Things Jesuit

Spiritual Direction Helps Us Notice God’s Movements

Ignatian Spirituality - Tue, 03/28/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

Writing for the Office of Ignatian Spirituality of the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces of the Society of Jesus, Lisa Hastings states: Despite its historical roots and the popularity of Ignatian spirituality today, spiritual direction for many remains mysterious, even intimidating. Some assume that it is reserved for the “spiritually mature.” On the contrary, spiritual direction is an accessible means, much like the Ignatian examen, of noticing God movement in one’s life. Also like the [...]

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Click through to read the full article Spiritual Direction Helps Us Notice God’s Movements, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Authentic Gifts

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 05:30

By Jane Knuth

It is National Reading Month, and I am an author invited to speak to grade-school children at the local Catholic school. I am unsure what to talk about. I do not write books for children. But my own daughters attended this school when they were young, and I write books. Apparently, these are good enough credentials. I tell the attentive, upturned faces a story from the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store about a child [...]

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Click through to read the full article Authentic Gifts, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Saviors of the Culture? Or Servants of the Savior?

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 02:14

In the late ‘90s, a young American conservative found himself in an awkward position. Although he had long thought of himself as a conservative Republican, he had come to value things that many conservatives did not: the environment, the poor, buying locally, a neighborhood where people knew each other, and even wearing Birkenstocks. These experiences led him to write a book in which he argued that conservatism had lost its way:

Too many people who call themselves conservative share the fundamental conviction of many liberals, namely, that individual fulfillment is the point of life. Conservative, perhaps, in their sexual views, they are, however, libertarian in their economic principles, and believe that the free market should be the guiding light of our lives together… Both mainstream liberalism and conservatism are essentially materialist ideologies.1

 

The book is Crunchy Cons, and the author is Rod Dreher. He sleuths his way through a variety of topics in the book, from homeschooling to the environment, but – and I can remember being surprised by this at the time – it is only at the end of the book that he addresses religion directly.

Fast forward 20 years, and religion has moved from the back to the front of Dreher’s books. In this new book, The Benedict Option, Dreher puts front and center the question of how Christians should live their faith in 21st-century America. Recently I chatted with Dreher about how this book is a fruit of his faith journey. While we spoke by phone at a distance of about 1400 miles, his passion and moral clarity resonated in his voice as though he was sitting right next to me.

That journey, Dreher explained to me, began by recognizing two things. First, the extent to which his worldview arose from his politics rather than from his faith. “I was [in the process of] allowing myself to be more formed by Catholicism than by my political commitments,” Dreher said to me over the phone. “But it was an ongoing process of conversion.

[W]e are formed more by our popular culture than by the Church, but it’s something we have to overcome. I can remember reading things that Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si’ that really inspired me as an Orthodox Christian about how we have to regard the natural world. But this was something that set so many of my conservative friends off, and that’s a real tragedy.

 

As his feeling of homelessness in contemporary conservatism led him to pen Crunchy Cons, so an analogous sense of homelessness in contemporary culture inspired The Benedict Option.

The idea behinds the Benedict Option is simple: American culture is in decline. Even more, it has become toxic for Christian life. Hyper-consumerism, the popularization of the mores of the sexual revolution, progressive politics’ fixation on false notions of equality, the whittling away of religious liberty: all of the signs of the times simply do not help Christians cultivate their faith; in fact, they actively impede it. So Christians need to make spaces where they can imagine and construct their own faith-nurturing institutions and practices.

The need to retreat is as old as Christianity itself: Jesus himself did it. Indeed, as a Jesuit who makes annual 8-day retreats, I can testify to the power of occasionally fleeing the noise and confusion of modern life. But retreat is not flight, and I have wondered at times if Dreher is urging people toward such flight, to cut themselves off from and stop evangelizing the culture. When I raised that criticism, Dreher was quick to correct it: “That is the thing that drives me crazy,” he said with evident pain in his voice. “I can explain over and over again that that’s not what I’m talking about, but people hear what they want to hear. It’s an interesting question why this is so difficult for people to understand.”

Then he continued: “If we are going to be leaven for the world,if we are going to be salt and light for the world, then we have to protect our savor and we have to protect our light.” In other words, Christians should create this kind of protected space not despite, but precisely because of our Christian vocation to share the Gospel.

Of course one can disagree with many aspects of Dreher’s argument, and he is very happy for one to do so. I, for example, tend to agree with Jacques Maritain that history in all of its ups and downs is fundamentally ambiguous: Dreher’s narrative of decline is just too simplistic. But the best commentary I have seen finds the kernel of hope in the Benedict Option that should challenge everyone. At its best, the core of the Benedict Option is not an exit strategy from modernity, but a choice about how to engage it:

So what I call the Benedict Option is the choice that I believe is before all believers – Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox – whether we are going to continue to try to shore up the empire, so to speak, or whether we will make the radical choice to live in community as faithful Christians.

Dreher’s depiction of the United States as an empire that must be shored up strikingly departs from the thrust of Crunchy Cons, as Dreher now thinks we should look beyond a political renewal to a renewal of our whole culture. And that renewal will happen not through grand, large-scale structures, but within small, intentional communities. There is an intimacy and delicacy to those communities that Dreher articulates well in describing his encounter with the Benedictine Rule:

The thing that amazed me the first time I read the Rule of St. Benedict is that I expected that it would be a book of hidden knowledge, of spiritual secrets that would help me become saint. In fact, it’s really quite boring. It’s a thin little book about how to live as a monk in a monastery, when do we eat, how to say your prayers, and on and on. But there’s genius there, because Benedictine spirituality, as I later discovered, is all about the everyday, about making the everyday sacred, and about doing the ordinary routines but consecrating it all to God. And doing that faithfully, realizing that — day by day, slowly, slowly, slowly, if you’re doing it with all your heart, with a penitent heart — you will be changed. You will be refined and made more Christ-like.

 

I could hear a calm peace in this description of Benedictine life. In shifting his allegiance away from a political party, Dreher, I sensed, is finding the spiritual freedom to embrace greater things, even as he discovers that greatness in the little acts of daily living.

Dreher often flirts with a narrative of decline. To be sure, in The Benedict Option Dreher contributes to an ongoing conversation about the cracked foundations of contemporary American society. Many progressives will find this sort of pessimism off-putting, and perhaps uncharitable to Christians trying to engage that culture. Indeed, regular readers of Dreher’s blog will know that he does not always suffer fools lightly. But note that Dreher is here rejecting something that most on the Left find no less troubling: the jingoistic optimism of the Religious Right. When I asked Dreher about this, he responded: “The wonderful thing about Roman Catholicism is that it doesn’t track one-to-one with American political divisions, and for me that was one of the liberating things about being a Catholic.” Indeed, if nothing else, arguments like Dreher’s should hearten those who lament the dependence of so many Christians upon the GOP, and it ought to wake up those Republican Christians who still don’t see the problem. As a political scientist myself, this liberation from political parties is certainly of interest to me. When I asked him about it, it was evident that Dreher was, too:

It’s good to step outside your ideological puzzle and realize that the Gospel is much bigger than your political commitments, and sometimes being faithful to the Gospel means standing up to your political allies. I have progressive friends who do that on the issue of life, and I have conservative friends who do that on the issue of the environment or economics. But that’s liberating, frankly. When you don’t feel captive to a political party, when you realize that the Church is not the Republican or Democratic party at prayer, that opens up some really amazing possibilities for your own growth as a neighbor and as a citizen and as a Christian.

 

Listening to Dreher, I felt a hope that arguments like The Benedict Option could free social and religious conservatives from knee-jerk dependence upon the Republican party. As Dreher indicates, the Option ought to challenge such conservatives to be “faithful to the Gospel” in all its breadth and depth, not just the parts that fit party orthodoxy. This is advice that Dreher admits can be hard for even him to take: “We always need reformation and conversion.”

In admitting the failures of both conservative politics and the Church in evangelizing U.S. culture, Dreher to my mind exercises courage, pushing back against pride, vainglory and fear: the pride of our status in society, vainglory for more of that status, and the fear of what we could lose if we re-examined our fidelity to the Gospel.

Dreher himself has much to say about pride, telling me that he saw the pride of the Church in his investigations as a journalist into the clerical abuse scandals. He was a “very fervent and political Catholic in the 90s and early 2000s,” he related to me. “I thought the line between good and evil in the Church could be divided between liberals and conservatives.”

I had so much pride, And I thought: I’m not like those liberals who don’t respect the hierarchy: I respect the hierarchy… I was a Catholic triumphalist, but [now] I don’t have any patience for that in any church, because the brokenness of the Church at the end of late modernity is profound… It’s a temptation to think that I’m serving Christ, when all I really want to do is argue Church politics.”

 

The struggle to serve God rather than himself, Dreher urges, is a daily one. And so it became more clear to me that the Benedict Option alludes not only to St Benedict’s historical role in shaping European culture, but also to the concrete ways in which the saint cultivated holiness in everyday life.

More subtly, Dreher calls us to scrutinize our own commitments to pluralism and dialogue. As I noted above, Dreher describes the Benedict Option as a “radical choice” between Christ and empire. The moral richness of this “radical choice” first hit me when I asked Dreher about whether the Benedict Option meant retreating not only from the “empire” but from the task finding common ground as well. “That criticism is on point,” he said,

but I am less concerned with finding common ground than I am with being faithful. That doesn’t preclude finding common ground with others outside of my faith tradition, and I look for that. But that is not the thing that I am most concerned about.

 

This left me speechless. Everyone today talks about the need for finding common ground, for embracing pluralism, for resurrecting civil dialogue. What could be more important?

Simply put, for Dreher, living out one’s faith is more important. And while this doesn’t meant that Dreher is against dialogue – he’s not – he certainly is challenging the priority many give it. He led me to wonder: Am I living out my deepest commitments? Do I live out those commitments even as I interact with others of different beliefs? Ultimately, do I think that God is in charge? Dreher’s readers can give more value to pluralism than he does, as I do, and they might also assign more efficacy to grace within that pluralism, as I do, as well. But we can still be grateful for the questions Dreher raises about pluralism. He may also give us incentive to return to some of the leading theorists of Catholic engagement in pluralism, such as Jacques Maritain and John Courtney Murray, for the insights they offer our times.

Throughout our conversation, Dreher impressed me with his humility: he is not seeking to emulate St. Benedict as the grand savior of Western civilization. Benedict’s goal was a modest, if all-encompassing, one: to serve the Lord in daily life. And where the Dreher of the Crunchy Cons wanted to rescue Western civilization from itself, the Dreher of the Benedict Option has a Benedictine modesty, too:

I was really struck by how St. Benedict did not set out to save Western civilization, to shore up the empire that has fallen. All [the early Benedictines] set out to do was to establish what St. Benedict calls in his Rule a “school for the service of the Lord.” All they wanted to do is learn how we can live faithfully in community in the time and place and with the challenges we have been given. And by doing that work faithfully, seeking nothing but the face of Christ, and ordering everything else to that quest, they ended up spreading throughout Europe, evangelizing European peoples, teaching them how to do practice things like agriculture, things that had been forgotten, and preserving within those monasteries the writings of the Church fathers… Each monastery was like an ark, and, without really knowing what they were doing, they prepared Europe for the rebirth of civilization.

 

That an ark was Dreher’s guiding image remained with me: while an ark is needed in the fearful times of a deluge, the ark’s presence evokes the hope of safety from the flood. Just so, the Benedict Option is not about fear for Dreher, even though it does arise from fears about American society. Fundamentally, the Benedict Option is about hope: not in America, not in oneself, but in God. When I asked Dreher what he learned from the process of writing the book, he said : “I learned that we don’t have to win the victory in this lifetime, and it can’t be won in this lifetime. All we have to do is to do the very best we can where we are and let God do the rest.”

Those words reminded me of a prayer attributed to someone with whom Dreher is not often identified: Oscar Romero. Or, more particularly, the prayer to which his name is often added. The “Romero prayer” offers a similar quiet hope, reminding us that the future is in God’s hands, not ours: “We are prophets of a future not our own.”

Gone is the triumphalism of Crunchy Cons, gone is the complacency of the Morality Majority, gone is the sectarianism of the Religious Right. In their place, Dreher offers an eschatological expectation that is breath-takingly Christocentric: God will triumph, even if humans fail.

This hope is what the liberal critic of the Benedict Option should push Dreher on. For it would be easy to retreat out of fear, to withdraw out of an unwillingness to confront the obstacles to proclaiming the Gospel in our time. It would also be easy, by the way, to reject the Benedict Option out of fear: out of the fear of what it might cause us to learn about ourselves, out of a fear of learning that God is indeed bigger than us.

One cannot speak with Rod Dreher without sensing that his God is indeed very great. For all the ways I might disagree with aspects of his proposal, there is no question that, for a moment, I felt very close to him in our mutual desire for Christ. It is that desire that impels the Benedict Option forward, and with which Dreher ended our conversation:

The world still wants Christ. The question is, do we still want him and are we still willing to live sacrificially for His sake?

If you’ve read this far, then like me you would probably respond to this question with a yes. But what do we do with that yes? How are we to live “sacrificially” for Christ?

I have no firm answer to that question. But I do know that Dreher has challenged me to approach that question – to live that question – with renewed urgency. And for that, I am grateful.

***

Images courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Stop-Sign Examen

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 05:30

By Michelle Francl-Donnay

It’s traditional to undertake the Examen in the middle of the day and just before bed, but for the last few weeks, I’ve found myself starting the day with a version of this reflective prayer. It starts as I watch yet another car blow through the stop sign at the edge of the neighborhood. Sometimes I honk; sometimes I sigh. Always, I am aware of God’s presence and grateful—as one should be at the start [...]

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Click through to read the full article Stop-Sign Examen, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Remaking a Better Belle

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 02:00

In 1991 Disney made history when “Beauty and the Beast” became the first animated film ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (See above). Now, Disney has re-imagined  “Beauty and the Beast” as a live action film.  This remake counts on spellbinding its original audience while winning a new generation of Disney movie lovers. But is this “tale as old as time” really in need of a reboot a quarter of a century later? Is there “something there that wasn’t there before?”

In 1991, Belle was to be the Disney Princess ahead of her time. She was supposed to be a stronger, more complex character, unlike her arguably-shallow predecessors—think Snow White and Sleeping Beauty heroically slumbering till prince-savior arrives or Cinderella and Ariel whose life-dreams seem to end at elopement. This new iteration of princess was supposed to be a young woman who didn’t dream of falling in love with a prince, let alone chasing a happily everafter. She would be free thinking, strong and independent. Regardless of what anybody thinks, she wouldn’t be afraid to take a stand.

Belle was poised to reach this new, higher bar, and she came close. She was selfless in the what she did to save her captured father. She was also assertive enough stave off the advances of a “boorish, brainless” Gaston.

Belle was gentle enough tame a cold-hearted Beast, who she ultimately fell in love with. Her efforts to stand up and defend the Beast against the fearful accusations of the townspeople are laudable. Does she actually reach this raised bar, though?

As progressive as Belle was supposed to be, there was still some scent of typical Disney princess. She was supposed to be a smart and thinking young woman. So why is that she only reads romance stories?  Are these supposed to be proof of her intellect?  And aside from reading romances, all we see her doing is shopping in that “poor provincial town,” a menial task in a place she does not fit in.1 She sings that she wants “so much more than they’ve got planned,” but these aspirations are never named! Does she even know what they are? How strange for a character who has big dreams and knows what she wants, right?  Does she really want a prince to whisk her away to happily ever after, like all the rest of the of the Disney Princesses? She appears more than content with it at the end of the original movie, housewife to a handsome prince and caretaker to his charismatic possessions.

26 years later, Emma’s Belle would do Betty Friedan proud. This Belle overtly works against sexism. She teaches the girls in her town how to read, because the village school is just for the boys. She invents a mule-powered washing machine to free up her time to teach reading. This time, her rejection of Gaston is more than a fantasy recounted musically.  She bluntly tells him that they could never make one another happy as she slams the door in his cocky face.  They still call her “a funny girl” that no one understands.  But now it’s less about distracted bookishness than outright transgression of gender roles.  

Still courage and ingenuity are not Belle’s most noteworthy characteristics. It’s these two other things that drive her that are the most compelling: her strong feminist principles, and her heart full of selfless love. It’s because of her principles that she educates the town’s girls. It’s because she’s selfless that she tricks her father to take his place in prison. But Belle’s depth of compassion comes to view when she is  faced with the opportunity to escape the Beast forever. In this moment, she is transparently torn between seizing back her life and doing the right and more difficult thing.

Belle may not have the physical strength of Gaston or the Beast, but her head and her heart grant her power nonetheless. And while Belle gets stronger, interestingly enough, the Beast gets weaker.  That’s not to say that he’s a wimp, but he’s definitely more vulnerable.  

#belle #BeautyandTheBeast
Lesson: We learn from The Beast in true love we are #vulnerable pic.twitter.com/v1TwyyJsF0

— Lonna Converso (@LonnaLexi) March 20, 2016

In this version, a more vulnerable Beast shares more of his backstory.  He picked up selfish behavior from his father. His mom, who was teaching him to be selfless and kind, died when he was young. He is orphaned and is essentially raised by his servants. As the Beast drops his guard,  we understand that behind the ugliness of the Beast and his actions, is a broken human who is worthy of love.

We all learn from “Beauty and the Beast,” “not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty comes from within.” And for the first time in a Disney film, we witness a male character who exposes that inner beauty by being unabashedly vulnerable. Showing his vulnerability does nothing to emasculate him, in fact it strengthens him. It takes a lot for men to be honest emotionally, and this is never more apparent than when he sings out with all the robustness of a Broadway divo “I learned the truth too late/I’ll never shake away the pain.” He sings his song of lament, “Evermore,” when he releases Belle as his prisoner and believes he’s lost the newly found love of his life. And this vulnerability–or better, humanity–pierces the heart as he hopelessly belts “And as the long, long nights begin/I’ll think of all that might have been/Waiting here for evermore.”

The new Beauty and the Beast remains faithful to the original, while lavishing Belle and the Beast with layers of reality and depth more common outside of fairy-tales and storybooks. Belle finds a way to the Beast’s heart by being strong and selfless. The Beast makes his way into Belle’s heart by being vulnerable and showing a willingness to learn from his mistakes. And at the end, when the the Beast sheds his abominable appearance, we too are transformed by the beauty we each posses within when we seek out the beauty in those around us. A flesh-and-blood reboot definitely offers “something there that wasn’t there before.”

Categories: Things Jesuit

I’m Having a Hard Time Sitting in the Desert This Lent

Ignatian Spirituality - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 05:30

By Rebecca Ruiz

I’ve been trying to sit with Christ in the desert as St. Ignatius suggests. I can’t manage to stay with him for long. I’m uncomfortable. I’m hot. I’m thirsty. And, worst of all, I really just can’t stand to see him suffering. I want out. I’m ready to skip right ahead to the Resurrection. My Ignatian contemplation is hitting too close to home this year. When my mother passed in September of 2015, we brought [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

Call and (Delayed) Response

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 02:01

“I thought about him every day for eighteen years,” she said. “And we may have been a little delayed, but now, it feels just perfect.”

***

My flight was delayed 45 minutes. Moments before the delay was announced, I was sprinting through the Chicago Midway Airport, backpack bouncing wildly across my shoulders. I was all but desperate to be in line at gate B23, but then a tinny loudspeaker voice gave me the gift of time. A long day at work, a stressful standing-room only train ride, traversing moving walkways and dodging little girls dragging pink princess roller bags – all of it stopped. A 45-minute delay. What to do with 45 minutes?

It was St. Patrick’s Day. So I made a beeline for a bar and ordered a Guinness.

The bar was awash with weary travelers. As a table opened up, the bartender handed me an overflowing glass. I carefully balanced the full, black pint in hand while I collected my bag and made for a stool. Another couple had the same idea – Jen and Jack. “Let’s sit together,” they said, smiling.

Jen and Jack were 40 and 39, respectively, and they were engaged to be married. “Destination wedding,” they told me. “Cancun. Too old to get married anywhere cold.”

“How did you meet?”

They met eighteen years ago at a bar they both frequented. As it turns out, they were engaged once before. She broke it off – the struggles of single motherhood were substantial, and she didn’t know how to accept the love that Jack offered. “I didn’t think I deserved it,” she said after a painful moment of pause.

Both of them got married to other people – “a–––––––,” as Jack described them.  Jen and Jack both admit, though, that they somehow thought of each other every day for eighteen years. Both got divorced from those a––––––– and then, one night, Jen sent Jack a Facebook message. She mentioned that he had popped into her mind and wondered whether they might meet up. They did, and after a year-and-a-half Jen and Jack were engaged again. A Mexico-bound marriage in the making. They weren’t ready for their love long ago, but it lingered through memory and time. Delayed, but not abandoned.

***

The first time I considered the Catholic priesthood was on the heels of a service trip I made between my junior and senior year of high school. A young priest – Fr. John – accompanied our group on that retreat, and during the closing Mass, he swore in the middle of the homily.  The word began with ‘s’ and ended with a hit right to my gut. I thought – if this guy can swear during a homily, then maybe one day I will too. I saw myself in him somehow, and not only in his use of curse words. He was passionate and happy. I wanted those things.

Thoughts of the priesthood lingered in some way every day. During my senior year of college, I seriously considered applying to the Jesuits.  But, in my quietest, purest moments, I doubted my value and I didn’t feel worthy of the call. At my loudest moments, I was scrambling to write papers, going to meetings, drinking, smoking cigarettes, and building an incapacity to think ahead and decide anything. So, I moved on to almost eight years of other stuff. Daydreams of the priesthood remained – eight years of challenging relationships, survival on an educator’s salary, even moments of doubt about whether or not God existed at all.

And one day, after a bright moment amidst work-related exhaustion, I returned to my office and made a call. I realized, somehow, that if I didn’t pursue the priesthood, I’d never be happy. Half-a-year after that, my parents dropped me off at the side door of my first Jesuit community. “It’s about time,” my dad told me just before he and my mother drove away the next day. A call to love delayed for years.

***

Why not make big life decisions right away? Jen and Jack could have married each other years ago, a house, kids, and joint savings account taken care of. I could have entered the seminary after high school and been ordained a priest at age 26. But that’s not how it happened. There we were at an Irish airport bar, I a priest-in-training and they engaged to be married for the second time. Everything delayed.

Perfect callings in life don’t reveal themselves perfectly. We usually don’t allow them to. We get in the way of that perfection, that goodness – we fight against it, we doubt it, we run as far away as we can, and only after it has worn us down for years and years and years do we come to realize its possibility and and its truth.

“Sometimes, I feel like we missed out,” Jack said. “But mostly, I’m glad to be where I am now, her hand in mine. It’s just right.”

Two more pints and 45 minutes later, I said goodbye to them and headed for gate B23. A bit delayed, sure – but, I still ended up where I was supposed to be.

-//-

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

Categories: Things Jesuit

Mary Showed Me Jesus’ Humanity

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 05:30

By Becky Eldredge

This post is based on Week Four of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure. I prayed most of the Spiritual Exercises with a baby in my arms. I began making them when our daughter, Abby, was one month old. When I began the Second Week of the Exercises, she was almost six months old and just starting to sit up. Most of my days at that time were spent sitting on the floor playing with her and [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

March Madness and Family

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 01:56
Embed from Getty Images


You probably know someone like us.  Our weekly Thursday meeting was moved to Wednesday.  A Friday conference call was scheduled for the Creighton game’s halftime.  The mood at Saturday’s dinner was funereal, West Virginia having just massacred Notre Dame.  Agony passed into ecstasy as Gonzaga punched their sweet sixteen ticket later that night.  

Those who’ve never seen their alma mater at the Big Dance gawk at our fanaticism in a mixture of awe, confusion and pity.  The NCAA basketball tournament is underway and March has turned us mad.

And this madness brings us together.  Hardly anything can more quickly conjure a sense of family like a bar filled with monochromatically-clad patrons drinking a beloved team to victory.  But that instant and fleeting sense of community pales in comparison to the fellowship found on the other side of the screen.  Because hardly anything can more deeply conjure a sense of family than playing on a sports team.  

Nigel Williams-Goss is Gonzaga University’s starting point guard.  See why:

Williams-Goss is that rare combination of Wooden Award finalist and charming writer.  He goes from court to pen to share an insider look at what it’s like to be a member of  one of those sixteen families going to battle this weekend. Take this from his latest Players’ Tribune essay:

Everyone knows Mark Few by reputation: 18 years as coach at Gonzaga, 18 straight NCAA tournament appearances, 15 conference titles. But beyond those stats, Coach Few is also known as the guy who put a Jesuit college in eastern Washington with 5,000 students on the national basketball map. He’s one of the reasons I came here.

I get to see a side of him most people don’t. So I’m going to try — as a psychology major — to give you my impression of him.

Coach Few has a lot of different sides to his personality. He’s a family man. He’s ultracompetitive. He delivers fiery speeches and he’s not afraid to be a disciplinarian. But at the same time, he also has sharp sense of humor — bordering on sarcastic — that caught me off guard at first.

In December we were in L.A. to play Arizona at Staples Center — a big game. Coach Few was getting really fired up in the locker room beforehand. He seemed to be freestyling his pregame speech. He was letting a bunch of expletives fly.

“We’re not here as a %&#* courtesy!”

He went on and on like that. He was much more animated than usual.

When he finished, we all sat there in silence. Even though we were ranked eighth, and the Wildcats were 16th, we hadn’t beaten them since 2011.

And then Coach said, “Oh man, and I just came from church right before this,” Coach said. “You better make that speech worth it.”

He was shaking his head, but we thought it was hilarious. We all busted up.

We won 69–62 that day. I don’t know if the mood he set before the game had anything to do with it. But I don’t think it hurt.

In that moment, I knew that coming to Gonzaga was the best decision I could’ve made. It felt like a family.

As you watch the Sweet 16 whittle themselves to a Final Four, enjoy the rest of his essay on how life on the campus of a Jesuit university feels like being part of a family.  Read it here.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Dare to Look Inside Yourself

Ignatian Spirituality - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

Fr. Michael Sparough, SJ, suggests the Examen as a tool to help us in daring to look inside ourselves. In explaining the steps of this foundational Ignatian prayer, Fr. Sparough tells us to pray from one or two dominant emotions: Those are the feelings that you especially want to pay attention to—those that are shouting at us and then those that are cowering, that say, “Don’t look at me.” Those are the ones we want [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

The Consequences of Seeing

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 05:30

By Loretta Pehanich

This story is inspired by John 9:1–41, the healing of the man born blind, and Mark 10:46–52, the healing of Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus and I talked about it. His healing was immediate. Not mine. I must have looked like a fool stumbling down the road, mud on my eyes. “What was the first thing you saw?” I asked Bartimaeus. “The face of Jesus. You?” “My own reflection in the pool.” As we sat looking—just looking—at the [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

The Gift of Empathy: RIP, J. Donald Monan, S.J.

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 02:14

A great man died Saturday morning.  And I hardly knew him.

Rev. J. Donald Monan of the Society of Jesus passed away peacefully in a Jesuit health care facility west of Boston. Fr. Monan was president of Boston College from 1972 to 1996, steering the university from a struggling commuter school to a world-renowned Catholic, Jesuit institution. But he was more than a skilled administrator. He was a kind and gentle scholar of Aristotle. And he was dedicated — even after his health made him move out to Weston, Mass., Fr. Monan came in to campus on weekdays in his role as chancellor to BC. Each day he would wear a clerical shirt and black suit, which would hang off his thinning frame in his latter years.  I’d see Fr. Monan, serene as a fawn in open field, sitting in the entry of St. Mary’s Hall as he waited for his fortunate guest du jour. Waiting, no doubt, for one of thousands of people he touched in his long time in Boston.

* * *

I was preaching at an evening Mass on campus later Saturday afternoon. When it came time for the prayers of the faithful, we prayed for recently deceased parishioners.  At the end of the list, I added, “…and for Fr. Donald Monan, SJ, who passed away this morning.”

A collective gasp sucked the air from the Church of Saint Ignatius.  It was clear that I was the bearer of sad news for many of the parishioners.  BC had lost a cherished leader, and this was the first people had heard of it.  

* * *

In an age of ready access to information, news and content streams right to our desks and living rooms, often in isolation. Our iPhone and laptop screens help us laugh at viral video clips, and coo at pictures of our grandchildren taking their first steps.  

But these screens shine on the good and the bad alike. The New York Times or Fox News pushes alerts to our smart phones, delivering news items that are tragic or frivolous — whatever to keep people plugged in. We read and register these notifications alone. Sometimes the news breaks us; more often than not, though, the stories wash over us as we move on to the next-shiniest story. So how do we process these bits of sad news, big and small?

After I delivered the news of Fr. Monan’s death at the Mass, the gathered parishioners’ mood seemed to change. There was a discernible solemnity, made clear when people came forward to receive communion. I noticed a weight in many of their faces — the weight of loss, yes. But also of empathy. The weight of learning of your brother’s cancer. Of your sister’s divorce. Of your father-in-law’s new Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and the anguish it carves in your spouse’s features.Of people suddenly mourning the death of a beloved leader, who had been a reliable fixture for over forty years.

* * *

The digital age can awaken us to grief and tragedy around the world. And yet the internet cannot help us totally process life’s griefs, because the internet works to keep us in distracted isolation. We may come together to mourn at funerals and prayers services, surely; but the initial shock of others’ sad news, by and large, comes through the protective distance of a glowing screen. In isolation, we are free to engage, or disengage, with another’s grief.  But physical proximity — the kind you get when you rub shoulders in a pew, a march, or a demonstration — fosters solidarity to share one other’s joys and griefs. We can “like” or “sadface” a Facebook post about someone’s dying mother; but calling him up or visiting in person entails a commitment. A commitment to empathy, to sharing that weight of loss.

Funny isn’t it? When life is tough or uncertain, we tend to remember who showed up to walk with us — more so than our own uncertain feelings. The last time I remember being in collective shock was watching 9/11 unfold as a sophomore in college. My friend Zach and I were glued to the television, surrounded by guys from our dormitory. While few events have risen to that level of horror, many solidarity-worthy tragedies (mass shootings, terrorist attacks, loss of innocent life, etc.) settle like silt. They never rise to the level of physically proximate, communal support. Yes, there are candle flame profile-pics, or monuments lighted in a mourning nation’s colors. There are marches and vigils organized online and enacted in person. But the fact that we first turn our face to a screen for support – a screen that cannot look back — is precisely the point.  We outsource empathy to the internet, as a way of managing — avoiding? — the uncertainties and griefs that are best shouldered together.  

Together.

An interesting thing happened after Mass that Saturday. A woman in her forties came up to tell me her memories of Fr. Monan from her college days. She remembered how her dad told Fr. Monan to “keep an eye out for her!” Fr. Monan responded by surprise-visiting her apartment as a senior, to the delight of all her roommates. And she told the story, with wistful tears, of Fr. Monan pitching in to help a family move their son’s boxes into his first dorm room. Story after story of his kindness, humility, and generosity. In the balance of life, I could see the weight of her grief slowly shifting to the consolation of memories. And as she told stories between laughter and tears, I saw again that we are not meant to endure grief alone.

* * *

As I write now, I think of memories of wispy but alert Fr. Monan, sitting in that long hallway of St. Mary’s at Boston College. I had introduced myself to him several times in the past two years, but I figured he might not have the bandwidth for a new acquaintance in his 90s. “I don’t want to bother him…” I’d say to myself, and I would pass his kind face with a polite smile and a wave.  He would summon a smile and wave back, watching me as I’d carry on quickly with my day.  

I wonder what went through Fr. Monan’s mind as he sat watching a crop of students who were barely two years old on September 11, 2001. Or the scores of younger Jesuits my age, who never saw the Challenger explosion, or watched in awe at the moon landing. Who hadn’t seen Walter Cronkite remove his glasses to announce that President Kennedy had been slain in Dallas, some 38 minutes ago. I wonder what he might think of us all in the prime of life, walking across campus staring into screens, with a long life ahead of us. Lives of joy, but also of griefs. Lives of successes ahead, but also the weight of loss and inevitable diminishment. A life full of daily opportunities to share the joys and sorrows of another person, face to face. To surprise someone at their apartment with a smile, or help lighten the load of an unsuspecting family on move in day.

* * *

I trust that Fr. Monan now sees God face to face. On his final journey home, I hope that he heard the plaintive gasp of a parish that learned, together, of his return to God. And I hope that we can all learn a bit from him — about the power of presence, kindness, and empathy.  We may be able to connect in an instant to news across the world.  But it’s not worth it, if we miss connecting with the gentle souls waiting for us just across the hall.  

Rest in peace, Fr. Monan.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Consolation and Desolation

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 05:30

By Vinita Hampton Wright

During Lent, we reflect upon our spiritual state and on our interior movement. Are we moving toward more doubt, fear, and anger? Or are we moving toward greater faith, hope, and love? The Ignatian principles of consolation and desolation can help us. A person dwells in a state of consolation when she or he is moving toward God’s active presence in the world. We know we are moving in this way when we sense the [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

Lenten Spring Cleaning

Ignatian Spirituality - Thu, 03/16/2017 - 05:30

By Cara Callbeck

Most years, as I make my way to the Ash Wednesday service, it’s bitterly cold outside, and the hope of spring seems distant. With Easter a bit later this year, I was surprised to look out my window on Ash Wednesday to see the signs of spring quietly beginning its slow advance on winter. This little change shifts my perspective, and I begin to think about Lent in the context of spring rather than winter. [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

Not in Control

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 05:30

By Becky Eldredge

This post is based on Week Three of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure. Recently I used one of the versions of the Examen found in Fr. Mark Thibodeaux’s book Reimagining the Ignatian Examen for my daily prayer. This particular Examen (Saving F.A.C.E.) invited me to take a close look at four things: My fears My attachments My need for control Illusions of entitlement It nudged me to take an honest assessment of my last few weeks [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

The Art of the Snow Day

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 03/15/2017 - 02:09

The call arrived at 7:12am, two minutes after morning Mass ended. Sister Barb got it first; her 90’s throwback Nokia ringtone echoed in the church vestibule. Then Father Edmund’s, the ubiquitous iPhone ringtone. My pulse quickened, excited, as they both put it on speakerphone: snow day. Before the automated schoolwide recording finished, though, my gut had already turned and tumbled and I was shaking my head, mumbling. Not another one. Sister Barb smilingly said, “Have a great day!” Bah humbug, I thought.

***
South Dakota can’t be accused of being unprepared. We’re allotted six snow days a year without having to rob any moments from sweet, sweet June. But by Valentine’s Day this year, we used ‘em all. So you’d think that with all this practice I’d have mastered the art of the snow day, but six times I tried and six times I failed.

The first snow day: I slept in, and then ate too many pancakes, and then felt like congealed frypan grease the rest of the day. The second: my self-inflicted punishment, I rewrote my course’s vocabulary list, wrote three letters, twelve e-mails, finished two books and went back to school the next day even worse off than the day after the pancake day. Snow days three through six: utterly lost to memory, unspectacular in every sense of the word, and not even unspectacular in a refreshing sort of way.

***
At the twilight of day six, though, something happened. Twilight, the time of day when I’m unfailingly either prefecting a basketball game, driving a bus or going for a run- since all of these were summarily cancelled, I read the news.

Well, reading the news wasn’t new — I teach a course in Faith, Service and Justice, so the news is every lesson’s springboard. But, embarrassingly, before that snow day, I had never let the news sink in, preferring to keep it at mind’s length: Read, discuss, move on. But, dangerously, on that snow day, I let the news sink in. I couldn’t help it.

Reading the news this time, I felt it all. My heartbeat accelerated.  My palms started sweating. A giant weight flung from somewhere-out-there landing squarely on my shoulders. A few articles later, I sighed, clapped shut the laptop, and walked to the chapel.

It was a snow day: I had nowhere to hide, nowhere else to be, nowhere else to go, no other work I could do. A teacher and minister, with all my children out throwing snow.

***
December, January and February were very, very dark for me. At first I felt a sort of darkness: inexplicable illnesses, fatigue, etc… Then I could name it, and it is less about my political views than it is about my fear.  I am afraid for my family friends, my friends, and my friends’ families. Each executive order or presidential threat–despite being unsurprising–seemed powerfully surreal and crushingly violent. From friends’ faces in Syria or Chicago, my mind flicked home to the Pine Ridge Reservation and the faces of the students who themselves vocalized these fears. With two swipes of a pen, the Dakota Access Pipeline- formerly halted for an environmental review- is now promised. A giant drill is parked beside the Mníšoše, the Missouri River, poised to lay perilous pipe through the heart of life for thousands. When I think about it, I think of my students’ faces, their families’, all whose lives would be deeply threatened by a future leak.

But, it was a snow day: I had nowhere to hide, nowhere else to be, nowhere else to go, no other work I could do. Up until that snow day, my response to all of this darkness had just been work… and by that, I mean overwork: Overwork that doubled as an excuse to not read deeper. Overwork to not let it all sink in.

A clash of warm and cool air in the atmosphere took that away from me. A blizzard shut down the campus, halted my momentum of avoidance and stopped me in my fleeing tracks. The weather marooned me on a quiet campus with just the news, its anxieties, and my insecurities. So it all sank in.

***
I don’t remember anything about going to the chapel except that I did and that I left something there and brought something out: with this simple call to prayer, I at once confronted my fears and found the strength to keep working despite them. The next day of school was a great one. I saw the classroom anew, with its little hopes surging, its gritty conversations purging, and its collective voice proving that these fears are only part of the story… I wonder now if that energy was already there two days before, and I was just the last one on board, needing that snow day to see it.
My Bah Humbug missed something. These snow days were, in fact, gifts. But I had to learn their lessons–and I’m not just talking about the pancake situation. Now, I’m ready to forge boldly forward. God, give me another if you think I have more to learn. But not too many –  I don’t want to go to school in June!

-//-

The cover image, from Flickr user UnknownNet Photography, can be found here.

Categories: Things Jesuit

The Long Ride

Ignatian Spirituality - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 05:30

By Tim Muldoon

I do some of my best thinking and praying while running or biking. This morning I considered how biking hills is not a bad analogy to the discernment of consolation and desolation in the spiritual life. Here’s the idea. Coming to the beginning of a long upward climb can be a daunting experience. You see it looming, and you see that it will be hard and tiring. There is a temptation to quit or turn around. This is [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

8 Pope Francis Quotes to Celebrate His Anniversary

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

Today, March 13, we celebrate Pope Francis’s fourth anniversary. To honor the occasion, enjoy some of his inspiring and challenging words. “When we receive and welcome him into our heart, the Holy Spirit immediately begins to make us sensitive to his voice and to guide our thoughts, our feelings, and our intentions according to the heart of God.” Read a reflection on this quote by Vinita Hampton Wright. “The Lord always chooses his way to [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

Beware of Dead White Dudes

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 02:14

I hadn’t been listening to her translation. Like all good undergraduate Latin students, I was busy looking over the following paragraph in mortal dread of being called on next to translate in front of the class. But I finished just in time to hear her complete the sentence from Ovid.

        “…nam hominium sententia fallax; for the opinions of human beings are deceptive.”

The professor, without a moment’s hesitation, replied: “Use ‘men’; ‘For the opinions of men are deceptive’. Shakespeare wouldn’t use the word ‘humans’.”

At the time, this struck many in the class as odd, if not insensitive. Hominium, from Homo, means human being; it is not gender exclusive.

When questioned on this point the professor simply replied: “Well…you know what I mean.”

Although that was nearly ten years ago, the battle for inclusivity in higher education no longer focuses solely upon language, but increasingly upon the content of the curricula itself. Students across the nation, as well as overseas, are increasingly calling for the decolonization of what has been traditionally referred to as the Western Canon; or as one student at Seattle University recently stated: “The only thing they’re teaching us is dead white dudes.”

The Western literary tradition, the hallmark of a liberal arts education, typically follows the literary and philosophical endeavors of ancient Greece and Rome and the subsequent 1,500 years of European development. As such, the vast majority of the authors in the Western Canon are, from our perspective, both white and male; a pedagogical dominance largely unquestioned in the West until the mid-twentieth century following the emergence of civil rights activism, large scale European decolonization, and successive feminist movements.

Now many student organizations, such as Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford (RMFO), are actively campaigning for large scale curricular changes. RMFO includes the following as one of their stated aims:

Reforming the Euro-centric curriculum to remedy the highly selective narrative of traditional academia – which frames the West as sole producers of universal knowledge – by integrating subjugated and local epistemologies. This will create a more intellectually rigorous, complete academy.

Even as someone particularly attached to the Western literary tradition, it is hard for me to ignore the glaring discrepancies of diversity in our intellectual heritage, built it would seem, upon the dual phenomena of both white privilege and male privilege. But the case against dead white dudes begs several questions which immediately complicate the otherwise stark narrative created by these student movements.

To begin with, we must ask ourselves in what sense many of these authors were “white”. White privilege, the inherent and unwritten advantages experienced by white people in contrast to people of color, depends largely upon socio-economic and political segregation which goes back no more than 500 years.

Would Plato or Aristophanes have considered themselves white? In what way does the work of Chaucer or Dante reflect white privilege in a world which claims little or no variation in skin color? For much of Roman Imperial history, it was the Northern European skin tones which represented the “barbarians,” and during the height of 5th century B.C.E. Athens, there remained a feeling of inferiority among the Greeks towards the yet dominant, and darker skinned, Persian empire. While the emphasis here is undoubtedly Western or European, it is less clear to me that it is specifically “white” in the modern sense of the term.

The paucity of women authors in the Western Canon is, sadly, the result of minimal educational resources at the disposal of most women throughout most of human history. It is notable that this is not merely a Western problem. But here again the problem does not seem to be that our educational establishment has privileged male authors over women by deliberately excluding scores of women intellectuals; but rather that for indefensible historical reasons there are simply more male authors than there are women authors.

It is clear, at least to me, that the Western literary tradition is indicative of a problem, but perhaps it’s more of an historical problem than anything else. The dominance of dead white dudes in our curricula reminds us that for most of Western history a large portion of the human experience went unrecorded. But this says nothing about the value of the Western Canon itself.

British historian Lawrence James, a living white dude, found it striking that all the principal leaders in the Indian Independence Movement had been the products of a liberal arts education in England.1 In fact, it’s hard to understand people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. without a knowledge of Tolstoy, Thoreau, or the Bible. It’s hard to understand many modern theories of social justice, universal human rights, and international law without Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, Locke, or even Dickens.

It is true that Shakespeare was a white dude, but would we not lose something of the human experience which transcends his white dude-ness if he were removed from our curricula? It is interesting to note that nobody is calling for the removal of Darwin, Einstein, or Tesla from science curricula on similar grounds. Might there be something of value here which is accidental to these authors’ gender and race?

And while I remain skeptical towards some of the more superficial arguments for any wholesale destruction of the traditional liberal arts curricula, the dominance of a narrow Western male experience is a difficult fact to whitewash (forgive the pun). But this difficulty might be one point in its favor. War monuments serve a twofold purpose; to honor the dead and to remind us of what doesn’t bear repeating. For better and for worse, the Western intellectual tradition is the deposit of our collective intellectual memory, which would seem dangerous to neglect.

So in the words of some dead white dude: “That which thy fathers have bequeathed to thee, earn it anew if thou wouldst possess it.”2

And mothers… Anyway, you know what I mean.

***

Image courtesy FlickrCC user Marco Poggiaroni.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Applying the Examen to Praying the Stations of the Cross

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 03/10/2017 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

In a National Review interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez about his new book Station to Station: An Ignatian Journey through the Stations of the Cross, author Gary Jansen states: Everyone has time for prayer. You can pray when you’re going to the bathroom or taking a shower. You asked about stillness. Well, take one particular station with you in the shower in the morning, or to the sink while you’re brushing your teeth, and think [...]

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Categories: Things Jesuit

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