Friday 31 January 2014

God, Atoms and Horrid Red Things

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Eye of God Nebula  (Image:

Simple truth miscalled simplicity. – Shakespeare

Earlier this month the New Republic did something rather brazen: it published an article attacking a book that the author freely admits he did not read. In the piece, outspoken atheist Jerry A. Coyne claims that he is not impressed by David Bentley Hart’s new book, The Experience of God and amazingly, without having read the work, he concludes that Hart’s thesis is “meaningless”. Now, I have not read Hart’s book either, but I have studied enough philosophy to know that the main idea Coyne finds so opaque—that “God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all”—is one of the oldest and most venerable notions of God, arguably going all the way back to Plato, and traditionally believed to be reflected in Exodus 3. It is certainly not meaningless, even if great minds have disagreed about it.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Thou Hast Sanctified the Work of My Hands?

By Artur Suski, S.J.


One of the great tragedies of our contemporary, post-modern era is the sad reality that many of us hate the work that we do. We begrudgingly get up to go to work, and when we get home, we let everyone know how we are fed up with our work. True, there are many who really enjoy what they do, but aren't they the minority? According to a somewhat recent article in the New York Times (June 2013), “an alarming 70% of those surveyed in a recent Gallup poll either hate their jobs or are completely disengaged, and not even incentives and extras can extricate them from the working man's blues.”

So what’s going on? The days are long gone when St. Benedict’s famous phrase ‘Ora et labora’ (Pray and work – in the Latin vocative case) was at the heart of a worker’s attitude toward work and prayer. Is it that we all missed our true vocations, or is there something else that has gone awry? It is no easy task to analyze this phenomenon, but perhaps the Spiritual Exercises (SpEx) of St. Ignatius of Loyola can help us understand what is going on.

Monday 27 January 2014

Faith in Action: Interview with Erin Leahy


John O’Brien: Erin, you are a full-time musician, with a busy touring schedule, at least four albums your credit and that of the band Leahy. You have won Juno awards for your music, most memorably the “best new group” and “best instrumental artist” award in 1998. You toured extensively with Shania Twain, and continue to tour internationally year after year. Needless to say, music is the primary occupation of your life. What inspired you to become a full-time musician?

Friday 24 January 2014

Truth, Film Characters, and My Hunger for Authenticity

 By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

“$#!^”, I said it. I had just returned home after a long day that unfortunately included a colossal series of mistakes. They played on my inauthenticity and pride. No cuddly panda there to entertain me, I sequestered myself to my room and I sat frustrated on my bed. I had no desire to pray, or to call a friend, but I didn't want to wallow in my own misery. In moments like that, only two things benefit me: exercise or a film. I opted for the latter. Thought-provoking plots in films help me expand my horizons and consider things differently. As I drove to the movie theatre, I kept thinking, “When will I fully grow up? Why can't I be more authentic?”

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Godless Congregations: Is There Room to Talk?

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


A few months ago, I came across an article from The Guardian on a phenomenon called “Sunday Assembly”. To quote from the article, this is initiated by atheists who do not want to “...miss out on all the good things churches have to offer”. Essentially, a “godless congregation” would gather for music, times of contemplation and a secular talk that is akin to a sermon. It is like a church service without god.

Monday 20 January 2014

Jim Profit: Environmentalist, Community Activist, and my Spiritual Father

By Daniel Leckman, S.J.


Five and a half years ago, I did something that I had never done in my life up to that point: I packed up everything I felt I needed to survive, left my family and friends behind, and opened up a new chapter to my life.  I moved in with a community of Jesuits in Guelph, Ontario to begin a year of candidacy with the Society of Jesus.

It was a year that would change my life by giving me spiritual renewal, deepening my capacity for prayer and my intimacy with God.  I also developed a little more self-confidence; though I’m the first one to admit that I still have a lot of work to do in that department!  Jim Profit was a man who had something to do with all of these things.  This is why, when I learned about his passing last week, I had three reactions:

Friday 17 January 2014

Is Sherlock Holmes the Paragon of Human Rationality?

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

What would philosopher Bernard Lonergan, S.J. (centre) say about Sherlock Holmes?

In the ideal detective story the reader is given all the clues yet fails to spot the criminals
– Bernard Lonergan

“Elementary!”, Sherlock Holmes is famous for saying to a baffled Dr. Watson when he grasps a key insight for solving a crime. There is something magical about Sherlock Holmes’s ability to see evidence in clues that people around him miss. It is a skill that we all admire and desire to possess for ourselves. Perhaps this is the reason the popularity of the two current television adaptations of this fictional detective, Sherlock (set in modern London) and Elementary (set in modern Manhattan). Both depict not only Sherlock’s uncanny intelligence but also his eccentric character and lack of social skills. Juxtaposed with his cerebral skills, these traits that make him a very entertaining character to watch.

In many ways, Sherlock Holmes’s methods of solving crime exemplifies the thought of a great Canadian Jesuit philosopher of the last century. Bernard Lonergan (1904–1984) believed that the key to solving many problems in philosophy, theology and other sciences is to grasp what we are actually doing when we come to know something. He explained that there are three fundamental, interlocking processes involved in knowing:

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Can the Scars Ever Heal? Haiti, Four Years Later

By Artur Suski, S.J.


Three days ago (January 12th) marked the fourth year anniversary of the massive 7.3 earthquake that shook Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. For “developed” countries of the world, a 7.3 earthquake would not have devastated a country to such a degree as it did Haiti, and most of these would have recovered fairly quickly. Yet Haiti was utterly devastated – one could even say, completely paralyzed. So why did the earthquake manage to take down literally a whole country? And why is so little progress done in the aftermath?

Monday 13 January 2014

How Many People Will Get to Heaven?

By John O’Brien, S.J.

(Credit: dhayward)

This is a question one often hears in ministry. There is nobody on earth who knows the answer. But we do know that we are all destined for heaven.

At the same time, one’s salvation is not automatic. We need to attend to it daily, for it will depend on the state of my soul at the moment of death, whether it be in a state of friendship with God (state of grace). As Jesus said, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 24:13).

Perhaps the best understanding of personal salvation is this: I am saved, I am being saved, and I hope to be saved. 

Friday 10 January 2014

Christmas Postmortem

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


These reflections are the fruit of a Yuletide conversation, over coffee and sweets, with Erica Rodrigues.

Santa Claus has returned to the North Pole. The gifts have been unwrapped, gingerbread houses have been dismantled, and all the sweets have been eaten. The deed is done. The once proud and jolly Christmas tree has been recycled. Stockings, Christmas wreaths, and ornaments have been put away. Home Alone and A Charlie Brown Christmas no longer play on every TV channel. Christmas, my friends, is no more. And unless you are like me, you won’t be listening to Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You until late November.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Experiencing the World in an Ignatian Way

By Edmund, Lo, S.J.

(Image: Warner Bros.)

Towards the end of the film The Matrix, the main character Neo sees everything around him as computer codes. He realizes that he is situated within a computer-generated virtual reality. He begins to understand what makes the world go 'round. More importantly, not only is he seeing reality as it is; he is experiencing it. I think that this leads to an interesting question: how do we experience the reality that makes the world go 'round? It is not my intention that this be considered in an abstract way. I would first consider this from a Christian angle, and then an specifically Ignatian one.

From a Christian perspective, the answer to this question is clear: it is God who makes the world go 'round. How do we experience it? An easy answer is love. Songs have been written on this, and it has been crooned to us for many years: Love Makes the World Go 'Round. This is true in many ways, but it would be insufficient if we only understand love as the warm sentiment that makes us feel good. We often run into problems when we ask ourselves how we are to experience God who is love. I propose that the Ignatian lens comes in handy in this situation. More specifically, it is the way we first understand and then experience spiritual consolation and desolation in our lives.

Friday 3 January 2014

Jesus and Isaac

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Abraham Sacrificing Isaac, Gerhard Wilhelm von Reutern, 1849.

Unlike anyone else, Our Lord came on earth, not to live, but to die. –Fulton Sheen

One Christmas gift my community received was a copy of this year’s television miniseries The Bible. The first episode, which I watched on Boxing Day, covers the whole book of Genesis. Needless to say, given that it was only an hour long, the writers had to be very selective about what to include. For example, Jacob and Esau, as well as Joseph and his brothers, are omitted entirely. On the other hand, one of the most famous stories of the book (if not the whole Bible) is given ample attention: the Binding of Isaac. I thought the film did a decent job of conveying the range of emotions that are present in the story, and it recalled to me how I have often thought of this peculiar and yet strangely powerful narrative.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Lord, Have Mercy – Say What?

By Artur Suski, S.J. 

Credit: From the Film the Passion of the Christ

We’ve all heard it somewhere. It’s heard in Protestant services, during the Catholic Mass, and you most definitely won’t miss it in an Orthodox Liturgy, which is probably repeated about a thousand times. It is also freely used as an exclamation, or to show surprise. Yes, the phrase to which I am referring is “Lord, Have Mercy”. We hear it so often, we speak it so frequently, but what exactly are we saying?