The Haunted Heaven: Chapter Twenty: A Jesuit high school and The Great "However"
By Michael Moriarty
University of Detroit High School.
Friends of my father, the Tiernans, had recommended U of D.. Mr. Tiernan was its football coach.
The Tiernans were a classically successful Catholic family that was trying to help a Moriarty family in major crisis.
Thank God for the Tiernans!
Without them and the Catholic education they helped bring me, I am certain that I would not only not be alive now but I would have had no success in any field whatsoever, let alone the kind of renaissance life I have had the privilege to live.
U of D High was and still is, I imagine, a somber-looking edifice in Northwest Detroit that faces two playing fields with a football field in the back of it. It is as starkly unfriendly-looking as the initial image of those black-robed priests waiting for their students to arrive on time.
"Has my boy been playing with himself?"
"I beg your pardon, Father?"
"Has my boy been playing with himself?"
"Oh, no, Father."
That is my first, most vivid memory of arriving to high school for the first time. That, and then the fight I had on the bus with an upper-classman whose "vocation" seemed to be bullying lower-classmen. I lost all the books I had just bought. Luckily I had grabbed a few of his books … so … the exchange was made … eventually.
Hello, puberty! Hello to four years of Latin!
"Non habes grump, frater?"
The Latin-teaching priest who asked me this was the coolest of the bunch, good-looking and … well … cool, ya know?
"Why would he want to be a priest?! He could have all the women he wanted!"
Well, yes, that was how many of us thought back then … and still do, I suppose.
While listening to a second playback of my final movement to the Concerto For Orchestra, I ponder how widely spread out my life has been. Millenniums frequently sit between a few, deeply internalized moments in my life. Not one but two dead languages to learn: Latin and ancient Greek.
Just thrilled to hear my most recent addition to the last movement!
"Oh, yes!" I cried.
Precisely what I have been waiting for!! Would it be cutting edge? Well … technically challenging certainly.
Ecstasy … yes, bliss is what we seek … in as many different and frequently dangerous ways as we can summon up. However … and that is the Great "However" … are you to be Icarus, flying too high near the sun? Or Odysseus, the Greek hero who even made it into contemporary popularity as James Joyce's Ulysses?
In any case, you don't offend the Gods or The God of Judeo-Christianity.
Ecstasy, however, is still what we seek.
Oh, I know, we grow sober and serious for however long it takes for our lusts to build up … and that means all of our lusts for fame, glory, bliss of all kinds … the Wild Side as it was fashionably known a few years back.
"Don't you sometimes just wanna go full, bull-goose looney?!" asks a Jack Nicholson character of all of us?
Eventually I did … but I did it through sudden realization of the infinite potential within life. I was twenty-three and in Florence, Italy, gazing upon the achievements of Michelangelo and a virtual army of Renaissance artists whose works gazed out at me from their pedestals in the Piazza della Signoria.
Back at high school, though, amidst Jesuits and their seeming hatred of bliss and ecstasy?
"Aim High!" as you already know, was the motto at Cranbrook Preparatory School.
The logo had a bended bow with arrow, ready to fire.
Who or what is doing the shooting?
"Zen in the Art of Archery" attempts to answer that.
No, it doesn't actually say "God" … but the arrows seem to point in that direction. Something larger than even the word "larger" itself. Something "infinite" and "eternal". We are not infinite and eternal. Something else is, however.
Four years with the Jesuits laid that foundation within me, the certainty beyond even faith, that God not only exists but, indeed, He loves us so much that he sacrificed His only begotten Child, the Christ.
He let Jesus suffer for three hours on the Cross.
The story was not only about how much God loves us but how profoundly Christ loved God, to endure such suffering without damning the Almighty. Christ's Great Question of His Almighty Father: "Why hast thou forsaken me?"
It was the only possible way that God could combat despair, and therefore defeat the only sin He cannot forgive which is suicide.
Why can't He forgive suicide?
You're not alive to even ask for forgiveness, let alone receive it. Yup, ya gotta ask. Could Judas have asked for God's forgiveness for betraying Christ?
The problem was that he never believed in God in the first place. Judas was the quintessential atheist. He only betrayed himself. The first Pope of the Catholic Church betrayed Christ three times!!
You might think, "Three strikes and yer outta there!!"
These are some of the most important things I discovered because of a Jesuit education. No, they don't enter you, and you are not enlightened yet by merely memorizing these facts. The seeds, however, once planted, cannot be stopped from growing.
Led, as I just have been, to the You Tube's Joyce, Ulysses and Molly Bloom's soliloquy, done best here … but no name for the director, producer or actress …
Hmmm … the climax of it, however, and the "Yes, yes, yes … " of Molly, bringing tears to my eyes … fantasies of lovemaking with both her Leopold and the young Stephen.
This explains why I, like Joyce, am a lapsed Catholic. The reality of our sexuality makes vows to the Church utterly impossible … at least, not with any sincerity.
Now John Donne being read aloud … hmmm … "am betrothed unto your enemy!"
"… except You ravish me!"
Now I'm trying to ravish myself with my measure by measure additions to the climax of my Concerto For Orchestra.
Its first movement is now Allegro Satyrico … with Stravinsky's Symphony In C as an inspiration, will lead nicely into the second movement, the Allegretto Orientale – finally the Allegro Furioso.
Listening to it now and now knowing where it is headed rhythmically … yes! These self-congratulatory moments of mine, I suspect, will not remain in the final copy of this Memoir. However, while I am creating, these pep talks are essential.
I have no idea how much time I have left on this planet but something tells me that a simultaneously verbal and musical attempt at capturing not only my past but also what is left of my life now in this, my 70th year on earth is a certainty.
Yes, my Friar Tuck.
"Would you like to help me with a reading of Shakespeare's Macbeth?"
"How is that, Father?"
"Could you read MacDuff's son for me?"
"I suppose so," I mumbled. I'd been in a grade school skit and got the audience laughing … a lot …
"Sure, why not?"
Well … it was Shakespeare.
That alone will take a whole chapter to even begin the journey I've had with The Bard.
Therefore, there is still much left on my plate, here in my 71st year and the prelude to life's greatest moments for me.
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at email@example.com.