Early childhood trips to the circus and church ignited Nick Weber’s imagination, inspired his playtime, and steered his unique journey through sixty years. His childhood pursuit of circus skills and stage magic found him keen to perform in Jesuit Catholic prep school theater while his attraction to the spirituality of his teachers drew him to membership in the Society of Jesus. Nick pursued a traditional training course of thirteen years to ordination as a Jesuit priest in 1970. The following year, with three students and the approval and prayers of brave Jesuit superiors, he fashioned a surprising amalgam, the Royal Lichtenstein Circus. This was a sanctuary, classroom and performance ring. A ribald sandwich of comic parables, circus skills and trained animals, the tiny circus led Nick through twenty two years of cross-country discoveries, heartbreaks and insights.
As a Jesuit, Nick Weber was no stranger to academic work. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Gonzaga University in 1963. In the year of his ordination as a priest, 1970, he completed a master’s degree in sacred theology from Santa Clara University and another master’s, in drama, at San Francisco State College. By that time, he had taught and directed dramatic and musical theater productions at Saint Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, and Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix.
During those years, Nick gradually came to wonder if his fascinations with circus, magic, theater and the sanctuary could merge. In the rich California chemistry of Sixties street theater and its rituals, he explored revisiting the medieval morality play. He sought a performance platform that embedded core parable and poetry in the pageant of the circus. These pursuits became the “Royal Lichtenstein Circus, the World’s Smallest Complete Circus.” Time Magazine would one day describe this official ministry of the California Province of the Jesuits as “an amiable blend of circus tricks and low-key parables.”
The key motivational factors driving Nick’s search and his twenty-two years a circus priest are well-known to all Jesuits: the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, the principles of Ignatian discernment, and spiritual guidance. In addition, the bold poetic insights of two earlier Jesuits, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Teilhard de Chardin, fired his determination to realize the unique ministry. So for two decades, acrobats, jugglers, clowns and animals followed Nick to shopping centers, college campuses and school assemblies throughout the United States. Their repertoire comprised comedy, lighthearted morality tales and elegant circus acts.
With the clarity and slower pace of hindsight, Nick Weber, now a retired layman, spends most of his time writing and coaching senior retirees in another unique program, “Shakespeare, Just For Fun!”