Yesterday I came across James T. Keane’s piece in America magazine on Clement James McNaspy, S.J., a former associate editor (1960 to 1970) at the magazine. Keane writes that McNaspy, who taught music at Loyola University in New Orleans, “was for a time the most interesting Jesuit in the world.”
Here is a taste of Keane’s piece:
I first encountered Father C. J. McNaspy in a bit of oral history passed down from editor to editor at America. In the early 1970s, the Jesuits were rethinking the traditional model of Jesuit training, which involved years of study at institutions that were usually far removed from social concerns or societal interaction. Why not, Father McNaspy suggested, buy one of the new Boeing 747s and fly all the Jesuits in formation around the country, visiting various apostolates and giving them exposure to the environments in which they would minister in the future?
The ambitious plan went nowhere, with cost being perhaps a secondary obstacle to a more primary question: What if the plane crashed?
Father McNaspy allowed his imagination to run a bit wild in 1971, when he participated in a special issue of Liturgical Arts that discussed the possibility of a submarine church that would travel around the world promoting peace and ecology. (It was an experimental time, liturgically speaking: Four years earlier, the same magazine had proposed a chapel on the moon.) The proposed submarine chapel would be named “Bea,” both in honor of Cardinal Augustin Bea, S.J., the prelate who played an important role at the Second Vatican Council and served as the first president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, and Charles Darwin’s ship, “The Beagle.” In his essay, Father McNaspy called the 1960s “the decade of outer space,” while the 1970s would be the decade “of inner space.”
And one final McNaspy legend, this one told by an editor from the 1960s: While an associate editor at America, Father McNaspy asked permission to have a piano in his room in the Jesuit residence. Permission denied. He and another priest then waited until the dead of night to sneak the piano in—forgetting in the meantime that his bedroom was directly above that of the Jesuit superior who had told him no.
Read the entire piece here.
The movie The Mission is based on McNaspy’s book Lost Cities of Paraguay.