Friday, 28 June 2013

From Superheroes to God

By Artur Suski, S.J.


You may have noticed our contemporary society’s fascination with the themes of fantasy and superheroes. Take movies as an example: these blockbusters would include Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Iron Man, the Batman series, Superman, and the list goes on. Have you ever wondered why we are so enthralled by these books and movies? It has recently crossed my mind, and hence this blog entry.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

On the Anniversary of von Balthasar

By John D. O’Brien, S.J.

Hans Urs von Balthasar
Really raised the bar,
From descensus, to drama, to logic – higher and higher –
With a leg-up from Adrienne von Speyr.

—Clerihew by Kim Fabricius and Ben Myers

Today (June 26, 2013), is the 25th anniversary of the death of one of the 20th century’s great theologians, the Swiss priest Hans Urs von Balthasar. He died on this day in 1988, in his eighty-third year, just two days before the ceremony that would have made him a cardinal. For his friends and fans, and they are many, this dies natalis, or “day of birth” into heaven, was a great mercy for the former Jesuit, who once turned down a professorship at the Gregorian University to be a student chaplain in Basel. He always preferred the hidden spots to the social panoplies of the world, to contemplate with John at the foot of the cross, to give retreats and direct souls, and to write about the things that mattered most, a massive output of more than 1000 books and articles. Despite his personal modesty, the French Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac once opined that Balthasar was “perhaps the most cultured man of our time.”

What did Balthasar have to say during his decades of intellectual and contemplative ministry? His biography is better read elsewhere; further, it is sometimes daunting to summarize his many and varied theological contributions. But in this Year of Faith and during this 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, it’s worth looking at some of his major themes that continue to reverberate in the Church today.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Memories of Halloween Past

By Eric Hanna, S.J.
There's a famous novel that begins with the protagonist smelling tea and biscuits. The scent brings back a whole series of memories for the protagonist and sets the entire novel as a flashback. Recently, I tasted a particular candy and it brought a whole series of memories flooding back to me of my childhood in Yellowknife, NWT. Enjoy a little trip to my past, which if nothing else will help you beat the summer heat.

Nighttime. -34 degrees Celsius. I am twelve years old. In this neighbourhood, time can go by for hours without a car passing to break the stillness. The quiet tastes of pines and ice. You can hear the gentle, constant roll of air that is not a breeze but the entire sky moving slowly past you. Behind me is the five hundred meters of empty snow where houses will probably be put in the future. There are only drifts. You can't walk through them without falling in to snow above your knees. You must follow the compressed tracks of the snowmobiles that cut through the field. There the snow is dense enough to support your weight.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Strangeness of the World

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Wonder by Akiane Kramarik

Horatio – O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
Hamlet – And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Allow me to relate two stories about children that I heard recently.

The first is about the nephews of one of my Jesuit companions who, along with their parents, visited my community a month or so ago. Since they were coming from the States, it turned out to be much cheaper for them to fly into Buffalo than Toronto, so my companion drove across the border to pick them up. On their way to Toronto, they stopped at Fort Niagara, on the American side of the border. My companion said to his nephews, “I hope you brought your bathing suits, because we have to swim to Canada.” His nephews weren’t sure if they had their suits or not. It wasn’t what they were expecting, but it didn’t seem terribly surprising to them: after all, they had never been to Canada before, and for all they knew, the way one got there was by swimming across the river. Of course, it was only when they were told that their uncle was pulling their leg that they saw the joke: before that, it was quite plausible.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Shake and Bake: on the Relationship Between Clergy and Laity

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

Throughout my past year at Campion College in Regina, there were a few instances where urgent lay services (with a Gospel reflection and the distribution of already-consecrated hosts) needed to happen on short notice. On these occasions, I had worked with a daily mass-attending graduate student, with each of us doing our respective parts. I jokingly named this type of collaboration between clergy and laity the “Shake and Bake”, in reference to a sophisticated manoeuvre between two race cars from the film Talladega Nights.

The important dynamics between clergy and laity was again highlighted for me as I reflected on the latest Hearts on Fire retreat (HoF) in Canada, which took place this past weekend in the beautiful St. John's, Newfoundland. Three Jesuits – including myself and two other Ibo contributors – flew into St. John's to give the retreat. One of the main goals of HoF is to provide tools for our retreatants to tangibly develop their relationship with the Lord; it is not the type of retreat where one comes out of it feeling good about learning a few inspiring intellectual concepts. It is the responsibility of the retreatants to incorporate Ignatian contemplation and the examination of consciousness into their spiritual regimen, along with living a more intentional sacramental life. There is precious little that we Jesuits can do if our retreatants do not use the tools with which they have been provided.

Friday, 14 June 2013

St. Anthony of Padua, a Saint for the New Evangelization

By Artur Suski, S.J.


We are now well beyond the halfway point of the Year of Faith that Pope Emeritus Benedict called last October. At the beginning of this "Year", Pope Benedict encouraged all Catholics to especially pay attention to the New Evangelization. As such, I thought it would be beneficial for us to take a look at role models whose lives may inspire and help us in this pursuit. We sometimes underestimate how powerful it is to look at the lives of the saints; they continue to work amongst us through their lived examples.

For instance, the life of St. Anthony of Padua was celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church yesterday. A Franciscan contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony’s life is a model for the New Evangelization. How so? I will illustrate this by discussing a few aspects of his inspiring life.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Cheap Grace and Atheists

By John D. O’Brien, S.J.

Sadao Watanabe, The Anointing with Oil and Tears, 1979

Recently I gave a talk called “What Pope Francis Expects from Us” at a forum in Vancouver, in which I shared six points I thought the Holy Father has highlighted in the first three months of his pontificate. One of these points was his frequent emphasis on God’s mercy. This could very well end up being the major theme of his papacy.

First, Mercy was the topic of his first homily at the Vatican parish St. Anna’s, on the first Sunday after his election. “For me,” he said, “and I say this humbly, the strongest message of the Lord is mercy.” That day, the Gospel was about Jesus sitting and eating and talking with sinners. “Jesus forgets,” the Pope insisted. “He has a special capacity to forget. He forgets, he kisses, he embraces, and he only says, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’”

Monday, 10 June 2013

Drenched in an Incomprehensible Love

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

In the past few weeks, we’ve been graced with wonderful material for meditation with the celebrations in our liturgical calendar. Two weeks ago, we had Corpus Christi, reminding us of the importance of the Eucharist in our journey as Christians, and the impact it can have on our lives. This past week, we celebrated the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. These celebrations helped us reflect not just on God’s profound love for us, but also on the rich interior life that we are called to in our journey with God.

As a person who came to the Church only later on in life, celebrations like the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart used to leave me rather confused and indifferent. It's only when I was in Guelph for to do the Spiritual Exercises (in 2009) that I made my peace with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is only then that I truly came to understand what this devotion stood for in my life. This happened because in the early days of the Exercises, we were asked to illustrate our faith journey with something concrete that we could make with pottery. Not having any artistic talents, I was not comfortable with this idea at all!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Jesus the Homeless

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

The dying, the crippled, the mentally ill, the unwanted, the unloved – they are Jesus in disguise.  –Bl. Mother Teresa.

Regis College, through which I have been studying philosophy for the past two years, has a unique crucifix in each classroom and numerous pieces of art throughout the building. So when I heard a couple of months ago that the college was acquiring a new sculpture, I didn’t make much of it. It would be nice to have another work of art, but I didn’t think that it would make a big difference to to the building, even when I heard that this work was a bit different, for it depicts Jesus as a homeless man sleeping on a park bench.

As it turns out, Timothy Schmalz’s “Jesus the Homeless" has attracted a lot of attention, even receiving writeups in many secular journals such as the Toronto Star and the Huffington Post. Although much was made in the news reports of the fact that Schmalz had some difficulty finding a venue for his piece—it turns out that two prominent cathedrals were unable to find a place for it before it was offered to Regis—the positive side of the story was also reported, and this is what has resonated most with people. There is something plainly true about a statue that depicts our Lord as a homeless man, identifiable only through the stigmata in his feet poking out from beneath a shabby blanket. As a result, many have come to see the statue and there was a big crowd at a panel discussion on homelessness hosted by the college.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Helping to Germinate the Kingdom of God: Young Adults and the Mystery of the Church

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


“The Church is not a country club for saints, but a hospital for sinners!” I have pondered this statement many times. I have considered it as I think about what the Church is and is not. The Church is neither a club or a hospital. It is not a sacrament dispenser, a spiritual service provider or a Sunday show. The Church is the Body of Christ, “a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Eph 1:4-5). As the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium (LG) of the Second Vatican Council stated, the mystery of the Church is manifested in its own foundation. The Lord Jesus set the Church to build the kingdom of God, which began with him, and continues to germinate and grow in all nations. The Church is not an end in itself. As our Pope Emeritus has often said, the mission of the Church is to carry on what Jesus started, to act as Jesus would act. As Lumen Gentium expresses, the Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ (LG 26).

I recently began to ask young adults about how well the Church is living out such a mission: what they perceive as the Church's strengths and limits; the ways they have experienced consolation and desolation through the Church, that is, an increase or decreased in faith, hope and love. This question came as a I prayed with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. In the First Exercise of the First Week, or the first phase of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius invites us to contemplate: “What I have done for Christ, what I am doing for Christ, and what I ought to do for Christ?” This contemplation led me to ask the same of the Church.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Dissecting Angelina

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

The double mastectomy undergone by the actress Angelina Jolie garnered much attention from the media throughout the past few weeks. Many have chimed in from different angles, including this brief commentary from our brother Jesuit blog in the United States. Much can be said about her decision, but I would like to focus on a few points.

Jolie decided to undergo this medical procedure after discovering that she is the carrier of a mutated copy of a gene called BRCA1. Women who carry a BRCA1 (and also BRCA2) mutation have a much greater chance of getting breast cancer. That being said, it doesn’t mean that all breast cancers are caused by BRCA mutations, nor does it mean that everyone is equally susceptible to such a genetic mutation.