Things Jesuit

Social Media Examen

Ignatian Spirituality - 11 hours 49 min ago

By dotMagis Editor

Have you ever found yourself using social media, wondering: Why do I hesitate to read comments on a news article? Why am I stuck wondering what sparked someone’s Facebook discussion? Why do I linger on infuriating Tweets? Why do I walk away from social media at times, feeling exhausted, angry, or less myself? Is this even good for me? Jesuit Post contributors Ken Homan, SJ, and Colten Biro, SJ, have asked those questions and suggest [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

10 Things to Love about Ignatian Spirituality

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 02/22/2017 - 05:30

By Rebecca Ruiz

Here are 10 things I love about Ignatian spirituality. 1. It promotes lasting happiness. One of my friends gave me a coffee mug that reads “Do more of what makes you happy.” Every morning, it makes me happy just thinking about doing things that make me happy! I am also reminded of St. Ignatius’s belief that those noble desires closest to our hearts that make us most happy deep down—not passing fancies or things that [...]

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Click through to read the full article 10 Things to Love about Ignatian Spirituality, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

God’s Project

Ignatian Spirituality - Tue, 02/21/2017 - 05:30

By Tim Muldoon

I first encountered the term “God’s project” in an essay by Joseph Tetlow, SJ. I think it’s an idea worth considering further. Looking at the world as God’s project has some powerful implications. For example: 1. It emphasizes the radical human freedom with which God has created us, and the passion God brings to persuading us to help God create a kingdom of goodness, truth, and beauty. 2. It allows us to see human evil [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

Agere Contra for Lent

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 05:30

By Andy Otto

Andy Otto suggests agere contra as one approach to Lenten practices. He writes at God in All Things: Agere Contra—This popular Ignatian term means “to act against.” It means that we can deliberately choose to go against what our tendency might be. It’s useful in avoiding temptation or bad habits but can also stretch us spiritually. So if you realise that Facebook is a bit of an addiction for you, you can practise agere contra [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

Humor and Spiritual Wisdom

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 02/17/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

Nikolaas Sintobin, SJ, believes humor can reveal spiritual wisdom. In an interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, Sintobin talks about humor, discernment, and Jesuit spirituality. He says, “Ignatian spirituality is an answer to the question, What do I have to do in my life now? and not in a theoretical way but learning from my own experience.” Listen to the interview below. Sintobin is the author of Jesuits Telling Jokes: A (Serious) Introduction to [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

How to Prepare for Lent

Ignatian Spirituality - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 05:30

By Vinita Hampton Wright

How do you prepare for Lent? How have you prepared in the past? What are your ideas about what should happen during Lent? We have the traditional Catholic practices of praying, fasting, and almsgiving. So, we pray more than usual, or we pray with different emphases. We eat smaller or fewer meals or give up a favorite food or drink group. We give more of our resources or give them specifically to special works of [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

10 Ideas for Lent

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

Ash Wednesday is March 1, 2017, so today we’re highlighting some of the many Ignatian-inspired features designed to help you observe Lent. Living Lent Daily Foster a daily practice of spiritual calm where God is at the center. Living Lent Daily is an e-mail series delivering fresh reflections based on the Scriptures of Lent. Each day’s message includes a quotation from the day’s Scripture readings and a brief reflection to spur prayer and self-examination. The [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

My Kind of Love

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 02:01

It’s easy to think of love on Valentine’s Day. It is, after all, a day we dedicate entirely to the saccharine, stuffed teddy bears gripping stuffed hearts, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, and in Chicago, heart-shaped deep dish pizza. There are, for one day, endless romantic professions. I cannot survive without you, they say to each other. My heart is yours. I will never leave you. My gift to you is my whole self, the very blood pumping through my body more quickly when you’re around.

My love isn’t exactly directed that way. I spend my days with college students. I teach and tutor and advise and support and plan and plan and plan. It never ends. It is totally unbridled and exhausting. Some days, I’m not sure I’m going to make it. And so on Valentine’s Day I, as I do on every other day, carry on wondering where the fullness of my love will be drawn.

***

My church is a humble black parish in the West Haven neighborhood, just a few blocks from where the Bulls play. The church has a primary school attached to it, and last week, a group of students were slated to take the lead in providing voices for the service. They would offer the readings, the prayer intentions, and when they finished they would return to the choir and sing. They were all girls, young and bright and bouncing, happy to have a place in front.

One of them wore pink-stemmed glasses and had a pile of thick braids on top of her head. She approached the altar and bowed awkwardly, a deep and robotic gesture she was clearly coached into making. She went to the book of scripture, loudly adjusted the microphone, and slowly began: “A reading…from the book…of the prophet…”

And then, a gaping pause – she looked to the priest, and then to a white lady in the congregation, her teacher maybe – she didn’t know how to say Sirach. Old women in the pews leaned forward, gripping the stained wood, sensing her hesitation. They called out to her –  “Speak, little sister! Proclaim that word!”

“Sigh-RACK,” she said, unafraid and unashamed, encouraged by those around her to keep going. She finished, “the word of the Lord,” and returned to her seat beaming, legs kicking above the floor too far away for her feet.

Then the choir kicked in. They were, with the exception of one girl who’s good with a tambourine, a timid group. They barely moved their mouths, and while the piano, drums, organ and trombone stomped out a joyful noise, these girls’ voices were nearly drowned out by sound bouncing around the vast interior of the worship space.

As the service continued, the priest took to the altar and began offering ancient prayers that have the power to change bread and wine into body and blood. As he prayed, I noticed all these girls in their school uniforms. They were mouthing the words of these prayers in unison with the priest. Through the priest, God consecrated that moment, but these girls confirmed it.

And I realized – I wanted these girls to have everything – long, happy lives, feasts with family on Sunday afternoons, a city street they can stroll down free of fear. I wanted to give them my whole heart, all my love, all my energy, all my time. The Mass ended with a gospel song. The words are clear and true, and became my prayer: You are important to me – I need you to survive.

***

My love rests with these girls who face tremendous adversity in their lives. And more broadly, with all people who have been subjected to the very worst things our world is offering – poverty and racism and needless death. When they sing and read and pray, they bring vitality and joy. They show me their worth and show me my own. They draw me out of myself and into a realm of community and compassion that reminds me of what it means to live for the other. Not just one other, but many. To say to them that I cannot survive without them, that all my heart is theirs, that I will never leave them, that my gift to them is my whole self, the very blood pumping through my body more quickly when they’re around.

My life may be unbridled and exhausting at times, and so is my love. But, it will never go away. It is relentless. And so are they. And so, I must be.

-//-

Categories: Things Jesuit

Recalculating with the Holy Spirit

Ignatian Spirituality - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 05:30

By Cara Callbeck

I am not the greatest driver. I am easily flustered, particularly when I am in the unfortunate position of having to drive in an area unfamiliar to me. In those flustered and confused moments, I am comforted by one word spoken all too often by my GPS: recalculating. The word reassures me that no matter how far off-course I may have gotten from my desired destination, my trusty GPS is working to get me back [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

Finding Peace on YouTube

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 02:00

If I were lost in the woods, I would probably die after a few hours. I know nothing about wilderness survival.

Fortunately, I know someone who does. Well, kinda know. I’ve never met him. He lives in Australia. I live in Boston. But I watch his incredible skills on YouTube! He is The Man. (Seriously, commentators just call him “The Man” because he never reveals his name.)

The premise of the Primitive Technology channel on YouTube is rather simple. The Man makes items like charcoal, a bow and arrow, or a forge blower.1 He uses no modern tools or materials. His resourcefulness puts MacGyver to shame:

“Primitive” should be in scare quotes. Though The Man creates things with the simplest of materials,  he uses great film equipment to produce sleek videos. He also learns many of his skills on the internet.

Primitive Technology is different from almost everything else on YouTube. The Man never speaks. The only sounds one hears are the rustling of leaves, the chirping of birds, or the chopping of wood.

I first learned about Primitive Technology from a relatively “primitive” form of communication –  the essay.  Jennifer Kahn in the New York Times writes:

Fans often describe the videos as meditative, or even therapeutic. (“Your videos are the most beautiful thing I have seen on the internet,” one person writes. “They make me feel serene. No talking and no rubbish — just plain, simple work.”) Watching them, especially amid the clamor of YouTube, can feel like leaving a crowded party and stepping out into the cool night air.

Kahn’s description fits my own experience of watching Primitive Technology. It also reminds me of one of Pope Benedict XVI’s messages for World Communications Day. He wrote:

Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God.

The Man does not overtly share the word of God in his videos; he’s busy acting like David and throwing rocks with a handcrafted sling. Still, unlike so much of what bombards my eyes and ears online, Primitive Technology makes me feel at peace.

Of course, Primitive Technology is sort of absurd. Rather than getting off my butt, going to the woods, and building something, I sit in the comfort of my home watching a carefully edited YouTube video of someone else doing work.

Perhaps even worse, I may feel like I have accomplished something when I’ve done jack squat.  

Still, while technology often disconnects us from nature and from silence, The Man reminds us that it can also be used to reconnect us with God’s creation and a little more peace and quiet.

And Primitive Technology is not the only example of how we can find a peaceful place online.  Apps like Calm have helped many of us get in the habit of meditation or centering prayer. Fr. James Martin and others have offered one-minute retreats that simply show off God’s handiwork:

Of course, actually spending time in our common home is far better than watching The Man build a tiled roof hut.2 Still, online sources that help me pause and rest a while can be part of a healthy digital diet.

And who knows, they may motivate me to turn off my computer and spend some time outside. They may even help me to pray.

– // –

For an excellent but more negative take on our technology habits, check out Four Reasons NOT to Read This Article by Joe Simmons, SJ.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Puzzle Pieces and the Examen

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 05:30

By Becky Eldredge

Below is the text from the video, an excerpt from my new book, Busy Lives & Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life. Learn more about the book here. And join me today on Facebook for a live event, the Ignatian Spirituality Social Media Takeover. So, what is the Examen? In a nutshell, it is a method of prayer that you normally complete at the end of your [...]

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Click through to read the full article Puzzle Pieces and the Examen, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Four Reasons NOT to Read This Article

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 02:01

“Four Reasons NOT to Read This Article” sounds like a title meant to provoke your interest. 

It is.  Internet-1, You-0.

But aside from that, not reading another article online is probably good advice.  

Let me explain.

One recent weekend morning, I spent five hours consuming articles and video clips online. Like many idle cyber flaneurs, I glutted myself with an uneven mix of brain vegetables and empty-carb junk food.  Longer think pieces on politics, shorter news articles, a few SNL skits to lighten the tone, snippets from bumbled press conferences…whatever shiny things crackled and popped on Youtube, the New York Times, Twitter, and the Atlantic.

As I sat in pajamas, watching the sun climb then disappear over my house, I found myself growing…numb.  I was not enjoying this lounge-fest, but I couldn’t summon the energy to pull out of my Internet Sloth Spiral either.  My phone, with its brand new battery, was flagging – it had quickly gone from 100% to Power Save Mode — and it let me know of this depressing fact.  My soul was hovering around 20%, as well.

“Good grief…look at your life!” I thought — and forced myself outside for an afternoon run.  

* * *

I submit, for your consideration, some facts about our collective internet consumption:

  • 2.9 billion Google searches are made every day.
  • There are 966 million unique websites in existence.
  • 37,000 of those sites are hacked daily.
  • 2.7 million blog entries – like this one – are posted every day.
  • WordPress alone hosts 76.5 million blogs, including The Jesuit Post.
  • 75.1% of online Americans access the internet and social media through mobile devices.  The internet is with us wherever we go.
  • 56% of internet traffic comes from robots and spammers; only 44 percent comes from humans.

And perhaps most alarming for me: a 2016 Nielsen Company audience report found that adults in the United States now spend an average of 10 hours and 39 minutes in front of their screen(s) each day.  This included tablets, smartphones, home computers, multimedia devices, work laptops, video games, radios, DVDs, TVs, DVRs…

Just let that number sink in a for a hot minute. 10 hours, 39 minutes, every day.

Yikes.

“Not me!” you protest, rather quickly.  Well, me neither, I say.  I would never spend that much time in front of a screen!  Me, a lover of books, poetry, art, and face time with interesting people.  Me, a physically active adult. -ish.  Me, a man studying for the priesthood, who — per St. Ignatius’ over-laundered wisdom — aspire to a “discerned use of all created things…”

And yet, there I sat: frittering away five consecutive hours on a pleasant morning, just because I had no commitment pressing me to engage the non-pajamaed world outside.  

* * *

10 hours, 39 minutes?  Phhh…not me.  Could it be?  I submit four moments1 when screen time sneaks up on us each day.  It begins when I…

1. Wake Up!  Let’s review a typical start to my day:

  • Wake up to a smartphone alarm, which opens unto the Magical World of Internet.™  
  • Check for new texts, the day’s weather, refresh emails.
  • Skim news pushed to the phone from around the world.  
  • Re-watch videos of diapered nephew toddling and speaking adorably, growing wistful.

I’ve already sacrificed 30-45 minutes to this glassy demigod, before I’ve even gotten out of bed.  Yes, but what about when you’re out of bed and working early?  Certainly that means less time spent in front of a screen!  We turn then to…

2. Daylight Screenings Time.  Even on days when I have graduate classes and reading, most of it is planted in front of my laptop:

  • A few hours of distracted PDF reading and Canvas posts for class; followed by
  • Three hours of classroom screen time; plus
  • Two-to-three hours spent emailing throughout the day…flitting between this or that site…iMessaging friends and family…writing a homily, or a blog post, or dragging my feet to pen a short essay.  

This Blended Screen Time (hereafter “BS Time”) offers neither focused productivity, nor restorative leisure.  Rather, BS Time leaves us feeling distracted, unproductive, and pulled in different directions.  Which is compounded by…

3. Me, Myself and iPhone.  None of this screen time takes account of the dozens of unconscious phone checks throughout the day (yes, dozens).  Who hasn’t felt the endorphin rush from an incoming text message?  Who doesn’t “refresh” their inbox every half hour, like a slot machine junkie hoping for a big haul?  We wait with muted panic for some email – any email – to come in, marked bold! Bold with newness!  

And when there are no new texts or emails (criminy, not even work emails?) — we wonder, just for a moment, if anyone remembers we exist.  

Isn’t all this technology supposed to make us feel more connected?  Why do we feel, to borrow a term from MIT professor Sherry Turkle, alone together?  Oh well.  Let’s check Facebook and Instagram to see if we can get an emotional contact-high from someone else’s well-curated life.  What’s this?  Up-to-the-minute political soapboxing?  Someone skiing in Denver with kittens?  An ad for Dollar Shave Club?  Why do I do this, again?

4. Nighttime and Netflix.  After a long day of distracted, semi-productive BS Time, it’s nice to have a measurable physical task before bed, like folding the laundry, or cleaning the bedroom.  But gosh, it sure is quiet!  Why don’t I turn on an old 30 Rock, or see if a new episode of Young Pope or Veep is online yet?  An hour or two later, the amped up rods and cones of my retinas finally unplug from my iPad.  But that odd blue light, which has oversaturated the retinas, keeps the mind spinning in its hoary afterglow.  I find my addled brain wondering,

Is it possible that I just spent 10 hours in front of screens today?  

And if I didn’t, doesn’t an average of 10+ hours mean that a lot of other Americans spend more than 10+ hours every day in front of screens?

* * *  

You might scoff at all this, or shake your head in pitying silence, or turn away in knowing horror.  But…I’d venture to say that these Pavlovian pings and sad trifles texture the daily life of many American young adults.  Is this really life?  Am I just being an ornery Troglodyte, the likes of whom I challenged just last year here?

I don’t know for sure, but I find it telling that Steve Jobs strictly limited his kids’ screen time. This is telling, but not surprising. I doubt McDonald’s execs encourage their kids to eat a lot of fast food, either.

I could expend a lot more time here suggestion habits for you and me to get off the internet, and go outside. To not start our day with a smartphone. To ditch Facebook. I could probably write an irresistibly clickable  “5 Ways to Enjoy Your Life More…[Alec Baldwin could NOT believe #3!].”  

But, the internet can not solve your problems for you, which might be the best reason not to read this article.  I submit that the root of our collective problem is that we have been conditioned to turn to the crowd-sourced wisdom of the internet to tell us how to live our life away from the internet.  There is a cruel irony here: like McDonald’s ads that remind us to be active between fattening bites, our smartphones deliver addictive content with one hand, and pesky reminders to “Sit Less. Move More. Get some exercise!” with the other.  Like a cruel parent or a manipulative spouse, the internet giveth — and the internet taketh away.  The internet, and the snake oil vendors who capitalize on its seductive sway, have little reason for you and me to unplug.

* * *

I trust you see where I’m going here.  What would spending a full day — how about this Saturday? — totally unplugged be like?  What desires spontaneously emerge through the dissipating mental fog?  I submit that you and I already know what we really want to do, if we didn’t have Apple-sponsored Stockholm Syndrome ten hours a day.  So…

What will you do?  Discuss ideas over coffee with a friend?  Pen a note to your sister?  Take a long stroll with a neighbor?  Purge your basement or attic?  Perhaps — gasp — spend an afternoon enjoying the pleasure of your own company?  

“All of humanity’s problems,” Blaise Pascal writes, “stem from our inability to sit quietly alone in a room.”  If he’s right, then the problem is not seductive screens, or the internet’s siren song; those are just modern-day symptoms of humanity’s eternal issue: a deep-seated fear of solitude.  

And that, dear reader, is some good food for thought.

–//–

Tomorrow, your friend and mine Michael Rossmann, SJ offers a counterpoint to my assessment of screen time.  

Title image by Flickr user afromztoa is available online here.

Image of Apple products by Flickr user Jesús G. Flores is available online here.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Loving Our Enemies

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 05:30

By Marina McCoy

To be a Christian means to love one’s enemy. Jesus’ words and his actions alike testify to this idea. Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). From the Cross, he forgives the people who are crucifying him: “Forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Such love can be challenging. Consider what it means to love one’s political “enemies,” those who hold beliefs [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

A Jesuit’s Ballot for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 02:00

The Recording Academy has yet again lost my ballot for the Grammy Awards in the mail. Thankfully, I’m willing to share some of my notes on several of the nominations for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Perhaps, some Jesuit guidance will help the voting members.

Record of the Year Nominations:

“Hello” by: Adele

“Formation” by: Beyoncé

“7 Years” by: Lukas Graham

“Work” by: Rihanna, featuring Drake.

“Stressed Out” by: Twenty One Pilots.

And … My Winner Is: “Hello” by: Adele

Who doesn’t love to belt your heart out with Adele? Certainly, her song “Hello” deserves recognition for its ability to be sung at high volumes in the privacy of your car on the way to and from work. Yet, besides its shower-anthem quality, the song hits a theme worth recognizing: reconciliation.

The song begins with a double acknowledgement: that there is “a difference between us,” and that even if “time’s supposed to heal ya … I ain’t done much healing.” In that tension, Adele belts out a “hello from the other side,” demonstrating her desire to reach across their differences. She acknowledges that it’s hard, “but at least [she] can say that [she’s] tried.” The peace and reconciliation Adele seeks is not some sentimental recreation of the past, but rather a resolution of the remaining tension between them. It’s healing, not denial.

Adele’s desire for reconciliation, conversation, and healing seem so apt for our current national and international tenor. Adele’s “Hello” calls us towards a spirit of reconciliation and healing, and that should earn her Record of the Year.

 

Album of the Year Nominations:

25 by: Adele

Lemonade by: Beyoncé

Purpose by: Justin Bieber

Views by: Drake

A Sailor’s Guide to Earth by: Sturgill Simpson

And… My Winner Is: Lemonade by: Beyoncé

Revolution occur within hearts before it occurs in cultures and societal structures, so I am struck by the power within Beyoncé’s album Lemonade which seeks both kinds of revolution. It’s an album in the true sense: a cohesive and directed whole, rather than a random accumulation of songs. Each song on the album has a music video and these piece together to form a feature-length narrative.  The combined power of the lyrics, imagery and symbolism aim forcefully at empowerment over racial and gender injustices.

There is a raw power present in the lyrics, and often a raw content, wherein Beyoncé repurposes the language of oppressive structures and prejudices into a new expression of power.

In her music video for “All Night,” Beyoncé claims that “with every tear came redemption, and my torturer became my remedy.” Certainly, there is an honest suffering acknowledged, but somehow she finds strength; even more, she finds a “remedy” by recycling the pain into power. We see this turn in “Formation,” where she takes negative self-images caused by racial prejudice and re-owns them: “I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.” What was an insult by the dominant culture, she owns as a preference. The linkage between the nose and the Jackson Five also hints towards commercial and cultural success. It all points towards a revolution of hearts.

I’m not usually a fan of Beyoncé’s music, and Lemonade is a bit more explicit in language and content than I am terribly comfortable with. Yet, her statements towards justice—particularly in liberating women and black America—represent a battle cry for revolution within hearts and minds. For that, her album merits recognition.

 

Song of the Year Nominations:

“Formation” by: Beyoncé

“Hello” by: Adele

“I Took a Pill In Ibiza” by: Mike Posner

“Love Yourself” by: Justin Bieber

“7 Years” by: Lukas Graham

And… My Winner Is: “7 Years”—Lukas Graham

In Lukas Graham’s “7 years,” the sing‐along–friendly meter and rhythm can hide the deep struggle to capture and hold gratitude for people in our lives. The song retraces a life that has past and the hope of what the future holds. The song does this, not simply recounting events or even struggles, but by capturing the voices and advice of his parents: to find good people to hold onto in life—friends and lovers. At different ages and different challenges within the song, it’s those people who help him along. They help him make life worthwhile, and they help him make the world warmer.

There is a gratitude for those people and moments which define his life. At times it’s a bittersweet gratitude for those he’s “had to leave behind,” and for that he sings, “My brother I’m still sorry.” Yet, even the pain holds a bit of fondness, as it reminds him of those people who supported him along the way. It’s a beautiful struggle: to move on and to still hold our past relationships as treasures. The song’s rhythm invites us to sing, but also invites us to remember the progression of time, our own progression through life. Reflecting with him on these stories—and our stories—we continue “learning about life,” remembering our past gifts and eagerly anticipating the gifts still to come.

Graham beautifully intertwines the gratitude for our past with a renewed hope for our futures. For inviting us to participate in the joy of this insight,  “7 Years” warrants Song of the Year.

Categories: Things Jesuit

There Is a Longing

Ignatian Spirituality - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

Reader Mary Alice Teller suggests “There Is a Longing” as an Ignatian song to know. Watch a video of the song below, which includes the lyrics on screen. Original dotMagis blogger and Ignatian writer Jim Manney is a big fan of Finding God in Music, as he shared when we explored ways of finding God through the senses last summer. Reflect with today’s song, read Jim’s post, and then share with us how you find [...]

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Click through to read the full article There Is a Longing, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

TJP Reads: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 02:00

When Jon Stewart announced that Trevor Noah was going to take over The Daily Show in fall of 2015, my first reaction was “who the heck is Trevor Noah?” He wasn’t a regular correspondent so I wasn’t too familiar with him.  And, not being too eager to overdo my election news intake, I haven’t really been a regular viewer of the show.  This past November, however, I heard that he had released a memoir, “Born a Crime”, and I love a good memoir by a comedian.1 So, I went to library and got on the waiting list for the e-book without knowing much about the book or Trevor Noah’s life.  

The Daily Show has relied on humor and sarcasm to make a point, mainly about our political system.  As Stewart pointed out on his last day of host, the show is primarily a war on bulls—,2 and Noah emphatically vowed to continue3 that war on his first day as host. Would this book, I wondered,  continue that fight with the same sense of humor that helped The Daily Show’s cultural impact?  

Yes.  But about the politics of another country.  “Born a Crime” is an authentic look at his life growing up in South Africa during the waning days of apartheid and the years following its fall. The title of the book comes from the fact that his mother had a child with a white man, which was illegal in South Africa.4 Trevor Noah’s life is the result of a crime, even though it was between two consenting adults.  Sounds like bulls— to me.

From the moment of his conception, Noah’s life has been affected by apartheid, the system of laws in South Africa that repressed the much-larger black population in order to keep the minority whites in power. Noah does an admirable job conveying his lived experience, as well as the experience of his family, living under this oppressive system.  Some stories are gut-wrenching and unforgettable.  In one, when Noah was five or six and being watched by his grandmother he was not allowed to go outside and play with his cousins.  When he pleaded to go outside she firmly said “No! They’re going to take you!”  Noah explains: 

For the longest time I thought she meant that the other kids were going  to steal me, but she was talking about the police.  Children could be taken.  Children were taken. The wrong color kid in the wrong color area, and the government could come in, strip your parents of custody, haul you off to an orphanage.

His, and South Africa’s, history comes alive through stories, and Noah’s tragicomic stories have a special power to explain history and move hearts.  The reader comes to understand what it was like growing up at the end of apartheid not through facts and figures, but through the experience of a young boy and his family.  This is an effective way to fight the war on bulls—.5

Besides unpacking apartheid, Noah probes his relationship with his mother and his mother’s experiences.   His mother is presented as strong, independent, smart, and deeply religious. Noah tells a great anecdote of her mother finding a career:

True to her nature, she found an option that was not among the ones presented to her: She took a secretarial course, a typing class.  At the time, a black woman learning to type was like a blind person learning how to drive.  It’s an admirable effort, but you’re unlikely to ever be called upon to execute the task.

She does end up using this skill and with some success, including managing her husband’s business.  

It is through this relationship with his mother that we really get to know who Trevor Noah is.  He presents it with authenticity, humor, and a deep love for all she did for him, raising him right as a single mother.  This is so important because his mother, did not have the right to have him … literally.  Not only did she have him, but raised him on her own for the first few years of his life in a time when at any moment she could have ended up in jail for being a mother.  For Noah, who’s been an act of protest from the moment he was born, his current gig feels like an extension of the efforts of his mother to raise him.  

It is obvious throughout the book that the example of his mother’s life has made Noah who he is today.  She has a dynamic and strong personality which Noah inherited.  Her faith and her understanding the ridiculousness of Apartheid, and unwavering resilience are the three main examples.   If not for the example of his mother’s fight against a system of oppression, would Noah be able to do nightly to a national audience?6  

The Daily Show,  with Noah as its host, insightful uses humor to point out absurd and hopefully fight back. In “Born a Crime” Noah is allowed to tell a story, his story, his mom’s story, his nation’s story in a way that points out the absurdities but also draws the reader into a relationship.  That is how history, not only comes alive, but also remains a part of our lives.  And so moved, we are enlisted to join the war on bulls—.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Desires and Discernment

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

Sean Salai, SJ, interviewed writer, spiritual director, and Jesuit novice director Mark Thibodeaux, SJ, about discernment of spirits in the Ignatian tradition. When asked about distinctive features of the Ignatian approach, Thibodeaux replied: Probably the most surprising feature of the Ignatian approach is the premise that God’s will can often be discovered in our “great desires.” Much of Christian spirituality presumes that our desires are bad and will lead us to sinful actions. Ignatius believed [...]

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

Click through to read the full article Desires and Discernment, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Postmarked Pauses

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 02:00

I found a letter in my mailbox, my friend’s characteristic handwriting looping out our names in their appropriate places. I looked for all the “G”s; I always love to see how people write them, and she’s someone who has to write them as much as I do. To: GG, From: GG. I flip the envelope over and smile: she’s still a third-grade teacher. Stickers seal the back flap.

We’re not exactly what you would call frequent pen-pals. We never drop the correspondence, but letters tend to rest before their replies. Maybe even a month. I keep hers in my top-left desk drawer; I don’t know where she keeps mine in the meantimes.

We’ve stopped apologizing for delays—we’re both teachers, and we know that there’s a lot of life happening in between each postmarked date. And in its time, a full report will arrive.

***

I remember unfolding her last letter around Christmastime, sitting at a hotel lobby table next to a Christmas tree and fireplace. Snows blew outside. Her friendly tone traced the loops of her writing, neatly fitting the thickly dashed lines of the thin brown paper we both learned to write on. Another artifact of her teaching. I remember being amazed by her clarity, honesty, and depth of reflection—at the end of the long haul of the fall semester, her letter paired with the weather to bring me deep pause: Where am I right now?

I tried to reply in-kind, but before I could match her depth I had to match her stationery. I leafed through my folders and found just the thing. I flipped it over and started writing, stopping only to look into the fire or out at the snow. An hour later, licking the envelope’s flap and smoothing it flat, I reflected again—this was a heck of a semester.

***

And last week, about a month after I had responded to her last letter, here came the response, perfectly timed—again—at the end of a long day as I shuffled through the front door and past our community mailroom. Even before I took off my backpack, I tore open the end of the envelope and gently extracted the letter so not to hurt the fox and snowman stickers. Standing in the doorway to my room, I unceremoniously read the letter, start to finish, before setting it on my desk while I unpacked the day’s things. “i always delight in receiving your letters. i particularly enjoyed seeing how you wrote your last letter on the back of your bus driver certificate.”

My non-stop mind was stopped in its tracks. The compulsive activity of a January teacher retrying to build momentum after a long break: halted. I exhaled.

***

I used to have lots of ways to call time-out on life—to shepherd a month’s worth of experience into one flock for accounting, inspection, and appreciation. While I was in Minnesota, we had communal silent prayer on Sunday nights. While I was in graduate school, I took long runs on Sundays. Last year, I took walks through the nearby hills with a fellow teacher.

This year, it’s the letters.

And I love it. The handwriting, the envelopes, the surprising stationery, the silly stamps, the poems on the envelopes and the long delays. I love all of it. But, I think I especially enjoy the long delays, the pauses postmarked clear as day, the date askew in the top corner of each envelope. Inside I will find the latest exchange in a conversation delightfully out of date but also delightfully still relevant: I wrote and she listened. And she started her letter with her responses, her responses of understanding or disbelief, of congratulation or condolence, of affirmation or advice.

In this way, our letters are more than just updates; they’re reminders to the other of where they were when they last wrote. When Gretchen writes, I know not only how she is but how I was. I used to overlook this or take it as an awkward reminder of our sporadic writing, but now… now, I count this as a great gift.

Yes, I could go just back to my journals to remember how I was. I could read about the anxieties of last November and the needed recoup of December. I could peruse my entries over the New Year and then count the unexpected blessings of early January.

But, letters offer me something more.

There is a deep grace in hearing it all again, my victories and challenges not written in a journal but by the hand of a friend. A month removed, and too late to troubleshoot. A simple and compassionate naming of what it is that I lived without too much fuss. I sit content in the calm of this reminder then turn with her artful transition to where she’s been, our lives always seeming to somehow overlap.

And so it goes—she wrote and now I listen: soon it will be my turn to respond in-kind. But not just yet. I finish the letter, say a little prayer for her, and slide it into my top-left desk drawer for another day.

That day will come, perhaps a quiet Saturday or an emptied evening. I will sit down at my desk chair and open her letter beside the paper and pencil I chose.

***

My letter starts itself, with encouragement and affirmation springing to her tales of victory, gentle care to her honesty about the hardest things. And so it goes…

-//-

The cover image, from Flickr user Jeric Santiago, can be found here.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Becky Eldredge Social Media Takeover

Ignatian Spirituality - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

Becky Eldredge will be a familiar name to regular readers of dotMagis. Spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer, Becky has been a long-time contributor to this blog. Now’s your chance to meet her at a special Facebook event, Monday, February 13, 2017. From 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. CST, Becky will be hosting a “Social Media Takeover” and acting as the voice of Loyola Press’s Ignatian Spirituality Facebook channel. She will appear on Facebook LIVE [...]

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

Click through to read the full article Becky Eldredge Social Media Takeover, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Truth First, Then Reconciliation

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 02:00

Despite having just had eight years with our first (and only) Black president, racism continues to shape so much of the reality in our country. We can see this in the continuing gaps in wealth, education, and incarceration that in some cases have even widened. And so as always, but maybe just more clearly after this election cycle, there is a real need for racial reconciliation. But is that where we’re currently going?   

“Reconciliation” is used in many ways and for many purposes, but its necessary first step is a deep acknowledgement of the truth, no matter how unpleasant or uncomfortable. Catholics know this well from the Sacrament of Reconciliation which teaches us that before we can move forward, we must first examine ourselves to get to the deeper roots behind our sin. Only by courageously admitting the truth of what we’ve done can reconciliation happen. Likewise, in these admittedly scary times, it’s clear that yes, as a country we must work for reconciliation, but we need to also realize that this can’t happen until we are willing to fully face our country’s intensely racist past.

 

How We Look Back

What are some of the damaging and false ways we look back on the past that prevent reconciliation in the present? I remember my introduction to the “good and evil” lens with which we learned about the Civil Rights Movement in elementary school. There were the clear good guys (“us”: more advanced, progressive Northerners) and the clear bad guys (“them”: backwards, bigoted Southerners) as our textbooks encouraged us to forget the deeper, messier realities. I was grateful, for example, to learn about events like the desegregation of public schools in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. The sad irony, lost on me at the time, was that everyone in my class pretty much looked the same.  

Thankfully, I had dedicated teachers who taught us to dig deeper into our history to get to the truth of what really happened. For example, what is not often taught in Civil Rights History is that Dr. King also marched in Chicago as part of the fight to desegregate housing. After facing continuously brutal violence while marching in all-white neighborhoods he said: “I’ve been in many demonstrations all across the South, but I can say that I have never seen – even in Mississippi and Alabama – mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’ve seen here in Chicago.”

But aren’t Northerners supposed to be the good guys?

Another way we can look at the past is through the “good old days” lens, which holds that at some point everything was great in America. The problem with this view is that it has little grounding in truth and it tends to whitewash the serious wrongdoings on which our country was built. A clear example of this was in 2010, when the Texas Board of Education approved certain changes in their history curriculum. One such change was the subtle renaming of “slaves” to “workers.” If not for the objections of a concerned student and his mother, this change could have remained, erasing the reality and legacy of the millions stolen to build our country.

Side stepping or simplifying the truth is more attractive because it’s easier, at least in the short term. It’s definitely easier than facing hard realities like hearing James Baldwin (quoting Malcolm X) remind us, “the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday.” It’s more comfortable to proclaim “color-blindness” or to tweet #alllivesmatter than seek to understand why too many in power act as if Black lives don’t matter. But when we replace the truth with lazy, simplistic, or inaccurate history, we can’t possibly begin to work toward reconciliation. This is because reconciliation doesn’t magically happen; we have to work for it in truth.

 

An Example of Reconciliation

In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the new government was faced with the question of how to heal in a country where many perpetrators and survivors still lived side by side. Given the choice between overburdened courts and indiscriminate revenge, the new government chose to revive a traditional, community-based justice system called Gacaca (“justice among the grass”). Here, local tribunals would determine the truth of what happened with the help of witness testimony in the hopes that the country as a whole would reconcile. Though not perfect, this process is conducted with brutal honesty, in the communities where the killings took place, and in the presence of the survivors. The result for many communities in the country has been peace, renewed trust and long-awaited closure. I don’t pretend to know the difficulties of this experience, but it seems that without it, 1994 would likely have been just another chapter in a book of ethnically-fueled mass murders.

Gacaca is just one example. There are other such structures, as well as dedicated individuals and groups, rooted in the recognition of truth that have helped communities and countries move forward in authentic reconciliation when times seemed darkest.

 

Moving Forward

Reconciliation is tough and takes hard work. But, if we hope to truly reconcile, there’s no other way but to look honestly and critically at our history. Then we need to embrace the messiness of its truth.

Whatever our political views, we’ve become too willing to allow facts and reality to be changed because they make us ashamed. However, the consequences of this are clear if we have the courage to look. This goes for racial divisions as well as the many other fault-lines that we pretend not to see, but which still hurt people. If we keep allowing the truth of our past, the truth of how we really got here, to be distorted for any agenda, the cycle is guaranteed to continue and there will never be actual reconciliation.

****

Cover image courtesy FlickrCC user Michael Coghlan, found here.

Categories: Things Jesuit

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