Archived Letters from Interim Director Fr. Howell, SJ

Fortitude in the Midst of Chaos!

Posted by Pat Howell, SJ on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 at 11:26 AM PDT

In the days when I was principal of Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, 1978-1983, Fr. Mike Tyrrell, the vice principal, and I made a pact: “Never make any life-changing decisions based on what happens in May.” Inevitably, seniors would stage a disruption, sophomores would feel their oats, teachers would get all cranked up. All that adolescent energy pent up by winter and hard study, would erupt. Fortitude in the face of chaos steadied the nerves and allowed a modicum of discernment.

Life in the ICTC is more tranquil, but May catapults us into one last siege of activities. We conclude the fruitful Catholic Heritage lecture series with the formidable Fr. Greg Boyle SJ (Spiritual Practices and Working on the Margins), and we culminate our lecture series on the "Crises in the Church" with Dr. Tricia Bruce ( Scandal, Structure, & Renewal: Sociological Perspectives on Change in the Catholic Church). We are gratified by people’s warm support in our tackling of the vital reforms needed for the Catholic Church. My belief is that we are not credible as a Catholic university unless we face head on into the storm and tack through the rollicking waves with confidence that the Holy Spirit will guide us and somehow bring grace and new life in the midst of upheaval and suffering.

I have been reading David Brooks’ earlier book The Road to Character in which he treats the life choices of figures such as General George Marshall, St. Augustine, Dorothy Day, and civil rights pioneer Philip Randolph in their unswerving commitment to truth and authenticity. Brooks comments on Dorothy Day’s commitment “to duty with sober enthusiasm.” He says, “Suffering opens up ancient places of pain that had been hidden. It exposes frightening experiences that had been repressed, shameful wrongs that had been committed. It spurs some people to painfully and carefully examine the basement of their own soul. But it also presents the pleasurable sensation that one is getting closer to the truth.” Such was certainly the case with Dorothy Day. But the lives of all the persons that Brook explores seem to have one or more crucial turning points where they faced the truth and limitations of their own soul within the encounter with the Other, whether that was with God, a great cause, or an intimate soulmate.

ICTC is committed to providing spaces and conversations where these deeper, soul-searching examinations can occur - with the hope that they open up ancient places, the foundations of one’s soul, and the delight that one is getting closer to the truth.

So steady as you go. Remember it’s May.

Patrick Howell, S.J., Interim Director
Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture