Wednesday 30 January 2013

Our Carpenter Shop: Embracing Ordinary Time

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

In the liturgical year of the Catholic Church, we are now in the third week of ordinary time. This time refers to the time on the Church's liturgical calendar that does not belong to the major liturgical seasons; that is, Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. For some, its name conveys that it is an uninteresting or unremarkable period; however, ordinary time is not undistinguished or dull at all. Rather, it is an invitation to contemplate our call to discipleship in common places, within the regular routine of daily life. I like to think of it as the beautiful green valley between the majestic mountains of the four liturgical seasons.

Monday 28 January 2013

Building Bridges, Building Culture

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

About a month ago, the scientific world bid farewell to a giant, Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini. Her name immediately rang several bells when I read this on the news, for she is quite a big name in the field of neuroscience. Dr. Levi-Montalcini, along with her then-colleague, Dr. Stanley Cohen, discovered a small protein which they later named the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). This little protein is crucial in the development of the nervous system: its release manages to “attract” the receiving end of a neural cell. In a nutshell, its regulation would make sure that neural cells are properly wired with each other. NGF and other proteins of similar functions are also found to play an important role in the formation of cancerous tumours and also in neurodegenerative disorders. Drs. Levi-Montalcini and Cohen were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1986 for this great contribution.

In addition to being the first Nobel laureate who has lived to become a centenarian (she was 103 when she died), Dr. Levi-Montalcini was also nominated to be a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) in the 1970s, and a quick search within the website shows that she was quite active in the different conferences hosted by the PAS. This is all the more interesting, given that Dr. Levi-Montalcini was an atheist. In fact, several prominent atheist websites also published articles that bemoaned her passing. One may rightly ask: why would Dr. Levi-Montalcini agreed to join the PAS? Or, why did the PAS invite her?

Friday 25 January 2013

Sherlock Holmes’ Attic Theory

By Artur Suski, S.J.

In the second episode of Elementary from the television network CBS, Sherlock Holmes has yet another heated discussion with Dr. Watson, this time regarding the mind; Sherlock laments that too much useless information clutters our minds. He names his “data filtering” system the attic theory. The attic is where useful things are stored; but when we begin to accumulate useless things there too, we will need to get rid of the useful things just to make space for the useless. In other words, the useless begins to displace the useful.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Citizen Kane: What Makes Life Worth Living?

By John D. O’Brien, S.J.

This winter I have the privilege of teaching a subject I quite enjoy: the history of cinema. There are several reasons why I find this enjoyable.

First, great films are like great books. They are carriers of great ideas, have technical and historical interest, and can expand spiritual horizons. In a sense, films are “proto-evangelical”, a good way of examining the human condition through an artistic form that can prepare the way for the message and person of Christ. Movies stimulate discussion of human themes: of right and wrong, of good and evil, of beauty and decay, and ultimately, of salvation or destruction. In short, a film is an incredibly complex multisensory medium, and makes for a fascinating immersion.

This week, my class looked at the films of Orson Welles, the young auteur, who first became famous for his shockingly realistic radio play, a dramatization of H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds (online here in its entirety):

Sunday 20 January 2013

Positive and Frustrating Experiences around Evangelization on the Internet

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

For this entry, I'd like to muse about the Catholic Church and communications. More specifically, how do we communicate faith to a secular world that is slowly losing the art of elaborate and refined communication of complex ideas (which are needed to communicate the faith!), and that instead is more interested in “sound bites” and the 20 second summary of a complex issue?

Those of us who who have come to believe that Christ’s salvific love for us brings all people to new life and restores us to God’s light seem to be almost boxed out in this world and, as many agnostics and atheists would claim, have become irrelevant.

Thursday 17 January 2013

What I Learned from St. Thomas Aquinas

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Image: J. Hester & P. Scowen, STScI, ESA, NASA.

As compared with many other saints, and many other philosophers, he was avid in his acceptance of Things; in his hunger and thirst for Things. It was his special spiritual thesis that there really are things; and not only the Thing; that the Many existed as well as the One. ―Chesterton on Thomas Aquinas

Last term, a fellow Jesuit scholastic and I were privileged to do a reading course on the metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas with our programme director, reading chiefly from the First Part of the magnificent Summa Theologiae. I expected the material to be intellectually stimulating, but an unexpected pleasure were the many spiritual insights that we received. Here are the “greatest hits” from the course.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

"I am Pregnant with Expectation"

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


I have used this expression of pregnancy for several years to indicate my excitement about an upcoming  event. It denotes my anticipation for the celebration of a holiday like Christmas, a birthday, or the release of a long-awaited music album or film. Recently, I remember using it when telling friends apropos my giddiness about Mumford & Sons' new album or my trip to the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe. Just last week, I used it to announce my childlike anticipation for a decadent piece of chocolate cake (it was my way of making up for Mondays).

Saturday 12 January 2013

What to Do When You Are Stuck: Haiti and the Third Week

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

Photo: Jim Boynton, S.J.

To many people, January 12th may just be another day on the calendar; not so for me. It is the third anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, one which managed to kill more than 200,000 people. I happened to be there on that fateful day, as I had been sent to Haiti as a Jesuit novice just a week before. As Providence would have it, I was able to help out with the rescue effort at ground zero, as well as to learn about the Haitian culture during my five-month stay.

Some only know of Haiti in photos and video footage after the earthquake, which were mostly depictions of destruction, chaos and rubble. Some may not even know about it at all. In that sense, my arrival the week prior was priceless in many ways, as it gave me the opportunity to know a bit about the country before the disaster struck. I would use a Chinese phrase to describe both the pre- and post-earthquake state of Haiti: qian chuang bai kong (thousands of sores, hundreds of holes). The earthquake undoubtedly caused a catastrophic level of damage, but it did not create the crater-sized potholes on the road. It did not create the mountainous piles of garbage that one found on the street corners. It did not create racism or discrimination; nor did it create poverty, injustice, or corruption. If anything, it exacerbated an already desperate situation.

Thursday 10 January 2013

The Forest Ranger

By Artur Suski, S.J.


Many of us have undoubtedly been fascinated by characters of our favourite fantasy books who roam the vast forests of forgotten and distant realms. There is something in their adventures that captures our imagination, drawing us into our own fantasies. And why not? We have become too comfortable in our big concrete-and-steel mountains that we call “civilized cities”! The majority of us have very few opportunities to take a walk in the forest; by “forest”, I don’t mean the small piece of land in the middle of the city with a couple of trees. So, when was the last time you went for a good walk in a forest?

Monday 7 January 2013

Les Misérables: A Cry for Justice

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

I’d like to follow up on Santiago’s analysis of Les Misérables as a story, and focus on the musical and movie. Les Mis is a musical I have loved deeply since the early 1990’s. I have basically been waiting 20 years for it to be made into a movie – they had been talking about the movie since the mid 90’s, so my screening of it was probably the highlight of my year, if not my decade.

As many of you know, much of my vocation as a Jesuit Brother is rooted in a desire to bring justice to our world, to be close to the poor, to help fight against the injustices in our society and to restore right relationship with the earth. However, unlike many other people that are social justice activists, I have no personal history that inspired my desire to live justice. I was raised in a very normal middle class family that always had more than enough to survive. One may say I was rather sheltered from the injustices of our world. Over the years, my faith is what has inspired me to live justice and raise my voice against the wrongs of our world. However, the roots of my concern for justice came from this musical.

Friday 4 January 2013

Rise Up!

By Adam Hincks, S.J.


Over the few days leading up to the New Year, I attended the Rise Up conference in Halifax. The Jesuits of English Canada were one of the sponsors of the event and I was asked to attend on our behalf, while our vocation director went to the sister conference in Saskatoon. This annual event, organised by Catholic Christian Outreach, brings together hundreds of university-age students from across the country to listen to engaging speakers, to worship together with song and sacrament, and ultimately to make a deeper commitment to the Lord. The theme this year was Mary’s “fiat”―her acceptance of the angel Gabriel’s message―and the example she gives all Christians to say “yes” to God’s personal invitation in their lives.

It was exciting to be among around three hundred participants and organizers on fire for God and deeply committed to the Church. I was manning the Jesuit vocation table and spoke to a good number of young people at various stages of vocational discernment. All had great desires. But rather than drawing on these discussions, let me offer some thoughts on the conference more broadly, which had two, related strengths.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

What I Learned From Teaching This Year

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

Credit: www.

At the end of my first semester teaching in higher education, I find it an opportune time to evaluate the experience while it’s fresh, and draw out some key lessons learned. These are not, in any way, “ultimate” pointers for teaching, nor are they limited to college or university—they have resonance with other teaching experiences in high school and workplace. I arrange them as “rules” only for ease of reading. They are as follows: