Thursday 31 May 2012

Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord: A Venezuelan Pentecost Vigil

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

This past Sunday, the Church celebrated the feast of the Pentecost. This is not usually a big celebration for me. It may inspire some prayers to the Holy Spirit, but it definitely not pulling off an all-nighter to spend some time with the Lord! Things are a little different in Venezuela. Across the city of Caracas, all night vigils were being held for young people to celebrate this feast; one that helps us see how the Spirit can transform a heart into a missionary heart, one more in union and harmony with the heart of Christ.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Impressions from Venezuela

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Two weeks ago, I arrived, together with two companions from my community in Toronto ― Daniel and Eric ― in Caracas, Venezuela. We are here to study Spanish and to be immersed in a different culture. There is an informal twinning between the Jesuits of Venezuela and English Canada by which we send each other men for language studies. Fittingly, we are staying in the Philosophate, i.e., the house of our Venezuelan counterparts who are studying philosophy. Apart from the superior and a theologian, there are about ten young Jesuits scholastics here. This provides for a lively environment and plenty of opportunity to converse in the local language. Meanwhile, our hosts have hired a tutor for formal language lessons; we are at it for a total of four to six hours a day during the week, not including homework, making for a truly intensive experience.

I have had the privilege of spending time in several different countries over my life and in recent years got into the habit of writing down my impressions and experiences to share with others. I kept a daily, online journal during my visits to the Atacama Desert of Chile, and last year, when I was in Nairobi, sent around a bi-weekly newsletter by electronic mail. This time around, I have decided to use the new-fangled ‘blog’ (viz., ‘web-log’) technology. I plan to make posts here at Ibo roughly fortnightly.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Venezuela: A Prose Poem

By Eric Hanna, S.J.

I have drunk deeply from the cup of life!
Outside my windows, people sing.
At dinner, tiny Sister Wilma cackled like a wicked witch at the jests of young scholastics.

The white walls of the Casa Praetoria were sprayed with neat, red letters spelling "con los trabajados y Chavez!"

The woman who worked at Fe y Alegria explained that there were three hundred thousand students being educated for free or for voluntary donations.

The one who worked at JRS said that they have to bend over backwards with politeness to a mistrusting government in order to change the word 'refugee' to 'person' in the minds of policy makers.

Saturday 26 May 2012

Heart of the World

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

As the month of May draws near to its end, the prospect of the great feast-days of June is on the horizon. Among them is the great Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that I will anticipate here. It is a devotion Jesuits have always promoted, and continues to be promoted through the work of the Messenger of the Sacred Heart magazine and the Hearts on Fire retreats.

Pope Benedict has invited the faithful to renew their devotion to the Sacred Heart and with good reason: as a symbol – and object of meditation – it contains many dimensions of the mystery of God. Let’s reflect on a few of those.

Friday 25 May 2012

To Dream the Impossible Dream: Being Real

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Quixote House
I have been in Winnipeg, Manitoba throughout the past week, meeting with the Jesuit community and giving a couple of presentations on our Christian commitment in relation to the ecological crisis. I am staying at Quixote House, a community comprised of Jesuits and recent parolees from Stony Mountain Penitentiary.

One of the things I appreciate about staying in this house is that all of the residents are very aware of their own brokenness. Within hours of my arrival, it became evident that I would not be able to show myself as superior to them. The men of this house are constantly attending AA, NA and Next Steps meetings (some have even attempted to attend 90 meetings in 90 days). This reminded me of two principles that have been incredibly important in my life.

Thursday 24 May 2012

What Makes a Jesuit Heart Beat? The Little Happiness: Principle and Foundation

By Fr. Peter Bisson, S.J.

Fr. Bisson, the Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in English Canada, gave this speech on Saturday, May 12th, 2012, for the closing ceremony of the 400th Anniversary of the Jesuits in Canada. This text and the song were translated from the French originals by Santiago Rodriguez, S.J. 

The vision of God and of the world that inspires the Society of Jesus, and those who share this vision, is expressed in part by these lines from Félix Leclerc:

It's a little joy
That I had gathered
It was all in tears
On the edge of a ditch
When it saw me passing by
It began to shout out
"Sir, pick me up
And bring me to your place

My brothers have forgotten me, I’m fallen, I'm sick
If you don't pick me up I'll die; what a shame!
I'll make myself small, tender and obedient, I promise
Sir, I'm begging you, free me of my torture
Sur, I'm begging you, free me of my torture.”

Tuesday 22 May 2012

You Are a Mist

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

… Wel bið þam þe him are seceð,
Frofre to fæder on heofonum,     þær us eal seo fæstnung stondeð.
[… Well is it for him who seeks mercy,
Comfort, from our Father in heaven,     where, for us, all steadfastness standeth.]

(The Wanderer)

I recently left for Venezuela for a summer of Spanish language studies with two other men from my community. When I was saying goodbye to some of my companions who are remaining in Canada, we spoke of when we would next see each other. We often do this in our culture when we make our goodbyes. ‘I’ll see you at such-and-such a place,’ we say with confidence and a firm handshake. When we bid farewell, we tend to anticipate our next encounter.

Sunday 20 May 2012

One Day in Toronto

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

Occasionally you have a day in which it seems the Lord is being extra abundant in his grace. This was one such day. Not necessarily a typical day in the life of a Jesuit scholastic, but nonetheless, one that I and several of my confreres enjoyed, and since it gives glory to God, allow me to share a bit about it.

The day began with the ordination of one of our colleagues, and it was one of the most beautiful S.J. ordinations I’ve attended. The choir came from a parish in the city where the ordinandus had been working as a deacon. They sang sacred music, including some polyphonic hymns that gave the Mass that holy feel in which it seemed heaven and earth were meeting – as indeed they were. When we sang the Veni Creator, requesting the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him in our midst, the faith of the people was particularly eloquent. Since the man of the hour was of Irish provenance, the choir added the simultaneously plaintive and uplifting sound of violin and uilleann pipes – rarely heard in our country – giving a sense of the depth and drama of human vocation in God’s great plan. An ordination, like a wedding, is a privileged foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Summer Reading Suggestions

By Eric Hanna, S.J.

A friend of mine recently asked me if I could recommend some summer reading for her. I'm a big fiction and fantasy fan so I came up with five novels that made a big impression on me when I read them. I include them here for your perusal, along with brief summaries to get you interested. Why not try something new?

Diamond Age: A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer
By Neil Stephenson
Description: A future in which the technology exists to manufacture matter at the molecular level, where societies intentionally engineer themselves according to models of value, and in which a little girl in the poor district learns to become an intrepid heroine through accidentally discovering an interactive program designed to teach Victorian culture.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Finding God in Rock - Part 2

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S. J.

I have begun a Spanish immersion program in Venezuela, and I am sure there will be plenty of material to share about it in the future. For now, I’d like to finish my reflections on the wonderful Alternative rock band from Montreal, Arcade Fire.When their third album, ‘The Suburb’ came out, I was a little slow to get into it. There was even more buzz around this album than the other two.

However, it was a very different sounding album, and I needed a few days to adapt. But once I did, I realized why heads were being turned: it was a phenomenal album.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

A Sacred Place – The Canadian Martyrs’ Shrine

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Just recently I had the opportunity to go to the Canadian Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario for a few days of prayer and rest. There’s nothing like getting away from the busy and loud city of Toronto; the calm and silence of the Shrine and its park are medicine for the soul.

The Shrine is a place of great significance for the Church in Canada, as the seeds of the faith were sown by the lives of these six French Jesuit martyrs and their two lay collaborators. Though the French explorers often had exploitation and gain on their minds when interacting with the Native population, it was not so with the Jesuits and their lay collaborators. These men gave their lives to preaching the Gospel to those willing to hear it.

The Martyrs burned with a great desire to share with their Native brothers and sisters the greatest treasure that they themselves possessed: Jesus Christ, the God-Man, the one who came to give us life. This was their goal. How could they keep this treasure to themselves? Christ himself told his disciples to bring his words to all nations of the world. The Society of Jesus, that band of companions dedicated to igniting the hearts of men and women with the love of Christ, generously and joyfully embraced the mission given to the Jesuits by King Henry IV of France to come to Canada and evangelize those who have not yet encountered Jesus.

Saturday 12 May 2012

Repeating Quebec City (and Other Things)

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

I recently visited Quebec City with some fellow brother Jesuits to attend the closing events of our 400th anniversary celebration. This city is not unfamiliar to me; it was where I spent two months to learn French before I joined the Jesuits in 2008. I have fond memories of those days: attending daily mass at the cathedral; going through the Old Quebec quarter en route to school; soaking in the night view from the old ramparts; and enjoying the local cuisines. Having said that, my mentality going in was not that of a tourist’s: been there, done that. I was here for the anniversary celebration.

That was the reason why I was a bit ambivalent when my brother Jesuits decided to take a walk in the Old Quebec quarter, but I went anyway to be a good sport. And here I was, walking the same path, and visiting the same places, in 2012. The cathedral was closed when we arrived late in the evening; the streets in the Old Quebec quarter was surprisingly quiet for a Friday night; the night view from the old ramparts remained formidable; and most of the restaurants were closed. The landmarks and shops have not changed, yet it felt so different.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Returning with Nail Marks

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

The idea of returning is an interesting one. Off the top of my head, I can think of the Terminator's utterance of “I'll be baack” with an Austrian accent; or The Return of the King on Middle-Earth. There are themes of returning as well in today's readings of the mass. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul returns to Lystia to give support to the local church, and this return is made all the more dramatic because the last time Paul was there, he was stoned and people took him for dead. He returns to the place where he was persecuted, where he almost lost his life. In the Gospel of today, it is the scene of the Last Supper. Jesus knows that his hour has come; he must leave his disciples whom he now calls friends. But Jesus tells them to not be troubled; he will return.

Returning implies that one has been at a place, leaves it, and goes back to the same place again. There is a period of departure in the middle. What happens in this middle frame? Well, Jesus died and rose again. Paul in a sense also “rose from the dead” and went to preach in other towns. In both cases, there has been a drastic change; a transformation of some sort. This change will not go unnoticed: when Paul returns to Lystia, those who belong to the local church there see the scars from the stoning, yet Paul gives them words of encouragement and assurance with a spark in his eyes.

Sunday 6 May 2012

Our God is A God of Second Chances

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

I am not ashamed to say that I am a fan of Veggie Tales. I have seen some of the episodes along with the two films, and their songs are often in my head. Since one of my former roommates introduced me to these anthropomorphic vegetables, I had used their songs to prepare many Sunday School presentations for children. In one of the Veggie Tales films, Jonah: A Veggie Tale Movie, the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything tell the story of Jonah, the prophet who panics and tries to flee from the Lord when he is given the mission to go to Nineveh. We know how the story goes: a guilt-stricken but wearied Jonah leaves on a ship and when the it is beset with a great storm, the passengers conclude that God is angry at Jonah and they toss him into the sea.

Once at sea, he is swallowed by a whale, and inside its belly he meets God's messengers. They inform him through song that God is a god of mercy and love – and if Jonah repents, God will surely give him a second chance. The choir repeatedly tells him:
Praise the Lord! 

He's the God of second chances!
You'll be floored how His love your life enhances! 
You can be restored from your darkest circumstances! 

Our God is a God of second chances!

Friday 4 May 2012

Finding God in Rock - Part 1

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

I have just came back from a couple of spiritually uplifting days in Wikwemikong, an unceded native reserve in Ontario, and at the Jesuit-run Anishinabe Spiritual Centre in Espanola. There were many spiritual fruits from those days, but I am not ready to blog about them yet. When thinking about preparing this entry, I thought of Arcade Fire. This is a band that’s been on many people’s minds since their first album Funeral came out in 2005.

I eventually began listening to that album in 2006. At first, I was not impressed: the vocals are unorthodox and not that pleasant, and the music is a little repetitive and simplistic at times. Oddly enough, it was around that time that I also began to appreciate U2. I had heard them before, but had not carefully listened to their music before. There is no doubt that Bono and his boys do have a bit of an influence on the sound of Arcade Fire. So what I was beginning to like about U2, I also liked about Arcade Fire: a simple, but effective base line. I took pleasure in the exquisite use of power chords – those usually turn me off – but both bands seem to be able to use them rather effectively.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

A Few Good Reads

By the blog editors

We are pleased to notify you of two articles written by our fellow blogger Jesuits – Adam Hincks and Gregory Kennedy, respectively – both of which were featured as cover stories in recent issues of the America magazine. They are as follows:

Our special thanks to the editors of America magazine for generously making Adam's article accessible to the public for free. Note that it will remain so temporarily. Read it while you can!

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Why Work Should be Awesome

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

Saint Joseph is one of only four saints I can think of (not including the Blessed Mother), who has more than one feast on the Roman calendar – the other saints being Peter, Paul, and John the Baptist. St. Joseph’s great solemnity, of course, is March 19th, and its technical title is “St. Joseph, Husband of Mary”; but today we honour him as “St. Joseph the Worker”, so I’d like to propose a little reflection on the purpose and value of work.

Work often has a bad name in our society. It always surprises me how many people consider their jobs, their livelihood, as drudgery, folks who willingly live and work only for that mythical golden reprieve called “the weekend.” I can understand the need for rest. I can also understand working crummy jobs as a means to other ends, like a better job or a university education. But how tragic it is when people live their whole lives working “only for the money”, with little sense of higher purpose, craft or calling.