Monday 30 July 2012

Impressions from Venezuela – Postlude

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

On Saturday, we returned to Canada, after seventy-seven days in Venezuela. We even got diplomas from the Instituto Universitario Jesús Obrero for our language study.

In lieu of describing our final days in the country, I thought I might compile some of my experiences of studying a foreign language in the form of advice: not advice on how to study another language, but rather advice if you find yourself on the other end, as a host to a foreign student. We were very hospitably received in Venezuela by the Society―and the society―and so much of this comes out of positive experience. So, although I’ve put these tips more in the form of negative prohibitions, much of the content was gleaned from what my Venezuelan friends were doing right, and then inferring the opposite. But, of course, some wisdom comes from the more frequent of the frustrations of being a child in a new language.

Sunday 29 July 2012

The Spirit of Faith and Joy

By Eric Hanna, S. J.

I left Maracaibo, near Venezuela's northern coast, early in the morning and set out with my hosts in the direction of the Colombian border. We were heading for an area near the Rio Limon, home to a branch of Venezuela's indigenous people: the Wayuu. My trip's destination was a primary school run by a Jesuit education organization called Fe y Alegría (faith and joy).

The journey took about an hour and a half. The landscape slowly transitioned from dense forests into flat, white plains of sandy soil. We rolled past copses of hardy, dry trees and herds of skinny cows. After crossing the bridge over the wide, rolling river we quickly arrived at the school. It is a school for the children of the Wayuu community, composed of a few hundred students from grades one to six.

Friday 27 July 2012

Anne Marie

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S. J .

Four years ago, someone very dear to me passed away. The day she died, as I was heading off to work, rollerblades in tow, Carla, my brother’s girlfriend, saw me heading out. “Where are you going?”, she asked a bit confused. “To work,” I replied sheepishly. “Are you sure that’s such a good idea today? I mean …”, she added. “I have to. I can’t just stay put. I just … I gotta go … see you later,” I said as I took my leave.

I don’t remember the whole rollerblade ride to work. I remember that on my way to work there were many churches and that as I passed each one I would cross myself or say a prayer for those who needed it. I remember listening to music, and enjoying it so much more than usual that day. I think I felt like I was sharing it with my ill, bed-ridden sister a lot more that day. Maybe her spirit was already with me.

When I got to work, I sat down and was ready for whatever God would grant me that day. Was it going to be a full day of work? I knew it probably wasn’t. Still, I wanted it to be. I wanted life to continue. I wanted … a break. My boss knew this was going to be a hard day for me. She and I stepped out for a few minutes. We sat together. She shared with me some of her own experiences: “It’s never easy. You may even feel anger today. Don’t reject those feelings. Don’t be afraid to be emotional.” Suddenly, the phone rang. I knew it was going to be for me. It was only 9 am.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Fourth Reflection on Humanae Vitae: as Organic Food

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Much has already been written about HV in the previous three posts by my Jesuit confreres, and I have decided to take a different perspective in approaching HV – that of using allegory – to avoid repeating the same ideas in the same ways. In particular, I have chosen to illustrate some important truths and observations about the sexual act as presented in HV by means of organic farming because I think these two things are intimately related.

Organic farming deals exclusively with God’s creation, a creation that has been given us in order to strengthen our bodies and keep us healthy. Farming in an organic fashion respects the simplicity of nature and its “natural laws”. Chemicals are not added to the process because nature is able to take care of itself just fine without us meddling in it. In such circumstances, nature is most itself; creation is left to be as the Lord has created it, hence it flourishes and bears healthy fruits. We human beings are a part of nature as well. In fact, we are just as much part of it as an apple tree! We also follow the laws of nature and we function best in circumstances where our nature is respected.

Monday 23 July 2012

Third Reflection on Humanae Vitae: In Which the Marital Act is Compared With Park Benches, Oak Trees and Eating

By John D. O’Brien, S.J.

A starting point for understanding the beautiful Catholic teaching on procreation is remembering that our vision of the human person is not “dualistic”: I am not a soul trapped in a body, as some religions hold. Nor will I be an angel (pure spirit) after my death. On the contrary, the teaching of Christ is that we will have new bodies and souls in the new heavens and new earth. What I am, in this life and the next, is both body and soul – I am a composite being. And as Christ so dramatically demonstrated, what we do with our bodies matters, as an expression of who I am and how I relate to other bodily beings.

When Paul’s VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae reiterated the normative Christian teaching that contraception was morally harmful, that it split apart the two purposes or ends of the marital act – what did he mean by ends? Let’s first consider how objectively, everything has an end or purpose. The end of a park bench is to be sat upon. The end of an oak tree is to grow to a certain height and produce a acorns. HV reminded us that the ends of the marital act are the unity of the spouses and the procreation of children.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Second Reflection on Humanae Vitae: My Struggle with the Encyclical on Human Life and Love

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Over the years, I have been greatly challenged by Humanae Vitae (HV), Paul VI's encyclical on the proper regulation of procreation. When I rediscovered my faith in 1999, I gave complete assent to all teachings of the Catholic Church. I didn't care for an explanation. When people asked why Catholics did things in any specific way, I would usually reply: “Because the Pope says so.” I did not know any better.

With time, I started to learn about my faith and to grasp the reasons behind the teachings of the Church, and this has subsequently taught me much about my faith. Yet I struggled with HV, no matter how much I I tried to make sense of the document; I only saw it as a cluster of rules and regulations that were very hard to follow. A few months ago, when we – some of the writers of Ibo Et Non Redibo – decided to reflect on this encyclical, I knew that I had to take some time to read and pray with the document.

Thursday 19 July 2012

First Reflection on Humanae Vitae: Where is God in Our Struggles?

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

The papal encyclical Humanae Vitae (HV) released on July 25th, 1968 – has been a topic of intense debate; it has been both staunchly defended and heavily criticized. As the anniversary of its publication approaches, several of the Ibo Et Non Redibo bloggers will give a few reflections on this document.

What is often misunderstood about HV, with its focal point on the use of contraceptives, is that it is not merely a “do this” and “don't do this” document. The Church has a bigger picture in mind. This vision is about how love between a married couple reflects the love of God, and also about our human nature as God intended it, a nature that does not restrict our individuality or creativity, but rather leads us to a true authenticity.

I think that many of us agree on this basic outlook, but some may disagree on the interpretation of certain details of the document, such as the legitimacy of the “totality” of marriage, or the exact definition of the “procreative” and “unitive” aspects of marriage, but these are not the points of my blog entry. What I am interested in is rather our reaction towards the seemingly demanding teachings on married love put forth by our Church through HV.

Monday 16 July 2012

Impressions from Venezuela IV

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Early two Saturdays ago, Eric and I boarded the bus for Maracaibo. (Daniel left later in the day for Guasdualito). It was a fourteen hour ride and ten o’clock when we arrived and were picked up by our hosts.

The length of our journey underscores the historic isolation of Maracaibo from the rest of the country, as it is on the west coast of the huge Lake Maracaibo. Indeed, with its sprawling geography, slower pace, heavy sun and dry, dusty terrain, the city does feel far from Caracas. As advertised, Maracaibo is hot: daytime temperatures are consistently in the mid-thirties with a fair amount of humidity. Contrary to my expectations, however, pretty much everything is air conditioned. But this does not stop all the locals from asking us, somewhat eagerly, with the same kind of idiosyncratic pride that some Canadians display at their cold winters, how we are handling the heat: a standard refrain to which we have learned simply to smile and nod politely.

Friday 13 July 2012

From Procrastination to Gratitude

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

“The early bird may get the worm, but it is the second mouse the gets the cheese.” This attitude has always been a comfort to me, as I am a procrastinator through and through. It is not a genetic condition, but a malady which has plagued me since my college days.

Over the last couple of years, my Jesuit formation has taught me to plan in advance, and that I do not employ my delaying tactics as often. Yet, I still find myself dragging my feet when it comes to calling a friend, writing a letter, or replying to emails. On the contrary, when I stop postponing these things, I find these activities to be very life-giving. I usually tell myself that I can find God in all things if I stop procrastinating and start seeking Him in my neglected and unfinished tasks. I will illustrate this through a personal example.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Praying v. Planning

By Eric Hanna, S. J.

You know, if I spent ten years trying to fabricate the perfect offering to God, it wouldn't work. I could analyze the needs of the world, the instructions of scriptures, and my own intellectual powers. I could plan a huge material work meant to express all I know of faith and spend the years fine-tuning it, cajoling myself by will-power into carrying out my plan. Such a way of proceeding implies that I know what is best for God and it is my responsibility to give it to Him. At the end it of it all … it might or might not be any good. And I myself might or might not be a complete wreck for having taken everything upon myself.

Monday 9 July 2012

An Outing to Stratford Ontario

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Recently, I had the opportunity to go see a play at the “Festival Theatre” in Stratford, Ontario; the play that I saw was Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker, a very entertaining comedy. After seeing the play, some interesting points for reflection emerged, but I will limit myself to only one of these with the limited space.

This point might have been very obvious in the 1930s – when the play was written – but it is not so obvious today: when couples dated, they went into the relationship with the hope of finding a companion for life; that is, with the hope of finding a good husband or wife. When people dated, the partner that they dated was closely “scrutinized” because the goal was marriage. Good habits were sought after: whether the person loved family life, or whether he or she came from a good family, what are his or her religious views, etc. All these were because they had the long-term goal in mind. In short, a relationship was formed with another for the sake of a possible marriage.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Not Just Another Summer Camp: A Brief Reflection on Camp Ekon

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

Summer camps for the young come in different shapes and forms; some involve more outdoor activities, whereas others are what one would call “Bible camps”. Since the last week of June, I have found myself in a summer camp that is quite different from the generic labels that I just mentioned. It is a Jesuit-run camp near the Muskoka area in Ontario, Canada, named Camp Ekon.

The idea behind Camp Ekon is to train young people in Christian leadership, so that they are able to both organize and operate the camp that is filled with outdoor activities. To top it off, there are daily masses at the camp. One can rightly ask, how is this different from any other “leadership camp”? I would say that Camp Ekon’s way of teaching leadership skills is not theoretical but rather practical. It is not going through a binder full of materials with the young people and voilà, out comes a youth leader whose understanding of leadership is all in the head. It is also not merely technical: one could learn to give instructions for outdoor activities or plan camp programs as if it were just a job, without realizing how one could grow as a person through the process.

Friday 6 July 2012

The New 7 Sins

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S. J.

One of the least pleasant aspects of our faith is thinking about our sinfulness. More specifically, those acts that we do in our everyday life that go against God’s will for us and break our covenant with Him. These are very same acts we should be confessing on a regular basis to a priest. However, in many Catholic communities around the world, the act of confession has declined significantly over the years, as people seem too preoccupied with life to think about their sins!

Despite this, the 7 Deadly Sins continue to fascinate our modern culture. Many movies, books, plays, and TV episodes continue to address this topic. There is very pragmatic element to them: Although many people in the secular world would have us believe that the concept of sin has no place in the modern world, there is still a need in our society to identify what makes a person commit evil, and to respond to this evil as Christ calls us to.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Jesus in the Streets of San Antonio

By John O'Brien, S. J.

Two miles west of San Antonio's downtown is Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Serving a largely Latino population, the parish is a haven in the sun-baked streets of this lower-income neighborhood. Its air-conditioned church sanctuary and parish office are open all day, and local people drop in to pray or have their holy objects blessed by the resident pastors.

In adjacent buildings, an adoration chapel is open until midnight and teams of women spend hours making rosaries in a pleasant room – well-stocked with coffee and tasty delights – which are sent all over the country. Recently, a Hearts on Fire retreat took place with more than eighty young adults attending. Not long ago, this Jesuit parish had become somewhat derelict, but today it is evident that its devotional life is alive and well.

Monday 2 July 2012

Impressions from Venezuela III

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

We are now past our half-way mark here in Venezuela, and I feel, to some degree, ‘settled in’. So instead of chronicling our doings over the past fortnight, I shall begin with a theme that I hinted at before but did not elaborate: Venezuelan politics.

‘They Will be Divided’

Most of us could probably only name a handful of the heads-of-state around the world, but Hugo Chavéz would almost certainly be among them. Naturally, before coming to Venezuela, I was curious to visit the country he leads (or rules?). And, as fate would have it, he landed in Caracas at almost the same time we did back in May, returning from medical treatment in Cuba. As we drove through the night streets of the city, we could hear the live reports of his arrival on the radio.