Monday 30 December 2013

The Gift

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

Photo: Brian Nelson

This following story is written by a guest writer, who shall remain anonymous. 


The children are lying on the living room rug, their stomachs distended with turkey and Christmas cake. Our guest, Father Brian, turns a beaming smile on them, lights his pipe, and seats himself with a sigh on the old rocking chair beside the wood-stove. He is content just to soak up the family atmosphere and listen to our children’s after-dinner banter.

“Tell us a story, Father,” they cry before long. The priest has a reputation for stories. More than that, he has all the time in the world for children.

“What kind of a story?” he asks.

“A Christmas story!”

“Well,” he says, pondering, his eyes growing thoughtful, “I think I do know a true story about a gift that was given on a Christmas day many years ago. But no, it’s too strange.”

Now they’re hooked. “Yes, yes, that one! That one!”

“It’s full of grown ups, “ he murmurs, “Nazis and war and things like that.”

“Yes, yes,” they squirm with anticipation.

His eyes go far away and his brow furrows. He rocks back and forth slowly, slowly, and the room grows quieter.

“I’m quite serious, when I tell you,” he says, “that this is a true story. I saw parts of it with my own eyes. I lived with the family to whom it happened.”

Then he begins:

Friday 27 December 2013

Telling A Brilliant Story: Reading the Signs of the Times

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


They knelt before Mary's babe and paid him homage. The three Wise Men who traveled from the East bore gifts for the child King: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Since I was a child, the story of the Magi seized my imagination. I used to imagine their journey from the East: the great caravan, their camels, and their lovely tents. I would visualize their faces as they knelt before Jesus - as Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar contemplated the child and finally found the peace they were seeking. Then, I would have a laugh as I imagined them flipping a coin or playing Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide who would be the first one to hold the baby.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Christmas: Time and Time Again

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

A few years ago, a fellow Jesuit introduced to me a beautiful Christmas story. It was written by Jérôme and Jean Tharaud, called La Dernière Visiteuse (The Last Visitor), and published in their work The Tales of the Virgin in 1940. Both the French original and the English translation can be found elsewhere on the interweb, but I take the liberty to include the short story here: 

It was Bethlehem, the end of a long night. The star had just disappeared, and the last pilgrim had left the stable. The Virgin arranged the straw: at last the Child could sleep. But who can sleep the night of Christmas?

Monday 23 December 2013


By Brother Daniel Leckman

Many things have taken place in my life during the past month that I wanted to blog about:
  • The call I received one night after my Vatican II class (in the midst of all my business during the last few weeks of class no less) to begin a new blog on Pope Francis’ exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: Praying with Papal Documents. Almost two weeks later, I’ve slowly made my way through the introduction of the exhortation, taking two paragraphs every second day or so, and giving my own analysis of what I think the Pope is inviting us to with this document!

Friday 20 December 2013

Nelson Mandela and the Embodiment a Socratic Paradox

By Adam Hincks, S.J.


The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity. – Mandela

I was out of town at a meeting when Nelson Mandel died and learned of his passing early in the morning when I glanced at a newspaper box. Even though I knew he had been in poor health, the news surprised me and I felt the weight of a great period in history coming to an end.

I have always been inspired by Mandela. Several years of my childhood were spent in Lesotho, the small, independent nation surrounded by South Africa. Although much poorer, it was a kind of haven from the senseless and often brutal apartheid that existed in its gigantic neighbour. I remember watching on television when Mandela was released from prison and the swift changes that began happening across the border. But since Mandela died two weeks ago, my memory keeps returning to an old, abandoned house not too far from where we lived. Riddled with bullet-holes and stained by the soot of fire, it had been an African National Congress (ANC) hideout that the South African army had assaulted by helicopter a few years before we moved there. I suppose this image comes back to me as a reminder of the oppression which Mandela devoted his life to eradicate.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

A New Approach to the Missions?

By Artur Suski, S.J.

On Monday of this week, I came upon a very inspiring article in the Toronto Star: “Good news from Canada's aboriginal communities” by Carol Goar. It is about a very ambitious project wherein the mission is to supply laptops to aboriginal children. It has been quite successful. “Since its founding in 2010, it has distributed 3,800 of the tough little computers,” writes Goar. But that’s not all; they’re not just on a mission to give out laptops to kids.

Monday 16 December 2013

The Silence of Advent

By John D. O’Brien, S.J.

Northern Nativity, William Kurelek

Only when you are familiar with silence have you learned to speak; what you have to say can ripen only in silence. – Adrienne von Speyr, Lumina/New Lumina 

Have you ever had that experience when you can’t get to sleep, even though your mind and body are thoroughly exhausted? It’s frustrating, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Last night I tossed and turned, and wondered why. I hadn’t had any caffeine. Nor had I been staring at luminescent screen, which often fools the brain into extending its waking hours. I had thought that I would fall headlong into deep slumber after a long trip, for I was in a warm cabin, surrounded by peace and silence. It was not to be.

Friday 13 December 2013

Apathetic No More: Reconciliation over a Cup of Tea

 By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

On the calender of the Catholic Church, the twelfth of December is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Given her importance to all native peoples around the world, some of our Ibo contributors have decided to launch a two-part series on Aboriginal justice. 

Santiago with members of Holy Cross Parish in Wikwemikong, Ontario

When the first two Jesuits arrived in Port Royal, Nova Scotia, in 1611, the Mi'kmaq people became friends of the Jesuits and supporters of their mission in the Annapolis Valley. In the spring of 2011, as I toured different Mi'kmaq communities in Nova Scotia to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Jesuits in Canada, I visited Holy Family Parish at the Eskasoni First Nation.

On that cold May morning, I joined a group of Mi'kmaq Elders for tea and sweet bread after Mass. As my conversation with the Elders began, half of my tea ended all over my shirt and my pants. I can be an accident-prone klutz at times. I have butterfingers and an incredible ability to fall down the stairs. While I am used to being a stumblebum in front of my family and friends, in that moment I was mortified because I was there on official business. I tried to make light of the situation by joking that I needed to start wearing diapers. I laughed at my own joke, but nobody else did. I sat down again after cleaning up the mess, feeling a bit self-conscious and humbled. While I held my refilled cup of tea with both hands, I noticed one of the Elders looking at me with a mischievous smile. She laughed a little bit and told me how glad she was to learn that some Jesuits need to wear diapers. We all laughed at her comment.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Aboriginal Justice: What Happens on the Ground?

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

On the calender of the Catholic Church, the twelfth of December is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Given her importance to all native peoples around the world, some of our Ibo contributors have decided to launch a two-part series on Aboriginal justice.

Grandmothers Guidance Centre celebration, Regina, Saskatchewan

The following is an interview with Sr. RéAnne Letourneau, PM. Sr. RéAnne belongs to the religious congregation that is the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, and has been very involved in Aboriginal ministry for a number of years. She is currently active in Regina, Saskatchewan, with the Urban Aboriginal, Non-Aboriginal Relations Ministry.

Monday 9 December 2013

Myth Busters and the Scientific Story

By Eric Hanna, S.J.

I'm an arts nerd, mostly. I enjoy Lord of the Rings and the genre of fantasy. But I also enjoy science fiction stories like those found in Star Trek. Both kinds of stories are similar in that they use the journey motif. People travel to strange lands and are confronted with things they could not imagine. In both kinds of stories people's basic moral instincts are tested against difficult circumstances.
The key difference between fantasy and science fiction is that in fantasy, the usual goal is to get home, while in science fiction, the goal is to leave home.

I had the pleasure of going to see the live show presented by the MythBusters, a group of special effects engineers who put urban legends and anecdotes to the test. On their TV show they have tested every kind of question, from “does playing classical music for plants actually help them grow?” to “what's the best thing to do if you are in a car that's falling from the sky?”

Friday 6 December 2013

Christ With Us in the Scriptures

It occurred to the editors of Ibo that there was one basic question, so fundamental to the Christian life, that it demanded to be explored for greater profit of both ourselves and our faithful readers. Quite simply, the question was this: What are the ways Christ promised to be with us? “That’s so obvious!” the reader might cry. Perhaps. But it is nonetheless an important question. Unless we know the primary ways of encountering the living God in the bracing reality of our lives, the faith risks becoming an abstraction at best, an ideology at worst. There are four privileged ways we know of in which Christ manifests himself to his people in the here-and-now. Four writers are exploring these in a series of four short articles. The first is here, the second is here, the third is here. This is the fourth and final one.

By Adam Hincks, S.J.


Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. –St. Jerome

Every time we hear a reading from the Bible at mass, the lector concludes by saying, “The Word of the Lord,” and we respond, “Thanks be to God.” In this simple exchange, we acknowledge the centrality of the written texts of our faith in our experience of God. For although the Bible is a product of many human authors living in many concrete times and cultures, it is not merely a human book: we believe that in it, God reveals himself to his people. As taught by the Second Vatican Council, all parts of the Bible “have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself” (Dei Verbum, §11).

Thus, the Word of God as recorded in Sacred Scripture is one of the privileged ways that the Lord Jesus is with us. To explore this further, I would like to consider two traditional approaches to interpreting the text of the Bible. The first is as the Book of Scripture, complementary to the Book of Nature that is studied by the natural sciences. The second is the distinction between the literal and spiritual senses that coexist in the sacred writings.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Lonely Streets and Humble Shacks: Christ Awaits Us in the Poor

It occurred to the editors of Ibo that there was one basic question, so fundamental to the Christian life, that it demanded to be explored for greater profit of both ourselves and our faithful readers. Quite simply, the question was this: What are the ways Christ promised to be with us? “That’s so obvious!” the reader might cry. Perhaps. But it is nonetheless an important question. Unless we know the primary ways of encountering the living God in the bracing reality of our lives, the faith risks becoming an abstraction at best, an ideology at worst. There are four privileged ways we know of in which Christ manifests himself to his people in the here-and-now. Four writers are exploring these in a series of four short articles. The first was here, the second was here. This is the third.

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Fritz Eichenberg- Christ of the Breadlines

The soccer field stared through the Orange and Avocado trees. We left the more densely populated barrio, and walked uphill on a narrow pathway. After a couple of minutes, we stopped in front of a very small shack on the side of the pathway. Oscar, my companion, called out, asking if someone was home. He got closer to investigate, when the small wooden door opened. Oscar went to the front of the door and spoke to someone I could not see. A few seconds later, three shy little girls came out to examine the strangers outside. In no time, the entire family was outside socializing with us – the parents and their five children.

Monday 2 December 2013

“For Realsies”: Jesus in the Eucharist

It occurred to the editors of Ibo that there was one basic question, so fundamental to the Christian life, that it demanded to be explored for greater profit of both ourselves and our faithful readers. Quite simply, the question was this: What are the ways Christ promised to be with us? “That’s so obvious!” the reader might cry. Perhaps. But it is nonetheless an important question. Unless we know the primary ways of encountering the living God in the bracing reality of our lives, the faith risks becoming an abstraction at best, an ideology at worst. There are four privileged ways we know of in which Christ manifests himself to his people in the here-and-now. Four writers are exploring these in a series of four short articles. The first was here. This is the second.

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

(Image: Huffington Post)

Of the four topics that we Ibo contributors intend to cover in this series, I consider the Eucharist both the easiest and the toughest. Due to its importance, much ink has been spilled on this topic since the early days of the Church. For Catholics, receiving the Eucharist is one of the most recognizable “things” that we do; for non-Catholics, this is easily the biggest scandal of them all. Given the limits on time and space, I simply wish to address three points in this blog entry: its scriptural roots; the role of our perception of reality; and the aspect of communion.

Friday 29 November 2013

When We Are Gathered in His Name

It occurred to the editors of Ibo that there was one basic question, so fundamental to the Christian life, that it demanded to be explored for greater profit of both ourselves and our faithful readers. Quite simply, the question was this: What are the ways Christ promised to be with us? “That’s so obvious!” the reader might cry. Perhaps. But it is nonetheless an important question. Unless we know the primary ways of encountering the living God in the bracing reality of our lives, the faith risks becoming an abstraction at best, an ideology at worst. There are four privileged ways we know of in which Christ manifests himself to his people in the here-and-now. Four writers will explore these in the short articles that follow. This is the first. 

By John D. O’Brien, S.J. 

Friars’ visit, Wayside Academy, Peterborough, Ontario, 2004 (John O’Brien)

Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst. – Matt 18:20 

I must admit I chose this particular topic because I had never before given it adequate thought. It also seemed the least dramatic, and possibly for me the most hazily and haphazardly felt. The other manifestations of Christ were more clear to me, for I have experienced the power of the Word, the Logos leaping through a living text and speaking in the darkness. I have felt the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, in its radiant and pulsing reality. I have met Christ in the poor, and had my heart burn within me in their (and his) company. But, what about that simple promise in Matthew 18: where two or three are gathered in my name...?

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Advent in the East and West

By Artur Suski, S.J.


In an address to the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic bishops in 2001, Pope John Paul II said that “the Church breathes with the two lungs of the Eastern and Western traditions.” A few years earlier, in Ut unum sint, we hear the same call: “The Church must breathe with her two lungs!” (# 54) But how are we to understand the Pope’s words? Are we all to become bi-ritual? I don’t think that is what the Pope had in mind. The Pope spoke of the whole Church. Given this context, the Pope wanted to point out that the Catholic Church has been dominated primarily by the Latin tradition. A balance must be restored. Both the East and the West ought to learn about the other and they ought to be faithful to their own respective traditions.

Monday 25 November 2013

Veni Sancte Spiritus

By Brother Dan Leckman, S.J.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. —Roman Missal, Pentecost Sequence

As the first draft of my thesis paper is wrapping up this week, a big part of me is relieved that this will leave more room for my faith life. It’s funny how, as a student, I struggle to keep my faith vibrant. There have been some weeks when I was burning with zeal for God and others where I practically told God, “I’ll talk to you later, man: I got twelve pages to write this weekend about the New Evangelization!”

The irony is not lost on me that I sometimes compromise my prayer life in order to write about how to evangelize faith and justice in our world. I also understand that this compromise is almost inevitable – something I believe even Ignatius recognized. Amazingly enough I have still found consolation even in those moments of compromise. Perhaps that’s because, sometimes, the more distant we are from God the more God draws near to us.

Friday 22 November 2013

Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and the Evolution of Man

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

The Next Step [of evolution] has already appeared. And it is really new. It is not a change from brainy men to brainier men: it is a change that goes off in a totally different direction—a change from being creatures of God to being sons of God. — C. S. Lewis

This article contains spoilers.

Gravity, the recent film directed and co-written by Alfonso Cuarón, is technically awesome and visually beautiful. It is masterly in its building of suspense. The bold choice to create the sound of outer space accurately—i.e., silence, except for the astronauts’ breathing, the voices of their radio communication and the subtle sounds transmitted through their space suits—is extremely effective. For all these reasons, comparison to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is inevitable and well-deserved.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Healing a Broken World: Grappling with Rob Ford

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

If you are interested in reading the latest in the Rob Ford saga, this entry is not for you. I will not say much about him, but will rather explore the way I have grappled with this debacle. There has been much buzz and chatter about Ford in the last two years. That has increased exponentially in the past three weeks. He has appeared in almost every major network in North America due to his misconduct. One thing is certain: Rob Ford is not perfect. He is far from it.

Monday 18 November 2013

Tell Me Again: Journeying with Maleficent

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


The retelling of classic tales has never been my cup of tea. Perhaps it is because I am a purist, in that I appreciate preserving the spirit of the original. I also think that some retelling attempts have their own agendas. This is especially the case when the villain is seen in a much more sympathetic light. The evil one turns out to be the one with truth on his side, while the good one is just pretending to be righteous. Black becomes white, and white becomes black. There is no truth.

Recently, Disney has released the trailer for the upcoming movie Maleficent, focussing on the imaginary backstory of the chief villain from Sleeping Beauty. Then I read up on its synopsis and noticed the bit of nuance. From the Disney website:

Friday 15 November 2013

Straight Shooter

By Artur Suski, S.J. 


The Church and the secular world have different understandings of sin. When the media and other secular institutions talk about sin, they often equate sin with evil, with little deviation from this. The Church, on the other hand, from its earliest years has had a different understanding of sin.

There was no single word in the Greek language that can be translated into our English word sin. There are seven Greek words that are translated as sin in the Bible, with the most frequently used word being hamartia. It was used 221 times in the New Testament. Its literal meaning is quite revealing - it sheds some light on how the early Church understood sin. It means, literally, “to miss the mark”. To sin is really to miss the mark; think of an archer that is aiming for the bull’s eye in a target. If he’s really good, he’ll hit the mark. If not, he’ll miss the mark, or, he’ll sin.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Calling All People to Life

By John D. O’Brien, S.J. 

Photo: John O'Brien

Coming so soon from watching one of the most moving and remarkable films I’ve ever seen, I was inspired when I received a song by Canadian songwriter and musician Erin Leahy that explored similar themes. Leahy’s “Calling All People to Life”, like the movie Gravity, dwells upon the idea of the inherent fragility and value of human life, pivots upon the power of prayer, alludes to the fundamental choice between life and death, and has great exultant motifs of baptism and rebirth. Already getting radio-play, this new song from the Juno-award winning artist also captures several basic themes from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I invite readers to first take a moment and listen to the song for themselves, which is posted here with her permission:

Monday 11 November 2013

Winning the Lottery

By Eric Hanna, S.J.

When they hear I have a vow of poverty, people often ask, “what if you won the lottery?” Children especially find this to be an important question. Sure, it's okay to have a vow of poverty … but if you won the lottery, would they take your money away? That doesn't seem fair.

Well, there are two answers to this question: a technical answer and a heartfelt answer.

Firstly, the technical answer. A member of a religious order with a vow of poverty won't be gambling. And if I bought a lottery ticket it would be with the community's money anyway. So really, if the ticket were a winner, the money would belong to the community. Ditto for gifts: whatever is given to me is not for my use alone but a donation to the whole religious order of which I am a member.

Friday 8 November 2013

Knowing God’s Will: First Steps

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first – Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect. 
– Bl. John Henry Newman

St. Ignatius of Loyola would often close his letters with the prayer that he and his correspondent would have the grace to know God’s will and the strength to carry it out. He is by no means alone in this prayer. I suspect that most Christians often petition God for guidance about what to do in concrete situations. And yet, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that discovering God’s will requires advanced spiritual experience or that it is the domain of mystical gurus. This can lead to a dilemma: we feel that we ought to seek for God’s will in our lives—whether it be for big, life decisions or small, everyday decisions—but at the same time we can feel that we do not have the spiritual know-how to get there. As a consequence, we either avoid commitment or become complacent.

When we are not sure how to come to know God’s will, Thomas Merton offers excellent, down-to-earth advice. In New Seeds of Contemplation, he writes:

Wednesday 6 November 2013

The Senate Scandal: The Slippery Slope of Incoherence

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

It all started with moments of self-entitlement. Lapses of judgment led to lies and cover ups. It all ended in the current predicament of the Canadian government, which has been consumed by the Senate expenses scandal. It is very easy to accuse the guilty parties, or simply to play partisan politics. I don’t intend to judge the senators, and those who are accused of assisting with cover-ups due to their lapse in judgement. Their actions are being examined by the Senate, and suspensions, sanctions and criminal charges, if any are laid, are being assessed.

Monday 4 November 2013

Busy Zombies

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

“I am too busy to read this.”

While I certainly hope that the previous statement is not true, I think we all have those moments. We make decisions to say yes or no to things, because we simply cannot do everything. That being said, we tend to fill out our daily schedules. We are often busy with something. I myself do not like to sit on my hands and remain idle. But what kind of busy-ness is found in our lives?

The Chinese character for “busy” is máng. It is made up of two parts: the root (or the “radical”) of the character is the “heart” radical found on the left side. On the right, it is the word “death”. This is obviously not referring to cardiac death. As it is the case in many cultures, the heart stands for something more important. It often symbolizes the very being of our selves. Even our own Céline Dion from Canada thinks so.

Friday 1 November 2013

One Hand at a Time

By John D. O’Brien, S.J. 

Fra Angelico, 15th c., National Gallery, London

Pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends, that we may merrily meet in heaven. 
– St. Thomas More  

Saints alive! It’s that day of the year again, when we collectively honour that large company, the friends of God. There is a more restricted notion, which holds the saints are the elect in heaven. A more expansive one includes the living who are holy, as when St. Paul calls out “to the saints, who are at Ephesus” at the beginning of that famous letter. So while today we collectively honour the canonized, we may also reflect on the living who have been saintly influences during our lives.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Voluntary Simplicity?

By Artur Suski, S.J.

What’s all this hype about “voluntary simplicity”? Duane Elgin’s 1981 book Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich put a name to something that had already been gaining momentum in the preceding decades. Elgin noticed a societal trend: a good number of people were more and more fed up with the overtly commercial culture that began to inform almost all aspects of their lives. The “fatted calf” was no longer saved for the special occasion; it was making its way to the butcher’s shop on a daily basis. Elgin noticed that a whole baggage of problems was accompanying this materialistic excess. To list some of the problems Elgin names: losing sight of what is truly most important (the interior life; friendships); the development of a culture of wastefulness, a drastic increase in environmental abuse (to sustain such a demand, something needs to give); and, closely related to the first one, an unhealthy craving for more stuff.

Monday 28 October 2013

Some Hate It, I Love It: The "Francis Effect"

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

Many of us who write on this blog (myself included) have spoken about Pope Francis and the challenges that he poses for us in our 21st century church. So I'm guessing some of our readers are getting tired of “the Francis effect” at this point.  Some readers may argue, “You have collectively said all there was to say about the man. Nothing else needs to be said.”  That may be right, but it won’t stop this brother from continuing to share his reflections!

My inspiration for this entry is that I continue to be in awe of how many people from all walk of life respond to Pope Francis. More specifically, the inspiration for this particular entry lies in three separate events I witnessed in the past few weeks which made me realize just how varied people’s reaction to Francis really was.

Friday 25 October 2013

Thank You, Ralph Vaughan Williams

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958)   Photo: Bettmann/Corbis

I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. 
– George Eliot

Last weekend a friend treated me to a concert by the Vancouver Cantata Singers featuring the choral music of the great English composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century: Charles Wood, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar, Herbert Howells, Gustav Holst and Hubert Parry. The performance had both sacred and secular music—including a delightful romp through settings of Shakespeare’s and others’ poetry—with the centrepiece being Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Mass in G Minor.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Do you want the Good Life? Listen to the Expert

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

“Everyone’s a critic.” That is a common joke, a line made famous in shows such as I Love LucyFrasier, Satursday Night Live and even SpongeBob SquarePants. Everyone's a critic, just ask Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets Show. I use this line all the time, especially when I indulge in some sarcastic sensibility. At times, I amend it to: “Everyone’s an expert.” Everyone “knows” what’s best. We all want to speak our minds. We effortlessly share our two cents, and they usually end up being four dollars and change.

Monday 21 October 2013

A Closer Look at the Case of Hassan Rasouli

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

The case of Hassan Rasouli has garnered much attention from the Canadian media recently. Rasouli is a retired engineer in Canada who had been comatose since 2010. His doctors thought that his life support should be removed. His family disagreed. As Muslims, they believed that life-and-death decisions do not lie in the hands of human beings but rather with God alone. The Supreme Court has come down with the ruling that the doctors did not have the unilateral right to decide on removing life support. They must either obtain the family's consent or apply for permission from a provincial board that addresses consent issues. As with all bioethical dilemmas, this is a complicated case. In this blog entry, I would like to highlight a few key issues so that we are better informed about the case.

Friday 18 October 2013

Can University Students be Holy?

By Artur Suski, S.J.


Yes! Of course they can!

It was not too long ago that I myself was a university student. Returning to the campus as a campus minister has given me a different perspective, especially on the challenges that university students face if they want to live out their Catholic faith. We university chaplains are quite concerned for the faith life of our students, yet there is only so much that we can do; it is really in the hands of the students to take up their own cross daily, and by daily cross I mean the day in and day out demands that a faith life has on us. What I would like to do here is to briefly outline a couple of challenges that students face today, and to provide some simple “tools” that students can apply on a daily basis to nurture their faith. Note that it is quite appropriate to substitute “student” with any other role, as non-students may find these suggestions helpful.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

10 Reasons to Fast

By John O’Brien, S.J.

The age-old practice of periodic fasting from food or certain foods is something, admittedly, I am not good at. I’m probably typical in this regard, born and weaned in our land of supercharged plenitude, a culture and economy based upon comfort, and the creation, cultivation and satisfaction of as many appetites as possible. At first blush, the very idea of fasting seems to induce an allergic reaction. At the very least, it seems like something that is “sooooo haaarrd”. Well, yes and no. It may be hard to cross its threshold, but once you’re inside, it’s surprisingly easy – as I constantly rediscover.

Friday 11 October 2013

The Sign of the Cross in The Silver Linings Playbook

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Ne þearf ðær þonne ænig anforht wesan
þe him ær in breostum bereð bēacna sēlest.
[No need, then, for anyone to be afraid
Who already on his breast bears that best of signs.]
–The Dream of the Rood

Recently I watched Silver Linings Playbook, the acclaimed romance-comedy-drama from last year which netted a Best Actress Oscar for Jennifer Lawrence. The film justly has been praised for its daring and yet successful balance between comedy and drama as it navigates the serious themes of domestic violence, adultery, gambling and mental illness. The central character, Pat, is recovering from a violent outburst triggered by the discovery of his wife’s infidelity and exacerbated by his previously-undiagnosed bipolar condition. In the midst of picking the pieces of his life back up, he begins a friendship with a young widow, Tiffany, who also has fragile mental health. Together, they learn how to confront their demons and relearn that the joys of life consist in more than just silver linings on an otherwise bleak existence.

On the surface, Silver Linings Playbook presents human problems and human solutions without any explicit reference to spiritual integration or the need for God in coming to grips with human fragility. Along these lines, I found the film’s resolution morally problematic on a couple of levels. Nonetheless, there is a compelling spiritual undercurrent to the story that I thought was insightful. Two prominent Christian symbols in particular provided a neat focus for the spiritual aspect of the film.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Montfort & Sons

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

St. Louis de Montfort; 

You've read the title correctly. I meant every bit of it. And more. I meant to write “Montfort & Sons … & Daughters”. The Montfort to whom I am referring is the Catholic priest St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. The title also refers to Mumford & Sons, the brilliant English folk-rock band. While the band recently decided to take a break, their music swill continue to help us grapple with consequential subjects like authenticity, inner freedom and human emotion. The lyrics of many their songs have helped me wrestle with my understandings (and misunderstandings) of God. But I cannot get into the specifics at this moment. I might leave it for a future post. For now, let's just say that these four Brits helped me overcome a beef that I had with St. Louis-Marie.

Monday 7 October 2013

A Different Taste: Traditional Chinese Medicine and Cura Personalis

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

Chinese herbs boiled by Edmund Lo

The autumn season is indeed upon us, and this also means that the cold/flu season has arrived. This season coincided with the shutdown of my immune system, perhaps as a result of two consecutive working weekends. This is an indirect and reluctant way to say that I fell ill. I usually fall ill at the end of the school semester, when the immune system is no longer on overdrive. This would normally give me more free time to recover. Since we are currently in the middle of the semester, I do not have such a luxury. Hence I decided to pay a visit to a Chinese herbal doctor.

Those of you who are familiar with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) will immediately recall both the somewhat repulsive smell and taste of the potions. A friend of mine even commented that “sickness is preferable” to having to drink them. I, however, do not mind them; as a wee boy who was always sick, I had to drink them on a daily basis for almost two years. I have been properly-trained to ignore the associated bitter taste. But what draws me back to TCM is not a kind of operant conditioning, as if disgusting taste leads to better health. It is rather the holistic approach.

Friday 4 October 2013

Stay Out of My Bedroom!

By Artur Suski, S.J.


“The Church should stay out of my bedroom!”

As I continue to do some ministry at the parish and at the university level, I am more and more exposed to the challenges of pastoral ministry. This phrase has been one of them, and is it ever a delicate matter! What do you say to someone who has said this to your face? How do you respond in a charitable way?

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Breaking Body

By John D. O’Brien, S.J. 


I was a late convert to the Vince Gilligan juggernaut, the record-breaking AMC series Breaking Bad, which many are calling the greatest show ever to grace the screen. I confess to having only begun watching this season, its last, for it takes a lot to convince me to watch a lot of television. But these final sixteen episodes have been riveting. It’s been acclaimed for its brilliant writing, acting, style and design. But I believe it has gripped the public because it presents some of the deepest spiritual truths with a most brutal honesty.

Monday 30 September 2013

Answering the Call: St. Matthew, Pope Francis, and Me

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

Caravaggio's “The Calling of St. Matthew”

Who are we called to be as Jesuits? This is a pretty big question. As individuals, each one of us can talk about who we are and what defines us. For example, I love the Beatles, Arcade Fire, the Philadelphia Flyers and Pope Francis.  Anyone who meets me will end up hearing a lot about those things.  But some aspects of identity are more difficult to talk about.

My particular vocation as a Jesuit is deeply a part of me … yet not easily communicated. When people ask about it, I usually offer something like, “I am who God is making me,” or, “I’m work in progress.” But such simple replies cannot convey the whole story.

Friday 27 September 2013

Christ without Christianity?

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Thus by Tradition faith was planted first;
Succeeding flocks succeeding pastors nursed.
This was the way our wise Redeemer chose.

I have read nothing by Anne Rice and know little about her. One day, however, in one of those moments on the internet where one ends up after a few clicks on a Wikipedia page, I read a bit about her. I was particularly interested in her highly publicised renunciation of Christianity—a faith she had, it turns out, very publicly embraced as an adult several years before:
Today I quit being a Christian. ... It's simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. … My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Autumn: Beauty Falls Upon Us

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


Blue. Wide blue skies. That is all we’ve had here in Wisconsin for the last few days. The earth is brown and rich, and gardens remain colourful and attractive. The air is crisp and invigorating. Yet a new fragrance is on its way. Autumn has fallen upon us. Soon, things will begin to change. Autumn has a way to come to the trees and strip them down. But the wind will not scatter the leaves until they have delighted and amused us with their many colours.

Monday 23 September 2013

He Said What? A Brief Reflection on the Controversial Bits of “The Interview”

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

The recent interview given by Pope Francis has garnered much headlines in both the secular and the Catholic press. The content of the interview is rich and diverse; it is also a lengthy read. Since this interview was originally conducted for Jesuit journals around the world, it is especially rich in Jesuit-related materials and it truly displays his Jesuit character. That being said, controversies often overshadow everything else and this is no different. What drew the attention of the media were his comments on issues such as abortion, contraception and especially homosexuality.

For example, the title of a commentary published in The Guardian was “Pope Francis' Stunning Blow to Conservatives”. On the other hand, a commentator for LiteSiteNews described Francis' comments as having the effect of “...rocking the Catholic world”. Is the Holy Father taking a public stance against the Catholic Church's teaching on these moral issues, thus “finally” aligning the Church with the rest of the secular world? Let us try to better understand his words.

Friday 20 September 2013

The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life

By Artur Suski, S.J.


The bedrock of Christian spirituality in both the East and the West throughout the ages has always been what mystical theology calls “the three ways”, and tremendous importance has been placed on their wisdom. That being said, as we enter the third millennium, there has been a marked loss of emphasis and an absence of teaching about these three ways, at least in the West. This negligence is accentuated by the fact that the statutes proposed by modernity are all too often in opposition to the three ways.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Atheists in Heaven

By John D. O’Brien, S.J. 


The media, both mainstream and the ever-effervescent blogosphere, is alight with claims and counter-claims about what Pope Francis really meant. In an unusual move, he wrote an open letter last week to Eugenio Scalfari, the atheist founder of Italian newspaper La Repubblica, after the latter had published questions to the Holy Father regarding the latest encyclical letter, Lumen Fidei. Scalfari had asked what the Church believes about salvation for those who profess not to believe.

Responses to the Pope’s ensuing statement have been all over the map. In England, The Independent made the headline: “Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven.” Many in the Catholic press professed confusion and decried the Pope’s lack of tact and precision. Many Protestants picked this up as evidence that Catholic theology no longer follows scripture, or unnecessarily complicates what scripture makes clear, such as Hebrews 11:6.

Monday 16 September 2013

Thomas Aquinas: The Bruce Lee of Medieval Philosophy

By Eric Hanna, S.J.

Thomas Aquinas is, without a doubt, the Bruce Lee of medieval philosophy.

That's what I told my students as I began teaching my first class. I have officially begun my regency, the stage of Jesuit formation where those who have taken vows spend time teaching and performing apostolic work. I'm thrilled to be working at Campion College in Regina. It's not easy to interest people in the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. But my opening device intrigued my students. Aquinas and Bruce Lee are philosophers with similar approaches to life.

Bruce Lee, founder of his own martial arts school and famed actor/director, began his studies in the west with an undergraduate degree in Philosophy at the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit institution. Aquinas and Bruce were similar in their level of personal giftedness. Both are geniuses who revolutionized their respective fields.

Friday 13 September 2013

Digital Wealth and Poverty

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

If wealth alone then make and keep us blest,

Still, still be getting, never, never rest.
– Pope

Television as a separate medium from the internet probably does not have a future. My own habits are certainly in line with such a prediction. I don’t watch much television, but when I do, I tend to watch it online. Many programmes are now made freely available (with advertisements) by broadcasters on their websites, and I for my part generally find enough to satisfy me on the CBC. Nevertheless, I was pondering a little while ago whether I might open an account with  Netflix. It is a service I subscribed to several years ago when I was living in the United States, and I thought I got my money’s worth. In Canada you can’t get DVD’s mailed to you like down south, but I figured that there would be plenty online to keep me entertained when I needed to unwind after a long day.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Passionate Commitment: Being in Love with Jesus

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. (1 Jn 4:16) 

Love appears without notice. When we fall in love, there is no time to think about what's happening. Falling in love is a crazy thing. It both hurts and soothes the aches of our innermost being. When I had been in love in the past, it would take me longer to put my socks on and to get ready in the morning because I was constantly thinking about that person. When we fall in love, coffee tastes better and there is a scent of hopefulness in the air. To me, falling in love is not quite a graceful thing, but it is an experience full of grace.

Monday 9 September 2013

Popes Pondering Peace

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


Pope Francis' call for a day of fasting and prayer for peace last week garnered much attention around the world. It also piqued my interest in what other popes have said regarding the issue of peace. I managed to browse through all the annual messages issued by our popes for the celebration of the World Day of Peace, which takes place on the first day of January of every year. There are forty-five of these messages in total, starting from the first, issued by Pope Paul VI in 1968 up to the latest one by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2013. Three popes had participated in writing these messages, with the other being Pope John Paul II.

All three have cited two authoritative Church documents on this topic: first, the encyclical Pacem in Terris by Pope John XXIII in 1963, and second, the fifth chapter of Pastoral Constitution of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, Gaudium et Spes. Both documents deserve attention themselves and will not be discussed here. The focus here is on the annual messages and their recurring themes.

Friday 6 September 2013

David, King of the Blues

By Artur Suski, S.J.


As an amateur musician, I’ve always been captivated by the blues genre of music. I started to play the acoustic guitar at the age of twelve. As soon as I was able to play some chords, I attempted to play the blues. It’s hard to describe what attracted me to that kind of music. Was it the free-style improvisation? The deep, low sounding chords, that somehow resonate with the deep sighs of the soul? Or was it the melancholic, sorrowful feel to the music?