreme law must always take precedence. To answer the question in light of my little soliloquy: nope (perhaps contrary to some others’ opinions).
- Have you ever not said something or not did something because you were afraid you might get in trouble with the Church?
I invoke my fifth-amendment right to remain silent.
- Do have any regrets in life?
Oh, do I ever!
- What is the spiritual idea that keeps you going?
The Holy Spirit. She is what keeps me going, realizing that we are united to one another through Baptism, separated as we are throughout the world and time (LG 13), I find great comfort in knowing that God’s creative presence — that breath (ruach) and wisdom (hochma) of God — continues to renew the face of the earth and give us life.
- What idea do you think is the most important idea right now for the Church to be talking about?
Power and Nonviolence. Instead of the partisan nonsense that has distracted the Church in the USA, I think we need to remember that all matters of life, all struggles for authority stem from a place of power and violence. The consistent ethic of life, which is the ONLY true Pro-Life position, will always demand of Christians a strong stance against violence and a renunciation of unjust power dynamics that marginalize and negatively affect the dignity of our brothers and sisters in this world. We, as a Church, have forgotten that and have become far too preoccupied with moral minutiae to the point of becoming a farce.
- What life advice would you give to a young person if she asked you?
Don’t be afraid to respond with love to the God who is already loving you. Our society can be a hostile one to the notion of spirituality being anything more than a new-age fad. I would advise young people to not fear embracing the God who so loved the world that YOU were created to live in it. As the medieval Franciscan John Duns Scotus sets up so well, take your own existence as a sign of God’s own abundant love for you and for all of creation. You could have not existed, yet God created you: Live!
- What brings you joy?
As I get older, it comes more and more from taking time to be alone with God, especially in the Mountains of New York. I realize now so clearly why St. Francis took time away for contemplation and solitude amid his busy life of leadership, ministry and fraternity.
- What are you most looking forward to?
The profession of my Solemn Vows as a Franciscan friar on August 27th in New York City.