Reflections on the profile of Liz Bruno ’82, M.A. ’86, “The Fragility of Faith,” the El Salvadoran martyrs, and Alfred Hitchcock
Thanks Liz, for sharing your journey of faith. It’s inspiring to read about someone with whom we’ve walked common halls. You truly are an example of the noble values SCU strives to impart to its students.
Erika Nicholas ’81
Liz: You are a true hero and Hall of Famer on and off the court. Your love of the downtrodden far outweighs your very impressive basketball accomplishments. You make me a proud graduate of Santa Clara. We all can learn by your example and realize “life’s successes,” whatever they be, do not exempt us from humble care and love for the less fortunate. Matthew 25: 44–45: “Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’”
Robert McCullough ’76
Jesus never ranked sins, and these men are no less deserving of God’s grace than anyone else: “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift.”
Sharon H. Barnett
“Or, how can a thinking person still believe in God?” asked Michael C. McCarthy, S.J. ’87, M.Div. ’97 in a feature in our Winter mag. Some of the rich conversation it inspired:
Beautifully written, I’ll certainly be passing this along to my believing and nonbelieving family and friends to dissect further.
Rachel Michener ’12
While the reputation of the Jesuits as thinking persons is unexcelled, all the Jesuits and professors who inspired me at University of San Francisco and Santa Clara were open to God’s grace and had a faith that was nourished by the holy sacraments they received and administered. I think the saints, regardless of their intellectual capacity, in the end just fell in love with God and did what they could to bring about God’s kingdom. Faith will always be fragile to the extent that we depend principally on ourselves rather than on the grace of God.
Jose Maes M.A. ’80
San Jose, California
I have been away for some time, so I hope you will forgive me for not knowing that belief had become so … well, vague. “I put my trust in a reality that cannot be grasped or contained or controlled. I put my trust in a reality distinct from any entity or whole set of entities we know as ‘the world’ but that somehow interacts with the world the way being itself interacts with the world, that somehow is exceedingly close to the world in ways that I choose to describe as ultimately good or benevolent or loving.” What ever happened to “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son”? He chooses to describe the way the reality is close to the world as loving? Is it OK for me to choose differently? I understand, and sincerely respect, Fr. McCarthy’s intent to create a “Big Tent.” But I don’t think redefining God is the best approach.
Jim Walker ’63
I find faith most difficult when I forget who I am. The distractions and errors of our society pull us out of place with reality. G.K. Chesterton wrote: “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
Faith requires the ability to embrace paradox. This does not mean that science and faith are incompatible, for science itself reveals a multitude of paradoxes. How can a photon be in two places at the same time? How can we begin to understand the nature of the universe when dark matter is estimated to comprise 90 percent of all creation?
Jim Rogers ’72
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Fr. McCarthy responds:
Since the article “Fragility of Faith” was published in Santa Clara Magazine, I have been grateful for the number of responses I received from readers. A few were posted on the website, but many more I received personally and privately.
What was most striking to me is how many people (whether believers or not) struggle with the question of God and how deep that struggle is. Whether it comes in response to the death of a child, from advances in science, an existential crisis, or misgivings about religious institutions, asking about the mystery of God moves people to a different kind of depth.
As I reflect on the comments I received, there are things that surprise me and things that don’t surprise me.
As a student of Christian theology, especially of its ancient sources, I am not surprised that people struggle with faith. From Abraham and Sarah through Moses, from Peter to Mary Magdalene to Paul, early monastic men and women—for all of them faith was a trial. That’s true of most people whose faith I trust most. Even the formulations of the Christian faith enunciated in the fourth and fifth centuries were the product of a lot of theological and political contest. People who (as I do) accept those formulations are not exempt from the deeper spiritual questions that give them meaning. Otherwise religious discourse becomes a desiccated grammar rather than a point of entry into the mystery of God.
What does surprise me, however, is the implication of some that faith is to yield certainties. Or that belonging to a religious body should not require (like any serious relationship) constant dynamic tension. I often hear from people (in one form or another): “I have faith, but I struggle.” Perhaps, through very good examples to guide me, I put it rather this way: “I have faith, and so I struggle.”
The latter allows for lights and shadows, as well as a texture of commitment that is real and humane. There we can slowly find ourselves within the very mystery of God whom Jesus seemed to know personally.
Our Fall 2014 edition commemorated the murder of Jesuit priests in El Salvador in 1989 by a military hit squad. We brought you stories from writer Ron Hansen M.A. ’95, historian Mary Jo (Hull) Ignoffo ’78, and Lucía Cerna—the Jesuits’ housekeeper who witnessed the killings.
Heartfelt thanks to Mary Jo Ignoffo for explaining the truth of this multilayered tragedy of modern martyrs and heroes in El Salvador and Santa Clara.
Canice Evans McLaughlin ’78
Santa Clara Magazine’s articles on the martyred Jesuits in Central America were exciting, engaging, and informative, and bore profound implications for the Church and Catholics worldwide. Bishop Óscar Romero administered the good works of the Church, seeing to the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in his diocese, as a valued and honored member of society. The Jesuits—like all the priests of a diocese—bear a special relationship to the bishop; they are his spiritual sons. One of these, Fr. Rutilio Grande, was assassinated as he drove through the country, ministering to the people, and Bishop Romero came to his small parish to say the funeral Mass, asking for God’s guidance and mercy. At the end of the Mass he turned to the people and asked them, “What course should the Church follow?”
That question marked a change. Bishop Romero made Jesuits his counselors; even his confessor was a Jesuit. That he was assassinated was a foregone conclusion. The Church has beatified him; Pope Francis is going to canonize him, meaning that his decision to listen to the people is recognized as part of the Rule of the Church to do all things for the greater glory of God.
We the people of God—how are we to answer Bishop Romero’s question?
Los Altos Hills, California
ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS
Our Fall 2013 edition noted the 50th anniversary of the 1963 commencement address by the Master of Suspense. He warned about professors prone to lighting fires in students— “sometimes with delayed fuses.” A comment on our digital archives:
I was there at the commencement in ’63 and witnessed Alfred Hitchcock impart his “words of wisdom” to the graduating class, which included my brother Tom Morrill ’63 and cousin Kent Morrill ’63! I wonder just how many did get to try out their “fire” skills ...
THE WRITER’S ART
Nota bene: Along with striking a chord or nerve with readers, some mag stories and editions earn awards.
A prestigious MAGGIE from the good folks at the Western Publishing Association came in May. SCM earned honors for best series of illustrations: Brian Stauffer’s elegant and soaring trio for “The Catholic Writer Today,” in our Summer 2014 mag. That seminal essay on arts and culture is by Dana Gioia—poet, critic, and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Brian Stauffer is a conceptual artist, illustrator, and animator. You may have seen his work on the cover of The New Yorker or in Time, Esquire, or hundreds of other publications worldwide. You see it on the cover of this edition of SCM and in the feature “Silicon Valley Story.”
One more note on awards: Here in the West, the sage judges at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education awarded SCM a bronze medal for best in the region in 2014.
And one last note on notes: What do you think of the redesigned mag? Tell us. Share cheerful or chagrined letters, photos, and observations: santaclaramagazine.com/contact