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Feeling the Joy with Jesus

Ignatian Spirituality - 15 hours 47 min ago

By Rebecca Ruiz

A few years ago, a friend gave me some prints of the Laughing Jesus painting. When I saw it, I immediately started laughing. I wondered what it was about this image that made me laugh. Part of it was that Jesus seemed to have such a joyful countenance that one could really imagine him laughing, and it looked like “contagious laughter”—the kind where it’s impossible to resist joining in. It also made me a tiny [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

On Commencement Protests

Latest from the Jesuit Post - 18 hours 44 min ago

You’ve probably never heard of C.J. Pine. This is a shame, because he is a remarkable young man.

Raised in Tianjin, China, Pine has an impressive resume. He’s taught English in a Palestinian refugee camp. He spent most of his college years researching and advocating for refugees and promoting interreligious dialogue. He founded a nonprofit, Road to Mafraq, that increases educational access for children impacted by violence in the Middle East. And he has done all this while maintaining a 3.92 grade point average. (He has also succeeded in making the rest of us realize we are watching too much Netflix.)

The only reason I’ve heard of C.J. Pine is because he was selected as the University of Notre Dame’s valedictorian for the Class of 2017. Yesterday was Notre Dame’s graduation, and apparently Pine gave a valedictory address. I say “apparently” because – try as I might – I can’t find it. Several attempts at Googling“Notre Dame Commencement 2017” yielded only coverage about nearly a hundred students who walked out as Pence began to speak:


***

Notre Dame is a place that holds tradition dear. One such tradition is to extend an invitation to newly elected presidents to speak at their commencement. I remember the buzz when we welcomed President Obama in 2009. Other graduates have been addressed by Presidents Eisenhower, Carter, Reagan, Bush the Elder, and Bush the Younger.

These invitations were originally intended to honor  the country’s new president. But in recent years, this old Notre Dame tradition has started to be read as a referendum on Catholic identity.

I remember vividly what it was like when President Obama came to speak in 2009.  I remember a plane flying low over campus with a shocking image of an aborted fetus. I remember several graduates taping yellow crosses and images of baby feet to their mortarboards. I remember hearing people in the crowd yelling out “baby killer,” “abortion is murder,” and “you have blood on your hands” during Obama’s speech.

Most of all, I remember feeling sorry for the graduates. In several conversations with my classmates (I was a junior), all of us seemed to be grateful that that this wasn’t our commencement year. This weekend is supposed to be about celebrating them, we agreed.

***

Eight years later, the same story is playing itself out at Notre Dame, albeit from the opposite side of the ideological spectrum. University president Father John Jenkins, C.S.C. debated whether Notre Dame should extend an invite to President Trump. As he told the Observer,  Notre Dame’s student newspaper,

“I do think the elected leader of the nation should be listened to. And it would be good to have that person on the campus — whoever they are, whatever their views. At the same time, the 2009 Commencement was a bit of a political circus, and I think I’m conscious that that day is for graduates and their parents — and I don’t want to make the focus something else.”

Jenkins invited Vice President Pence as a compromise. It was his effort to navigate the tension between respect for the White House and keeping the focus on graduates. You can tell by my google-search results whether his efforts were met with success.

Predictably, the walkout was praised by the left, and blasted by the right. Even more predictably, celebrating the graduates took a backseat to a clash of ideologies.

Watching the video of the walkout on Sunday brought with it a familiar feeling of frustration. It felt like 2009 all over again. Rather than focusing on the accomplishments of the graduates, we were settling into the familiar space of ideological squabbles.

Initially my frustration was directed at the protesters. Their action seemed to me to be selfish. How are they so willing to make this event about their own opinions rather than the good of the whole community? I have plenty of problems with Pence’s policies too, but I don’t think this the time or the place.

But those were just my initial reactions. And as these feelings subsided I began to wonder about these reactions. Maybe I was wrong, maybe they were doing this not for themselves, but for the community. And then it dawned on me: had anyone bothered to ask them why they walked out?

I hopped back on Google to investigate, looking for in depth interviews with the protesters – anything more than a one-line pull quote. Nothing. There were dozens of reports hailing the spectacle: 100 students walk out on Pence! they read. But nothing from the actors themselves. I was disappointed that these reports were all about “the optics” of the walkout, with nothing done to investigate the spirits that motivated it.

In my frustration, I made an assumption: that the protesters were trying to make a statement. I interpreted their walking out as the equivalent of  “I don’t like Pence,” or “I don’t agree with some of Pence’s ideas.” Under this interpretation, I reasoned, my frustration with the protesters would be valid. We live in a sinful, broken world. Consensus about truth in our contemporary pluralistic context is not possible. Walking out on Pence due to a personal disagreement about values or beliefs is incoherent.

But what if the protesters walked out for a different reason- out of a deep sense of solidarity with the poor and vulnerable? With our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters who have suffered from suggestions by Pence and others that they need “conversion therapy?” With immigrants and refugees whose current livelihood is in peril due to policies advanced by the current administration? What if walking out was less about the protesters turning their back on the Pence the man (or his ideas), and more about sending a message to people on the margins of our society: we’re with you. We won’t accept anything or anyone that treats you as less than the divinely-created, beautiful human beings that you are.

***

Unfortunately, I have no idea what the protesters intended to mean by their walkout on Sunday, because no one seems to have bothered to ask them.

My biggest problem with what happened at Notre Dame on Sunday is not that protesters decided to walk out during Pence’s speech. It’s that we quickly resorted to ideological camps to laud or criticize the protesters, without taking the time to ask them what they meant by walking out. In so doing, we nearly missed an opportunity to encounter and understand those with whom we disagree.

Thankfully, there was another person on Sunday’s stage who modeled exactly what I hoped to see, and he did it by showing us of the power of kinship and encounter: Father Greg Boyle, SJ. Boyle was at the commencement to receive the Laetare Medal, widely considered to be the highest honor that can be bestowed upon an American Catholic. Like Pine, Boyle’s honor was accompanied by the expectation of a speech.

In his speech, Boyle did not directly address the actions of the protesters. What he did do is pay attention to a particular person: his friend, former gang member Jose. He recounted, with tears, Jose’s painful history of being orphaned at an age nine by a mother who did not want him. How he wore three shirts to school to hide the blood and wounds inflicted on him by adult abusers.

We are not able to tell these kinds of stories from Sunday’s commencement- about Pence or the protesters. Reporters settled for a facile narrative about the drama of the walkout, and we bought it. We would do well to accept Boyle’s call to a much deeper encounter. A great place to begin is by watching Boyle talk about his friend Jose:

Categories: Things Jesuit

More Stillness

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

What if, instead of more action, what we need is more stillness? What if, instead of more speech, we need more silence? What if all of our words—whether spoken, in an article, blog post, or group message—will make more sense if understood by attending to the Word underneath all words, the Word that gives rise to language itself? Could it be that paying more attention to silence might actually make us more attentive to one [...]

IgnatianSpirituality.com ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

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Categories: Things Jesuit

Self-Driving Cars: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 02:00

Are you ready to give up the wheel?

Self-driving cars are coming. In fact, they are already here. A self-driving truck transported beer in Colorado. In California, they are logging literally thousands of miles. Car manufactures and major tech companies like Google, Uber, Tesla, and, most recently, Apple are competing to stay on the cutting edge of this technology.

It’s no longer a matter of “if,” but rather “when” the streets and highways of our world become populated by self-driving machines with people and cargo as their idle passengers.1

Technological change usually comes upon us whether we like it or not. But even a feeling of inevitability shouldn’t excuse a lack of reflexion. Technological progress isn’t an inherent good. It brings with it much more than that.

Let’s take a look at self-driving cars, and THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY.

Self-Driving Cars: THE GOOD

Over 37,000 Americans and 1.3 million people globally die every year in automobile accidents. Those are staggering numbers. It’s the ninth leading cause of death globally (just ahead of HIV/AIDS), and it’s the only non-disease entry on the top ten list.

Have you ever thought about the power that’s in your hands when you drive a car? It’s actually quite remarkable that we entrust millions of people across the world (you and me included) to navigate two-ton metal machines speeding at 60 mph between buildings, pedestrians, and other vehicles. We’re not even that good at it.

While human driving error is not the sole cause of all 1.3 million deaths, some estimates put the number of accidents committed through human error as high as 94%. Self-driving cars might not be able to eliminate all driving fatalities, but couldn’t they lower the number?

It seems pretty safe to assume that self-driving cars would at least outperform a drunk driver or a texting teen, which would go a long way to saving lives on our roads.

Almost a third of fatal traffic accidents in the U.S. are caused by drunk drivers (around 10,000). Additionally, cell phone use and texting have led to a spike in accidents related to distracted driving. According to the Center for Disease Control, distracted driving kills more than eight people and injuries more than a thousand people each day in the U.S. alone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 80% of traffic accidents and 16% of traffic fatalities are related to distracted driving.

And so we arrive at THE GOOD. While further arguments could me made for efficiency gains,2 financial benefits,3 and even the prospect of creating transportation independence for the blind or disabled, let’s just stick with the biggest argument in favor.

THE GOOD: Self-driving cars can save lives!

*****

Self-Driving Cars: THE BAD

Think about your most recent drive: did you pass any delivery trucks? A local bus? Maybe a taxi or two? All those vehicles are piloted by paid employees. And lots of people make a living by driving- millions of people, in fact.

Roughly 3.5 million people in the U.S. make their living from driving vehicles around.

NPR made noise a couple of years ago when they published a map showing the most common job in every state, and truck drivers dominated by leading the way in 29 of the 50 states. While these statistics don’t paint the clearest picture, the fact is that roughly 2.8 million Americans make a living by driving trucks.

On top of that, there are taxi drivers. New York City alone has over 13,000 medallion-licensed taxi drivers, not to mention all the Uber and Lyft employees (errr…contractors?). Across the country, the total number of U.S. licensed taxi drivers and chauffeurs is around 190,000, while Uber claims the engagement of around 160,000 drivers. Throw in half a million school bus drivers and around 170,000 transit bus drivers, and you get the picture. Lots of jobs.

So we arrive at THE BAD. Let’s skip over the periphery jobs that could also be lost,4 and excuse the fact that the job statistics are U.S.-focused.5 An argument could also be made for the negative health effects of safer driving that would worsen the shortage of organ donors.6 But there is one argument against self-driving cars that is the most prominent.

THE BAD: Self-driving cars will eliminate jobs!

Self-Driving Cars: THE UGLY

What about accidents that do occur? What about accidents that are unavoidable?

Results have shown that human error has played a primary role in almost every reported accident with a self-driving vehicle, but the increased use of self-driving vehicles will inevitably involve more accidents, including fatal ones.

In May of last year, the fatal crash of a self-driving Tesla in Florida applied the strongest brakes to the self-driving car movement and tempered enthusiasm. In the incident, a tractor trailer made an ill-advised left turn into oncoming traffic, and the white side of the trailer against a brightly lit sky wasn’t picked up by the vehicle (nor the driver who was still behind the wheel). The self-driving car did not “see” the tractor trailer. So who is responsible for this accident? The rider? The manufacturer?

This was the first case of a fatality from an automation error. But a bigger ethical question looms. How will we program self-driving vehicles to confront situations where an accident is inevitable? What if the outcome varies based on different maneuvers?

Let me illustrate by example:

Car A and Car B are two self-driving cars that are side-by-side on a highway. An inattentive child darts in front of the car on the left (Car A). The car’s computer notices the child, and calculates the following options:

1- Swerve left to avoid both the child and the other car, and head into the median where Car A’s rider has a 60% chance of survival.

2- Swerve right to avoid the child, but collide with Car B from the passenger side, where Car A’s rider has a 80% chance of survival but Car B’s driver has just a 30% chance of survival.

3- Apply the brakes swiftly but maintain a straight course. The child has a 1% chance of survival, Car A’s rider now has a 99% chance of survive, and Car B won’t be impacted.

A human driver who has to confront such a situation wouldn’t have time to calculate the odds, and would have to react instinctively. Given the frightening outcomes, we would be quite sympathetic regardless of how the driver responds.

But with a self-driving car that can run calculations and make decisions in fractions of a second…how would we want it to respond?? That is to say: how would we program it?

Should it swerve left to assume the lowest odds at killing someone, although the highest risk would fall on the car’s rider/owner? Should it swerve right to protect a young child, even if it risks adult riders? Should it stay the course to protect the safety of its owner above all others?

An ethical dilemma like this should give us pause. The more that we allow technology to interact with us in the world, the more we force technology to confront ethical dilemmas. In the case of self-driving cars, we are literally placing a potential killing machine (a 2-ton vehicle) in the control of a computer.

We have reached THE UGLY. Let’s pass over the murky question of the environmental impact, and the legal uncertainties of potential lawsuits, and go to the clear winner.

THE UGLY: the ethical puzzle of self-driving cars is complex and controversial.

****
Have we given sufficient thought to these factors? Have we weighed THE GOOD, THE BAD and the UGLY?

I’m afraid not.

That is to say, I am literally afraid that we have not considered all of these factors, especially not THE UGLY.

Why? Because there is one “GOOD” that I did not address: the earning potential for manufacturers of self-driving cars.

In the U.S., we are in a seven-year streak of growing sales in the auto industry, with 17.6 million cars sold in 2016. As for the global level, hold your breath. In 2010, we passed the one billion mark for the number of cars on the roads. Projections suggest that the total could reach 2.5 billion cars by the year 2050 (!!!). That’s a LOT of cars; that’s a LOT of cars to be sold. And if the wave of the future is self-driving cars, that includes a lot of cars to be replaced.7 In other words: $$$.

Here’s the bottom line: the financial incentives for automakers and tech companies is enormous. Literally billions of dollars in profits are at stake.

Let this give us pause to reflect.

  • THE GOOD of reducing traffic fatalities and accidents in general is valuable and a tremendous human good.
  • THE BAD of lost jobs is frightening, as we continue to confront the loss of millions of lower-skilled jobs to new technology (in which we basically always favor the technological gains to the preservation of the jobs).
  • But THE UGLY, especially in this case, is something that deserves even more thought and reflection. A self-driving car is not on an equal level as all other forms of technology, especially when it comes to life and death ethical choices.

While your iPhone might be a real time-suck, it’s not going to make a decision that could take someone’s life. Drones have the power to kill, but we still haven’t granted them the ability to choose their own targets (and for good reason). With self-driving cars, there is no avoiding it. A two-ton vehicle speeding among other cars and people will inevitably make contact. Ethical choices will have to be embedded in their programming.

We cannot allow the inevitability of technological advance to impede us from reflecting on the risks at stake. We cannot allow profit-driven corporations to play up the benefits of new technology while diverting attention from the unavoidable ethical dilemmas contained within. What values guide our policies on the programming and development of self-driving cars? Ethics? Or financial gains?

We have to give more careful consideration to all aspects: THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY. Only then can we make informed decisions about how to create and control the technology that will become a part of our future.

The time to reflect is now, while the wheel is still under our control.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Grief in the Easter Season

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 05:30

By Marina McCoy

A few weeks ago, partway through the Easter Octave, my stepfather unexpectedly passed away. The news of his passing initially felt like an impossible interruption of joy, contrary to everything that I had been experiencing at Easter. My stepdad married my mom when I was only five, and so essentially raised my younger brother and me. I am no expert on how to mourn a parent. I have never done it before, nor have I [...]

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Click through to read the full article Grief in the Easter Season, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Wise Thoughts for the Graduate—and for the Rest of Us Too

Ignatian Spirituality - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

In this graduation season, we share some wise and hopeful words from the late Lisa-Marie Calderone-Stewart, in I Wasn’t Dead When I Wrote This: Advice Given in the Nick of Time: If you still think everything seems hopeless, I invite you to do a simple exercise. On one side of a piece of paper, try listing all the problematic issues you can think of—things like hunger and poverty and sickness and homelessness and bullying and [...]

IgnatianSpirituality.com ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article Wise Thoughts for the Graduate—and for the Rest of Us Too, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Toward a Better Culture of Sex On Campus

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 02:14

It’s a classic “he said/she said” scenario: John Doe and Jane Roe were a brief college couple at the University of California, San Diego, and had engaged in sexual activity one Friday night after drinking at a party. But after breaking up, she says that it was rape, while he claims that it was consensual.1

The undisputed details of their story are not as much disturbing as they are commonplace in the mainstream culture of college campuses. They planned to attend his fraternity party on Friday night (the night they had sex) and her sorority formal on Saturday. She dropped an overnight bag in his room before going out on Friday. On Saturday, the two spent the night together in her room after attending her formal. Their sexual relationship ended that night. Three months later, she reported to the university’s sexual assault resource center that he had assaulted her on that Saturday morning.

According to a Justice Department report, one in five female college students have been
victims of sexual assault. Although this statistic has been subject of dispute, it would not surprise me if one in five undergraduate women had been in Jane Roe’s situation. Many of such cases undoubtedly go unreported. Regardless of what the actual statistics are, this level of sexual assault is unacceptable.

The atmosphere on college campuses, particularly elite and wealthy campuses, is often called a “hook-up culture.”2 The term “hook-up” varies in meaning, and the hook-up culture is difficult to define. I see the hook-up culture as referring not just to casual uncommitted encounters but to a larger culture of expectation even within committed relationships: the expectation that everyone will have sex in some form so long as they can find a consenting partner.

It is in the context of this culture that the story of Jane and John played out. Jane, a Mormon raised in a religious household, who had never drank or had sex before college, decided to experiment in college. This is not necessarily a bad thing, nor do I think that this means Jane is in any way responsible for what happened to her against her will. But sex and alcohol have large roles in what is portrayed in media and popular culture as the “ideal college experience.” This culture puts pressure on new college students to seek out opportunities for sex and, when there is a mutual desire, to push the envelope as far as possible.

The current campus hook-up culture idealizes casual sex in a way that makes it seem far more simple than it actually is. The fallout after regrettable sexual encounters or the psychological suffering of sexual assault victims are rarely present in college movies or in the consciousness of first-year students. In reality, sex is more than simply an a pleasurable activity that parties agree to participate in. That is why rape and sexual assault are such heinous crimes. Sex involves deep emotions and psychological factors, not to mention biology and spirituality. In order to foster a healthier culture of sexuality on campus, we need to find an ideal of sexuality that takes these factors into account and does not just accept consent as the only qualification.

A recent book by sociologist Lisa Wade describes a darker side to the mainstream culture, identifying “a persistent malaise: a deep, indefinable disappointment” in which one third of those who hook up say that their intimate relationships in the last year have been “traumatic” or “very difficult to handle.” Her research concludes that a third of students do not hook up at all, but also that only 15% of students actually enjoy hooking up.

John Doe and Jane Roe could have been my friends in college. I think that is why the story struck me as hard as it did. A healthier culture might have prevented that whole situation, by removing the pressures on both parties to have sex. As someone vowed to chastity, I can attest to the freedom and joy of reconciling a holistic view of sexuality to my own life. I hope that college campuses can become places where young men and women integrate their sexualities in ways that lead to genuine human flourishing.

***

Image courtesy of FlickrCC user Yu-Chan Chen.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Discernment Is a Choice of Courage

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 05/17/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

In a recent address to seminarians, Pope Francis highlighted three aspects of Ignatian style: friendship with the Lord, discernment, and cultivating the magis, or “more,” for the Kingdom of God. In speaking of discernment, the Pope said: Discernment is a choice of courage, contrary to the more comfortable and reductive ways of rigorism and of laxness, as I have repeated many times. To educate to discernment means, in fact, to flee from the temptation to [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

How to Be All of Me

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 05/17/2017 - 02:00

I’m at Santa Clara University. Nine Jesuit universities have sent delegations of students and advisors to the fourth annual IgnatianQ Conference – a student-led symposium focused on the intersectionality of faith, sexuality, and social justice at Jesuit universities. The talk I gave just concluded. And it’s Q&A time.  

“I have a question.” Her hand reluctantly ascends from her lap, a nervous smile unfurling. “First, thank you for your talk. Your words about God’s love for LGBT students like me is something I really needed to hear.” The room booms with applause. “My name is Benita, I’m Cuban, I’m a devout Catholic, and I’m a lesbian.”

“Hi, Benita.” Her posture relaxes a bit, but her hesitant smile turns serious. Most of these students land somewhere on the LGBTQIA+ identity spectrum.1 Most are Catholic, many are Christian,  some are Jewish, a few are agnostic. All are trying to understand how they fit into the worlds they inhabit.

“I feel like I can only be Cuban and Catholic at home. I can only be lesbian and Cuban at school, sometimes. My university is very white, with lots of privileged students – sometimes I have to work at being less Cuban.” Many students of color snap emphatically, a gentle action of affirmation. These tensions Benita describes are real and true. “My Catholic identity also gets sidelined with my lesbian friends, while it’s placed on a pedestal with my family. Is there even a place for me in the Catholic Church? Can I be Catholic, Cuban, and lesbian all at once or will I always have to choose between my identities?” The conference room of 120 students fills with claps, snaps, and cheers of agreement.

And I notice their eyes turn to me for an answer, pens and paper at the ready to write down what I am about to say.

***

As Benita speaks, my grandmother’s soft voice floats into my mind – “You are always representing something or someone, mijo, keep your head high.”

This idea of representing has never left me. And I have appropriated my grandmother’s philosophy into everything.

So here I stand, wise words reverberating through my mind, cognizant of all that I am. Benita’s question looms over me. And I’m profusely sweating. Heart pounding. Palms sticky. I’m in front of these students representing the Catholic Church and the Society of Jesus. And my school. And my gender. And my race. And my sexuality. It’s overwhelming.

Benita has finished asking her question. I’m nervous. I reach for my cup of water and gulp. Dry mouth. And she is leaning in, and they all lean in, waiting for me to respond.

I open my mouth, thoughts fall from my brain, hope rises from my heart, vocal chords begin to vibrate, and suddenly, sound is forming…

***

“I’m gay! And I’m Cuban!” A young man raises both his hands. “We should talk!” Everyone laughs and snaps.

“Yes, yes, yes,” I say, “absolutely!” Whatever was going to be said immediately departed from my mind. “You are Catholic. And there is a place for you at the Lord’s table, for all of you. Do not forget that, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise.” I’ve never thought of myself as an authority on anything, but eyes

are widening all around me. They are glued to every word. In this moment I can tell I am seen as some sort of an expert. I sweat even more. “Connect and speak to each other. Share your truth. Take advantage of this time together. And pray. By doing this you will discover how God invites others to answer the same questions you’re asking. And I bet you’ll uncover answers to other questions as well!”

The author speaking at the IgnatianQ Conference.

Smiles are forming on faces. Pens frantically noting my response. Perhaps what I’m saying makes sense to them even if I feel my answer is incomplete. But, my answer pours out from my own experience of seeking support, or affirmation, or community. And it comes from those occasions I’ve felt disaffected or dismissed by the Church. Mostly, though, it comes from Benita’s bravery to ask the question in the first place.

***

Afternoon flight back to Chicago. The sky is amazingly blue. That moment with Benita runs through my mind. I close my eyes and say a prayer.

I recognize there is much work to be done in the Catholic Church to help marginalized peoples feel welcome in its pews. Recalling Pope Francis asking us to smell like sheep, maybe we don’t quite smell like sheep enough to admit how exclusive our Church can be. Many of the students’ stories and questions, like Benita’s, reflected an experience of the Church that still causes some confusion and pain, leaving them feeling alienated and lost.

As I gaze out across the sky, sipping my ginger ale, I pray these young adults keep persevering. I pray they remain in the Church and don’t leave out of resentment or frustration. I pray for their unanswered questions and uncertainties. And I pray for my own strength because I’m asking myself the same thing: how can I be all of me all at once in this universal church we call Catholic?  I pray because I am with them. I pray because we are all just like them, never only one thing in this world.

-//-

The cover image, from Flickr user Charlie Nguyen, can be found here. The internal image is used with permission from members of the IgnatianQ community.

Categories: Things Jesuit

When to Sing Alleluia

Ignatian Spirituality - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 05:30

By Michelle Francl-Donnay

“From holy Easter until Pentecost without interruption let ‘Alleluia’ be said both in the Psalms and in the responsories.” —from The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 15. Last fall, my students and I read the Rule of St. Benedict, and I invited them to rewrite a chapter or two to suit their secular community of college students, an assignment they took up with verve. Chapter 15—when to sing the Alleluia—became a chapter on when it [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

Harry Styles Has Something to Teach You About Love

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 02:00

The world needs to listen more attentively to the voices of teenage girls. Lately, they’ve been raving about the handsome and talented Harry Styles–One Direction band member who went solo on Friday with his debut album Harry Styles. At a school not so far, far away, I can almost hear a young lady whisper longingly, “He’s so dreamy,” with her chin cupped between two scrawny palms. Not far away, a group gathers outside a classroom door. Circled around an iPhone, they swoon as Styles tenderly sings, “Meet me in the hallway.” When he softly repeats, “Meet me in the hallway,” they fall to the floor in unison.

Something about this man has attracted 30 million followers on Twitter and 15 million “likes” on Facebook. He’s one of the heartthrobs of our age. People are dying to hear his music, and his message is reaching the masses, or at least the masses of teenage girls.

Many frown when I mention that Harry is now among my favorite male artists. They eek, “Yeah…you and a bunch of sixth grade girls.” However, their misogynistic comments don’t get me down. They don’t phase Harry, either. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he rightfully quips,

Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say… How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.

So enough with the condescension. Let’s get to the heart of the matter: why is Harry Styles a thing? As any good essayist, I’ve got three points: (1) he’s got style, (2) he’s retro, and (3) he’s constantly in and out of love.

The guy is dapper. By that, I mean that he is “neat, trim, and spruce” according to the OED.1 You might think, “Yeah, he’s dapper, but we aren’t meant to judge by looks, right?” Wrong. I happen to think that looks are important, at least for people who have sufficient discretionary funds to be able to choose their style.2 He’s stylish, and, frankly, human beings are a body-soul union. Those who refuse to care for their appearance degrade the dignity of the human person. Harry is not one of those people, which brings me to my second point.

Harry has a particular style: retro. A few weeks back on SNL, he performed his album’s biggest hit “Sign of the Times.” Wearing an old-school, double-vested, plaid Gucci suit from the Fall 2017 collection, he made a clear statement about the relationship between his new album and what has come before.

photo: @nbcsnl/Instagram

The young man is aware of his place in the history of pop rock. His dress signals a broader trend towards musical pastiche that his album frequently employs. While he clearly “pastes” sounds and styles germane to his parents and grandparents, he does so without losing his distinctive contemporary flare. He speaks to the present with an awareness of the past. The album is not a reinvention of the wheel: it’s more like an elegant-yet-surprisingly-flashy rim. It spins on its own within a pre-existing frame. It’s not surprising that his second outfit on SNL was a combination of styles.

photo: @nbcsnl/Instagram

This move in attire acts as bridge between the old and the new, which parallels the message of “Sign of the Times.” The epic power ballad is dreamlike and apocalyptic. Its lyrics speak of the “final show,” encouraging an escape in the face of an impending “end.” Despite the doom and gloom, Harry’s voice is resolute and detached from any hint of sensationalism. “We never learn, we’ve been here before,” he sings, a message of simultaneous condemnation and reassurance. He’s rooted in a history that contextualizes the present.

In the struggle for justice, we’ve moved through seemingly dark times before, and we will again. Harry explains as much to Rolling Stone: “’Sign of the Times’ came from ‘This isn’t the first time we’ve been in a hard time, and it’s not going to be the last time.’” As an old history professor of mine liked to claim, if you think it’s bad now, then you don’t know your history. Harry concurs. His retro style gives an impression of maturity, a quality confirmed by his music. He might be young, but there is a real wisdom here.

The real wisdom of the album is not about the “times” but about love. Historical pastiche is the style, but love is the story.3 Raw love fills the verses of every song on the album.4

“Kiwi” and “Only Angel” speak of mad love, an initial, rapturous surge of passion. He rocks out, chanting , “She drives me crazy, but I’m into it.” Notes from guitars rip and swell like blood coursing through the valves of an infatuated heart. “From the Dining Table” and “Meet Me in the Hallway” speak of jaded love. Like blood, love fills us with life, but, when we get hurt, it forms bruises and scars. Now far removed from the enthrallment of newfound desire, Harry speaks of a state of isolation. He’s “alone in that hotel room,” feeling frustrated and rejected. Nothing seems to click. “Even my phone misses your call,” he sings in desperation. Hushed streams of chords are his only companions.

Similarly, “Two Ghosts” speaks of fading love. It’s a slower tune with hints of country. The mood is nostalgic. Time has reduced the billowing flames of a raging fire to smoke and ashes. “We’re not who we used to be,” he admits with a voice full of somber nostalgia. Love, it seems, brings both ecstasy and withdrawal.5

There are heavier rock songs that communicate the thrill of love, and there are lighter, soft rock songs that convey the melancholy of a wounded yet longing heart. There is a song for every stage in a relationship. Touring through his memories, Harry also tours through several generations and styles of music. He’s in touch with his musical roots just as he’s in touch with his feelings.

He’s achieved his self-stated goal of being “honest.” The pastiche of musical forms isn’t unintentional, lazy and derivative; rather, it is the musical DNA with which he transcribes his story. The listener can tell by his voice that the lyrics are more than words on a sheet or tips of the hat to his predecessors. They mean something to him, and this candor resonates with the emotions of humanity’s most sincere population: teenage girls.6

Like Harry Styles, teenage girls are vulnerable with themselves. They experience its highs and lows in real time. They live for the rollercoaster of love. Even in the lows, something tells them that love is worth the risk even though others have given up on its pursuit. But, others have wounds and resign themselves to never seek love again. Others, paralyzed by a fear of getting hurt won’t even get on the ride.  

Styles cuts through all of this.  He and the youth of this world reject the worn-out somberness they see around them, and–at times–within them. Rather than surrendering to a stale pessimism disguised as realism, they want to soar. There is a desire for love that persists even as Harry reveals his wounds. In his earnestness, faith, hope, and love remain in the midst of doubt, despair, and fear. The album is a tribute to these deep, pure desires, which extend beyond earthly limitations.

We might be tempted to roll our eyes as Styles takes flight in the “Sign of the Times” music video, but he and his fans pity those whose feet are too firmly planted on the ground.  Harry feels for those “running from the bullets,” avoiding love for fear of heartbreak. He doesn’t want to live fleeing his wounds, and he doesn’t want you to either. As some close themselves off from love, Harry doubles down, belting, “We should open up.” As others mope with heads turned towards the ground, Harry wants you to break “through the atmosphere.” There is a love yet to be found, and Styles hopes that he and his teenage fans aren’t the only ones still looking for it.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Moodle 3.3 is released!

Latest Moodle News - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 12:02

by Martin Dougiamas.  

I’m so happy to announce the release of Moodle 3.3 more-or-less right on time.  

This release contains a lot of things, but the biggest two headline features you’ll find are:

1) Course overview on dashboard

The new “course overview” block in the dashboard (a project from the MUA!) shows an overview of your courses and things that are coming up.  

This may seem like a small feature in itself, but it directly attacks the number one problem that students have expressed to us, which is “how do I know what to do next”, so this is a major improvement.  The dashboard will be truly useful as the first place you always want to look at when you come to Moodle on the web or in our mobile app.

The functionality of the course overview depends on knowledge about critical dates in Moodle activities. Because of this, a major part of this project was to improve how educators set up activity completion in their courses.  We've added new features to set the defaults for activities, as well as bulk editing of activities, making it much faster to get things set up well.

We’re happy with the first version of this new approach in this release, which was our first major project to undergo a lot of UX testing and prototyping before any code was written.  However there is already a list of things we want to do to make the dashboard look and work even better, and you will find many of these coming soon (some as soon as Moodle 3.3.1).


2) Office integrations

The other major feature is the new integrations with external office platforms like Google G-Suite and Microsoft Office365.  

We know that quite a few Moodle sites use one of these two office systems, and the integrations are targeted at making life easier to have single-sign-on, to use your document repository in Moodle, and so on.  These integrations have existed as add-on plugins for a long time, but we wanted to include them in core as part of a simpler framework, one that can truly grow over time to get better and better.

I hope to see similar integrations in the near future with open source Office solutions such as NextCloud and others.


Other new features include:

    • assignment grading improvements
    • updated, more accessible icons using FontAwesome
    • Increased multi-byte support on MySQL (which also helps emojis)
    • Stealth mode for activities
    • instant drag-and-drop of media files on course pages
    • new document conversion plugins for assignment grading UI
    • new file storage plugins for cluster and cloud sites
    • much more …  

Not least, with 3.3 you can also start experimenting with the first version of our new and very exciting analytics/AI framework, called “Inspire”.  We hope our Moodle-based analytics research community will rally around and help to develop it over the coming years into a truly helpful assistant for educators and learners.

As usual you can dig into all the Moodle 3.3 Release Notes to find out more, or head to your favourite download site to get it. 

If you are on MoodleCloud (together with 21,000 others and growing!) then you'll be upgraded within the next two weeks.


Before I go ... every time we do a release there's an opportunity to pause and reflect on our progress with the Moodle project.

We are in a period in history that feels more tumultuous than ever.  Inequality in wealth, power and even food is rising rapidly throughout the world, we have 65 million displaced people without homes, populations are suffering from mismanaged globalisation, global interests are fighting over control of our information and our buying habits, urgent climate change problems being ignored at highest levels, automation is decimating whole industries, healthcare quality is dropping in many parts of the world, and on and on and on.  

I am seeing some beautiful things happening in the world too, partially in reaction to all this.  People are using technology to reach out and connect, to teach, to work, to support others, to spread innovations and positive ideas around the world.  People are fighting everywhere for openness, for equality, for kindness, for honesty, for sanity and science everywhere: it’s good to see, but it’s a long road.

Information is not enough.  Access to information is not enough - all of this is out there already.  We believe the power of well-equipped educators is critical part of the solution to ANY problem, especially the big problems. 

And that’s why, we believe, stronger than ever, that our mission at Moodle is to empower educators to change our world.   This release is but a small step on an important road towards the most amazing learning platform that the world can’t even imagine yet.

We believe absolutely that truly open source projects such as Moodle supporting our education systems are the best way to distribute innovation globally and help educators create a better-educated and more connected human population on this planet of ours, while protecting fundamental human rights as well as local language and culture.

We have much more to do, and we need your support to do it.   Donations are always welcome, but for our sustainability we prefer if you work with us:

Help us help you -  by working together we can do great things for the education community.

Thank you to the many hundreds of you who contributed directly with your time and finances towards the Moodle 3.3 release, as a developer, commentator or tester, or more indirectly by joining the Moodle Users Association, by purchasing a Branded Moodle Mobile App, by using a Moodle Partner and so on. 

We’re already onto Moodle 3.4, which will have almost no new features, we're going to devote some solid time to fixing long-standing pain points plus polishing the Boost interface and taking it to new heights.  Second stage rockets, if you will. ;)

Peace to you all and thank you for being on this journey with us.

Martin
Moodle Founder and CEO

What Is an Unhealthy Attachment?

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 05:30

By Vinita Hampton Wright

People who are familiar with St. Ignatius, the Spiritual Exercises, or Jesuit spirituality in general will sometimes use the term unhealthy attachment. What is that exactly? Let’s explore this by asking a few questions. Is there any physical habit I have that gets in the way of my being available to God? Do I turn to food, drink, sex, exercise, or sleep to avoid facing myself or my conversation with the Divine? What are my [...]

IgnatianSpirituality.com ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article What Is an Unhealthy Attachment?, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

What Happened in the Tomb?

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 05/12/2017 - 05:30

By Loretta Pehanich

Did you ever wonder what exactly happened in the tomb after Jesus was buried? The mystery of Jesus fully human and fully divine tangles my brain like a shroud; I can’t get my mind wrapped around it. I’m puzzled by the few details the Gospels provide after the Resurrection. We’re told that the disciples found “the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place [...]

IgnatianSpirituality.com ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article What Happened in the Tomb?, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

What Mom Taught Me About Mother’s Day

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Fri, 05/12/2017 - 02:14

Mom began sprinting up the hill, pushing me in the wheelchair. As we reached the halfway point of the walkway, the front wheels caught a spacer in the pavement. CRACK! The front wheels snapped off, immediately halting the chair and turning me into a human projectile. I landed on the ground, half-laughing, half-panicking as mom frantically tried to figure out what to do while worrying about the broken leg that put me in the wheelchair in the first place.

I often like to tease my mom about funny stories like this one. Reflecting on it a bit deeper than the immediate humor, however, I’m struck by how it reflects my relationship with my mom. Sure, Mom got rambunctious and started sprinting with her child in a wheelchair. But deeper than that, Mom realized how the 7th-grade bullying plus the broken leg had reached a tipping point. Not only did she let me skip school, but she took a day off of work to bring me to the Missouri Botanical Gardens. The Gardens had been a favorite spot for the two of us as I grew up. Visits there usually involved feasting on poppyseed bread smothered in butter before going to feed the koi in the Japanese garden.

This Mother’s Day, I want to look beyond the requisite flowers and phone call home to something a bit fuller – What did Mom teach me about Mother’s Day?

****

When I was in the fourth grade, my class had to re-design animals in a way that was both creative and that had some kind of positive impact on the world. Vegetarian lions? Extra-egg producing chickens? Nope. Mom pushed me to imagine a breed of catfish that would extract mercury from the water, thus improving the environment and making other fish safe to eat, especially for pregnant mothers.

Fast forward to AP Statistics during my senior year of high school. All my classmates worked on baseball, football, and hockey analytics. As for me? Mom directed me to analyze the effects of lead paint on maternal and child health.

And I would get mad at my Mom, telling her to stop taking over my projects and allow me to do my own work. Yet all these years later, lead paint and environmental justice are the exact things I teach my juniors about in our Catholic Social Doctrine class.

Among her favorite hobbies, Mom likes to imagine what my future should be, including not only if I should continue in my studies, but what exactly she thinks I should study and what communities I should serve. She sometimes considers calling my Jesuit superiors to enlighten them to her plans. That’s when I get frustrated: sorry, Mom, it doesn’t work that way!

Yet all of these examples are emblematic of my relationship with Mom.

****

Now, Mom is President of the Sinai Urban Health Institute, the public health arm of Sinai Hospital. Although much of her research currently revolves around reducing gun violence, her lifetime focus has been on maternal health. While she has always been an excellent mother to me, Mom has done amazing work to ensure the livelihood of all mothers.

Each little memory of my mom – the wheelchair, school projects, imagining my future, my frustration, and Mom’s enduring patience – point to something far greater that Mom taught me. Her dreams for my future are never about appeasing her, but fighting for a more just world for all mothers. Pushing my education has never been about status or achievement. It’s about challenging me to help shape the world so mothers don’t have to fret about lead paint, mercury levels in fish, or proper maternal health. Her imagination is not only directed at what might happen to my life. Rather, she imagines how I can give and share my life with others.

Mom taught me that love for her was never directed solely at her. Mom’s love went further than that. Mom was always thinking about other mothers. So she taught me to love, cherish, and tenderly serve others with a wild imagination. She helped me see that my love was never just for her. It needs to be for all mothers, because all mothers are affected by the problems of the world, from environmental pollution to lead paint.

Through projects, dreams, degrees, and imagination, Mom has shared her love with me. And it is a love that cannot be shared only over flowers and a phone call, but demands that my love goes further beyond. So what did Mom teach me about Mother’s Day?

Selfless love: for others, and especially for mothers.

To the biostatistics professor, environmental defender, hiking buddy, and dreamer who taught me to love Mothers: Happy Mother’s Day.

Categories: Things Jesuit

How to Beat the Fear of Failure

Ignatian Spirituality - Thu, 05/11/2017 - 05:30

By Vinita Hampton Wright

Choose to do what you consider important to do. Do that important thing, and keep doing it. Don’t give up on what is important. Look at the gifts you have been given—name them. Accept those gifts and practice gratitude for them. Learn to cherish the life you are given. Believe what is good and kind and truthful and lovely. Find ways to pass along whatever is good and kind and truthful and lovely. Dare to [...]

IgnatianSpirituality.com ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article How to Beat the Fear of Failure, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

100% pass rate for Moodle 3.3 QA tests

Latest Moodle News - Wed, 05/10/2017 - 08:25

by Helen Foster.  

A big thank you to all our Quality Assurance (QA) testers, as listed in the Testing credits, who helped us achieve a Moodle 3.3 test pass rate of 100% in a little over 4 weeks. Congratulations to everyone who received a Moodle tester 2017 badge for running three or more tests in the QA cycle.

Thanks also to all our developers, who helped with fixing bugs identified through testing, so that tests could be reset and run again as quickly as possible. Thus we are all ready for Moodle 3.3 to be released next week!

Appreciating Emmaus

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 05/10/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

There’s much to appreciate in the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus, says Michael Sparough, SJ. For one: It’s in looking back on the experience that they realize just how impactful it’s been. I think it’s that insight that encouraged St. Ignatius Loyola to teach his followers the importance of a daily Examen. It’s in looking back and sifting and sorting through the events and the feelings of our day that we [...]

IgnatianSpirituality.com ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article Appreciating Emmaus, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Francis’ Visit to Egypt: Why Was It a Big Deal?

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 05/10/2017 - 02:14

Ma’alesh, translated to “it’s not so bad,” is used often in colloquial Arabic in Egypt. For all the troubles and resulting cynicism that may plague their lives, Egyptians attempt, at least in their vocabulary, to be optimistic.

But ma’alesh is a word that probably hasn’t been heard much in Coptic circles these past few weeks. On Palm Sunday, April 9th, ISIS brutally bombed two Coptic Orthodox places of worship, a cathedral in Alexandria, and a church in Tanta. 49 people were killed.

I vividly remember the shock and horror that I felt as I woke up that Sunday: most of my extended family lives in Egypt, and some of them are Coptic Orthodox. Of course, I had experienced that mix of disgust, rage, and heartache when reading about previous terrorist attacks, but this time around, I worried immediately that some of my relatives were directly affected. Thankfully, all of them had been spared. Even still, I continue to fret about what daily life must be like for my family and for the 9 million Christians who live in Egypt. If one can’t feel safe in a church of all places, then is there really any sense of security at all?

While there’s no quick solution to this situation, I was encouraged to see Pope Francis visit Egypt just 20 days after the bombings. In his poignant homily, the pontiff first grieved over the immense loss of lives, then transitioned to faith’s role in these senseless acts. “True faith,” he proclaimed, “spurs us on to spread, defend and live out the culture of encounter, dialogue, respect and fraternity. It gives us the courage to forgive those who have wronged us, to extend a hand to the fallen.”

Pope Francis’s message of charity, unity, and brotherhood was clear when he met with Coptic Pope Tawadros II a day earlier. For the first time ever, both leaders recognized each other’s baptisms, a symbol of deepening roots in a time and a country with deep tension and division. In an extension of this inviting spirit with Islam, Francis also met with Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, a prominent Muslim imam.

In another speech, the pope strongly condemned violence on all levels, declaring, “To counter effectively the barbarity of those who foment hatred with violence, we need to accompany young people, helping them on the path to maturity and teaching them to respond to the incendiary logic of evil by patiently working for the growth of goodness.”

Again, there is no cure-all for this conflict, but Francis was both wise and pragmatic to suggest dialogue and accompaniment in this speech. Terror groups like ISIS arguably gained momentum by appealing to people who felt just the opposite: isolated or under-represented in social spheres.

So, why was Francis’s visit last week such a big deal? Not only did the pope risk serious dangers to visit the country, but he also made milestones in unprecedented dialogue with prominent Coptic Orthodox and Muslim leaders. Given that Egypt is the most populous country in the Middle East, and that the threat of terror is likely increasing around the Sinai peninsula, the country is thirsty for hope.

Saying ma’alesh still isn’t easy, but Francis reminds us of a lived faith rooted in the hope of the resurrection and magnified by charity towards others: “Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair.”

Categories: Things Jesuit

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