Wednesday 29 February 2012

The Sounds of Silence

By John O'Brien, S.J.

No, this article has nothing to do with Simon and Garfunkel. But I can’t help recalling that memorable line from Alanis Morissette’s rather edgy 1995 song “What I Really Want.” The singer asks tauntingly: Why are you so petrified of silence. Here can you handle this?” – and follows with a strange few seconds of complete … nothing. When she picks up again she sings, Did you think about your bills, your ex, your deadlines/Or when you think you’re gonna die/Or did you long for the next distraction?”

Ah yes, silence. The state we all long for but sometimes dread. The snatches or expanses of desert, where we can hear our hearts thump and our minds tick. Where we suddenly face the mystery of our own “being”, our contingency and mortality, and begin to ask the important questions we normally avoid in our regular, busy and noisy life.

Lent is, of course, a forty-day desert. But like the place where Christ went to pray and be tested, it is meant to be a place of growth. The only death in this desert is the death of selfish and sinful habits
which we can identify properly only if we have had sufficient space for reflection. There is no religion or spiritual path on this earth that does not involve some stage of purgation, and Lent is one of ours. But what of silence?

Monday 27 February 2012

The Quest for the Real: Learning from the Humanity of Jesus

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

What is your quest?”

In the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the knights of the Round Table are asked of this question before they are allowed to cross the Bridge of Death, in order to continue their quest for the Holy Grail. Then God appears to Arthur and his knights as he avoids entering Camelot; they are subsequently given the sacred task to seek the Holy Grail. As God tells Arthur, “that is your purpose in life.”

Just like Arthur, we are on a quest. We are in pursuit of meaning and purpose. Our lives are a quest for the Real. The Real is that which is authentic and True. We constantly desire to have an experience of truth, goodness, beauty and love. Our sacred task is to pursue and enjoy the Real.

It is Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life that we desire. He is the Real. Our sacred task is to seek Him, draw closer to Him, love Him and serve Him. The quest of our lives is the deepening of our bond with Christ. As we encounter Him in our daily lives, we bring to Him the questions in our hearts and in our minds: ‘Why am I here?’, ‘What is the purpose of my life?’, ‘What does it mean to be human?’. The answer of these questions are all found in Jesus the Christ. We find the meaning of our humanity in His humanity.

Saturday 25 February 2012

This Song...Praises the Lord

By Eric Hanna, S.J.

We all think it from time to time: this song sucks. Liturgical music has an important function. It unites the people together in the act of creating music. The congregation takes up an active role in the liturgy when we sing together.

But there's no pleasing everyone. Once in awhile, I think we all discover a hymn that grates on our nerves, or lyrics we find trite. But, like the comic illustrates, you can never know what your fellow parishioners are thinking.

Thursday 23 February 2012

Becoming a Man for Others

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

“What’s it like being a religious in the 21st century?” Not many people ever ask me that question so directly, but you can sort of tell that they want to. Many people really don’t get it.

Some don’t get why someone would ‘throw their life (or their freedom) away’ in order to live a celibate life dedicated to Christ poor and to obedience. Others may not understand the concept of ‘a vocation’: giving every ounce of your being to those in need, putting others before yourself, and making the community central to your entire life. Finally, there are those who think they know the Catholic Church a little better, and they may be concerned, and wonder why anyone would want to commit all of their energies to an institution that they consider as irrelevant. They may see the Church as a giant sinking ship of sorts, that once had tremendous glory and importance in the world, but is slowly disappearing into oblivion and within 50 years or so, will have vanished from most major cities in the West. So, obviously to those people, the concept of a life given to the Christ and His bride (The Church) sounds likes a wasted life.

There are a few things that I would love to convey to people when attempting to deal with these types of questions: I wish I could make them understand how important Jesus is to all of humanity; how, despite her struggles, shortcomings and imperfections, the Church continues to do far more great works throughout the entire world than most other organizations out there; how society as a whole would be so much better off if people could learn to balance their secular way of seeing life and creation  with a more God centered view of the world. However, I either don’t have all the gifts I need to communicate this, or those pressing me for answers are not willing to listen (thus becoming “People who hear without listening”. Thank you Paul Simon!). At such moments, it would be easy for me to lose all hope and give up on them, but instead, I chose to witness about my life as a Jesuit brother.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Livestrong the Lenten Way

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

“Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” (Genesis 3:19)

These words are said by the priest when we receive the ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday. Remember it we shall, as that grey spot is rather distinctive in a culture that heaps praises upon cleanly-kept foreheads. That being said, it would be tragic if we only remember it for that one day, and I would argue that this is unfortunately the case.

We live in a do-er society: we are more at ease when talking about what we can control and achieve than our limitations and mortality. I know that I shall return to dust one day, but let's not talk about it for now as I need to dance through life, defy gravity and live life to the fullest. Carpe Diem. Fair enough; but oh captain my captain, does seizing the day mean that we only seize the good and the possible while ignoring our limitations? I politely disagree with a certain automobile commercial that encourages its viewers to “grab life by the horns”. Should we not seize our limitations in some way as well? This becomes particularly apparent when we face life-and-death situations. We can only "Livestrong" for so long; mother nature eventually catches up and wins the race. Every time.

Saturday 18 February 2012

MusLing on Linsanity

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

Jeremy Lin is a sign of contradiction.

This is not because he is a professional basketball player with an Asian heritage, a seeming oxymoron. (I should know: I am Chinese, I play basketball and I cannot jump.) He can jump and dunk over both you and me. He has enough game to be the first player in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA) to average at least 20 points and 7 assists in his first five games as a starter.

This is not because of his fairytale storyline, either. Undrafted and subsequently cut by two NBA teams, he somehow catapulted into stardom on a New York-based sports team through a series of circumstantial events.

He is a sign of contradiction because he spectacularly defies the stereotype of professional sports athletes.

He seems to be unfazed by the sudden Linsanity craze; instead, he would humbly defer to his teammates and the collective team effort after each win. This is after he out-duelled one of the best point guards alive in Deron Williams, outscored the future Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant in Madison Square Garden, and won a game on the road by hitting a last-second 3 pointer. In short, he has probably won a spelling-bee contest before: he knows full well that there is no “I” in “team”.

Nor does he take his opportunities for granted. Many times he has spoken of his gratitude towards all that has been given to him. This is not surprising, as he is known to be a devout Christian. He doesn't need to do “the Tebow” to proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Saviour, nor does he need to wear a Cross decked out with precious stones. One knows that Linsanity is a Christian by who he is. Indeed, there is something good and wholesome about this young man; yet such is considered a sign of contradiction nowadays.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Chastity a la Curry

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

During a dinner conversation last night, I was telling some of my Jesuit brothers about an issue of Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits that I am reading; an issue titled Living Chastity: psychosexual well-being in Jesuit life, and written by Fr. Gerdenio Sonny Manuel, SJ. In the aftermath of the sex abuse crisis in the Church, Fr. Manuel writes that more than ever it is important for us to talk about the positive aspects – psychological, social and spiritual – of living chaste and celibate. He proposes five practices of religious life that promote psychosexual health: 1) living close to God and our deepest desires; 2) developing broad and deep interpersonal relationships and communities of support; 3) asking for love, nurturing others, and negotiating separation; 4) coping with stress and recognizing destructive patterns of behaviour; and 5) celebrating the holy in the company of Jesus.