Things Jesuit

Men and Women of Hope

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 05:30

By Cara Callbeck

It seems like most of us have a friend or family member who, despite having lousy luck at times, is nearly always smiling and is constantly giving of him or herself, even when he or she is the one who could really use a little help. I am blessed to count a few of these kind souls as my friends. But what makes these people so sweet and generous despite whatever life throws at them? [...] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article Men and Women of Hope, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Pope Francis’ Social Media Guru: An Interview

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 22:59

TJP recently sat down with Bishop Paul Tighe, secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture to discuss the Church’s digital ministry.


John Allen recently called you the Vatican’s nicest guy. How did you get that reputation?

My mother’s reaction was quite good: “Well, if you’re the nicest, I wouldn’t like to meet the nastiest.”


When people think of the Vatican Curia their first thought is not exactly Twitter or Instagram.

Yeah, no. I suppose when I arrived at the Vatican one of the things that I hadn’t realized was how small a reality it is, the Holy See as an administrative reality. When we were studying theology we read the documents produced by the Pontifical Council For Justice and Peace, documents on economic justice and things like that. Then you arrive here and realize it’s only about 10 or 15 people.

When I came here to work in communications 10 years ago I did not have a strong background, I had never studied communications professionally. I wasn’t a journalist. I didn’t come from TV. I didn’t come from radio.

But that actually became a strength, because we immediately looked on digital as the future. We might not have known anything about it, but neither did anyone else. So we weren’t particularly disadvantaged.

The next step was realizing that what was happening with digital revolution was radically changing communications. When I say radically changing communications, not so much changing the technologies or the instruments you use, but the style of communication, because social media requires a much more participant-driven and interactive approach. It privileges more visual styles of communications, photographs, images and video.

We also began to realize that the way in which people’s social networks function have been radically transformed by social media. So for churches it’s not just about how we communicate to these people, but how are you going to get present in the environs in which they are living their lives?

Then on the other hand you began to realize that digital communications was affecting how people debate politics. Unfortunately, technology that seems to be wired to bring us closer together, to help us to appreciate better unity of the human family because it makes our world smaller, actually ultimately serves at times perhaps to radicalize existing differences.

Bishop Tighe speaks during the 2017 South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. (CNS photo/Matt Palmer)

Why is the church engaged in social media in the first place?

The church has always been engaged. Whatever else we do, we’re here to communicate. We don’t exist for our own name. We exist to communicate, and the message we’re here to communicate is not our own message. It’s the message of Christ, which has been entrusted to us.   

People communicate not only to exchange information, but also to build relationships. Social media has tied those two things in much closer to each other. People nowadays will accept information from people they trust, and know, and like. Then they will build relationships with people whose information proves dependable and reliable and worthwhile.

So, again in the Church we’re all the time calling people into relationships. The message of Christ is not a message just for intellectual ascent. It’s a message that invites people into relationship with the person.

Social media has also highlighted that we live in different networks. But although we live in different environments, most of us, if we were to step back and look at our own faith journey, we’d find connections.

I grew up in a small parish, which was linked to a diocese, which linked me to a universal church, so I had a normal, institutional feeling for church. At the same time, I attended a school that was run by the Loretto Sisters, who were people who had sent Mother Teresa of Calcutta to India, so therefore from a very early age I was hearing stories of India.

Even at a very local level you were being inserted into something bigger. All the time you belonged to different networks and those different networks, which were interlocking and overlapping, were actually the source of our Catholic identity.

So, for all sorts of ways, I think social media was something of a natural fit for the Church.


How did the Vatican’s Twitter account start?

Pope Benedict basically said, “Are you saying this is something that will allow me to reach people I wouldn’t otherwise reach with short messages of hope and it’s not going to demand a lot of work from me?” “Yes.” “Go with it. I don’t need any further explanation.”

At this stage now Pope Francis, who inherited that Twitter account, has built up something over 40 million followers across the different language platforms. That’s important in itself, but more important is that we’re told by Twitter that we have a very high reach range, so that the messages of the Pope are reaching out to people who don’t follow him.

Why does Pope Francis communicate so well in our digital culture?

It is extraordinarily fortunate, and it’s not just fortunate, I think it’s providential, that we have a pope whose communication style is very direct and very simple. Very short video clips capture something of the essence of the spontaneity, the good humor, the smile, the simplicity, the generosity. We’re just very blessed in this moment we have somebody who is rather visual in his style of communications. But, I think he would be very disappointed if it didn’t get beyond him to where he’s trying to point people, which is to the Gospel itself.

So, one of the things that becomes very clear, is that what people see is what they get. I think it’s a reminder for us all to recover a certain authenticity in terms of digital media, that we’re seen to be people who have a concern for the other.

Most people in social media may be trying to sell you something or convert you to a cause. We have to be there with a certain gratuity. We’re there as good neighbors. We’re there to listen. We’re there to spend time with people, and if appropriate we also want to share the grounds of our own faith with people, but not as a type of bombarding or trying to, but actually authentically to say, “Well look, the reason I can draw hope is because I have this privileged sense of being loved by God.”


What is the role of the laity in social media?

When I look at the social media engagement of Catholics, particularly in the English-speaking world, there is a risk is that we focus on our own internal debates.

I can understand strong convictions, and being Irish I can perfectly understand the desire for a good battle occasionally. But at the same time let’s say you came across this and you weren’t a believer. Is it something that you would find immediately life enhancing? Would you say, “Oh, I really would want to join that group”?

So, I think the other thing that we need to think more about is how, without being glib about it or superficial about it, do we find a way of being able to offer witness to our faith in a way that would be life-giving and supportive to other people?

In our part of the world it’s not quite cool to be too overt about the faith. But I think that the challenge for us, even then, is to somehow find a way of responding to things that shows a certain sort of tolerance and a certain understanding that people might ask, “Well, what’s the source of your hope?”

What we want to come across is a desire to support people rather than necessarily a desire to somehow sign them up for our cause.


What spiritual practices should Catholics engage in to keep our social media presences loving and hopeful?

The first thing is to, engage with the platforms of the media that work for you. Not everybody has to be a content-maker, but a very useful job can be just if you’re good at spotting good, helpful materials and sharing that around without having to make it yourself. Some people can be good on Twitter, and other people can realize that Twitter brings out the worst in them.

On the more spiritual side, I think it’s about being self-reflective and conscious of social media. Somehow not allowing yourself to be brought down to the level of a bad conversation.

I want to encourage lay people and Catholics generally to stay involved in social media. You could say it’s a negative environment, there’s a lot of nasty comment, a lot of rough dealings with people. But then we’d abandon that field and let the trolls have it.

Bishop Tighe during his ordination to the episcopate in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Feb. 27, 2017. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The key is how can we be there without being fully sharing the culture. Sometimes people blame the culture of social media, saying things like, “Twitter made me do it. That’s not really who I am.”

But you have to say no. The culture of social media is itself generated by what individuals do, and we have to work together and encourage one another to be supportive of a better form of communication.

If somebody is looking at what I’m saying and things I’m engaged in, and the tool with which I engage with things, do they see somebody who’s shown signs of having been redeemed by the love of Christ, or somebody who seems rather antsy and cranky rather than blessed?


TJP thanks Fathers James Martin, SJ and Thomas Reese, SJ for invaluable help with this interview.

Categories: Things Jesuit

One-Minute Homily: “Uncomfortable Comfort”

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 02:00

Looking for comfort and joy? It’s going to take some effort. Check out this week’s (extremely) brief One-Minute Homily by Fr. Michael Rossmann, SJ. Based on the Sunday readings for December 10, 2017, which you can read here:

Categories: Things Jesuit

Simply Advent: Simple Encouragements

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 05:30

By Vinita Hampton Wright

This week, plan to make a single phone call. Just one call, to one person you care about. The purpose? To express your appreciation and concern. The person you call could be a family member, someone from church, a person in your neighborhood, a coworker, a friend you don’t see often enough, or someone else you know through a shared interest or organization. You will call to say, essentially two things: I appreciate you and [...] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article Simply Advent: Simple Encouragements, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Stop Using “Woke”!

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 22:01

Am I the only person tired of the word “woke”? Maybe it used to mean something, but the term seems to have devolved into a badge of coolness meant to be flaunted publicly.

Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with the original meaning of woke. After the tragic shootings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and many other black youth, the term gained widespread usage as a part of the Black Lives Matter movement. At its beginning, woke was used to indicate a person’s active awareness of social justice issues, especially surrounding race and privilege. Considering the the current hostile state of politics and issues surrounding race, it seems perfectly legitimate to coin such a term that calls to light otherwise unrecognized prejudice.

But that’s not how the term is generally used anymore. The word has rather been reduced to a badge of honor. Checking one’s privilege publicly and practicing other woke gestures have become more of a declaration of one’s superiority, rather than the humility they’re supposed to convey. In a New York Times op-ed,  journalist David Brooks considers whether the woke ethos is comparable to the “cool” ethos of the 20th century. In his assessment, Brooks thinks that woke and cool share the same “rebel posture” but concludes that the two ethoses are ultimately different. Brooks wrote this Op-Ed earlier this year, yet, the more the term is used, I fear that the two ethoses are growing ever closer.

The other thing that gets me is woke’s “meme-worthiness.” The term’s virality just shows how diluted the term has become. If woke’s original meaning was supposed to mean radical awareness, then woke’s meme-worthiness shows that its meaning has become superficial awareness, at best.  #StayWoke remains a mere flashy afterthought attachable to a selfie caption or at the end of some 140-character message.1

Considering that we are now in the season of Advent, the emergence of ‘woke’ as the popular term might seem timely. After all, Jesus orders us to “Be watchful!” and “Be alert,” in the gospel reading from Mark on the first Sunday of Advent. But let’s take another Christian teaching to heart, as well. As the gospel teaches us, righteousness is an inward disposition. Jesus himself had a distaste for people who were all show; so much so that he called those who do good in order to be seen, hypocrites.

So don’t be a hypocrite. Jesus wasn’t woke and neither should you be. It’s time to put woke to bed.


Image courtesy FlickrCC user Jonathan Koren.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Hope Opens New Horizons

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 05:30

By Rebecca Ruiz

On December 7, 2016, Pope Francis began a catechetical series on Christian hope. He opened with the following words: It is very important, because hope never disappoints. Optimism disappoints, but hope does not! We have such need, in these times which appear dark, in which we sometimes feel disoriented at the evil and violence which surrounds us, at the distress of so many of our brothers and sisters. We need hope! We feel disoriented and [...] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article Hope Opens New Horizons, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

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The Beatification of Solanus Casey, OFM Cap.

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Tue, 12/05/2017 - 02:00

I stood just a few feet from the altar and watched as small clouds of incense tumbled out from the censer swung by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.  He had come from Rome to celebrate the Beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey, a poor Capuchin friar who died in Detroit 60 years ago.  Bernard Casey (later Solanus) was born in Oak Grove, Wisconsin in 1870 to Irish immigrant parents, the sixth of sixteen children.  In 1897 he entered the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in Detroit, MI.  Since the Capuchins’ academic formation was in German, he struggled to pass many of his classes and as a result was ordained a “simplex priest,” unable to preach or hear confession.  He spent the rest of his life as a door keeper, first in New York at various friaries and then at St. Bonaventure’s Friary in Detroit.  After living for a decade in Indiana, Solanus returned to Detroit for health reasons where he died in 1957 at 86 years old.

Sixty years later, at the Mass of Beatification held on November 18th at Ford Field in Detroit, the feeling was palpable and sometimes voiced aloud: “We have a saint – Detroit has a saint!”  Fr. Solanus is only the second American-born male to be beatified, and the first American “blessed” to spend his whole life in the United States.  But of all places, Detroit?  Yes, Detroit.  The wounds Detroit carries in its body – the burnt-out houses and abandoned city blocks – are not a sign of Detroit’s failure.  They are the sign of our nation’s failure.  Driving past boarded windows in Detroit stings like the memory of unconfessed sins. Even though Solanus didn’t live through the  , the sin of which it is a symptom was as noxious in his day as it is in ours.  Detroit is an uneasy reminder of our nation’s appalling history of shirked responsibility for the past, economic tunnel-vision in the present, and relentless systemic racism binding the two together; Solanus to so many Detroiters is a reminder of the power of the Gospel over the very same systems of sin and oppression.

Booker Ashe, the first black Capuchin in America said of Solanus, “He was ahead of his time for the way in which he treated me…he saw all people as human beings, as images of God.  All the rest was secondary.”  Solanus used to say he had two loves: the sick and the poor.  People of every race and creed came to St. Bonaventure’s to ask for Fr. Solanus’ prayers and guidance, and when they did not know his name they simply asked for “the holy priest.”  When Detroit was hungry, Solanus founded the Capuchin Soup Kitchen; when Detroiters were sick, hundreds found through Fr. Solanus’ intercession.

The offertory hymn is beautiful and as I continue watching the redolent clouds of smoke flash into existence, tremble a moment, then vanish into the lights above, I consider that perhaps not only our prayers but our lives are like that incense, as sweet as they are passing.  Solanus Casey was here a moment then vanished with no books, speeches, or worldly accomplishments to his name.  Yet he left something invisible behind, something that brought 20,000 people out to march with his little wooden casket in 1957 and then 66,000 to worship and pray at Ford Field in 2017.  It’s something that smells a lot like faith, hope and love for a city, nation, and world too often poisoned by their opposites. 

Back at Ford Field, I watched as the incense drifted up and away into the stadium’s expansive ceiling.  I thought of the prayers of the over 66,000 souls gathered to celebrate the life of Fr. Solanus rising up to heaven like the incense.  Then I imagined Fr. Solanus there with us.  What would he be praying for?  I remember my Capuchin friend telling me stories of Solanus.  He said there was no word more precious to Fr. Solanus than the word “appreciate.”  “If we only appreciated God’s gift to us…” Solanus used to say.  I’m startled out of my pious reverie by the perfume of incense as the fan behind the altar blows it like a fistful of roses in my direction.

“Let’s hope some people leave here with a greater love for the poor and desire to forgive, heal and reconcile,” my Capuchin friend said to me, before the Mass began, “That’s what Solanus would have wanted.”

Maybe that’s what Solanus would have been praying for – maybe he still is.  I hope so.

Blessed Solanus Casey, pray for us.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Waiting Well

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 12/04/2017 - 05:30

By Cindy Ristroph

“For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits; truly my hope is in you.” —Marty Haugen, “My Soul in Stillness Waits,” based on Psalm 62 Tick…tick….tick… Won’t we ever get out of here? How long until my order arrives? When will he come home? When is the baby due? Will this fog never lift? When will this traffic move? Won’t she ever call back? When will they finally get here? How long will it [...] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article Waiting Well, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

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Top 12 Signs That It’s Advent

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 12/03/2017 - 22:01

1. You wish you could remember more than just the first verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”



2. You’re in solidarity with Mary because of your Thanksgiving-to-Christmas food baby.



3. You’re trying to stay in the spirit of Advent while hanging Christmas decorations and drinking peppermint mochas.



4. You watch every Christmas-themed movie that Netflix offers.



5. You really can’t wait for Christmas… break.



6. You’ve already eaten all the candy in your Advent calendar.



7. You briefly ponder why there aren’t more Advent songs before turning up the volume for Mariah Carey.



8. You use candles to keep track of the date.



9. You have fights over how the Nativity scene should be set up.



10. You know it’s a season of hope but still feel you should get to confession.



11. You put out all of your shoes in the hopes of a payday on December 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas.



12. You’re unsure whether or not you should be eating meat on Friday.


Categories: Things Jesuit

One-Minute Homily: “Jesus Alert!”

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 12/03/2017 - 11:55

Begin Advent 2017 by being watchful for Christ in your everyday life. Listen to Henoch Fente Derbew, SJ’s, (extremely) brief, yet powerful reflection, based on the Sunday Mass readings for December 3, 2017:

Categories: Things Jesuit

Simply Advent: Simple Prayers

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 05:30

By Vinita Hampton Wright

This Advent, I want to help you keep things simple. Each week I’ll share ideas for simple prayers, encouragements, practices, and celebrations. Today, as we anticipate the start of Advent this weekend, I offer suggestions for simple Advent prayers. Prayer Bowl Choose a bowl, basket, or box that you can set in a central spot in your home. If this will be a family activity, you might place the container on the table where you [...] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article Simply Advent: Simple Prayers, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

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HIV, Advent, and Inclusion

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Thu, 11/30/2017 - 23:02

I rarely have to think about what it must be like to be HIV+. Like many others, I grew up in a community where I knew no one who was HIV+ or had died from AIDS. My exposure was the RENT soundtrack. And seeing the film, I couldn’t really understand what the reality of seeing someone I love suffer from HIV/AIDS must be like. Then, after college, I met Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Johnson was a client of mine at the Bread for the City legal clinic I worked at in Washington, DC. He came to our clinic for help with a Social Security disability claim that had been denied. Mr. Johnson was chronically depressed, had a long-standing back injury, and could barely walk. And he was HIV+. Thankfully, HIV medication has come a long way. For Mr. Johnson, it was the other ailments he had to worry about. If he continues to take his medication each day, he’ll live a normal life, albeit with HIV.

It’s true HIV medication has come a long way, but a cure is still needed. While doctors and researchers continue to search for a cure, many people continue to live with the effects of stigmatization for their HIV status. This stigmatization has ripple effects across our society starting with the demonizing of persons who are HIV+. Living with outdated ideas of how HIV is spre

“AIDS Quilt in Front of White House.” The AIDS Quilt in Washington, DC was created to memorialize persons who died of AIDS. The project began in the 1980s amidst White House stigmatization of persons who were HIV+. The photo is featured courtesy of Scott Chacon of the Flickr Creative Commons.

ad, some people still end a friendship when they learn the friend or family member has HIV. Many with HIV report higher levels of depression and isolation.

Consequently, others decide not to get tested because a confirmed HIV status would mean being classified as deviant, evil, sinful, and dirty. And this means that HIV could continue to spread. As the disease spreads, so does the stigma.


It’s perhaps a simple coincidence that World AIDS Day falls near to or during Advent each year. Advent, we know, is a time of praying with the deep longings in our heart for wholeness, community, and joy. It is about allowing ourselves to search for how God is about to bring something new into the world. And where the work of God has already been preparing the way.

When I was still living in New York last year, my parish announced an upcoming fundraiser to support persons who are HIV+. The speaker invited participants of the parish to get involved, saying that HIV/AIDS ministry has been a long tradition of the parish since the mid-1980s. At a time when the White House itself “turned a blind eye” to people dying of AIDS, further perpetuating stigma, this parish heard the deep cries stirring in the hearts of its community members and decided to take action. Their continued action calls us to examine in what ways people are stigmatized today – by us personally and by all institutions in our country.

A voice cries out in the wilderness: ready the way of the Lord. In moments of hope and encounter, our heart’s stirrings meet those of the stigmatized. And if we’re attentive, we see God’s signs of mercy and love prompting us to be present to our hearts’ greatest aches so that others’ hearts will ache no longer. There, we’ll see how God longs to encounter us all the same.


The cover photo is featured courtesy of ttfnrob of the Flickr Creative Commons. 

The name “Mr. Johnson” is a pseudonym to protect client confidentiality. 

Categories: Things Jesuit

Fellas, It’s OK to Cry (The Gospel According to Jean-Luc)

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Thu, 11/30/2017 - 00:01

As we conclude this month of remembering our dead, I think it’s important to take note of how we, especially men, deal with this difficult reality. It seems to me that how we approach such sadder parts of our lives has consequences both for us and others.


A “Guy” Thing

There are lots of ways Christians deal with death. I’m especially intrigued by groups that discourage crying at funerals, with the argument being that the dead person is already in heaven, and therefore there is nothing to be sad about. There’s a stoicism and certitude that I have to admit is attractive to me there. But why is that? I have to ask myself.

I think back to my college orientation speaker who proposed that the reason for women living longer than men in America is that we men regularly choose not to express ourselves fully, and that bottling up our emotions like sadness leads to all kinds of consequences including poorer health. Speaking strictly from my own experience, I’ve found this to be true at least for me.

During our novitiate experience in a cancer hospice for example, we were exposed to the sadness of death everyday. Rather than think of how hurt I was to see people die who I’d just spoken to hours earlier, I subconsciously labelled that kind of thinking not useful. Besides, I still had work to do and other patients to help.

On reflection, what was motivating me from evading the hurt wasn’t some holy call for being productive, but more so the typical spiritual roadblocks (strengthened by a lifetime of “manly” formation): rationalization, defensiveness, etc. – essentially, doing everything I could to not face the sadness inherent in where I was.

So who was asking me to keep the straight face? Societal norms, sure, but probably not God.


Facing Sadness and “Toxic Masculinity”

I’ve come to find how unhealthy it is to not face sadness properly, whether in my own life or in the lives of others.1 Especially with the latter, rather than confront the struggles endured by so many marginalized people, this set-up makes it convenient to resist going there.  

Could this be why it’s so hard for us men to be more active against things like sexual violence? Could our “toxic masculinity” (which usually follows packing away emotions) be part of why sexual violence is so normalized? Is it that we’re better at machismo than entering into the grief of others’ experiences (which, by the way, we so often create)? Or is it simply easier to come up with creative reasons for why good things happen to bad people than companion another into their darkness?

More generally, perhaps anyone’s lack of compassion (“suffering with”) when encountering others’ difficult or traumatic experiences is partly to blame for keeping us so apart from one another. Instead of sitting with their sadness, we find ways to change the subject and distract ourselves.

Anyway, who wants to talk about the hard stuff when you can binge on that new Netflix series?


Captain Picard’s Two Cents

I’m a big fan of Star Trek because it captures the human experience so well, including how we deal with sadness. One of my favorite episodes is the one where Captain Jean-Luc Picard explains to Data (an android) a memorial service for one of their crewmates. Data is confused about what the point of it is and feels that he has done something wrong because his thoughts keep coming back to how sad his life will now be without his friend.

The captain thinks for a moment then affirms him. Data’s not wrong at all. When we mourn our dead, Picard reasons, it’s about them of course, but it’s also about us, and it’s OK to own that sadness too.

Just as well, we also need to fully face what’s going on in our lives, the happy and the sad, and sometimes that means tears.


The Grace of Tears

Pope Francis has no problem with crying (neither did St. Ignatius or Jesus). In fact, he’s suspicious of Christians who do not cry.

This is not an argument for living as morose a life as possible, but just like joy, it’s important to recognize that sadness is a part of the human experience too. It is essential to healthily process life’s sadness before we can effectively move on to what else we need to do. Other strategies may be more efficient or may make us look better, but ultimately end up being good for nobody.

So, please, as you remember not only those you have lost this year but also those who are suffering here and now, resist tucking it all away out of sight. Face your emotions fully, as you mourn or as you watch the news (or your favorite Hallmark movie, because that’s OK too), and see where that takes you. You may be surprised. But whatever happens, let yourself be you. And if you tear up, know that there’s nothing wrong with that.


Image courtesy FlickrCC user Gonzalo Vega.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Taking Advent Seriously

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 11/29/2017 - 05:30

By Jim Manney

Advent begins on December 3, 2017. Years ago, I gave up on Advent. It was hard to maintain the Advent frame of mind (quiet longing for the coming of Christ) in the midst of the Christmas tumult, which seems to get started around Columbus Day. I remember listening to a priest one Sunday urging us to take Advent seriously by waiting until Christmas Eve to put up the tree and other decorations. You don’t live [...] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article Taking Advent Seriously, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

What’s Real About Instagram?

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 11/29/2017 - 02:01

Gold flakes fell softly, a 24K snowstorm caused by an over-glittered, giant masquerade mask hanging above the doorway. As students walked into the dance, shoulders newly shimmering, I wondered whether more of them would show up.

All told, it was a humble crowd. The music was fine, the dancing left faces glowing, and we had enough sub sandwiches to send everyone home with leftovers. But there was skepticism in the air. People came in and out all night long, eyes searching their phone screens for something better to do. No one fully committed, like a wedding where the bridal party doesn’t dance. Those of us who planned the event wanted it to be something more.

Strange then, that on Monday I got a surprising number of inquiries. When will the next dance be? Why weren’t tickets sold in classes? Can we bring friends from other schools? Was there pizza, or just subs?

I asked the inquirers, “Why is this such a big deal now? We pushed this dance for weeks, and you didn’t show up!”

And then they showed me why it was a big deal – a long series of Instagram posts. They made our less-than-well-attended, glitter-littered dance look like Times Square on New Year’s Eve or the end of Ke$ha’s TiK ToK video. Even I wanted to be at that party. But then I remembered – those posts showed me something that wasn’t real. Not really.


In a world of fake news, Snapchat stories, and custom hashtags for weddings and sporting events, Instagram has become my social media outlet of choice. There’s something that feels more pure about a picture. I follow friends and family members, acquaintances, Jesuit companions, and schools and organizations I’m passionate about. I ‘like’ virtually everything I see, because I know the people, places, and purpose of the posts.

A few months ago, I was on the subway in Chicago. I scanned the train car, and a few feet from me sat a young woman – someone I follow on Instagram. She was wearing headphones, and a magazine sat in her lap. We didn’t know each other well; she would have known I was a Jesuit that sang in the choir at school, and I knew she played in the orchestra. Somehow, we connected through social media, and in my daily perusal, her posts popped up. I saw her with a cat on her shoulders, with a new tattoo on her inner bicep, at the gym breaking a new deadlift personal record. I presumed to know these things about her.

I’m the kind of guy who isn’t afraid to strike up a conversation with strangers on the train. Any reason will do – an expression of joy for just making it past closing doors, quick commiseration about some inexplicable delay, a Green Bay Packers hat and a mutual distaste for the Bears.

But when I saw this woman sitting there, head down, moving from one moment in the city to the next, I froze up. I said nothing. I felt suddenly like I was an intruder – like I had access to photos without her permission, or that I knew more about her life than I should. She was less than a stranger and nowhere near a best friend – like a kid from my high school class I run into at a bar the night before Thanksgiving. I felt awkward and embarrassed about the fact that we had no real connection. She never looked up, and I never said hello. We both know we’re out there somewhere, likely never to meet again. Chicago is a big city after all.

I still see her posts – cats and tattoos and weights and all – and I still ‘like’ them.


I’ve got a few friends who have sick kids in their families – sons and daughters and nieces and nephews with illnesses that keep them in constant flux about whether the next treatment or operation will work. Their Instagram posts show small bodies tethered by tubes to machines that are meant to sustain their fragile, important, trying lives.

I’m not with these friends in the flesh very often; I see their stories unfold on my phone screen. There’s nothing posed about the images they offer – they’re not fabricated dance-offs or selfies with cats. They capture a struggle that calls me to hold them close, to know more deeply the reality of their plight, to remember that love is the filter and the frame.

There’s a place for all of it somehow – the falsely-hyped party, the person I ‘like’ but don’t really know, the haunting image of a sick child. Sometimes I need an escape, and a suspension of reality is just the ticket. Sometimes it’s good to know that someone, somewhere really loves their cat. Sometimes, a reminder that all is not well in others’ lives is a call back to prayer.

It’s up to me to know the difference between them. I am always called to find the real and the good, and to remember that it’s not always clear in an instant.


Categories: Things Jesuit

On Making Friends

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Tue, 11/28/2017 - 02:01

“So. Um. Would you wanna…hang out…sometime?” I take a drink of the brown lager in front of me, feigning interest at college football showing on the screen above the bar. It’s my attempt at playing it cool and calm even though my insides are frazzled. I’m trying to make a friend – something I’m not so good at doing.

“For sure!” He’s smiling through his response. Kevin. That’s his name. We work together.

“We could, you know, see a movie, I love movies. I see movies all the time.” I sense his interest is fading. “But we could do so many other things…like hike!”

“Hike?” He takes a drink of his whiskey, the ice clinking as he sips. His eyes are squinting at me, seeing right through my suggestion. Perhaps because my pear-shaped body doesn’t really align with the idea.

“I’m kidding. Ha. Ha. I have no idea why I said that.”

“You’re alright, dude.” He smiles and laughs. “Actually, a buddy of mine…”

My mind drifts off. I’ve been in Chicago for five months and don’t have any friends. I’m totally fine with being alone and doing things on my own. Dinners, movies, having a drink, all of it by myself. But it’s getting boring. So, here I sit at a bar trying to navigate how to make this colleague a friend. And it’s unwieldy. And I’m aware of my idiosyncrasies. For instance, offering absurd propositions like hiking, which I’m lukewarm about at best. I rub my sweaty hands on the top of my thighs, and I drink more beer to calm my insides.

“…so you wanna go?”

“Sure! Would love to…er…that’d be sweet…nice, and stuff, yeah.” God, I’m making this awkward. And I have no idea what he just said, but I recognized an invitation. I wave to the bartender for another round. I notice Kevin reach for his wallet so I amateurishly say, with an overly planned grin, “Put your money away. It’s on me.”


I moved to Detroit a few months ago. When I arrived, I saw strange roads, foreign buildings, different neighborhoods. Now, there’s familiarity. The Lodge is a highway. I live on 6 Mile. Great Lakes Coffee makes a good cup of joe. And I’m – slowly – calling this place home. But, lately I’ve been overwhelmed with loneliness.

Alone, I am not. I’m surrounded by many wonderful and loving people. Yet, at my favorite coffeeshop, I notice people talking and laughing with each other. I’ve been in Detroit for almost five months, and I realize I’m at that same point I was back in Chicago. It’s time to surround myself with affable faces now that the roads and buildings are comfortable.

Then I remember all those times I’ve had to work at making friends. Like Kevin. The uneasy effort of trying to be laidback and nonchalant makes me feel nauseous. The thought of making friends feels daunting and ignites my anxiety. It’s like I’m the new kid at recess with no one wants to play with, except I’m an adult. And, adults aren’t always ready to let new people join in.


My desire for quality friendships outweighs quantity. I’m selective at who I let into my life. I’m no longer interested in casual acquaintances, but rather friendships that have depth and meaning. If I’m honest, I’m also aware that I can disappoint, frustrate, and hurt people, and I don’t want to do that. Sometimes, that self-awareness gets in the way of taking those first steps towards friendship. But, most of the time, I’m cognizant of the fact that I no longer need friends the way I did when I was 18 or 25. I desire friends, yes, just differently. Navigating adulthood to include new friendships is beautiful when it happens. Identifying people who will be those friends takes time.

My grandfather said, “Friendship is an extension of God’s loving hand on Earth.”  I am blessed to have an intimate inner circle of friends who remind me of those words. It’s a small inner circle but a strong one, and I thank God for them everyday. But, I also know the importance of friendship in proximity of my daily life. And it’s a life I want to share with people who won’t mind the uneven schedule of my commitments, and the offbeat quirkiness of my personality.

Maybe it’s simpler than all of this. Maybe it’s remembering that all those years ago, Kevin didn’t run away from me. Maybe he wanted to be my friend too. Maybe there are others around me simply waiting for me to invite them into my life. Maybe they need friends as badly as I do. And then, all I have to do is say something I’ve said before: “Hi, I’m Damian – you wanna see a movie…or go hiking?”


The cover image, by Flickr user atmtx, can be found here.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Prayer While Grieving

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 11/27/2017 - 05:30

By Becky Eldredge

Praying during a season of loss can be hard. When I think of my own seasons of loss or of listening to others’ prayer during their seasons of grief, I can think of multiple descriptions of prayer that sounded something like: I cannot even sit down to pray, because my mind races everywhere when I try to pray. Being still is hard, because so much hits me at once that I don’t know where to [...] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article Prayer While Grieving, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

One-Minute Homily: “Jesus Isn’t Kidding”

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 11/26/2017 - 00:00

Jesus has a clear message in today’s Gospel and he isn’t kidding around. Check out this week’s One-Minute Homily from Fr. Marc Fryer, SJ. Based on the readings for Sunday, November 26, 2017, which you can find here:

Categories: Things Jesuit

God’s Grace and Our Efforts

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 11/24/2017 - 05:30

By Vinita Hampton Wright

I have watched myself and other people swing back and forth between two extremes of expectation when it comes to spiritual growth. One expectation is that God will do everything if only I have faith and wait patiently. This view goes out of balance when, in my waiting and believing, I become passive. I pray but do not act. I pray but do not engage with the realities in my daily life. When I become [...] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

Click through to read the full article God’s Grace and Our Efforts, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

One Word at a Time: NaNoWriMo and Advent?

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Thu, 11/23/2017 - 23:07

A funny thing happens every November called NaNoWriMo—everyday people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of the month. And, strange as it might sound, the process has a lot of connections with the upcoming season of Advent.

Since November is a busy time for graduate students, I did an adapted version of the challenge with fellow TJP contributor Colten Biro, SJ, in the summer of 2016. What started as a fun challenge quickly became a bit of a marathon… much like Advent. A long period of waiting and expectation until its completion when we can guiltlessly sing Christmas carols, not that some of us don’t sing them year-round anyways.

But sometimes the process felt like it never went anywhere. I had to keep readjusting each day. Stories seem to have a life of their own, a life that can beat you down on busy days. And much like the Advent story we encounter every year, they can feel difficult to continue, close, or even hold our interest for weeks.

It can feel like a bit of a slog to stay with the narrative. Some days, I would write, forcing  myself through another thousand words that felt useless, waiting to get to the next plot point on the outline. When I was done writing for the day, it felt like nothing had happened. Sometimes the journey to the next place seemed slow or the dialogue felt bland and unimaginative, but I pushed through.

This movement is a lot like Advent. We go through the same motions every year, reliving the story, moment by moment, paragraph by paragraph. From one to the next, and maybe over a long stretch, it may not seem like anything happens, but we eventually get there.

Slowly, we trudge through the story we all know, a story of journey, mystery, and relationship. It’s a story of waiting and working in hope—even when that hope is something we don’t quite understand yet. Like that hope of finishing the novel. When we get to the end, we can look back and see this tremendous journey, even when it was taken one monotonous step at a time.

Little by little, even through reruns, we get a little closer each time. Closer to the wordcount, closer to the Birth of Jesus, and even closer to the mystery of waiting and living in a relationship with God.

Candle by candle, this journeying brings us closer to the story and characters we all know so well. In the end, it’s worth it. At the end of our stories, Colten and I each had a novel. And at the close of Advent, we have the start of the story of God present with us. Deep down, it is all about God’s daring love for each one of us.


A special thanks to Colten Biro, SJ, for your help in crafting this piece and for your role as antagonist for our shenanigans—his work for The Jesuit Post can be found here.

The cover photo is featured courtesy of Mario Sormann of the Flickr Creative Commons.


Categories: Things Jesuit