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?

Wednesday 4 September 2013

At the Summit of Pain and Beauty

By John O’Brien, S.J.

Photo: Douglas Pham

Midway this way of life we're bound upon,
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
Where the right road was wholly lost and gone.
Ay me! how hard to speak of it—that rude
And rough and stubborn forest!

— Dante, The Divine Comedy 

Recently I was pressed, several times over, to the threshold of my absolute limit for pain tolerance. It was physical, I’m happy to say, for I’ve experienced the other kinds, and I’ll take the bodily over those any day. No, I am not fishing for sympathy here, as I hope will soon be clear. The pain was a gift, a “hard consolation”, as we followers of Ignatius would say, but it was acute and prolonged, and did play with mind and emotions. The whole thing was actually quite epic, and so the story should be told from its beginning.

Monday 2 September 2013

Listening to Hope

By Brother Dan Leckman, S.J.

Statue of St. Ignatius at the Jesuit Centre, Guelph.

This past summer has been one of the most challenging and intense I've ever had. Quite the bold statement, I know. I’m not quite sure how else to qualify the last two months of formation in spiritual direction that I’ve received at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph. The five of us doing the program have each had very different experiences: moments that took us out of our comfort zones. But these experiences always lead us back to God’s great love.

A large part of the challenge came from the process of spiritual direction itself, which was enriching but intense. And yes, I know that part of the intensity of that experience occurred because, hey, I’m an intense person! I often didn’t just “direct” people. I shared the experience of prayer with them. Many experienced great joy in their prayer and I experienced it with them. The danger with this approach was that when there was desolation, I shared it as well. Thankfully, this summer saw more of the joy than the desolation. In fact, my experience of that joy was so strong that, last week on my facebook status, I stated that after only two weeks of directing I'll find it hard ever to doubt the real presence of God in human life ever again. Even if at times I struggle with speaking or listening to God, I will never again be able to ignore the way the Lord's glory unfolds in people’s prayer. I can't un-see the way I’ve seen God lead people by the hand into healing, strength and hope.