Friday 29 June 2012

For Greater Glory: Becoming More Like Christ

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Recently, I watched the film For Greater Glory starring Andy Garcia, which tells the story of the Mexican civil war over religion in the 1920s. In short, after the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the promulgation of the Mexican Constitution of 1917, a secular government emerged from Mexico City. The government felt that established religion was getting in the way of Mexico's progress and decided to outlaw public religious services, proclaiming that all education systems in Mexico should be free from any religious orientation. In addition, the government imposed further restrictions on the Church as time progressed.

The film itself focuses on the restrictions put forth by the government, and the subsequent responses by the Catholic League in Mexico. At first the League attempted to engage citizens in petitioning the government to change its rules and to ease the restrictions. I find that the film is somewhat ambiguous about the tension between the non-violent and the more militant contingents of the Catholic League. More can be said about the responses of Catholics in general. Furthermore, in light of the recent events pertaining to religious liberty in Ontario, Canada and the United States, such an issue could have been addressed in more depth.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Transforming the World by Learning to Dialogue

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S. J.

While my Venezuelan adventures continue, I figured I would take a break from writing about them, and focus instead on one of the issues on my mind: The polarization in the Catholic Church between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’. We are called to be one Church, united in our love for Christ and our desire to build God’s kingdom on earth. But all it takes is one quick visit to some religious websites to see the animosity between people of one camp towards people of another. I recently posted the following comment on one such website, expressing my desire for a Church in the future that was more balanced:

Tuesday 26 June 2012

The Discernment of Spirits – A Tool for Everyone

By Artur Suski, S.J. 

As we are encouraged to share with others what we find to be a treasure for ourselves, I would like to share with you something that I find to be a great treasure that I have received from St. Ignatius: the rules for the discernment of spirits. In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius gives the retreatant two sets of rules for the discernment of spirits. I am here referring to the first set of rules for the first week of the Spiritual Exercises (nos. 313–327).

Okay. So we hear that St. Ignatius’ contribution to the understanding of the discernment of spirits is a big deal, but what is it exactly? Firstly, it is important to understand what St. Ignatius means by discernment. The word discernment comes from the Latin discernere, which means literally ‘to distinguish, to separate’. But what are we discerning, what are we distinguishing and separating? As the title of the rules tells us, we are discerning the different spirits that are at work within us.

Sunday 24 June 2012

The Real Art of Listening

By Eric Hanna, S. J.

It’s a cliché that people don’t listen. But when an individual says, “People don’t listen!”, s/he is almost invariably complaining that people don’t listen to me.

I’ve had a lot of teachers, some good and some bad. Many have taught very reasonably what they call “listening skills”. Which amounted basically to: shut up, pay attention, and write stuff down. Mildly helpful. But almost useless if the person practising the tips is not naturally good at listening or if the speaker is a poor communicator.

Let us consider this issue from the perspective of a touching story. Another cliché, really.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

How Much Does it Cost?

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

June has been quite an interesting month for China. In addition to the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre on June 4th, there was also the death of the Chinese dissident, Li Wangyang, which the local government officials hastily labelled a “suicide”. The case of Li, however, leaves behind so many suspicious traces that media outlets in Hong Kong have cheekily reported that Li did not commit suicide, but rather, he was “suicided”. Although China's economical boom in recent years have allowed her to flex her muscles on the international scene and to have a similar calling power as the United States, social critics are now asking the question: at what cost is this economic prosperity is taking place, especially highlighted by the case of Li.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

God's Light in the Urban Jungle

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

I’ve wrestled about how to express the way I feel about Caracas without being unfair to it and its beautiful people. Most cities have a certain charm to them, a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that makes me want to spend more time discovering them and gradually makes me fall in love with them wholeheartedly. With places like Montreal, New York and Boston, it just was natural. They ooze with charm that draw me back in every time. With Caracas, I see some expressions of that charm, but I am just overwhelmed by this place.

Friday 15 June 2012

The Sacred Heart: God's Boundless and Passionate Love for Us

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I have always had a devotion to the Sacred Heart, the heart of the shepherd who loves us deeply. The devotion to the Sacred Heart is not one devotion among many, but the devotion from which all devotions ought to flow. The Sacred Heart is Christ himself, divine and incarnate. In the words of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, the devotion to the Heart of Jesus is as old as Christianity itself.

The pierced Heart of the Crucified speaks a word of compassion to all of humanity. That word was carved out in the flesh of Jesus by the lance of the Roman soldier. God's word of compassion as expressed in the Sacred Heart is an invitation for every Christian to feel and to think like Jesus. The Heart of Jesus thirsts for souls to open up to Him. This is highlighted by the words of St. Francis of Sales, which were later appropriated in a new way by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman: cor ad cor loquitur – heart speaks to heart. The pierced Heart of Jesus desires to speak to our hearts that we might enter into a deeper communion with Him. Jesus offers His Heart to us, and He desires that we offer our hearts to Him.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Impressions from Venezuela II

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

It seems like longer than two weeks since I posted my first Impressions from Venezuela, and indeed the time has been full. But there has been one theme which has predominated, at least in my mind: astronomy.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Being Salty and Bright

By Artur Suski, S.J.

“You are the salt of the Earth…you are the light of the world.” (Matt 5:13–14)

Before his Ascension, the Lord Jesus gave his disciples a difficult task: go to all nations and make of them his disciples. This is undoubtedly a daunting task, but the disciples did not give in to their fears. They received the power of the Holy Spirit and went forth into the unknown, preaching Christ crucified to all who would hear them. Their holy lives were lights in a dark world; their words added flavour to an insipid Hellenistic culture. They brought people to the faith through their lives and their preaching.

Jesus’ commission equally applies to us today, as we find ourselves in a post-Christian society. Many have encountered Christianity, and have found it unappealing and stale. But how have they encountered Christianity? Perhaps in Catholic schools; through their Christian friends; in the media, etc. Often times the Christianity that they have come into contact with is an incomplete and distorted one. They have often found Christians who are unfaithful to their faith; what they see is not appealing to them.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Laundering Patience

By Eric Hanna, S.J.

Buildings in most equatorial countries have a greater degree of integration between inside and out than do buildings in colder climes. There's no need to keep out the snow or the cold, so large indoor gardens, living rooms half in- and half out-side are standard. This means that individual rooms of the house need a higher level of security because they are completely accessible from outside. So heavy bars, multiple locks, and small windows are also common.

Friday 8 June 2012

Sexual Healing

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

As the summer months roll around, a daily issue returns to the fore: what to do about the visual blitz of sensual imagery that entice to unwanted thoughts and actions. I’m going to be frank because it is often underserved, yet remains a concrete challenge for many – especially for us men.

We are nearly accustomed to the advertisements and clothing fashions designed to catch the eye and titillate the imagination. It has become so normative – though profoundly abnormal in an ultimate sense – that we take it for granted. Much has been said on why our culture is so obsessed with sex. Some say that when God's role is diminished, sex becomes the alternate mysticism, the closest thing to transcendence.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Spiritual Exercises for the Spiritual Athlete

By Artur Suski, S.J.

St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians compares the spiritual life and its care to that of the body:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Cor 9:24-27).

For an athlete to excel in his sport, he must put in countless hours of practice. Furthermore, perfecting techniques requires good practice, a practice that is properly supervised by someone who knows something about the sport; in other words, a coach. To achieve perfection in technique, an athlete needs to put in much effort, and with this also comes the temptation to not exercise. St. Paul keenly notices this tendency, and so he writes that self-discipline is the most important virtue – or attitude – in sports: the athlete knows his goal and he knows that he has to make sacrifices in order to reach it. He has to watch his diet; he has to go run even when he doesn’t feel like it; he cannot spend too much time with his friends because he must practice, etc. There are many athletes out there and they all want to win the race, and you must have something that the others do not have. Otherwise, why should you be the winner and not any of them?

Monday 4 June 2012

Remembering Tiananmen

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

June 4 is the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. This event is also known as liu si, or “six-four” (6/4) in Chinese, referring to its date. Many university students – while protesting for more democracy – were killed by the military for their efforts. Having spent the majority of my childhood in Hong Kong, I was familiar with, and had always participated in the protests and demonstrations in memory of this tragedy. I was 7 years old when 6/4 happened. One can rightfully ask, “Well, how much can a wee 7-year-old boy understand about democracy and politics?” Not much, in all honesty. Nevertheless, I was old enough to understand that something was seriously twisted and wrong, and that I was protesting for a worthy cause.

Friday 1 June 2012

God Works in Us Through Art: a Picasso Exhibit

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

This week I had the opportunity to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to see the Picasso Exhibit. It showcased a large collection on loan from the Museé Picasso in Paris. My friend Ann and I arrived early to enjoy the exhibit without the distraction of large throngs of people. Apparently, others also took the same early-bird strategy and the rooms began to fill up within 20 minutes of our visit.

Having these people around me made a great difference. I learned that visiting an art gallery is both a personal and a communal experience. What dumbfounded me the most was the stripe and flavour of the crowd, who were mostly elementary school children. There were at least three different schools visiting the exhibit. The blurry picture shows one of these groups before a Picasso painting, as the tour guide asked them for their opinions.