Friday, 29 August 2014

Farewells and Rebirths

By John D. O'Brien, S.J., on behalf of the Ibo writers

Credit: Santiago Rodriguez
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. –Winston Churchill
The time has come to say farewell to our loyal readers. Sort of. For we are not so much departing from you, nor you from us, as we are putting to rest the format of communication that has served us both so well these past few years. The editors and writers of Ibo have decided that this will be the final article here, as we migrate to an exciting new blog-site hosted on Patheos.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Three Impediments to the Christian Faith that St. Augustine Overcame, and Why They Still Matter

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Image: www.economist.com

Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear. – J.R.R. Tolkien

Many of the things get in the way of Christian faith and have remain remarkably consistent through the ages. Here are three roadblocks that St. Augustine, whose feast we celebrate tomorrow, had to overcome before fully embracing the Catholic faith, as described in his autobiographical Confessions.

1. Disordered Sexuality

When it comes to sex, St. Augustine wears his heart on his sleeve in the Confessions, speaking with remarkable frankness. He is famous for relating that as young man he used to pray, ‘Give me chastity and continence, but not yet’ (VIII, 7). Unfortunately, he lived in a culture, not unlike ours, in which chastity was seen as unmanly. When his friends boasted of their own conquests, he was eager not to lose face with them:

Friday, 22 August 2014

The Day I Wanted to Punch Jesus

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

totalrocky.com

"My arms are too short to box with God.” - Johnny Cash

I got into a fistfight once. It was more of a crazy dance than a boxing match. I’d like to think that I was defending my then-girlfriend's honour, but I was probably protecting my stubborn pride. I hated that fight. I was terrified and my heart thumped in my chest, but I knew I had to fight. The way I remember the fight we both got our noses bloodied. In all likelihood, I got the worst of it. Hopefully, the other guy thought of me as he got out of bed the next day. I doubt he did. That’s the closest I’ve ever been to being a boxer. Fisticuff games don’t count, regardless of what my brothers might say.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Having Tea with China

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

Photo: Edmund Lo

I feel like I know you, yet I do not.

We share the same bloodline, but I was raised under colonial rule, for better and for worse.

I jokingly tell others that my Chinese friends think I am too western, whereas my western friends think I am very Chinese. This is who I am, but I want to know more about my roots. I am not a Sinophile, because I do not come to you as a foreigner; you are already a part of me. I just want to know you more. I have longed for such an opportunity, and it finally happened.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Bread in the Lord’s Prayer – Common misunderstandings

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Credit: http://officetipsandmethods.com

One of the very first prayers that Christians learn is the Our Father. It’s a prayer that all Christians know and pray daily, and it’s one of the only prayers that Jesus taught us. It is such an important prayer that the entire English-speaking Christian world has adopted the same translation.

As I’ve been reading some commentaries on the Greek text of the Lord’s Prayer, I’ve come to see how much meaning we miss in the English translation. Consequently, also lost in translation is some of the original intent that Jesus had in mind.

It is some of these findings that I would like to share in this post. I’ve decided to limit myself to the sentence that has provoked the most discussion over the ages, the phrase “give us this day our daily bread.” Here are three points that I will tackle:

Friday, 15 August 2014

Viva La Vida

By John O'Brien, S.J.


On the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe (Aug 14), patron of journalists among other things, I noted that my birthday — or “anniversaire” as they say here in Quebec — had arrived.

It’s the anniversary of being “dato alla luce” (literally: given to the light), as the Italian phrase goes. But enough linguistic poaching. I’m presently enjoying days of villa with my Jesuit brothers on a lake in the Laurentian Mountains west of Montreal. “Villa” is Jesuitese for our annual week of relaxation, usually accompanied by hikes, films, novels, and this year at least, paint-ball. Yes, a large group of late-20 and 30-something professed religious let their primal survival instincts loose in an epic game of urban warfare. But I digress. As my birthday often falls during our summer villa-week, I get plenty of fraternal feting and roasting (the two go hand-in-hand in notre petite compagnie). But it also is a pleasant reminder each year to take stock, as a good existential philosopher might do, of the horizons of my being.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Does God Answer Prayers?

By Adam Hincks, S.J.


There will be an answer—let it be. – Paul McCartney

Does God answer prayers? This is one of the most common religious questions out there. It cuts straight to the question of what kind of relationship we can have with God. It informs how—or even whether—we pray. And it quickly branches out to a multitude of related questions. How can God answer conflicting prayer requests? If God doesn’t answer all our prayers, how can we know which he will answer? What kinds of things should we ask for and what should we not ask for?

I would like to suggest that asking whether God answers prayers is often the wrong question. Usually, it comes out of anxiety or unreflective doubts. Assurance that God “answers” requests is taken to be a sort of proof of faith. In such situations, the question that people should really be interested in is, “Is God listening to me?” And this is really distinct from whether he grants requests.

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Art of Listening

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

thebridgemaker.com

A few weeks ago, as I was praying with the city, I contemplated one of the recurring themes in my Jesuit vocation: I've known for years that I can be a good listener to people’s stories and spiritual journeys. This does not mean that I remember everything they tell me. It just means that I have a natural ability to silence my own voice and listen to the experience of the other so attentively that I almost feel like I’m partaking in it. I believe this is one of the greatest assets I bring to the Society of Jesus but I also know that there are limitations to my ability. I know, for example, that a crowded room can distract me from focusing solely on one person. I also know that, for whatever reason, there are times when I lose interest in a person’s account. I feel bad whenever that does happen but it’s just part of life I guess. Finally, I’m fully aware of the fact that when I work as a spiritual director there is a certain danger of being too emotionally engaged in listening to my directee. Until this particular prayer, I had always thought that my ability to connect with people by emotionally sharing their experience would be one of my great assets to the society. That night, I began having second thoughts about it.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Enter Sandman: Ignore the Trolls and Avoid Walking Dead

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Credit: www.azumio.com

Over my years of seminary and Jesuit formation, one thing has always been clear to me: the wand chooses the wizard. It is also clear to me that the decision to stay up late at night is also the decision not to pray in the morning. Whether I am making a sandwich at 11:17 pm, watching Epic Fail YouTube videos after midnight, or pondering my life goals at 2:46 am, sometimes I resent having to go to bed because there's so much I could be doing instead.

This blog entry is not about sleep preferences, for both early birds and night owls can be successful. It's not about the stuff you do on the internets, either. We all need the World Wide Web to settle all sort of ridiculous disagreements with friends and co-workers. I've written before about time management and procrastination, so I'm going to spare you all sorts of lists and tips. I write these lines to point out how sleep deprivation and its consequences get in our way of living life to the fullest.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Entering Through Their Little Doors: Doing Theology With Children

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


About a year and a half ago, my niece Monica asked me a question: “So, how do you know what God wants you to do?” How on earth do I answer her? As I kicked my mind into high gear, she was quickly distracted, as a six-year-old would.

I thought about my niece's question for quite a while afterwards. If Mony were to demand an answer from me again, I would tell her that we know what God wants us to do by a peace and happiness that we find within us. It is different from the short-lasting happiness of a piece of chocolate; rather, it is a happiness, or “joy”, that lasts. This has to do with the Ignatian understanding of consolation, that we are being oriented towards God, and we can concretely detect this in our lives. Perhaps you have found yourself in a similar situation before, where a child asks you a question that requires a complicated answer.

Monday, 4 August 2014

A Glance at Contemplative Prayer

By Artur Suski, S.J. 

Credit: www.img.4plebs.org

More and more I’ve been noticing that people these days have a great thirst for spirituality, and especially for prayer. It seems that the more our contemporary culture throws at us an anti-faith and materialistic mindset, the more something deep within calls to us. I think this is what has moved people to search for some sort of spirituality. “New Age” movements have sprung up like dandelions; for instance, there has been a renewed interest in Buddhist meditation. There has been a modest increase in interest in Christian spirituality too, though admittedly not as great as such things as those “New Age” movements. Christianity has been tried, and is has been found to be very, very difficult, mostly because of its sexual morality, which uncomfortably challenges many in today’s “liberated” and sexualized society.

When it comes to prayer and its many forms, however, Christianity can offer a wealth of resources. That so many Christians today don’t know how to pray, or simply don’t pray, speaks volumes about the terrible job we have been doing in promoting and teaching prayer. In this entry, I would like to spend some time on what many in the Church call contemplative prayer. I will attempt to provide some sort of practical guide that can be followed by people in all walks of life.

Friday, 1 August 2014

On the Threshold of Religious Life: an Interview with Jesuit Novice Erik Sorensen

By John O’Brien, S.J. 


Erik Sorensen is in the final days of the first phase of Jesuit formation known as novitiate. For two years, he has been studying, praying and embarking on experiences known as “experiments”, all designed by St. Ignatius of Loyola to test the candidate and help him grow in his vocation. Erik, 24, will be professing vows of perpetual poverty, chastity and obedience on August 17, 2014. 

Erik, tell us a little bit about yourself and your family background. 
I grew up in Red Deer, Alberta with my parents and two younger sisters.  Ever since I was young, I have been interested in aviation. This interest led me to get both my pilots license and a Bachelors Degree in Aerospace Engineering. 

What brought to the doorstep of the Jesuit novitiate? 
During my years in high school, I entertained the thought of being a priest. But I was never super serious about it because I was so intrigued by my passion for aviation and I was unable, at the time, to reconcile these ideas.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

My Interview with St. Ignatius Loyola

By Eric Hanna, S.J.

Thursday (July 31) is the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola this year.  As a Jesuit in formation, I have always looked to Ignatius for inspiration. The fifteenth century noble turned religious pilgrim set down a spiritual tradition that continues to change the lives of people in the present day. But what would Ignatius say if he could see what has been built upon his foundations? It was my privilege to sit down with St. Ignatius and pose this question.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Seatback Entertainment: Progress or Stultification?

By Adam Hincks, S.J.


The medium is the massage. – Marshall McLuhan

I have always enjoyed flying, which is a blessing given that my current position involves a fair amount of travel. Apart from the security lines, I profit from the down-time in the lounge, I enjoy looking out the window of the aeroplane, and I actually like the little meals they bring right to your seat as though you were an astronaut. Finally, I appreciate the opportunity to watch films. A large fraction of the movies I see are at ten thousand metres off the ground.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Though the Gorge Was Mute, God Spoke at the Grand Canyon

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Credit: Santiago Rodriguez

We went deep into the heart of Arizona to see the earth and the sky display their magnificence. After the last of the retreats of our summer tour, Adam and I drove for four days back to Milwaukee. Our first stop was one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon – an impressive and inspiring landscape, overwhelming our senses with its immense size and beauty. As our visit guide explained, almost two billion years of our planet’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and the wind cut through layer after layer of rock. This erosion resulted in combinations of spectacular forms and delightful geologic colours like every shade of red, citron, buff, russet, and pink. In its depths, the canyon is deep red, and at times brown or violet.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

I Would “Friend” You, Lord; But in What Way?

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


We all have friends. “Bros”, Best Friend Forevers (BFFs), close friends, acquaintances, you name it. Not surprisingly, the quality of the friendship depends on how well we know the person, and how much effort we put into the relationship. Think about those groups of friends that you have, with differing levels of intimacy. Which group does God fall into?

Let us be honest about this. Some of us have God in the “BFFs” category; others may have God in the “acquaintances”, or even the “speed-dial when crap happens in my life” category. Some only seek affirming or wise words from God when they want them. When this is the case, God is not any different from an inanimate book with wisdom sayings. Such a relationship is one-way with no strings attached: I call you up when I need a quickie. Or, some may have God in the “awkward” zone: I kind of know you, but I don't know how I feel about you.

Monday, 21 July 2014

[Not] Seeing the Face of Christ in the Homeless

By Artur Suski, S.J.

a-revolt.org

Three weeks in the Paris of North America. Three weeks contemplating the suffering and rejected Christ. Three weeks of soul-searching.

Though a Jesuit’s summer is often full of Jesuit-formation activities, such as making one’s own eight-day retreat and attending formation gatherings, there are chunks of time that often lend themselves to creativity. I had three weeks at my disposal and I decided to make good use of them. I have been the last three weeks in Montreal, volunteering at a well-established (since 1877) soup kitchen and shelter – Accueil Bonneau.

My initial decision was simply to come to Montreal in order to polish my French. Not really knowing how to go about doing this in a most effective way, I asked some French Canadian Jesuits for some suggestions. After a few email exchanges it was decided that I’d have lots of French conversation at a soup kitchen. Hence Accueil Bonneau.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Lansana

By John O’Brien, S.J.



One night, which happened to be Good Friday, I sat in a friend’s living room and listened to a man describe his trip to hell and back. Human suffering was never so visible as it was in the face of that smiling man.

Lansana is from Sierra Leone, a west African country founded by former American slaves. In 1991, armed rebels, frustrated by decades of tribal discrimination and the huge gap between the poor and diamond-swollen rich, launched a civil war. In ten years it displaced or killed nearly one third of the population. For Lansana, the son of a moderately successful plantation owner, the war meant a descent into Dante’s inferno.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Astonishing Givenness of the World

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Photo: John O'Brien, SJ

The whole of nature is something prepared for us, composed for us, given to us, delivered into our care by a supernatural dispensation. – David B. Hart

Being suddenly struck by the sight of the full moon is one of those commonly disarming experiences. The other night as I was walking down the street, I looked up and there it was, perfectly round and full and low on the horizon next to a church spire. I had not been at all aware of its phase, and it took me a bit by surprise. There it just was.

There is a mix of the familiar and the strange when one sees the full moon in this way—or any other weird or beautiful thing: a bridge over a river, a deer in the path, even the dripping of an icicle outside the window. It is not that it is something entirely new, for these are all things that are commonly seen, but rather the being surprised at all by its simple presence that is disarming: one is suddenly reminded that it is, rather than what it is. Such unexpected encounters are, I think, not uncommon, though some more than others have cultivated an attitude that makes them more alive to the sheer givenness of things in the world.

Monday, 14 July 2014

St. Petersburg and Montréal: A Tale of Finding God in Two Cities

By Br. Daniel Leckman, S.J.

St. Petersburg

In 2004, I spent a month in St. Petersburg, Russia. It’s a trip that affected me on many levels and created many incredible memories: like standing at the graves of Dostoyevsky, of Pushin, and of Tchaikovsky. It was also one of the first times in my life where I can remember having a deeply spiritual experiences in a city. Of course, St. Pete was like no other city I had ever seen. Her history, her architecture, her incredible colours, amazing metros, her culture … each one of her stories seemed to call to me. There are too many moments in this trip to recount in a short blog; but there is one that stood out.

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Guy Who Drove Jesus Nuts

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Credit: www.thinkstockphotos.com

The scent of bitterness filled my heart and resentment clouded my mind. I could not take one more minute of his foolishness, and I danced away from a conversation I did not want to continue. It was dark by the time I reached my room and flicking the switch on did not seem to alter my foul mood. I tried to read for a bit, but I found myself replaying the conversation in my mind. I knew it was a waste of energy and I opted for the rest that comes with sleep. I went to bed but sleep did not come easily, for my heart was heavy with anger and my mind was stuck in replay. I was too tired to sweep the floorboards of my brain and to hush the echoes of my heart. Resentment and bitterness invited all their friends and they threw a party at the foot of my bed. I always try to be a good neighbor and let people party, even if it’s late, but after a while it was time to either knock on the door or to call the police. A rushed Hail Mary served as my messenger, and soon the party was over – either my tiredness kicked in or my emotions caved in.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

An Open Letter to St. Paul

View from Highway 1, along the California coast.

Dear St. Paul:

I know that you have to sort through much fan mail, so I want to thank you for taking the time to read this letter. You probably know me from all the “intercession requests” that I've sent you. You are a great inspiration to me; in fact, you are one of my top-five saints.

 For the past four weeks or so, I have been a part of a Jesuit “mission band” which gives the Spiritual Exercises to young adults. I trust that you've heard of this manual written by my spiritual father, St. Ignatius of Loyola. I am not here to recount to you all the details of the retreat; rather, I think I've found some parallels between my experience and yours.


You know, working with fellow young Jesuits has been something that I have thoroughly enjoyed. It isn't as if we all think alike and we always get along. Friction is inevitable, as we are only human beings. I mean, even you and St. Peter had that argument in Antioch. If that could happen in public, I wonder how the discussions were like in private!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Apparitions – Should We Care?

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Credit: http://www.michaeljournal.org

Ask a handful of Christians if they believe in apparitions, and you would likely find that the majority of them do not. And, really, why should they? We already have the Bible and our traditions. What more can these apparitions possibly “add” to our faith? Right? I beg to differ. In fact, I would challenge them and say that it is not biblical to reject all apparitions and make light of them. Was it not St. Paul who wrote, "Do not extinguish the Spirit. Do not despise prophecy. Test everything; retain what is good" (1 Thess 5:19-22)? Apparitions have been an integral part of our faith journey as Judeo-Christians. It was through apparitions that our Patriarchs of the Old Covenant received guidance from God, and the Torah itself! It is through apparitions that prophets received their call and their sacred messages to pass on to the people. Why would it be any different now?

Friday, 4 July 2014

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire of Grace

By John D. O’Brien, S.J. 

Photo: Sarah Scali

The life of a Jesuit Regent can be pretty marvellous, even a little unhinged. Especially summers, when any pretence to maintaining a "regular" life fails completely. All that remains is living in the here-and-now, or in the "sacrament of the present moment", as de Caussade puts it. I recently described a two-week service trip to the Northwest Territories (NWT) with a group from my college. It was a tremendous experience in every way: we travelled far, we served in distant communities, prayed a lot together, and shared both joy and hardship. We came limping back, but with hearts full and alive.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Justice and Peace and Galaxies

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

(Photo: VIS - news.va)

I found Him in the shining of the stars. –Tennyson

What do galaxies have to do with justice and peace? It is perhaps a curious question to ask, but it is one that came up during the 2014 Vatican Observatory Summer School held last month. This four week programme, offered every two years, is for beginning graduate students or upper-year undergraduates in astronomy. One of its unique features is that a maximum of two students are accepted from any one country, making it a very international experience. The school this year, on the topic of “Galaxies: Near and Far, Old and Young”, had twenty-five students from twenty-three countries.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Data Dreams - A Catholic Perspective on Artificial Intelligence

By Eric Hanna, S.J.


“Data, if you ever do realize your dream of becoming human, I don't think you'll be a bad one.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation

It is wrong to assume that a religious understanding of the sacredness of life is automatically opposed to the concept of artificial intelligence. We believe that human souls are sacred … but does this imply that an intelligent machine, being non-human, must be a soulless impossibility? What is sacred about intelligence? What can be sacred about machines? To begin to answer these questions I offer a few philosophical and theological tools. At the moment, human-like artificial intelligence is but a dream: an unknown possibility. But exploring our dreams can help us learn more about ourselves.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Appetite for Convenience

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Credit: www.thinkstockphotos.com

I am on the road again. Being part of the Jesuit Mission Band means travelling, driving from one city to the next, and moving from a Jesuit community to a hotel and vice versa. Being on the road implies living out of a backpack or a suitcase, having a different schedule every day, and dining out very often. At times, all of this leaves me out of sync, exposed, and a bit vulnerable. Without the stability and structure of a routine and a more consistent schedule, I feel like an octopus on roller-blades. When it comes to planning my meals, I never know what the next meal will look like. As days go by on our retreat tour, I find myself going for what is convenient, trying to be sensitive to the culinary preferences of others, and losing the self-restraint not to binge on a bag of Tostitos forty-five minutes after we’ve had lunch.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Staying Connected in Another Way

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


To begin this blog entry, I would first invite you to imagine the faces of those with whom you have stayed in contact. They can be loved ones, families from afar, old friends, new acquaintances, and so on. Recall the bond that makes you want to remain in contact with this person. This is the “who”s.

Secondly, think about the ways in which you have remained in contact with these people. It can be a short text message from your smart phone, or “liking” the Facebook update of another. You may prefer old-school methods such as writing an email, or a hand-written letter. Perhaps you are reliant on your Facebook account or Google Calendar to remind you of their birthdays; I know I am. This is the “how”s.

Monday, 23 June 2014

To Bee or Not to Bee

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Credit: http://u.osu.edu/

His labour is a chant, 
His idleness a tune; 
Oh, for a bee's experience 
Of clovers and of noon! 
(From The Bee, by Emily Dickinson)

There has been a lot written in the bee world during these last couple of years regarding what researchers call “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). Bee colonies throughout the world have been dying off at a dangerous rate. It was only after I had watched the documentary Vanishing of the Bees that I fully grasped the serious problem at hand.

Friday, 20 June 2014

In the Land of the Midnight Sun

As dark as it gets in June. 
"Setting Sun" at Trappers Lake
(Photo: Krissy Chua)
By John D. O'Brien, S.J.

Time has become a little relative at this point in our journey. We've only been here four days. But each day has become like a week.  — Aiden Wickey

A service trip is a little like being on a retreat. Your "normal life" recedes quickly. You've left behind routines, comforts, and habits. You are plunged in a different land. You are faced with new challenges, above all, those that are within yourself.

For four days now, we've lived at Trapper's Lake Spirituality Centre, a lodge with cabins located a few minutes drive from Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. There is no spring here. A few weeks ago, ice still covered the lakes, while now we sweat in dry heat, and generally bask in the nearly 24-hour sunshine.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Missing Mass with the Pope

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Santa Maria di Trastevere, Rome.

Kyrk þerinne watȝ non ȝete,         No church building was there [in heaven]
Chapel ne temple þat euer watȝ set.   Nor was chapel or temple ever set there.
– Pearl

This month I am at the Vatican Observatory just outside Rome, helping with their biannual summer school, about which I will probably write an article when it is finished. In the meantime, one of the many benefits of the school is its relative proximity to the Eternal City, which I visited on Pentecost Sunday. I was greeted at the bus stop by fellow Canadian, Fr. Michael Czerny, S.J., who lives a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Basilica. We had originally intended to attend the mass at the basilica, but due to a mix-up in our scheduling, it had already started by the time I arrived. So instead, we went to a small chapel in the Jesuit curia a couple of blocks away and the two of us celebrated mass there.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Setting my Missionary Heart Before the Open Road Ahead

By Br. Daniel Leckman, S.J.


Every year, around the time of Pentecost, I’m invited to reflect upon the work of the Spirit in my own life and how I respond to that work. It’s that second part that always troubles me. I know the spirit has done wonders in my life. The problem is I don’t always see the fruits of her work in my own response. Of course, me not seeing my response to the Spirit does not mean it’s not there. It just means I’m too impatient or restless to really see it.

This year, I feel I was able not only to see the fruits of the Spirit in my life: I could even taste them. In fact, it feels like all of my senses were involved in developing a greater consciousness and appreciation of both the gifts and my response to them. Two things helped me get to that point of awareness.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Want to Pray More? Start By Doing Your Laundry

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

thinkstockphotos.com

I promised you a very different follow up to my entry on why young adults don’t pray. You probably imagined a list with amazing tips to pray more. But the more I thought about it, and the more I talked to friends, I realized this is the entry I needed to write for today.

Reading is my beautiful escape and comfort. I read to know that I am not alone. I read to live a thousand lives all at once. It is a great pleasure to devour a book – to be transported to other worlds, to explore all the secrets of a story, to be intoxicated with the ardor to change the world. A good book is both portable magic and a marvelous companion, for it amuses me and attends to the cares of my soul. But, for me, there is nothing easy about reading a book. I find myself reading all sorts of magazine articles and online essays, but giving my full and undivided attention to a book is a different matter.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Being Mature: On the Legalisation of Euthanasia

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

Image: footage.shutterstock.com

What does it mean by being “mature” as a society?

It is the word used by Madame Véronique Hivon, the MNA from the Québec provincial legislature. She spearheaded the passing of Bill 52, which legalised euthanasia in this Canadian province last week. She suggested that the citizens in the province of Québec are mature enough to discuss sensitive matters such as this. A similar issue (physician-assisted suicide) has already been discussed on our blog, and it is not my intention to repeat what has already been said. Rather, I would like to (no puns intended) take a stab at the mentality of “mature”.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Communion in Diversity – The Other Churches

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Credit: http://thehouses1.blogspot.com

A Roman Catholic priest walks into an elementary class and leads the students in prayer. He asks all to begin with the sign of the cross, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. He quickly notices that one of the girls in the class crossed herself the wrong way. “No, dear, we cross ourselves from left to right – you’re doing it wrong.” The priest continued to come to that class for a number of years and every time he used the opportunity to correct the girl’s “wrong way of crossing herself.” In reality, she was of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. This and many similar stories are known to many of us. Alas, this true story, which took place in the 1950s in the US, exemplifies the lack of acceptance, and to some extent, the lack of respect, for the non-Latin rites in the Catholic communion before Vatican II.

Friday, 6 June 2014

I [Heart] What?

By John D. O’Brien, SJ 



We often hear about “the heart “ in our religion. We try to be “pure of heart” and we “lift our hearts to the Lord” in the Mass. But what does “the heart” actually mean. Do we have a coherent Christian understanding of what we are referring to?

Once, in an earlier chapter of my life, and in a spirit of lament, I wrote a poem about feeling detached from my heart, about the takeover of the mental and the loss of feeling in my life. It went something like this:

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Misology: A Most Terrible Disease

By Adam Hincks, S.J.


A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

– Pope

The human race is afflicted by many diseases, but one of the great benefits of modern science has been the successful elimination or treatment of a great number of them. And although some illnesses remain, there is still reasonable hope that they, too, will be conquered by medical progress. But there are some diseases which medicine of the body will never be able to confront. Their cures lie only in the will of the diseased.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Conquering the World and Other Career Skills, Using Games for Education

By Eric Hanna, S.J.


How do we use the medium of video games for the good of education? Misused, games have the potential to enervate and isolate. If used properly, games can impart skills for critical thinking, communication, and creativity. We must learn to look for ways to identify and promote the best aspects of games in order to make use of the medium in education.

Like most media, the first forays into video game use for education had flaws. Many will remember "typing tutour" without fondness. Early educational games rammed historical or scientific facts into a shallow, cartoonish narrative. Real-world facts can play a part in a fun game: I know a lot of world capitals thanks to "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego". But games can be used for much more.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Sampling Prayer: Why Catholic Young Adults Don't Pray

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

ThinkStockPhotos.com

“Why should I care?”, Ben asked about the statement on the billboard. We had been discussing the phrase it advertised: JESUS LOVES YOU.

“Knowing it does nothing for me. People need to stop telling me that Jesus loves me,” Ben complained. He told me that Christians should be more concerned with helping others realize that they are loved by God instead of simply broadcasting it so matter-of-factly. “I want to feel Jesus' love. I want to feel it in my heart. How do I do that?”

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Translating the “Christian Message”

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

(Credit: http://catholiccartoonblog.blogspot.com)

As an attempt to improve my French, I am currently enrolled in an intensive program at the University of Laval in Québec City. Given that I spent the first two years of my Jesuit formation in Montréal, my French is good enough to get by (or je me débrouille). This is not the case with many of my fellow classmates, who often struggle mightily to explain themselves. They cannot find the right words and phrases, because they only know the English ones. To this, our professor comments that we just need to find another way to express ourselves in French. I find this simple remark interesting for several reasons.

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Balancing Game

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Credit: http://www.lasallenonprofitcenter.org

I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to direct Ignatian retreats at the Jesuit retreat house in Guelph, Loyola House. I’ve learned a tonne about Ignatian retreats as well as about the complexity of the human experience. This includes the “characters” whom I’ve encountered. After I’ve given enough of these Ignatian retreats, I begin to see certain patterns in peoples’ lives. I’d like to share with you a significant pattern that I’ve been noticing in a large part of my retreatants: it is the challenge to live a balanced life.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Why We Need Friends

By John D. O’Brien, S.J. 

Credit: www.spectator.co.uk

You are my friend, 
I never knew it 'til then 
My friend, my friend 
 Patti Labelle

Frank Capra’s beloved classic It’s a Wonderful Life explores a number of themes, but perhaps the most important – or at least the final word – is given to the angel Clarence, who leaves his copy of Tom Sawyer to George Bailey with this line inscribed: “Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends.” That even the most mundane and provincial of lives can be considered a success if it includes the gift of friendship, is a profoundly Christian idea. Yet it also immediately begs a number of questions. What is true friendship? What differentiates friendship from other kinds of loving relationships? And is it the number or the quality of friendship that is the more important?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Blessing of Wounded Hands

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Claude (right), whose grandmother was murdered by his neighbour, Innocent (left).
Claude forgave Innocent and the men have now reconciled.
From the book "As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda", by Catherine Claire Larson.

Now it seems to me that love of some kind is the only possible explanation of the extraordinary amount of suffering that there is in the world. I cannot conceive of any other explanation. 
– Oscar Wilde

The risen body of Jesus Christ is wounded. This fact about the resurrection has been more present to me than usual this Easter, probably prompted by a homily that I heard during the Octave of Easter. The wounds of Christ were also mentioned by Pope Francis on Divine Mercy Sunday when he canonised John XXXIII and John Paul II:

The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They are essential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness. Saint Peter, quoting Isaiah, writes to Christians: “By his wounds you have been healed”.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Because I'm Happy

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.


Last week I met up with an old friend. I had not seen him since the early 2000s so I was really looking forward to chatting with him again. When he and I were two young, idealistic McGill students we used to have rather intense conversations together about life, God, the arts, spirituality, love and anything else under the sun. We realized last weekend that not much had changed between us since those days. Although not a religious person, he is more aware of the need for spirituality in our world than most of my non-believing friends and family. Consequently, it was a pleasure for me to field questions from him during the evening because I could tell he was genuinely interested in my experiences of the past few years. After a certain point, he asked me a question that caught me off guard:

“What makes you happy?”

Friday, 16 May 2014

Prayer Is Not a Bed of Roses: Becoming a Transformative Pray-er

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Photo: Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Haven't you at times told God something that didn't match up with your heart? How about reciting a prayer to simply appease your guilt or instigate your piety? I've been there – done that – time and time again. But prayer is not supposed to be a bed of roses. Thankfully, the Good Lord can be very blunt with me and he is constantly disabusing me of my spiritual opulence. Lately, Christ has been back at it again. This time, he drove me to some mountains in Brazil to invite me to ruminate on the power of prayer. This meditation has taken flesh in some questions: How does prayer affect us? How does it transform our hearts and our lives? What happens to us as we draw near to the living Lord to speak to him of the movements of our hearts? How does God mold us as we discern his presence in our lives? How does prayer change the pray-er?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Swansong, Materialized

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

Credit: Mother Teresa Middle School

My interest in origami has been previously documented. Throughout the past six months, I have had the privilege to share this interest with the students in the form of an after school program at Mother Teresa Middle School (MTMS) in Regina, Canada. Origami can be a highly individualistic pursuit: grab a piece of paper, follow the instructions, and voilà, a new creation made. While I was quite content with teaching the kids different designs and such, I also wanted them to learn more than just folding things for themselves. That was why I decided to swing for the fences with the kids: we began an ambitious yet different origami project together.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Theology for Dummies – It’s for Everyone!

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Credit: http://www.holyfamily-parish.com/

In a few months’ time, I will be leaving Guelph behind and moving to Toronto to begin my theological studies at Regis College. As I reflected a bit on a Jesuit’s requirement to study theology as part of his formation, I also recognized that it should be an integral part of every Christian’s daily life, and not just the clergyman’s. It seems that today more and more of our adult Christians know less and less about their faith. For the most part, today’s adult Christians seem to have an elementary school level faith because their faith formation seemed to have stopped after their reception of the sacrament of Confirmation, which is usually received in grade eight.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Seven Reasons I Marched

John D. O'Brien, S.J.


Today I marched with about 2000 others on the streets of Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, which is the province of my birth and where I presently live and work. We marched from the city hall to the legislative buildings through the downtown streets, in a damp and drizzly west coast afternoon. As I reflect back, I can identify seven primary reasons I attended the March for Life today.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

So, You’re Reading the Title of This Blog Entry

By Adam Hincks, S.J.


Though a limited series, it was one from which he had acquired more sound information by diligent perusal than many a man of opportunities has done from a furlong of laden shelves.
— On Gabriel Oak’s tiny library in Far from the Madding Crowd

Now you are continuing on to read its first sentence. Before you go any further, stop and ask yourself what are the chances that you will read every sentence of this blog article, right through to the end, without checking your email, looking at Facebook, texting a friend, following a hyperlink, or interrupting in any other similar way. If you are like me and are honest with yourself, the chances are small! How many online articles do we merely skim, glance at, or half-heartedly scroll through, desultorily highlighting random snippets of text?

Monday, 5 May 2014

Don't Be Afraid to Try: Ogres and Poetry

By Eric Hanna, S.J.



We've all had that moment of fear when asked to do something creative.  Fear tells us that if we risk expressing something we are not quite sure of, others will tear it down simply because they don't understand.  This pattern leads us to avoid trying new things.  It is a pattern that students at Regina's Mother Theresa Middle School are trying to break.

When I first started helping out with an after-school program of creative writing and poetry, some students were quite eager to try expressing themselves.  But there were always a few who froze.  They wrote nothing at all, or non-committal phrases about safe topics: movies they'd seen, videogames, etc.