John Folzenlogen, SJ
A Jesuit secondary educator for nearly five decades, Fr. John Folzenlogen, SJ, is celebrating 70 years as a Jesuit. He is missioned to a ministry of prayer at the Fusz Pavilion in St. Louis.
From 1967 to 1982, he taught biology and theology at the former Jesuit High School in Shreveport, La.
For the following 32 years, he served at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston, teaching biology from 1982-2003 and working in the school’s counseling department from 2003-13.
He served in pastoral ministry at Xavier Jesuit Center in Denver before moving to St. Louis in 2015.
Fr. Folzenlogen’s Reflection on 70 Years as a Jesuit:
I was ordained in 1965, the same year that Vatican Council II closed. The Church of my youth was the pre-Vatican II Church with its Latin liturgy, rich symbolism and Eucharistic spirituality. The years after Vatican II were both exciting and turbulent while forms of teaching theology and pastoral ministry gradually emerged to replace the old and inadequate. I feel privileged to be a transitional priest, having lived both the Old and the New.
The human longing for intimacy: All humans need intimacy. I experience intimacy whenever I communicate with another on a deeper level, “deep calling to deep.” The fruit of intimacy is JOY. For a believer, the experience of intimacy is a form of prayer. Intimacy is easily transfigured into an experience of God incarnate in another person. It is a form of “finding God in all things.” This is my reflection on the forms of intimacy that have given me the most joy during the 45 plus years of my priesthood.
Teaching has been a source of great joy (and not a little tribulation). I am grateful to the many students who let me become a part of their lives over the last 46 years. By letting me shepherd them, they have shepherded me. My favorite metaphor to express the joy of teaching is to compare students to music. A student is a symphony which he and God are composing. A student is an unfinished symphony, of masterpiece quality, well begun. Tuning into my students is music for the soul.
I have experienced celebrating Mass and preaching as forms of intimacy. As the celebrant at Mass, I am like a conductor. Although I don’t create the music, God uses me as His instrument to bring it all together. Preaching is similar. In preaching, something mysterious happens. The congregation’s attention and acceptance of me as their homilist makes the Scripture come alive and elicits images and insights that I did not even know I had. Likewise, when distributing Communion, I experience what Jesus meant when He promised that “Wherever two or more are gathered in My Name, I am there in their midst.” Distributing Communion is a series of brief bursts of joy.
The sacrament of Reconciliation is a special form of intimacy. In this sacrament, two humans, both sinners, come together and converse on the deepest level. A person whom I may never have met before nor ever meet again, shares things with me he may never have shared with anyone else. In helping a sinner bring his sins to the light, he and I both are healed. Together we experience what Ignatius meant when he described a Jesuit as “a loved sinner.”
Supply work to different parishes enables me to extend my ministry outside the school to the wider Church. When going on supply, I get a sense of what Paul must have felt when, led by the Spirit, he travelled to minister to far flung communities. Going on supply is joy in motion.
Listening: I am an auditory person. Listening to my iPad gives me joy. I have recently discovered a new source of joy by listening to recorded lectures by scholars who are not only experts but have clearly found God in their work. For example, I have found listening to the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of John by Donald Summers, O.P. and the Gospel of Mark by Fr. John Donahue, SJ, particularly prayerful. There is also listening to digital music with its three-dimensional instrumental sounds. Music is a great source of joy. It produces a sense of the transcendent. Lately I have rediscovered oldies from an earlier period such as Emmy Lou Harris and Neil Diamond. In times of dryness, music lights up my darkness and opens a window to God.
The heart is a lonely hunter. How many songs go unsung because there was no one to listen. Keeping vigil with those who are weak and ignored and listening to their unsung songs is a source of joy. It is mutually life-giving. The world hungers for good listeners.
PLAY heals the BODY.
LAUGHTER heals the BRAIN.
JOY heals the SOUL.