Monday 31 March 2014

Children and Choices: A Free "No" is Better than a Forced "Yes"

By Eric Hanna, S.J.

One problem we encounter in college is that students who are no longer made to go to church stop going. I think the problem is not that we've failed to enforce the value of church: the problem is that we've failed to give our children the power of choice. One of the best things to teach about church is that it is an option we are all free to accept or reject. "No" is a real option. And it is better that children encounter it sooner rather than later.

Consider the case of Mary and Martin, ordinary kids. Mary's family goes to church. Martin's does not. Would you let your children play with another kid their age who said that church was silly and that their family doesn't do that sort of thing? Too many parents think of such scenarios as a choice between forbidding the interaction on the one hand and merely ignoring it on the other. There is a third way.

Friday 28 March 2014

Thoughts from Oxford University

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman's day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days – such as that day when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft vapours of a thousand years of learning. – Evelyn Waugh (on Oxford)

Last week I had the good fortune of visiting Oxford University to attend a meeting of the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) collaboration. Though I had passed through the city once as a child, I retained no memories. And so, upon returning, I manfully pushed aside any romantic images of this venerable institution that centuries of literature and hearsay inevitably inspire. After all, here in the twenty-first century it would have motor buses, shops and, surely, at least a few hideous buildings dating from the nineteen sixties. Perhaps, I thought, there would be traces lingering of the Oxford of a hundred years ago, but I was here for a meeting.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

"Faith and Froth", a Match Made in Heaven

By Artur Suski, S.J.


Most of you don’t have beer on your minds these days as we progress through Lent toward Easter. I am also in the same boat. That being said, I have just completed a successful first year of ‘Theology on Tap’ here in Guelph, and I’d like to share with you some of my reflections from the four events that we’ve hosted.

The project began in the spring of 2013 when a member of a Catholic parish in Guelph felt called to do something for the Year of Faith, more specifically, for evangelization. He proceeded to assemble “the team” – a committee of people from the Catholic school system, other Catholic parishes, and the University community, of which I am the contact. Essentially, the goal was to reach out to young people (from nineteen to forty years old) who are “un-churched” and who definitely will not step into a Church on their own. That, at least, was the goal.

Monday 24 March 2014

How to Do a Self-Directed Retreat

By John D. O’Brien, S.J. 

Photo credit: John D. O'Brien

There are many who never get the chance to make an Ignatian retreat. Many, however, have heard of them, desire to do one, and can often carve out a weekend of free time in a relatively solitary place. So in the interest of promoting spiritual growth, here are some basic principles for a self-directed, home-made retreat.

Friday 21 March 2014

On the Camino with Santiago – Paul Elie

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J. 

This is my interview column where I feature some of my personal heroes. These are men and women who are addressing some of the most important challenges of our time. 

Paul Elie is a senior fellow with the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. He is the author of The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage (2003), a group portrait of the American Catholic writers Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day, and Reinventing Bach (2012). He writes for the Times, the Atlantic, Commonweal, and his website, Everything That Rises.

I have heard that there is a crucial difference between an important writer and a great writer, but for me Paul Elie is both an important and great writer. Reading his work makes me feel more human, and more reflective on our human condition. Paul is profoundly thoughtful and incredibly inventive – by his own account of what invention is all about. I interviewed Paul a couple of weeks ago. Below is a condensed and edited transcript of the interview.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

“But I Can't Sing It”: What of Liturgical Music?

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

(Image: )

How do we “participate” in liturgical music?

This is a question that I have been pondering recently. As some of you know, I have been singing in a chant-polyphonic choir for more than a year. Our repertoire would often have songs that are practically “unsingable” for the congregation during mass. These include Gregorian chant tones and complicated polyphonic pieces, sometimes in Latin. I often wonder how the congregation feels about them. Do they find it prayerful? Do they treat it more like a musical performance? Or are they completely tuned out because they cannot sing along with it?

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Finding the Path to Freedom and Joy

By Daniel Leckman, S.J.


About a year ago this week, this man began his humble request for our prayers.

For the past year or so, when people around me start talking about Pope Francis, they often address their words to me! It's not because I'm the number one authority on Papal matters. Nor is it even because I'm the one who follows him the most; these days when I limit my intake of what the Pope is doing to daily two-minute sound bites from the Vatican. This is contrasted with the early months of his papacy when I would scrutinize every Angelus prayer, every address to foreign dignitaries, every moment in the man's day. I think people share with me their thoughts and comments about the pope because they know it makes me happy to talk about him. They also know that whatever they say, I'll probably have "some input".

Friday 14 March 2014

Were Jesus & Mary Free in the Face of Temptation?

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Jesus Returning in the Spirit,  John Lee Vince

Eden raised in the waste Wilderness.–Milton

The gospel from last Sunday’s mass in the Roman Rite was Matthew’s account of the temptation of Christ. Its themes are very topical as we enter into Lent and reflect on how we respond to temptation in our own lives. Further, the fact that Jesus was tempted is a key point of his incarnation. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, for example, sees this as central to the efficacy of Jesus’s mission: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Heb. 4:15)

There is, however, probably a nagging thought in the back of many of our minds as we listen to this gospel: was Jesus really tempted in the same way that we were? After all, he was the Son of God. Wasn’t it somehow easier for him? I have heard similar objections to the doctrine of Mary’s immaculate conception. If Mary was born without original sin, doesn’t that make her assent to Gabriel’s message less powerful? Was she really free to say “yes” if she hadn’t ever experienced saying “no” to God?

Wednesday 12 March 2014

“Son of God”, Another Jesus Movie?

By Artur Suski, S.J.


I must admit that I was a bit sceptical when I heard that there was going to be yet another Jesus movie. Are there not enough movies about Jesus out there? Wasn’t Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ not the masterpiece that put an end to future Jesus movies? Apparently not. What new things could they come up with that weren’t in the previous movies, anyway? In any case, this was my thinking until last Sunday night, when I went to see Son of God with a group of fellow Jesuits.

Monday 10 March 2014

Ten-Toed Sloths

By John D. O'Brien, S.J.

The longer I reflect on the spiritual life, the more I realize the problem of holiness has a certain elegant simplicity to it:
  1. God is a Person who desires a relationship with me.
  2. I am a person who desires a relationship with God.
  3. A good relationship requires persons spending quality time with each other.
  4. I don’t spend enough quality time with God. 
As the inscription in a pub once read: Lost is the simplicity of old times / the world abounds with laws and teems with crimes. All too true, yet the dominant vice of our time is not lust or gluttony or any of the obvious ones. The great sins are all relatives of each other, but major sin today, I believe, is actually sloth.

Friday 7 March 2014

The Helping Tango: The Art of Spiritual Conversation

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.


As a young adult minister, I often invite young adults to tune their hearts to the presence of God through three contemplative practices. I encourage them to commit themselves to prayer (including the celebration of the sacraments), to find a spiritual director, and to embrace their community of faith. These contemplative practices teach us how to love and serve – how to be more like Jesus. Prayer draws us closer to the Heart of Christ. Spiritual direction helps us to discern God's presence in our lives. Our faith community aids us to be joyful, humble, and accountable. But sticking to these practices often proves to be difficult.

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Being Reflective about Lenten Practices

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


During the season of Lent, many people choose to participate in some sort of “Lenten practice”. These actions can be roughly generalized into two groups: acts of avoidance or acts of participation. This can range from giving up your favourite snack, your favourite TV show, or intentionally engaging in some charitable activities. You choose your own course, and then you try your best to follow it. What is there to talk about? Isn't it about the sacrificing something that I like, or doing good deeds and offering them up as sacrifices? I contend that it is the disposition of our hearts behind these Lenten acts that is the most important. In particular, we need to be discerning when it comes to both choosing and participating in one's Lenten practices. How so?

Monday 3 March 2014

The Lego Movie, Thomas Aquinas, and the Redemption of Matter

By Eric Hanna, S.J.


Don't dismiss The Lego Movie as another vapid commercial display for children: it tackles some themes that run to the heart of how we interact with our world and teaches a wonderful message. Of course I'm not just saying this because I loved Lego as a kid and still love it today. I'm also saying it as a scholar of Thomas Aquinas.

The movie hinges (pun intended) on two central themes: creativity and order. If you haven't seen the movie, fear not. I will speak about it in a general way so as not to give away too much of the plot.