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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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Irish Elk
Monday, February 16, 2004  


The invaluable Mirabilis.ca links to Jean Brebeuf's 1637 instructions for Jesuit missionaries:

- You must love these Hurons, ransomed by the blood of the Son of God, as brothers.
- You must never keep the Indians waiting at the time of embarking.
- Carry a tinder-box or a piece of burning-glass, or both, to make fire for them during the day for smoking, and in the evening when it is necessary to camp; these little services win their hearts.
- Try to eat the little food they offer you, and eat all you can, for you may not eat again for hours.
- Eat as soon as day breaks, for Indians when on the road, eat only at the rising and the setting of the sun.
- Be prompt in embarking and disembarking and do not carry any water or sand into the canoe.
- Be the least troublesome to the Indians.
- Do not ask many questions; silence is golden.
- Bear with their imperfections, and you must try always to appear cheerful.
- Carry with you a half-gross of awls, two or three dozen little folding knives (jambettes), and some plain and fancy beads with which to buy fish or other commodities from the nations you meet, in order to feast your Indian companions, and be sure to tell them from the outset that here is something with which to buy fish.
- Always carry something during the portages.
- Do not be ceremonious with the Indians.
- Do not begin to paddle unless you intend always to paddle.
- The Indians will keep later that opinion of you which they have formed during the trip.
- Always show any other Indians you meet on the way a cheerful face and show that you readily accept the fatigues of the journey.

Later martyred by the Iroquois, John de Brebeuf is today a patron saint of Canada.

* * *

The Jesuits have a Dulles and also have a Taft, the Rt. Rev. Robert, mitred archimandrite, the Church's foremost authority on Eastern liturgy, and an expert on Orthodoxy known for unorthodoxy:

Crossing paths with Jesuit Fr. Robert Taft, an American who has taught at the Pontifical Oriental Institute here for more than 30 years, can be something like spotting a bright orange tie or a pair of red Converse sneakers amid a sea of gray suits at a corporate headquarters. Such flashes of sartorial dissent can be a way to express a bit of life, of rage against the machine, amid the numbing sameness of institutional culture.

It’s not that in the hallways of ecclesiastical power, Taft, a famed scholar specializing in the liturgies of Eastern churches, is the guy with the orange tie. (His most daring fashion touch is a slightly whimsical beret.) It’s that in this gray clerical world, Taft is the orange tie -- a colorful, larger-than-life tribute to nonconformism, something like a cross between Fr. Yves Congar and comedian Lenny Bruce. He combines vast erudition (this is a man who scours liturgical texts in Old Slavonic the way some people do the sports pages) with a sailor’s touch for salty language.

Taft is the kind of man who, during a three-block walk to dinner on a wintry Roman night, can move seamlessly from singing bawdy English drinking songs, to explaining why the Orthodox misinterpret the fourth crusade, to praising the Arnold Schwarzenegger shoot-’em-up “True Lies.”

Born Jan. 9, 1932, Taft is a scion of the Rhode Island branch of the American political dynasty that produced the country’s 27th president, William Howard Taft, and Ohio Sen. Robert Taft, leader of the Republican Party’s most conservative wing in the 1950s. The Jesuit Taft, however, is not registered with any political faction, and has never made hay of his pedigree.

“I don’t need anybody to paddle my canoe,” he said.

* * *

The Jesuit explorer Daniel Linehan said the first Mass at the South Pole.

The photographer Margaret Bourke-White once spent 10 days with Linehan--the summer before the Dow expedition--shooting for a Life magazine photo-essay on American Jesuits. Linehan was leading a team investigating potential dam sites on the Kennebec River in northern Maine. The resulting photographs show a man's man, wearing a T-shirt and waders, treading through rapids to position his dynamite charges, observing the resulting explosions, and measuring the sound waves as they reached bedrock and bounced back.

A Report on the American Jesuits, the 1956 book with John LaFarge that grew out of the Life photo-essay, Bourke-White described a revealing conversation with Linehan after a day of prospecting that had started with a simple Mass said in the woods. "Take today," he told her. "Today when I read my seismograph there were only two who knew that rock was down there under sixty feet of water. Only God and I knew. And to think this is the same God who came down to our altar this morning, the same God who made that rock, who made all the rocks in the world.

"I would give up all my seismology," he told her, "to celebrate one such Mass as you came to this morning. Think of all the energy stored up in the world--all that power. That is God. And I held Him in my hand this morning. That's why I'm happy."


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