Friday 30 November 2012

O Brother Where Art Thou?

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, my semester in the university has been one of deep learning, of truly falling in love with Vatican documents, of going into the depth of my Catholic faith, and of attempting to explore the beautiful language coming out of the Synod on the New Evangelization. It has been marked with amazing lectures, inspiring readings, incredible testimonials, watching people grow and struggle in their faith. Experiencing all of this has been part of a great period of growth and learning for me, but also of re-identifying with my dislike of academia.

I am recognizing – in a humble, genuinely profound way – that I am simply not cut out for this type of life. In a way, my academic journey has provided me with conflict, but also with resolution. The conflict was around my place in the Society of Jesus. I’m still finding out what being a Jesuit brother is all about. I’ve included the picture of Saint Brother André in this blog because he has been without a doubt a great inspiration for my vocation. I felt that he was a man who was able to liveholiness in the simplest, and most down to earth way that I wanted to emulate. Of course, since then, I’ve learned that we have our own “holy doorman” in the Society of Jesus, (I’ve already blogged about him: St Alfonso Rodriguez) but part of me is still more attached to the image of this simple, but deeply holy man from my hometown of Montreal.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

On the Camino with Santiago – Michelle Ball

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J. 

This is my interview column. Once a month, I will feature some of my personal heroes. These are men and women who are addressing some of the most important challenges of our time.


Michelle Ball is the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister and Deaconess. Her family has a bit of an identity crisis - her father is from Vancouver Island, her mother southern Ontario. She was born in the prairies and her brother in Québec, and she grew up as a teenager in the nation's capital. She is now an intern at Romero House in Toronto, a not-for-profit transitional housing for refugee claimants. Inspired by the late Archbishop Oscar Romero, the principle of Romero House is that living with people and learning together how to be good neighbours is the key to healthy communities, as well as the catalyst for inner transformation. Michelle’s desire to live and work with newly arrived refugees is borne out of her experiences studying in South Africa and India, and through her studies in international development at the University of Guelph.

Santiago Rodriguez (SR): What led you to work with refugees? How does your faith inform that work?

Sunday 25 November 2012

Christ, be our King!

By Artur Suski, S.J.

“Often, Jesus is ignored, he is mocked and he is declared a King of the past who is not for today and certainly not for tomorrow. He is relegated to a storeroom of questions and persons one dare not mention publicly in a loud voice.” – Pope Benedict XVI (Kraków, May 27, 2006)

“Let Christ the King reign in your hearts, in your families, and in your homeland and may He bless you.” – Pope Benedict XVI (Wednesday Angelus, Rome, Nov. 20, 2005)

Today, we celebrate along with the whole Church the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King. It is true that when compared to other Solemnities in the Church, the Solemnity of Christ the King is a relatively “young” celebration: it has been celebrated only since its institution by Pope Pius XI in 1925 with the Encyclical Quas Primas (QP). The Church Fathers have, however, always recognized the Kingship of Christ, as Christ has always been understood to be Prophet, Priest, and King. The importance of this Solemnity should not be overlooked: it should be everyone’s task to familiarize themselves with its significance for the Church and the world.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Inception and the Prayer

By Eric Hanna, S.J.
A friend of mine was asked to lead a discussion on the film Inception and its themes connected to Christianity and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. My friend was having difficulty because the makers of the film were clearly not trying to communicate a Christian message. He didn't want to merely shoehorn the themes into the movie, such readings end up feeling flaky and forced. However, I was happy to volunteer to take on the discussion, confident I wouldn't be shoehorning.

This is not because I think the makers were really trying to send a Christian message after all. No, I enjoy examining how artistic representation, which aims at a truth of our shared human experience, may point towards our experience of Christ, the humanity of God. To me this is a fun and creative process that takes on the challenge of being true to the intent of the artwork as much as the Christian message. Spirituality encompasses the belief that going into the inner world of one's own imagination can lead to an understanding of God and God's message. Inception was a hit film in 2010 that involves the journey into the inner world of imagination through the medium of dreams.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Disease and The Glory of God

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

It is a brave act of valour to contemn death; but, where life is more terrible than death, it is then the truest valour to dare to live. ―Browne


A few years ago now, I went to the funeral of a man who had died after having spent the last years of his life with dementia. During the sermon, the minister referred to a section from a catechism―I think it might have been the Westminster Catechism―which teaches, “Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” He described the last few years of the deceased, and then said that he had come to a point where his disease became so bad that this end was no longer being fulfilled. He was no longer able to glorify God, and so his life had to come to an end.

This sermon struck me and I have often thought of it since. The sentiment was well-meant and intended to help the family understand the death. But I think that the minister was fundamentally wrong: not because that line from the catechism is wrong, but because he thought that a person with a crippling mental disease was no longer glorifying God.

Monday 19 November 2012

We are Lost and Found Together

By John D. O’Brien, S.J.

John Cava, The Communion of Saints

Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.
— William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure 

When we feel passionate about something, it’s hard not to judge those who fall short in passion or conviction; it’s a human tendency. Even a culture that enshrines tolerance as its only absolute emits a certain moralism about its own various canons. In an age of moral relativism, the temptation for people of faith to be moralistic rises too. Yet this is not really what holiness is about. Rather, each of us must personally come to terms with our own need for mercy and forgiveness—this is an absolute non-negotiable of the Christian life.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Green Catholicism: The potholes and road blocks on the road ahead

By Brother Dan Leckman, S.J.
A few weeks ago, fellow blogger Santiago had a great entry that talked about the ecological crisis our world is facing. One of the points he made was there is a great difficulty we face as Catholics, even as human beings, to move forward on this issue. To develop this idea, he quoted Pope Benedict, “While we are willing to address our ecological situation, we do not know how.” Yes, it’s true that there are many out there who are in the darkness on how to proceed.

As Santi pointed out, “Our awareness of the complexity of the issue, and also the ambiguity of available information may deter some to become more fully involved.” However, there is an even greater number of people who “do know how” to proceed with regard to this crisis. There are many wonderful creative answers to this crisis that should inspire others into action. Despite this, many Catholics and Christians remain reluctant.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Don't Let It Rip: On the Seamless Nature of “Pro-Life”

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


In a recent op-ed  in the New York Times, Pulitzer-winning journalist Thomas Friedman wrote about the idea of “pro-life” as he understands it. The object of his article was the pro-life/pro-choice divide that has come to dominate the political front, especially before the presidential election. He was criticizing the so-called “pro-life” view of some prominent Republicans which he considered inadequate, in particular, that “pro-life” only deals with life at conception. According to his argument, one's understanding of “pro-life” ought to be more comprehensive. He supported his argument by giving a lengthy list on what he also considered a “pro-life” stance:

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Truth and the Lonely Hearts

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


I spent the last few days in Florida. Yes, I know what you are thinking: “How nice! He was enjoying the sun and the ocean. He got to visit Disneyworld or Universal Studios.” No, but I really like that idea. I visited Ave Maria University with some of my brother Jesuits to give a Hearts on Fire retreat. I arrived in Florida a couple of days after the US elections and many of my conversations there were linked to it. I have heard arguments for and against the victor. To be honest, most of the arguments were against.

I did not take sides in the arguments. Almost everyone was unequivocal about their choice for candidate. As an outsider, people knew I did not have to choose between the candidates. Yet, most of them asked for my opinion. I simply replied that I did not like either candidate. My interlocutors seemed perplexed, and they did not seem to have time for me thereafter. After getting the cold shoulder in some of these conversations, I began to feel a bit rejected and excluded. I felt somewhat ostracized and lonely. Above all, I felt lonesome and desolate.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Lest We Forget...

By Artur Suski, S.J.


Today, the majority of the world celebrates Remembrance Day – a day in which we remember those who have fought for our motherlands and the civilians who have been killed in times of war. We remember their bravery and their dedication: these were men and women who have fearlessly fought for the freedom of their homelands that were challenged by totalitarian regimes bent on destroying other countries’ cultures and faiths in order to erect their own ungodly towers of domination and devastation. This is also a day of thanksgiving, as many of us have been born into a free country thanks to the hardships of these brave souls.

I would add, however, that there are two other very important reasons why we celebrate Remembrance Day. Firstly, we remember the atrocities and evils that have happened in order not to repeat the same evils again. If we look at two of the destructive regimes of the Second World War (the Russian Soviet Communists and the German Nazis), we see that they were not always as such. True, Russia under the Tsars’ rule wasn’t the most peaceful land, nor was Prussia; but they were nowhere near to what they became later under Communist rule. They developed into a totalitarian regime over time; step-by-step they became who they were.

Saturday 10 November 2012

Levinas: Let It Be

By Eric Hanna, S.J.
I've been devoting many hours to studying and preparing for my MA Thesis in philosophy and I have chosen to write about the thinker Emmanuel Levinas, a twentieth century French thinker. Levinas has changed the way I look at life; and I wish to briefly explain why it's worth devoting so much time to reading his work.

Philosophy ought to be about discovering truth. But as Pontius Pilate asked: "what is truth?" We know that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. This means that devoting ourselves to study the richness of the human experience and the truth contained within it will bring us closer to Christ, who became human out of love for us.

Much like the refrain of a Beatles song, the truth that Levinas uncovers is an insight that seems either obvious or naive when you give it only a cursory glance. This truth is: we are essentially compassionate creatures. However, Levinas' view is far from simple.

Thursday 8 November 2012

An Apology for the Word ‘Kingdom’

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Michael O'Brien, Allegory on Seeking and Striving

The court of þe kyndom of God alyue       The court of the Kingdom of God alive
Hatȝ a property in hytself beyng:          Has in itself a property, being:
Alle þat may þerinne aryue                 All that may therein arrive
Of alle þe reme is quen oþer kyng,        Of all that realm is either queen or king.
– Pearl

The word “kingdom” is familiar to English-speaking Christians. We speak of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, and pray, “Thy kingdom come.” “Kingdom” is the traditional way to translate the New Testament term βασιλεία and is consistently used in English translations of Roman Catholic liturgy. However, these days, many use the word “reign”, when possible, in order to stress the primary meaning of the Greek word as used in Sacred Scripture. The entry for βασιλεία in my New Testament lexicon is: “reign, rule; kingdom, domain”. Hence, the thinking goes, “reign” more aptly emphasises the active ruling of God, whereas “kingdom” has misleading geopolitical connotations, making us think of a territorial place rather than the sovereignty of Almighty God.

While I do not think that the use of the word “reign” should be outlawed, I much prefer “kingdom”. Here are four reasons:

Monday 5 November 2012

Watching Television from a Mountaintop

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

My mother grew up in the last town in North America to get television. It was nestled in a remote valley in the Rocky Mountains and this quirk of geography had kept it television-free nearly two decades after the rest of the world had embraced the blue box. She recalls life in McBride: the sense of community and fellowship, sporting activities, fairs and festivals, children playing all over town in safety. It can sound rather idyllic, like it was Bedford Falls or a Norman Rockwell painting. Obviously sin was as present then as it is today. Her father was the town constable, after all, and regularly had to lock transgressors up in jail, which was located on the ground floor of their family home (the prisoner, if he was sober, sometimes got an invitation from grandma to join the family for dinner).

In the early 1970s, the town successfully petitioned the government to build special transmitters to relay television to the valley, and when researchers at the University of British Columbia got wind of it, they sent twelve faculty and students to observe. They did extensive surveys both before and then two years after the arrival of television, with control studies in nearby towns. It was a social scientist’s dream case.

Saturday 3 November 2012

We Don't Struggle Alone: The lives of two Jesuit brothers

By Br. Daniel Leckman, S.J.
This week we celebrated the life and martyrdom of an Irish Jesuit brother, Blessed Dominic Collins and the simplicity and holiness of a universally-celebrated, Spanish Jesuit brother, St Alfonso Rodriguez. Within this context, I couldn’t resist looking at their lives to see what it is about them that informs and inspires our own lives as Jesuits and the lives of so many of God's people. This exercise also gave me the opportunity to contemplate the Brother’s vocation in the twenty-first century and everything it may entail!

Let’s start with Brother Alfonso. His vocation story was one marred with a lot of suffering. He once was happily married and had three children. Then, within five years, he witnessed the death of each member of his family due to the same illness. His response to these events was one that exhibited great character. He did not blame God for his loss, nor did he become a bitter old man. Instead, he turned his grief into meditation, into prayer. He was around 40 when he entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) as a lay brother.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Stewardship and Discernment: A Human Ecology Correctly Understood

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


Over the past year, I have been part of processes of discernment and reflection about faith and ecology with two groups; one on a local level and the other one on an international level. What came out of these discernment processes suggest that we are willing to make this cause our own as we labour to join Christ in building the Kingdom of God and to live in communities that make “decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment that should mirror the creative love of God”, as Pope Benedict XVI said in his World Day of Peace Message in 2007. While we are willing to address our ecological situation, we do not know how.

This concern points to our awareness of the complexity of the issue, the ambiguity of available information, the need to educate ourselves more thoroughly on this issue, and above all, to grow in awareness of creation as a gift from God. Over-consumption is the cause of the ecological problem; we are draining the planet at a terrifying rate. We need to strive for sustainability and to become better stewards of all creation. The best way to respond to the ecological crisis is to remain faithful to our Christian vocation: we are called to live more simply, to hear the voice of God in those who are suffering and to rediscover the sacrificial aspect of love.