Friday 28 February 2014

Last Sunday I Witnessed an Exorcism

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you're gonna have to serve somebody.
– Bob Dylan

Once when I was talking to a priest the topic turned to exorcisms. He nonchalantly told me that he had performed an exorcism just the other day. Taken aback, I hesitantly asked him what the circumstances were, not wanting to trespass on anything that wasn’t my business. He calmly replied that he performed exorcisms quite routinely, and then, seeing my incredulity, explained that the rite of baptism includes a prayer of exorcism. Before the actual sacrament is administered in the Latin Rite, the priest prays to Christ who was sent “to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness, and bring him into the splendour of your kingdom of light”.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Addicted to … Chocolate?

By Artur Suski, S.J.


Many of us have at some point in our lives struggled over the tough decision of either throwing out or keep old textbooks from our university days. I know I have this problem, and that others also find it hard to part from their Biochemistry 101 textbook, the one that cost so much at the time! Apparently, these textbooks can still be of some use even when their days are long gone. A while back, when I was studying philosophy at the University of Toronto, a number of my Jesuit confrères had the privilege of reading ‘Addiction and Grace’ by psychiatrist Gerald G. May, MD, as part of a ‘Philosophy of Human Nature’ course. It’s a short soft cover book that many of us could not make it fit in our collection of books after our studies were completed. I recently stayed at my old philosophy community and came across this book in the ‘Free books’ section – also known as the book graveyard– of our library.

Monday 24 February 2014

Unexpected Olympic Grace

By John D. O’Brien, S.J.

There are many things I don’t like about great bloated spectacle known as the Olympic Games, but these gripes have been better articulated elsewhere. Instead, I’d like to focus on one moment of the Sochi Olympics: Yuna Kim’s silver-winning performance in figure skating, which has generated both controversy – nearly two million have signed a petition calling for an investigation into the judging – and inspiration. Her performances are always impressive for their athleticism alone, but Yuna Kim has that extra je-ne-sais-quoi. We might call it beauty; we might call it grace. In any case, she shines, and well beyond the arena ice.

Friday 21 February 2014

My House of Cards

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

I jumped on the House of Cards bandwagon late. It had been nearly half a year since the release of the first season when I started to watch it, and it took me less than two weeks to watch the thirteen episodes. The second season was released last Friday and I gave myself permission to binge-watch the entire season (Yes, Jesuits binge-watch TV shows – it is part of a conspiracy theory). I started watching the show because I was looking for a good political thriller – as an added bonus, I also got a compelling treatise on power and the way it affects the human heart.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Neuroplasticity and “Spiritual Plasticity”

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


When we say that something is “plastic” or “malleable”, it is when that something can be moulded into different shapes and forms. An example of this would be wax. I recall a time when my friend unsuccessfully tried to shape the wax Babybel cheese cover into a cartoon character. The good thing about these types of materials is that we can always begin again due to its “plasticity”. A human organ that has been described as “plastic” is the brain. In fact, there is a term for it: neuroplasticity. This plasticity is not the consequence of generating more neural cells in the brain, but rather an increase in connections with other neural cells. The implications of neuroplasticity range from learning to compensating for sensory deficits (such as increase in hearing ability when blinded). The brain is much more adaptable that we once thought. But, what is the point of mentioning neuroplasticity here, other than to satisfy my neuroscience ego?

Monday 17 February 2014

Our Lady of Ville-Marie, Pray for Us

By Brother Daniel Leckman, S.J.

The cross on Mont-Royal soon after Pope John Paul II's death.

I don't have many good memories of my childhood, especially those associated with school. Most of the memories I have of those years point to how imperfect, and even inferior, I felt compared to my more athletic and "intelligent" peers.  And yet I'm surprised that to this day there are still some good memories that manage to emerge from that period of my life.  One of them is really nothing spectacular but stays with me.

Friday 14 February 2014

The Heart of the Tragedy of Romeo & Juliet

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,

And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, naught could remove,

Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage.
– The Prologue

Aeroplanes are a great place to watch films that one wouldn’t ordinarily see, and it was in this way that I saw last year’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. It was a rather bold production, for the screenplay is a hybrid of Shakespeare’s script and the pen of the film’s screenwriter. The “new parts” are also in verse, complete with many rhyming couplets, and the writer attempts to emulate Shakespeare’s ingenious use of imagery, simile and metaphor. In the end, however, this endeavour falls quite flat: I was surprised at how easy it was to detect whose voice was whose, and the transitions from the contemporary poet to the immortal bard were jarring. I would have been happier with more of William and less of his imitator. Coupled with wooden acting from Hailee Steinfeld, who played Juliet, this made the film a failure in my estimation, despite its impressive production design, good score and an excellent performance from Paul Giamatti as Friar Laurence.

Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the mystery screenwriter, not only for his daring attempt, but also because of a distinctive Catholic voice to the screenplay: musings on the mystery of Providence, retaining a reference to purgatory and the greatly amplified role of Friar Laurence were all clues to this. When I came to write this article, I found that my intuition was correct: the screenwriter was none other than the English Catholic Julian Fellowes, most famous for penning Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, and whom I have mentioned before on this blog.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Why I Will Not Be Watching the 2014 Olympics

By Artur Suski, S.J.


When I was a kid, I really wanted to have one million dollars. For a little boy around 10 years old, a million dollars could get you a lot of fun stuff. I mostly dreamed of buying all the toys I could think of, especially the remote-control type, the flying kinds. Those were far-fetched big dreams that I knew were unattainable. Even today, I must admit, a million dollars seems like a lot, especially for a poverty-vowed Jesuit. But a billion dollars, that’s the new big dream. It will get you into the big league. Actually, to tell the truth, I find it hard to even conceptualize how much money that really is. It is such a large amount that my limited reason cannot fully grasp this reality.

Monday 10 February 2014

Pope Francis on the Digital Age

By John D. O’Brien. S.J.

Credit: L’Osservatore Romano

Recently, Pope Francis issued his first message for World Communications Day (WCD). These statements, which are made every year, are like “state of the union” addresses on our lives in relation to media. Today, we are all denizens of the digital nation. Media technology influences our lives in ways that are dramatic, evolving, and defining. The WCD messages, which are also fairly short, summarize the Church’s most recent reflection on communications. For all who are interested in the intersection of media, theology and spirituality, they are landmark statements, and therefore worth looking at closely.

Friday 7 February 2014

Head or Heart: The Art and Science of Decision-Making

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


I first listened to Christina Perri’s Jar of Hearts a few years ago. I have been a big fan of her music ever since. In April, Christina will release a new album titled Head or Heart. Since announcing her new release, her Facebook page has featured funny memes portraying the never-ending fight between the head and the heart. While the memes are very witty, I think they are based on a misunderstanding.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

To Whom Shall I Go?

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


I am someone who prefers to be well-prepared for everything. Giving lectures, writing exams, warming up before swimming, and the list goes on. Then life sometimes comes along and hands you something that you have absolutely no control over. For the past two months, I have had to deal with two sudden deaths: one a good friend of mine since grade eight, the other a fellow staff at the college. Both of them were relatively young. Deaths are always difficult to face, regardless of whether it is anticipated or not; but the unexpected ones are especially devastating. Simply put, we are not ready for it.

Monday 3 February 2014

When Nerds Rock Out: The Unusual Marriage of Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer

By Eric Hanna, S.J.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

There's no question that I have always been a nerd. I'm not defensive about the definition of nerds and their sub-classes. I don't fight over which of Star Wars or Star Trek was better. But I like to think of myself as a gentle, introverted, imaginative person with glasses and no desire or likelihood of ever being 'cool'.

Few people are more nerdy than a favourite author of mine, Neil Gaiman. He penned American Gods and The Graveyard Book and is famous for juxtaposing tales of fairies and enchantment with the realism of city life in the age of apps and apartments. He has immense nerd credibility for writing things like graphic novels and episodes of Dr. Who: but more importantly, he comes off as a genuinely humble and kind person, delighted just to be sharing fun stories for a living. Imagine my surprise when a friend of mine mentioned that he married a punk rocker.