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.