Monday 31 December 2012

Les Misérables: Love, Revolution and Our Hope For the Face of God

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


I recently watched the film Les Misérables, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It reminded me of my first experience of this story. In the summer of 2003, I travelled to New York City to visit friends. While in town, I was invited to see the longest running musical in the world on Broadway. It was a magical production; I delighted in this story of love and revolution, of redemption and conversion. I was smitten by this tale about the misery of the human condition, this story about sacrifice and oblation. Les Misérables conveys the wretchedness of post-Revolution France, but it also relates the meaning and effects of love and forgiveness.

Saturday 29 December 2012

The Forgotten Ones

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

Chinese Refugee Family, Martha Sawyers (1902-88)

An acquaintance of mine recently asked me, “what was the best book that you have read in 2012?” Since this enquiry took place in a group setting, I did not have a chance to give him an adequate answer. At any rate, the first book that came to mind was a Chinese one called Da Jiang Da Hai 1949 (English: Big River, Big Sea – Untold Stories of 1949) by the current Minister of Culture of Taiwan, Lung Yingtai. Lung's original intention was to paint the cultural backdrop from which she came to her son, who is half Chinese and half German. This history is the chaotic times of war in China during the forties, with the Japanese invasion in the Second World War, and the subsequent civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

The Tweets of the Saints

By Eric Hanna, S.J.
If some of our favourite saints had used Twitter, this is what their tweets might have looked like.

One month ago

@Augustine I was a Manichean *before* it got all mainstream and popular. Bleh, maybe I'll try something new.

@Hildegard grrr... headaches again. And not just administrative ones.

@Nicholas I'm a bishop! I do not go #ho-ho-ho. At least not that often.

@Aquinas Major Drama! Mom doesnt want me 2B friar, has locked me up in tower. Could this month get any worse?

Monday 24 December 2012

Christ of the Altar and of the Street Corner

By Artur Suski, S.J. 


Every year, we celebrate the incarnation and birth of our Lord that is Christmas. We also go a step further: we believe in Christ’s words that he will return in the glory of his Father at the end of time. Therefore, we find ourselves somewhere in between these two great events: a historical moment of the past in one, and an unfulfilled one of the future in another. But ought we really stop at these two?

Saturday 22 December 2012

The Baby is Coming

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

In the opening song of one of my favourite musicals, Wicked, there is an exchange between the midwife and a father about the forthcoming birth of the long-expected baby.

Midwife: It's coming.

Father: Now?

Midwife: The baby is coming.

Father: And how!

They soon discover that the baby is not what they expected – they are puzzled by it;

Midwife: How can it be?

Father: What does it mean?

My friends, the baby is coming. We are now but a couple of days away from the celebration of the spiritual birth of Jesus. "To us a child is born, to us a son is given" (Is 9:6). These prophetic words are fulfilled in the infancy narrative of St. Luke the evangelist. The baby born in the stable is the eternal Son of God. Jesus is the Word who was in the beginning, the Word who was with God, the Word who was God. All things made were made through him (Jn 1:1-3). When the Prophet Isaiah says: "to us a child is born", he reveals, in all its fullness, the mystery of Christmas: the eternal generation of the Word of the Father, his birth in time through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday 20 December 2012

The Reality of The Hobbit

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

The end of writing is to instruct; the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing. –Samuel Johnson

A couple of days ago, I finished re-reading The Hobbit. I suppose I was inspired to do so due to the recent release of the first part of the new film adaptation―even if my ambivalence towards Peter Jackson’s treatment of the Lord of the Rings might compel me not to see his most recent œuvre, it at least served as a reminder that I should revisit the book. But before this becomes a laundry list of complaints against the films (which perhaps I could post on another day if anyone expressed interest) let me turn to the actual novel.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

The Advent of Hope, Joy and Peace

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

Our journey through advent continues, as does our walk with one of our favourite prophets, Isaiah. He has always been a favourite of mine. His messianic predictions just ooze with comfort, peace, and seem to always speak of the great hope that is to come. He’s definitely a nice refreshing change from the gloominess of some of the other prophets, like Jeremiah.

But as we all know, Isaiah isn’t only about appealing phrases and nice imageries that make us feel the joy of the season and leave us in a complacent state of peace. No my friends, Isaiah is quite straightforward: the Holy One of Israel is coming. Not in a “this is a movie trailer with a formulaic and kitschy catch phrase announcing the onset of an epic battle” kind of way, but more of in an “if your heart is ready, you will receive the greatest gift humanity has ever been given: The Word of God, the Light of the world, among us” kind of way.

Monday 17 December 2012

There is a Great Cry in Ramah

By John D. O'Brien, S.J.

Cogniet, Scene du Massacre des Innocents

One is at a loss for words in the face of the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut a few days ago. There are no words to speak right now, because I don’t think they exist. Or if they do, I do not possess them. It is true that we all reach for explanations, theories and solutions, and the professional world of words was alight with these almost immediately. Some have merit, to be sure, but frankly, I can’t debate these right now. For now there should be only grief. Rachel is weeping for her children; and she refuses to be consoled, because they are no more.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Let There Be Light — or Not?

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

As we further venture into the heart of the Advent season, the question of “what do you do during Advent / pre-Christmas times” has surfaced on several occasions for me. A friend of mine has the wonderful tradition of baking goods in her family, of which I am one of the beneficiaries. At our Jesuit community in Regina, we light candles according to the weeks of Advent while singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel before supper. What about me? Do I have any Advent traditions that I have inherited from my past?

I was born and raised in Hong Kong, a place with quite a short documented history compared to many other places on Earth. The history of Christianity on this land. This is to say that Christianity – and subsequently Christmas – has never been culturally engrained into the genes of us Hong Kong folks. I think that this would serve as a useful context as I share with you my only recollection of any kind of an Advent/ pre-Christmas tradition that my family had. This tradition was to go into the eastern end of the ever-bubbling commercial district called Tsim Sha Tsui to look at the Christmas lights. In fact, this is quite a popular thing to do for folks in Hong Kong during this time.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

La Guadalupana: Witness to the Mystery of the Incarnation

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Earlier this year, I visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast we celebrate today. At that time, I was in Mexico City, participating in a conference on migration. The Basilica is located at the foot of the Tepeyac Hill where our Lady first appeared to Saint Juan Diego. There is a big sign on top of the main doors of the church: “Am I not here who am your mother?” From the very beginning of my visit, Mother Mary was inviting me to turn to her son. Mama Mary’s motherhood became very evident to me. Just as Mary gave us Jesus through God’s grace, so Jesus in turn gave Mary to the Church when he said to the beloved disciple, “Behold, your mother” (Jn 19:27).

Monday 10 December 2012

Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in a Nutshell

By Artur Suski, S.J.

It may be that some of you have previously come across Pope John Paul II’s (JPII) Wednesday general audiences on the topic of marriage and sexuality, known as the Theology of the Body (TOB). I was recently asked to give a talk to grade 12 students on this very topic, and the presentation itself went rather well. Upon hearing that the talk was about sex, students of both sexes were equally attentive.

JPII’s work is truly marvellous. He goes into such depth that often one has to re-read whole sections to perhaps grasp a part of what he means. Not many come in contact with the actual content of the TOB, especially given the fact that the book is two inches thick! As such, I would like to share with you some of the key ideas of the TOB.

Sunday 9 December 2012

Got the Reading Blues

By Eric Hanna, S.J.

I wanted to write a lengthy and edifying article for you today, my friends. Something to inspire your souls and challenge your minds. But it's the close of the semester and things are stacking up. And what better way to ease my burden … than to share it with you.

As I heaped stacks of books in their precarious places on my desk and shuffled through sheet after sheet of jumbled and hastily-written notes, I pondered all the assignments I still have to write and all the reading I still have to do. And at this time the rolling rhythm of the blues came to my mind. And the following song crossed my lips.

Won't you sing it with me? And with all the busy students who are wrapping up their semesters?

Thursday 6 December 2012

Rejoicing in Judgement

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Christ the Judge, detail, Sistine Chapel

Heaven is above all yet: there sits a Judge / That no king can corrupt. ― Katharine in Henry VIII

I have a Jesuit brother who is known for saying to members of his community, “I’m judging you right now.” It is a self-deprecating jest, with the humour coming from the contrast between the rigour associated with judgement and his otherwise pleasant demeanour. In other words, the joke relies upon our perception of judgement as a negative thing.

However, in the Bible, and especially in the Old Testament, judgement is viewed in the opposite way. An entire book is about heroes who are called “judges”: the Book of Judges tells the stories of men who were sent as champions of justice, peace and order in the Land. Judgement, in general, is eagerly awaited by the Israelites. In the Psalms we find countless instances of prayers for God to come as a judge. “Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth,” says the writer of Psalm 96. How many of us today would “rejoice” before judgement?

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Whither Productivity?

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


As part of my formation as a Jesuit, I have been teaching at the Jesuit-run Campion College at the University of Regina for the past three months or so. Extensive time spent in my office to research and prepare for my course seems to be the norm; nevertheless, there are also these rare moments when I would run into my colleagues either in the hallway or the photocopying room. More often than not, we would still be in our own respective “work modes”, with our brains going a hundred miles an hour about our courses. It is then of little surprise that our conversations would usually revolve around work: “Yeah, my day has been productive; got a lot of marking done”; or “today was a slow and unproductive day; didn't get much done.” This did not go unnoticed by me: in many ways, an equal sign has been drawn between my productivity and the quality of my day. But is this equal sign justified?

The idea of work has been highly regarded in the Catholic tradition. There is certainly a practical aspect about work. In the parts of the world where people grow what they themselves eat, work directly translates into food. In other places where one's work may not be involved with food per se, wages allow one to purchase food and other necessities. We may recall the passage from St. Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians, that “… if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” (2 Thes 3:10) Having said that, the purpose of work is not just about practicality. In his encyclical Laborem Exercens, the late Pope John Paul II comments that “… work is a fundamental dimension of man's existence on earth” (LE 4). It is part and parcel of the meaning of our lives because we are called to be good stewards of what the Lord has given to us through creation. This is what ultimately gives meaning and dignity to work. (For more reflections on the nature of work, please refer to my fellow Jesuit blogger's previous account)

Monday 3 December 2012

The Golden-Tongued Composer

By John D. O'Brien, S.J.

This week, December 5th to be precise, is the anniversary of the death of one of history’s greatest musical geniuses, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It seems that everybody loves Mozart; even his contemporaries recognized his greatness. Josef Haydn wrote that “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years”, and few would argue that this mantle may be extended for several hundred more. His compositions—more than 600 of them—have both depth and pathos, yet seem to dance with a lightness that returns us to joy. But what is more interesting is what a number of theologians have recognized in his work.

Saturday 1 December 2012

The Heroic Life of Campion

By Michael Knox, S.J.


Around the world today we celebrate the life and death of Jesuit priest St. Edmund Campion who was, in 1970, declared a saint and martyr of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Paul VI.  Born into prosperity, and having read at St. John’s College, Oxford, at the age of seventeen Campion successfully embarked on what, by all accounts, was a sensational career honouring two successive queens of England with his well-known oration, while at the same time receiving praise from both his students and powerful patrons among the English aristocracy. It is said, however, that in his heart, the then young deacon of the Church of England, was deeply drawn to the Roman Catholic faith, and for this reason left England in 1569.  After a brief time in Ireland as a private tutor, Campion embraced the Church while on pilgrimage in France, and then walked to Rome, where in 1573 he was admitted to the Society of Jesus.  After just over five years of training, Campion was ordained a priest, then took a post lecturing in rhetoric and moral philosophy at the Jesuit college in Prague.

Friday 30 November 2012

O Brother Where Art Thou?

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, my semester in the university has been one of deep learning, of truly falling in love with Vatican documents, of going into the depth of my Catholic faith, and of attempting to explore the beautiful language coming out of the Synod on the New Evangelization. It has been marked with amazing lectures, inspiring readings, incredible testimonials, watching people grow and struggle in their faith. Experiencing all of this has been part of a great period of growth and learning for me, but also of re-identifying with my dislike of academia.

I am recognizing – in a humble, genuinely profound way – that I am simply not cut out for this type of life. In a way, my academic journey has provided me with conflict, but also with resolution. The conflict was around my place in the Society of Jesus. I’m still finding out what being a Jesuit brother is all about. I’ve included the picture of Saint Brother André in this blog because he has been without a doubt a great inspiration for my vocation. I felt that he was a man who was able to liveholiness in the simplest, and most down to earth way that I wanted to emulate. Of course, since then, I’ve learned that we have our own “holy doorman” in the Society of Jesus, (I’ve already blogged about him: St Alfonso Rodriguez) but part of me is still more attached to the image of this simple, but deeply holy man from my hometown of Montreal.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

On the Camino with Santiago – Michelle Ball

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J. 

This is my interview column. Once a month, I will feature some of my personal heroes. These are men and women who are addressing some of the most important challenges of our time.


Michelle Ball is the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister and Deaconess. Her family has a bit of an identity crisis - her father is from Vancouver Island, her mother southern Ontario. She was born in the prairies and her brother in Québec, and she grew up as a teenager in the nation's capital. She is now an intern at Romero House in Toronto, a not-for-profit transitional housing for refugee claimants. Inspired by the late Archbishop Oscar Romero, the principle of Romero House is that living with people and learning together how to be good neighbours is the key to healthy communities, as well as the catalyst for inner transformation. Michelle’s desire to live and work with newly arrived refugees is borne out of her experiences studying in South Africa and India, and through her studies in international development at the University of Guelph.

Santiago Rodriguez (SR): What led you to work with refugees? How does your faith inform that work?

Sunday 25 November 2012

Christ, be our King!

By Artur Suski, S.J.

“Often, Jesus is ignored, he is mocked and he is declared a King of the past who is not for today and certainly not for tomorrow. He is relegated to a storeroom of questions and persons one dare not mention publicly in a loud voice.” – Pope Benedict XVI (Kraków, May 27, 2006)

“Let Christ the King reign in your hearts, in your families, and in your homeland and may He bless you.” – Pope Benedict XVI (Wednesday Angelus, Rome, Nov. 20, 2005)

Today, we celebrate along with the whole Church the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King. It is true that when compared to other Solemnities in the Church, the Solemnity of Christ the King is a relatively “young” celebration: it has been celebrated only since its institution by Pope Pius XI in 1925 with the Encyclical Quas Primas (QP). The Church Fathers have, however, always recognized the Kingship of Christ, as Christ has always been understood to be Prophet, Priest, and King. The importance of this Solemnity should not be overlooked: it should be everyone’s task to familiarize themselves with its significance for the Church and the world.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Inception and the Prayer

By Eric Hanna, S.J.
A friend of mine was asked to lead a discussion on the film Inception and its themes connected to Christianity and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. My friend was having difficulty because the makers of the film were clearly not trying to communicate a Christian message. He didn't want to merely shoehorn the themes into the movie, such readings end up feeling flaky and forced. However, I was happy to volunteer to take on the discussion, confident I wouldn't be shoehorning.

This is not because I think the makers were really trying to send a Christian message after all. No, I enjoy examining how artistic representation, which aims at a truth of our shared human experience, may point towards our experience of Christ, the humanity of God. To me this is a fun and creative process that takes on the challenge of being true to the intent of the artwork as much as the Christian message. Spirituality encompasses the belief that going into the inner world of one's own imagination can lead to an understanding of God and God's message. Inception was a hit film in 2010 that involves the journey into the inner world of imagination through the medium of dreams.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Disease and The Glory of God

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

It is a brave act of valour to contemn death; but, where life is more terrible than death, it is then the truest valour to dare to live. ―Browne


A few years ago now, I went to the funeral of a man who had died after having spent the last years of his life with dementia. During the sermon, the minister referred to a section from a catechism―I think it might have been the Westminster Catechism―which teaches, “Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” He described the last few years of the deceased, and then said that he had come to a point where his disease became so bad that this end was no longer being fulfilled. He was no longer able to glorify God, and so his life had to come to an end.

This sermon struck me and I have often thought of it since. The sentiment was well-meant and intended to help the family understand the death. But I think that the minister was fundamentally wrong: not because that line from the catechism is wrong, but because he thought that a person with a crippling mental disease was no longer glorifying God.

Monday 19 November 2012

We are Lost and Found Together

By John D. O’Brien, S.J.

John Cava, The Communion of Saints

Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.
— William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure 

When we feel passionate about something, it’s hard not to judge those who fall short in passion or conviction; it’s a human tendency. Even a culture that enshrines tolerance as its only absolute emits a certain moralism about its own various canons. In an age of moral relativism, the temptation for people of faith to be moralistic rises too. Yet this is not really what holiness is about. Rather, each of us must personally come to terms with our own need for mercy and forgiveness—this is an absolute non-negotiable of the Christian life.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Green Catholicism: The potholes and road blocks on the road ahead

By Brother Dan Leckman, S.J.
A few weeks ago, fellow blogger Santiago had a great entry that talked about the ecological crisis our world is facing. One of the points he made was there is a great difficulty we face as Catholics, even as human beings, to move forward on this issue. To develop this idea, he quoted Pope Benedict, “While we are willing to address our ecological situation, we do not know how.” Yes, it’s true that there are many out there who are in the darkness on how to proceed.

As Santi pointed out, “Our awareness of the complexity of the issue, and also the ambiguity of available information may deter some to become more fully involved.” However, there is an even greater number of people who “do know how” to proceed with regard to this crisis. There are many wonderful creative answers to this crisis that should inspire others into action. Despite this, many Catholics and Christians remain reluctant.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Don't Let It Rip: On the Seamless Nature of “Pro-Life”

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


In a recent op-ed  in the New York Times, Pulitzer-winning journalist Thomas Friedman wrote about the idea of “pro-life” as he understands it. The object of his article was the pro-life/pro-choice divide that has come to dominate the political front, especially before the presidential election. He was criticizing the so-called “pro-life” view of some prominent Republicans which he considered inadequate, in particular, that “pro-life” only deals with life at conception. According to his argument, one's understanding of “pro-life” ought to be more comprehensive. He supported his argument by giving a lengthy list on what he also considered a “pro-life” stance:

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Truth and the Lonely Hearts

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


I spent the last few days in Florida. Yes, I know what you are thinking: “How nice! He was enjoying the sun and the ocean. He got to visit Disneyworld or Universal Studios.” No, but I really like that idea. I visited Ave Maria University with some of my brother Jesuits to give a Hearts on Fire retreat. I arrived in Florida a couple of days after the US elections and many of my conversations there were linked to it. I have heard arguments for and against the victor. To be honest, most of the arguments were against.

I did not take sides in the arguments. Almost everyone was unequivocal about their choice for candidate. As an outsider, people knew I did not have to choose between the candidates. Yet, most of them asked for my opinion. I simply replied that I did not like either candidate. My interlocutors seemed perplexed, and they did not seem to have time for me thereafter. After getting the cold shoulder in some of these conversations, I began to feel a bit rejected and excluded. I felt somewhat ostracized and lonely. Above all, I felt lonesome and desolate.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Lest We Forget...

By Artur Suski, S.J.


Today, the majority of the world celebrates Remembrance Day – a day in which we remember those who have fought for our motherlands and the civilians who have been killed in times of war. We remember their bravery and their dedication: these were men and women who have fearlessly fought for the freedom of their homelands that were challenged by totalitarian regimes bent on destroying other countries’ cultures and faiths in order to erect their own ungodly towers of domination and devastation. This is also a day of thanksgiving, as many of us have been born into a free country thanks to the hardships of these brave souls.

I would add, however, that there are two other very important reasons why we celebrate Remembrance Day. Firstly, we remember the atrocities and evils that have happened in order not to repeat the same evils again. If we look at two of the destructive regimes of the Second World War (the Russian Soviet Communists and the German Nazis), we see that they were not always as such. True, Russia under the Tsars’ rule wasn’t the most peaceful land, nor was Prussia; but they were nowhere near to what they became later under Communist rule. They developed into a totalitarian regime over time; step-by-step they became who they were.

Saturday 10 November 2012

Levinas: Let It Be

By Eric Hanna, S.J.
I've been devoting many hours to studying and preparing for my MA Thesis in philosophy and I have chosen to write about the thinker Emmanuel Levinas, a twentieth century French thinker. Levinas has changed the way I look at life; and I wish to briefly explain why it's worth devoting so much time to reading his work.

Philosophy ought to be about discovering truth. But as Pontius Pilate asked: "what is truth?" We know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. This means that devoting ourselves to study the richness of the human experience and the truth contained within it will bring us closer to Christ, who became human out of love for us.

Much like the refrain of a Beatles song, the truth that Levinas uncovers is an insight that seems either obvious or naive when you give it only a cursory glance. This truth is: we are essentially compassionate creatures. However, Levinas' view is far from simple.

Thursday 8 November 2012

An Apology for the Word ‘Kingdom’

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Michael O'Brien, Allegory on Seeking and Striving

The court of þe kyndom of God alyue       The court of the Kingdom of God alive
Hatȝ a property in hytself beyng:          Has in itself a property, being:
Alle þat may þerinne aryue                 All that may therein arrive
Of alle þe reme is quen oþer kyng,        Of all that realm is either queen or king.
– Pearl

The word “kingdom” is familiar to English-speaking Christians. We speak of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, and pray, “Thy kingdom come.” “Kingdom” is the traditional way to translate the New Testament term βασιλεία and is consistently used in English translations of Roman Catholic liturgy. However, these days, many use the word “reign”, when possible, in order to stress the primary meaning of the Greek word as used in Sacred Scripture. The entry for βασιλεία in my New Testament lexicon is: “reign, rule; kingdom, domain”. Hence, the thinking goes, “reign” more aptly emphasises the active ruling of God, whereas “kingdom” has misleading geopolitical connotations, making us think of a territorial place rather than the sovereignty of Almighty God.

While I do not think that the use of the word “reign” should be outlawed, I much prefer “kingdom”. Here are four reasons:

Monday 5 November 2012

Watching Television from a Mountaintop

By John D. O'Brien, S.J.

My mother grew up in the last town in North America to get television. It was nestled in a remote valley in the Rocky Mountains and this quirk of geography had kept it television-free nearly two decades after the rest of the world had embraced the blue box. She recalls life in McBride: the sense of community and fellowship, sporting activities, fairs and festivals, children playing all over town in safety. It can sound rather idyllic, like it was Bedford Falls or a Norman Rockwell painting. Obviously sin was as present then as it is today. Her father was the town constable, after all, and regularly had to lock transgressors up in jail, which was located on the ground floor of their family home (the prisoner, if he was sober, sometimes got an invitation from grandma to join the family for dinner).

In the early 1970s, the town successfully petitioned the government to build special transmitters to relay television to the valley, and when researchers at the University of British Columbia got wind of it, they sent twelve faculty and students to observe. They did extensive surveys both before and then two years after the arrival of television, with control studies in nearby towns. It was a social scientist’s dream case.

Saturday 3 November 2012

We Don't Struggle Alone: The lives of two Jesuit brothers

By Br. Daniel Leckman, S.J.
This week we celebrated the life and martyrdom of an Irish Jesuit brother, Blessed Dominic Collins and the simplicity and holiness of a universally-celebrated, Spanish Jesuit brother, St Alfonso Rodriguez. Within this context, I couldn’t resist looking at their lives to see what it is about them that informs and inspires our own lives as Jesuits and the lives of so many of God's people. This exercise also gave me the opportunity to contemplate the Brother’s vocation in the twenty-first century and everything it may entail!

Let’s start with Brother Alfonso. His vocation story was one marred with a lot of suffering. He once was happily married and had three children. Then, within five years, he witnessed the death of each member of his family due to the same illness. His response to these events was one that exhibited great character. He did not blame God for his loss, nor did he become a bitter old man. Instead, he turned his grief into meditation, into prayer. He was around 40 when he entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) as a lay brother.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Stewardship and Discernment: A Human Ecology Correctly Understood

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


Over the past year, I have been part of processes of discernment and reflection about faith and ecology with two groups; one on a local level and the other one on an international level. What came out of these discernment processes suggest that we are willing to make this cause our own as we labour to join Christ in building the Kingdom of God and to live in communities that make “decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment that should mirror the creative love of God”, as Pope Benedict XVI said in his World Day of Peace Message in 2007. While we are willing to address our ecological situation, we do not know how.

This concern points to our awareness of the complexity of the issue, the ambiguity of available information, the need to educate ourselves more thoroughly on this issue, and above all, to grow in awareness of creation as a gift from God. Over-consumption is the cause of the ecological problem; we are draining the planet at a terrifying rate. We need to strive for sustainability and to become better stewards of all creation. The best way to respond to the ecological crisis is to remain faithful to our Christian vocation: we are called to live more simply, to hear the voice of God in those who are suffering and to rediscover the sacrificial aspect of love.

Monday 29 October 2012

Prometheus the Movie and Liturgy – Mystery Draws Us to God

By Artur Suski, S.J.


Humans have always been a curious species. For millennia, we have asked the most difficult questions such as “where did life come from?” We have often also hypothesized an answer – “the gods made us”, or “God made us”, or “we evolved from some sort of organic slush”. Whatever the answer may be today, it remains that we go by faith; even science goes by faith. Science has not been able to generate life from inanimate chemicals, even though scientists have the resources, the brains and the technology that billions of years of chance and natural selection did not have. Our beginning remains shrouded in mystery.

The movie Prometheus is out to explore precisely this question. The explorers of the Prometheus spaceship follow a mysterious trail: space “engineers” have visited our planet on a number of occasions and have left a map for us to find them. The explorers go on a hunch; they believe that these engineers have engineered (or created) life on earth. When they meet, what will they say to them? “Thanks guys, for engineering us. By the way, why did you do it? And where did you come from?” They are haunted by the mystery behind it all; it will not let them be. They must explore it; they must quench their thirst.

Sunday 28 October 2012

The Doctor Is In: St. Hildegard of Bingen

By Eric Hanna, S.J.
When we think of the middle ages, we think of cold, dark castles, miserable and dirty peasants, and austere holy men preaching damnation. But the middle ages were as dynamic and full of life as any period in the human story, with personal struggle, vivid imagination, intellectual curiosity, and love of beauty. And one of the shining lights of these so-called dark ages was a brilliant woman called Hildegard of Bingen, eleventh century Abbess, composer, biologist, healer, writer and spiritual advisor. And today, Hildegard is both a saint and a doctor of the church.

On October 7th, Pope Benedict XVI opened the Synod on the New Evangelization with the announcement that saints Hildegard of Bingen and John of Avila would be officially declared Doctors of the Church. This title is bestowed on writers to recognize that the whole church has “benefited greatly from their doctrine”. Hildegard's writing is an example of excellence both in nature and grace. She writes brilliantly on the basis of a keen intellect and her personal experience of many facets of human life. She was also inspired by holy visions received as part of a lifetime of devoted prayer.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Let's Get Personal

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


The Synod of Bishops, a meeting of selected Catholic bishops around the world, has been going on for almost three weeks in Rome, and it will draw to a close tomorrow. This Synod feels a bit more special, since I learned that one of my favourite professors during my studies in Toronto, Sr. Gill Goulding, CJ, was appointed a perita, or expert, at this important meeting. This does not surprise me at all, as I have come to know Sr. Gill as a competent yet humble theologian with a wealth of knowledge, but more importantly, as a person of prayer. What came as a pleasant surprise was the interview that she recently gave to the Vatican Radio.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Reading the Bible Literally … The Right Way

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Photo: Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty

So by false Learning is good Sense defac'd. – Pope

A couple of years ago when I was passing through Cincinnati, I made a visit to the nearby Creation Science Museum. It was an utterly fascinating experience. In this slick, state-of-the-art facility, one learns how God created the world six thousand years ago, making all the kinds of animals (including dinosaurs) on the sixth day. Then, one follows the exhibits chronologically through the first few chapters of Genesis. Videos, shiny displays and animatronic characters greet one along the way―including my favourite, a very life-like Methuselah, who asked each visitor, “Can you guess how old I am?”, and laughed jovially when his age was underestimated. Noah’s ark is given particular attention, from the details of its construction to how all the animals were fed en route. There is even speculation on how the door was sealed before the rain started, with a tentative conclusion that God probably did so by a direct miracle.

It is places like Creation Science Museum that we normally think of when we hear the phrase “taking the Bible literally”. However, many today would probably be surprised to learn that these contemporary, fundamentalist interpretations of Sacred Scripture are actually not literal readings of the Bible. The literal sense of scripture is something quite different, and has an ancient, venerable tradition in Christian theology.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Those Darn Dark Ages

By John D. O’Brien, S.J. 


Occasionally you can hear people referring to a period in history called “the dark ages”. Usually it is expressed as something like this: “We’re not in the dark ages anymore!”, or, “What is this, the dark ages?”, and especially this: “That would take us back to the dark ages!” It is a deliberately exaggerated epithet intended to convey the belief that we have evolved beyond something the speaker disagrees with—usually quite strongly.

The trouble is, it is intellectually lazy at best and downright malicious at worst. The implicit assumption, of course, that there was a time (before ours naturally) when things were really, really “dark”. Life was akin to that portrayed in one of those depressing medieval films, where it is raining all time, feral children wrestle with dogs in the straw, the nobles are invariably conniving and corrupt, and the Church is suppressing all learning and, well, civilization. Most scholars know this image is pure bunkum, and if you want to make any medievalist cringe, try using the phrase in his or her presence.

Monday 22 October 2012

A New Saint: Kateri, A Witness to Beauty

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


There is something exciting about celebrating the canonization of a new saint. Yesterday, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI canonized seven new saints; a Jesuit and two others with Jesuit connections were among this group. They are Saint Jacques Berthieu, a French Jesuit missionary; Saint Peter Calungsod, a lay Catholic from Cebu, Philippines who travelled with Jesuit missionaries; and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, who became the first Native American saint.

Friday 19 October 2012

Stepping into the Battle: the life of a saint

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S. J.
As part of an ongoing project I undertook to help my brother find some kind of faith in his life, I send him daily emails, with the mass daily readings, something about the saint of the day, and my reflections on the readings, the saint or both. This has been educational for both of us. He’s finding out a little more about scripture and the faith, and I’m meeting a lot of interesting saints!

Last week, we encountered one in particular that on the surface seemed like every other saint in our calendar; someone who would offer their life to the greater good. Still, his story would catch the attention of some rather big names in world history!

Tuesday 16 October 2012

A Short Reflection on Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


About a week ago, it was announced that the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to Drs. John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for their work on reprogramming mature cells into immature cells. It means that cells that have already reached their developmental destination – be they skin cells, brain cells and so on – can be changed into pluripotent stem cells that are capable of developing into all kinds of cells. It can be seen as a kind of “turning back the clock”, if you will. These cells are called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), since they first have to be prompted by certain proteins in order for their reprogramming to take place.

Sunday 14 October 2012

The Second Vatican Council After Fifty Years: Gaudium et Spes - The Church as a Sign of Hope in the World

By Artur Suski, S.J.


Gaudium et Spes is the longest of the four Apostolic Constitutions of the Second Vatican Council, as it covers a broad spectrum of topics dealing with the Church’s involvement in the world. With this constitution the Church desires to speak a word or two to all of humanity: to those things that are good in the world as well as to those that are not so good. The Church felt compelled to do so because of the sense of responsibility that she felt for all people – can a mother remain silent when her children are in peril? Or conversely, can she remain silent when the occasion calls for celebration? In both cases the truth must be spoken, for “the truth will set [us] free” (Jn 8:32).

Saturday 13 October 2012

The Second Vatican Council After Fifty Years: Sacrosanctum Concilium on the Liturgy

By John D. O’Brien, S.J.

The first issue the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) looked at, and one that arguably had the most direct effect on the lives of individual Catholics, was that of liturgy. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium authorized certain changes to the Roman Catholic Mass, and with other reforms in the years that followed, dramatically transformed its appearance: the use of the vernacular, the altar facing the people, and in 1969, an entirely new rite known as the “Novus Ordo”, today known as the Ordinary Form, introduced by Pope Paul VI. It is not the purpose of this post to analyze every change made in the last fifty years, but rather to examine Sacrosanctum Concilium itself, and attempt to summarize the intentions of the Council Fathers who wrote and passed it.

The main purpose of this constitution fit into the larger purpose of the Council itself, as its first paragraph makes plain:

Thursday 11 October 2012

The Second Vatican Council After Fifty Years: Unity of the Church in Lumen Gentium

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Lumen Gentium is the great Second Vatican Council document on the nature of the Church. It begins by describing the Church as a sacrament, that is, “a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race”. It then goes on to elaborate on the specific make-up of the Church―her hierarchy, her laity and her religious communities―as they serve and manifest this unity. In doing so, it emphasizes the “universal call to holiness” and also describes the Church’s supernatural destiny. The document closes with a meditation on the role of the Virgin Mary in salvation history and in the Church.

How ought we to read this rich, complex document, teeming as it is with doctrines, images, ideas and exhortations? I think one fruitful way is to keep in mind the theme which is introduced at its very beginning: unity. If the Church exists to unite the human race to God, then we ought to interpret her composition, in all its complexity, as it reflects and brings about this union. Consequently, any consideration of part of the document in isolation, or any overemphasis of one of its doctrines over another, will detract from this central theme. Instead, we need to keep in mind that the diversity envisioned by the document ultimately serves a unity.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

The Second Vatican Council After Fifty Years: Souls Strengthened in the Well-spring of Divine Revelation in Dei Verbum

To mark the beginning of the "Year of Faith" as well as the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council this month, the editors of Ibo are launching a series of posts that return to the key documents that were the council's fruit, a "ressourcement of the council of ressourcement" if you will. Santiago Rodriguez, S.J., opens this series with his commentary on Dei Verbum, one of the four constitutions promulgated by the council. The four constitutions were the weightiest of the sixteen conciliar documents issued over the course of the council (1962-65). This week, other Jesuit writers will contribute their commentaries as well. 

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1: 1-5)

This October, we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. This Council was called by Pope John XXIII who stated that the main reason for it was the need for aggiornamento, a word which is usually translated as an updating. The documents of this Council reviewed, revitalized and re-presented the Church's teaching in order to strengthen the Church's mission in the world today. The Church's teaching was also expanded upon and developed in significant ways, such as in relation to ecumenism and religious freedom, as well as in many other aspects of the Church's liturgy and life.

The dogmatic constitution on divine revelation, Dei Verbum – meaning “Word of God” in Latin – is one of the four foundational documents of the Second Vatican Council. Dei Verbum intends to set forth the true doctrine on divine revelation and its transmission. The purpose is for “...the whole world to hear the summons to salvation, so that through hearing, it may believe, through belief, it may hope, through hope, it may come to love” (DV§1).

Sunday 7 October 2012

How at Age 50 I entered the Society of Jesus and Never Looked Back

By Henk Van Meijel, S.J.

There is an old folk saying: If you want to make God laugh then tell God your plans for life. Each one of us has an image of ourselves which represents some aspects of our true being. Proper discernment for whatever one undertakes in life is thus important. First, one naturally has to pray and reflect, but also confide this to spiritual persons, for the simple fact that a spiritual director will see dimensions about ourselves that we cannot perceive. As a teenager in the Netherlands during the late sixties and early seventies I did feel a religious calling, but there was no one around with whom I could talk to about this. In time this calling seemingly died out. During this period, as in North America, the Church was in a great flux which caused many to leave religious life, and only a scant few to enter. I married and had three children.

Friday 5 October 2012

The road to Social Justice - Part 1

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S. J.

We are only a few weeks into the new academic term, and already, it’s one of the most exciting ones I’ve ever had. All of my classes touch upon themes that could become part of my future vocation: scripture analysis, interfaith dialogue, deepening my knowledge of the Church through Papal documents and through philosophical wrestling matches with Thomas Aquinas, exploring the reality of Catholic educators in the 21st century, etc. At the heart of this journey lies my desire to learn more about the Church’s social justice doctrine, and to understand how the wisdom of this doctrine can come to life in our Catholic communities. An integral part of this firm program of perpetual readings is learning about many outstanding people who live and do justice better than any encyclical or other documents can articulate.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Dostoevsky’s Prophetic Voice

By Artur Suski, S.J. 


At one point in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot, Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin declares in a heated discussion: "Beauty will save the world!" Judging from Dostoevsky’s own personal letters and other writings, it is no secret that Prince Myshkin represents all the qualities Dostoevsky deemed the best aspects of a human being. Therefore, one may safely assume that this short yet powerful statement in The Idiot is truly of Dostoevsky himself. After all, as one reads his writings, one is able to appreciate the beauty with which he wrote. Nevertheless, this statement is somewhat ambiguous and unclear. What does Dostoevsky really mean by this? The Russian author Vladimir Soloviev states that Dostoevsky understood beauty to be inseparable from the other two transcendentals of goodness and truth. In fact, Soloviev says it so well that I dare not paraphrase it:

Monday 1 October 2012

The Wonderful World of Adrienne

By John D. O’Brien, S.J.

With the release of the long-awaited translation of Adrienne von Speyr’s magnificent and mystical commentary Mark: Meditations on the Gospel of Mark this fall, one feels the urge to write about the extraordinary woman known to her readers and followers simply as “Adrienne”. The great fruitfulness of her astonishing life and work is often overlooked because of the great modesty and even hiddenness of her charism. But even this aspect of her “gestalt”, or spiritual figure, is a part of her legacy, a contribution which has yet to penetrate deeply into the greater theological discourse of the Church.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Talking to Normals

By Eric Hanna, S. J.
A while ago, I found myself jokingly using a nickname for those people who were not familiar with the Catholic faith: 'normals'. This was a funny way for me to remark on the fact that we as Catholics, and Jesuits in particular, can use a lot of jargon that is unfamiliar to the rest of contemporary society. It was a reminder to myself not to use arcane terminology when simpler words sufficed. However, it got me to thinking.

We believers love to be counter-cultural. If the world moves one way, many of us are inclined to move the other. If you are a believer, I ask you the following question: do you see yourself as normal and the rest of the non-believing or different-believing world as abnormal? Or is it the other way: is the world normal and we ourselves the ones who are different?

Saturday 29 September 2012

Martyrdom: Testifying to Love

This homily was preached at the Martyr's Shrine in Midland by Fr. Peter Bisson, Provincial of the Jesuits in English Canada, on Saturday, September 22, 2012, for the Feast of the Canadian Martyrs. The actual feast was celebrated this past Wednesday.

Thee hundred and sixty three years ago, here in this place, Christ did a new thing in North America. Just as His own identity was fully revealed in His death and resurrection, so too was His life made manifest here in the lives and deaths of Sts. Jean de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues, Gabriel Lalement, Noel Chabanel, Antoine Daniel, Rene Goupil, Jean de LaLande, as well as in the lives and commitments of their Huron and French companions. True life and true human flourishing - which is to be a friend of God's - is to be found only through the death that is to give yourself away in love.

This is the message that has attracted you here!