Providing Maps

I enjoyed Jesuit History: A New Hot Topic, by John W. O’Malley, S.J., (5/9). Your readers may be interested to know that there is a particularly hot spot within this theme, and that is the story of Jesuits as mapmakers, particularly in the Americas. From the late 17th century until the suppression of the order in the late 18th century, many Jesuits from central Europe sought to enter the mission field, and so went to serve in the overseas possessions of the Habsburgs in what is now Spanish America. These Jesuits had been exceptionally well trained in mathematics, geography and even cartography; and once they arrived in the New World, they were often sent to remote mission stations. These areas were almost always unmapped by Europeans, and so the Jesuits’ training was by chance, as it were, put to good effect all over the continent, from Mexico to Patagonia (and indeed in Canada, another story). The resulting work covered very extensive areas of the Americas, and would not be rivaled in extent until the coming of the national governments in the 19th century.

David Buisseret
Skokie, Ill.

Faith Life

What a beautiful story by James T. Keane, S.J., about the beginning of America (Of Many Things, 5/30). I was flabbergasted. I’m even more proud that you have the fortitude to speak your piece.

I think I would be considered, by most who know me, to be a somewhat conservative person. I subscribe to our diocesan newspaper. I do, when I’m not working, pray the Rosary. I attend Sunday Mass regularly and listen to Relevant Radio frequently going to or from work (though I sometimes cringe at some of the comments). I’ve been an on/off subscriber to Americabut in the last few years, I’ve been drawn to the magazine more and more. I felt I had found a really deep (at least for me), solid, Catholic publication that approached issues in such a balanced, thought-provoking and open manner.

Needless to say, I was dumbfounded to hear the background behind the gracious resignation of Thomas J. Reese, S.J. I’m fearful that what drew me perhaps the most to your magazinethe theological discussionswill fade away. I’m afraid your magazine will become bland, as I once tended to find it. A long time ago I would mostly scan it, but would always read the Word column. In the past few years, however, I have really used your articles to stimulate and challenge my faith life, and also to sharpen my thinking on a variety of topics. Overall, however, I was just proud and happy to have such a stimulating yet nonsensational Catholic voice to turn to. I hope it will continue. Thank you for many years of blessings.

Phillip Morley
Oak Park, Ill.

Dialogue

I was greatly relieved to read the article Little Gray Cells, by James J. DiGiacomo, S.J. (5/30). After hearing the disturbing news about the departure of Thomas J. Reese, S.J., as editor, I was concerned that America would pursue a safe route and publish orthodox articles.

I use the word orthodox in quotes, because I have witnessed the same dynamic that Father DiGiacomo describes. Raising a question about a church policy and/or practice is equated with being un-Catholic or unorthodox. Fortunately, through the centuries such great Catholic thinkers as Aquinas, Augustine, Rahner and Gutiérrez did not share this understanding of orthodoxy. If they did, we would not have the legacy of their incredible and beautiful thinking. I want to add one more point to Father DiGiacomo’s message: dialogue goes both ways. I am often upset with the way our red state Catholic thinkers are characterized: as unthinking drones who blindly follow the dictates of Rome and/or Washington. I have witnessed the tyranny of our blue state Catholic thinkers, who are too quick to consider themselves enlightened and are quick to ridicule conservative Catholics who don’t get it.

In addition to a renewed understanding of orthodoxy, we need a renewed understanding of what it means to be a thinking Catholic.

Frank DeVito
Chelsea, Mass.

Clear Tone

I appreciated the tone of voice as much as, if not more than, the message of Little Gray Cells, by James J. DiGiacomo, S.J. (5/30). It is important to dialogue, but as important to avoid a strident or superior, condescending tone. DiGiacomo is clear and unflinching, so he cannot be dismissed for trying to plant sweet-smelling spiritual nosegays about catholicity and universality.

Timothy Coldwell, F.S.C.
Tucson, Ariz.

Fresh Air

After focusing on the current conservative trend in the Catholic Church of late, your article Little Gray Cells (5/30) proved to be a welcome breath of fresh air. Thank you. We need more of it.

Austin J. Maher
Wayne, N.J.

From Our Youth

Little Gray Cells, about Virginia’s displeasure at Father’s homily on the causes of the lack of seminarians, reminds me of how difficult change appears to be for many, and especially when one is aging or on in years.

Keeping everything the way it used to be, including our Catholic faith and church rituals, is how stability comforts some of the aging. Their bodies are failing and changing, with hearing and eyesight diminishing. It could be a matter of wanting control, where at least our beloved church remains the way we remember it from our youth. It takes time and lots of patience, which Father DiGiacomo seems to be demonstrating, to allow those recalcitrant members of our church to catch up to new thinking and/or possibilities, especially about how to increase the numbers of those entering seminaries and becoming priests. Thanks for the article, a thought-provoking one indeed.

Anna Seidler
San Francisco, Calif.

Comments

Fr. Thomas Powers | 6/6/2005 - 11:14am
Like Fr. DiGiacomo, I often encourage my own “little grey cells” to keep wondering, speculating and evaluating the content of our Catholic way of faith and life. Perhaps people like Virginia are searching for a deeper understanding of current Catholic thought and practice as it relates to women and married people who sense a call to ordination. They look to priests for more information.

Perhaps those of us who refuse to “settle for slack-jawed certainty” might be a bid more generous with folks like Virginia. They are neither our adversaries nor invincibly ignorant.

They are fellow disciples who expect priests to explain what the Church teaches and why within the context of our personal search for the truth.

(Fr.) Thomas J. Powers Lynnfield, MA

Fr. Thomas Powers | 6/6/2005 - 11:14am
Like Fr. DiGiacomo, I often encourage my own “little grey cells” to keep wondering, speculating and evaluating the content of our Catholic way of faith and life. Perhaps people like Virginia are searching for a deeper understanding of current Catholic thought and practice as it relates to women and married people who sense a call to ordination. They look to priests for more information.

Perhaps those of us who refuse to “settle for slack-jawed certainty” might be a bid more generous with folks like Virginia. They are neither our adversaries nor invincibly ignorant.

They are fellow disciples who expect priests to explain what the Church teaches and why within the context of our personal search for the truth.

(Fr.) Thomas J. Powers Lynnfield, MA

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