Wednesday 31 July 2013

Moved to Love: World Youth Day and the Heart of a “Pilgrim”

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


Today is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. As a son of Loyola, I am very grateful for Ignatian spirituality. As I have learnt to find God in all things, I have become more adept to recognize and understand the movements of my heart. Through the prayerful experience of the examination of consciousness, I discover on a daily basis how my heart is affected, engaged and transformed.

The World Youth Day (WYD) in Rio de Janeiro from last week gave me a lot of materials for reflection. As I followed it online and on television, I found myself profoundly affected – I had a deep sense of consolation. I grew in faith, hope and love. I experienced joy, compassion, freedom and understanding. I grew in appreciation and gratitude for the Church, the poor and for the gift of discipleship. In my prayer, both St. Ignatius and Jesus continually invite me to treasure and share my consolations. Therefore, I want to take a moment to highlight some of the graces I received while following WYD, and uniting myself in prayers with the pilgrims and millions of people around the world who were following this event.

Monday 29 July 2013

The Gift of the Giver

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

(Photo: Edmund Lo, Jesuit Belieber)

For those of you who are familiar with the tradition of Camp Ekon, the purpose for its existence is not for the general merriment of young campers during the summer, but rather the development of leadership skills in our camp counsellors and staff. This is to say that the care for campers should be seen as a critical part of such a development. Therefore, the rapport that one establishes with campers goes a long way.

We recently finished our two-week Girls Session at Ekon, which means that all of our campers were female. In other words, activities and themes tended to be more girl-friendly. We invested in a button-making machine in our arts-and-crafts division, which turned out to be a huge success. The girls loved it, and made many buttons for themselves and their loved ones. I remembered chatting with one of the campers last week about her buttons; she was known to be quite the fan of the teen sensation that is Justin Bieber, and she wanted to give me one of her (many) Bieber buttons. I thought to myself: “How about, baby, baby, baby no!” Me, a Jesuit who teaches in a university, wearing a Bieber button? The level of embarrassment would be off the charts.

Friday 26 July 2013

Fast Food Nation

By Artur Suski, S.J. 


Some of you know all too well that one of my interests is nutrition. My academic background is molecular biology, and I have put this knowledge to good use as I recently have been doing more reading on the topic of nutrition. Why the interest? Simply put, God has given us a body and we are to be faithful stewards of this magnificent creation. Are we to abuse it or to take good care of it? I think the answer is clear. The same applies to nutrition; are we to abuse our bodies by giving it garbage or real food? One would not fill a Ferrari with sugar water, yet this is what we’re doing to our bodies today, especially with our Western diet– one that is dominated by processed foods; too many calories from animal products and hydrogenated vegetable oils; not nearly enough greens; and so forth.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

God in the Vast Smallness

By John D. O’Brien, S.J.

2:30 a.m., July 5, 2013 - Rose Prince Pilgrimage, Lejac, B.C. (Photo: Sarah Ruggier)

Recently I returned from an extraordinary trip. With eight others from the college at which I work, I journeyed for two days to Fraser Lake, a town along the picturesque Yellowhead Highway, about 150 kilometres west of Prince George, the “capital” of northern British Columbia. It was more pilgrimage than student trip. We were about “service learning” to be sure, but that sounds too much like programming, and the experiences eclipsed anything curricular or planned. It was communal, personal, educational, spiritual, cultural and adventuresome all in one, and stretched our horizons in ways we are still digesting. I, for one, am still appropriating the sights, sounds, prayers and encounters that were constitutive of our way. Perhaps all pilgrimages are like that.

Monday 22 July 2013

Five Simple Tips for a Silent Retreat

By Eric Hanna, S.J.

This is the sort of advice someone might give you – so pay attention.

A prayerful retreat in silence is a powerful experience. A whole day spent away from communication creates a peaceful quiet in which the retreatant can express her or his most subtle and unformed feelings to God and also be open to receiving God's loving replies. Remaining silent, whether for a day, a weekend, or even longer can be difficult for some. So try to follow these five helpful tips so that you can take maximum advantage of your time of retreat.

Friday 19 July 2013

Shovelling for Science

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

The nobility of labour,—the long pedigree of toil. – Longfellow

The Atacama Cosmology Telescope, in the Andes of northern Chile. Photo: Adam Hincks

For the past two weeks I have been working at the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) in the desertic Andes of northern Chile. The visit comes as part of my new post: a research position in astrophysics at the University of British Columbia (UBC). This is my original area of study, and I was asked by superior to spend the two years between my philosophy studies, which I finished in June, and my future theology studies (a period called “regency”) getting some more experience as a research scientist. I was fortunate to find this position at UBC. It allows me to live in our Jesuit community in Vancouver and to be involved in astrophysics research at a first-rate secular institution.

I came down to work on ACT here in Chile several times as a doctoral student from 2007–09, so the terrain is mostly familiar. We stay in the village of San Pedro de Atacama, which happens to be a very popular tourist destination due to the abundant natural beauty in the region and its proximity to both Bolivia and Argentina. The number of hotels, restaurants and tourists has increased notably since I was last here four years ago, but it has retained much of its rustic charm. The church in town where I attend mass is a simple adobe structure dating from 1641—the period back when Brébeuf and his brethren were active in Huronia.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Sir Paul McCartney and the Heart

By John D. O’Brien, S.J.

What do Paul McCartney, St. Ignatius, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Joseph’s Oratory (Montreal) have in common? An excellent question, posed by a friend of certain multi-media expertise. Upon inquiring, I discovered a remarkable correlation: the former Beatle had composed an oratorio being performed at the great Canadian shrine, a work based upon an inscription he had read on a statue at St. Ignatius Church in New York.

Monday 15 July 2013

Which Door, and Which Way?

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

As a Jesuit working at Camp Ekon, I wear a few hats, and it is just the way I like it. My official role includes: being a camp counsellor and all that entails with it; leading reflection sessions with the older campers; driving the van; and conducting communion services (a celebration of the Liturgy of the Word and distribution of communion whenever our chaplain is not available). Since these services during the week (save Fridays) are optional, the rate of participation often depends on how well I know the campers, and how hard I try to invite them.

I find that kids tend to come when they get to know me as a person. In fact, non-Catholic kids would come to communion services because I have befriended them. I have been working with the “Rock Hut” girls – eleven to twelve-year-olds – for the past two weeks, and they have the opportunity to get to know me. This translates into a decent representation of the Rock Hut during the communion services. With the older girls in the “Bear Hut” (thirteen to fourteen-year-olds), it is another story. I know some of them from last year, but I don't have a chance to directly work with them this time around. In other words, they do not know me as well, and vice versa. This makes the invitation to communion service more challenging.

Friday 12 July 2013

“Who Do You Say that I Am?”

By Artur Suski, S.J.


Exactly halfway through the Gospel of Mark, Jesus popped the above question to his disciples. They had been with him long enough to see countless miracles, to hear the words of salvation, and to truly get a sense who Jesus is through being with him on a daily basis. But things would start getting difficult from now on– Jesus would tell them three times that he will suffer, die, and be raised. They would also see their Lord being taken away in the Garden of Gethsemane – and in order to be able to pass these challenges, they had to give an honest answer to that question. For if their understanding of his person or his mission is off, they would not be able to carry the heavy burden of witnessing his passion and death. Indeed, what we see is that they were not able to endure that most painful event; all the disciples fled when Jesus needed them most, because they still did not truly know him.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Lumen Fidei: Faith and the Vast Horizons of Our Time

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


Without light, there would be no sight. Our sight is the result of the interaction between light, our eyes and our brain. Light allows us to see. I had this in mind as I read Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis' encyclical, Lumen Fidei (LF). The encyclical reflects on the light of faith – the way faith illumines our lives. It presupposes the Second Vatican Council's consideration about faith: we receive the ultimate truth about human life as a gift of love from God the Father in the revelation of Jesus Christ. Faith allows us to know truth through love, since love is a “form of shared knowledge, a vision through the eyes of another and a shared vision of all that exists” (LF 27). Lumen Fidei invites us to contemplate Jesus and to see all things with his eyes.

Monday 8 July 2013

My Eight-Day Retreat: Finding new language for an old experience

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

A bit over a week ago, I completed my eight-day Ignatian retreat at Loyola House in Guelph, Ontario. During the retreat, God opened some doors and I was given new language to help me reflect on the mystery that is our relationship with God. One of my more powerful prayer experiences began with a “simple” contemplation on love: What kind of love does God give me? How does it sustain me, shape me, affect my actions?

I spent most of the week discovering what it means to stand before God as “a beloved”, and that alone was an incredibly uplifting. While sitting before a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary one night, the whole reflection took on a whole new meaning. As I engaged in prayerful conversation with Mary, she invited me to imagine what it felt to be loved by my parents. So, I sat with that for a few minutes and contemplated that love. It was a wonderful experience that brought me deep joy. After a few minutes Mary said to me, “Do you understand now? If you think your parents’ love for you is such an incredible gift, imagine how much more God loves you.”

Friday 5 July 2013

Praying the Prayers of the Mass

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

An ancient, newly-learned form of words. —Evelyn Waugh

The new English translation of the Roman Missal has helped many of us listen to the mass with new ears. The mere fact that the words are often different from the previous translation can awake us from the passivity that is a constant temptation at church. As the Second Vatican Council taught , we are to aim for “fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations” (Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), §14). Of course, there are many modes in which we participate in the liturgy, and “active participation” does not always mean making gestures or saying things. It is both external and internal (SC, §19), so that in addition to participating in responses and singing, it includes maintaining “a reverent silence” at the appropriate times (SC, §30).

There has been a whole spectrum of opinions about the quality of the new translation, but I will prescind from adding my own. Rather, I would like to focus specifically on three short prayers that change each mass: the collect (or opening prayer), the prayer over the gifts (at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist) and the prayer after communion. One decision that was made in the new translation was to retain more of the content and imagery of the original Latin text. As a result, there is much fruit to be gained by being attentive to them—and by actively praying along with the congregation these prayers that the priest pronounces.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Don't Be Afraid to Fly with Eagles: Stay Motivated

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


During my pilgrimage in the Canadian Maritimes a few years ago, I met a wonderful woman who had suffered lots throughout her life, but nevertheless had found the strength and motivation to pray every day. She said: “Prayer changed my life. Actually, prayer saved my life.” She knew what she needed to do in order to succeed and find meaning in life; she needed to pray. She also knew she lacked the motivation, and for this she found her inspiration from seeing eagles fly. “When I felt that life was too much for me to handle”, she said, “I would go for a walk and contemplate the outdoors. I would always see a bald eagle and I would tell myself, ‘I have to soar. I may be living a sparrow kind of life, but if I let the Lord more deeply into my life, I am gonna fly with eagles.’”

Monday 1 July 2013

Mosquitoes, Comfort Zones, and Leadership

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


For five weeks this summer, I find myself again at the beautiful Camp Ekon, the Jesuit-run summer camp in Ontario, Canada. I have been here for a week along with the staff and counsellors, getting the camp-site ready for the campers. This “getting ready” can range from cleaning campers' washrooms to putting in the wooden swimming docks. I was assigned to rake the leaves off one of the trails on a humid afternoon last week, and this meant encountering creatures that bring out the absolute worst in me: mosquitoes.

Those of you who know me, will remember my deep dislike for mosquitoes. For this fateful encounter, I was already wearing long pants and a hooded windbreaker, but these creatures nevertheless swarmed and went for the part of my head and face that were not covered. I received five of these “head shots”, which I find to be the most irritating kind of bites. I thought to myself several times, “Argh! ARGH! Why am I doing this?” This blog entry is not meant to be another one of those mosquito rants, but the point is that these little devils certainly took me out of my comfort zone completely.