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Six Characteristics of Ignatian Courage

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 01/22/2021 - 05:30

In response to a college admission essay prompt of, “What is the most courageous thing you have ever done?” one high school senior used a whole sheet of paper to write simply, “This.” Gutsy? Courageous? Those words may seem interchangeable, but only courage comes from the Spirit of God. Thankfully, Ignatian spirituality offers six characteristics […]

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Discover 10 habits for a better life (and world) with Chris Lowney’s Make Today Matter.

Click through to read the full article Six Characteristics of Ignatian Courage, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Wrestling with questions of vocation? Watch the movie “Soul”

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Thu, 01/21/2021 - 01:15

Warning: This article contains spoilers


“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver 

This question echoed through my head as I watched Soul, Pixar’s latest film, which brings a little something for everyone: adorable proto-souls for the kids, humor for the adults, an existential crisis for the philosophy majors, and even a deep lesson on vocational discernment.

The question is one that confronts many of the main characters, framed around the concept of the “spark.” Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher by day and aspiring jazz pianist by night, unexpectedly dies the day of his long-awaited breakthrough gig. In desperation to avoid the “Great Beyond” so he can return in time to perform, Joe instead finds himself in the “Great Before,” where impressionable little proto-souls are being prepared to begin life down on earth.

These unborn souls explore this space (also called the “You Seminar”) and receive their personality traits before being paired with a mentor to discover their spark, which completes a pass that shows the Great Before has certified them as ready for earthly life. Joe becomes the mentor for soul #22, who has spent centuries in the Great Before, frustrating many famous mentors who have tried unsuccessfully to help her discover that spark. Joe comes to see his goal as helping 22 to discover her purpose so she can be ready to go fulfill it on earth.

It is not too difficult for anyone wrestling with questions of discernment to relate to characters like 22; I certainly felt that way as I watched, and I was reminded of my own vocational discernment and endeavors to discover my “spark.” It was then that I first encountered the quote from Mary Oliver above. It was probably offered to me out of a spirit of encouragement, but I found it to be quite intimidating. It seemed like such a big question to answer. As a young college student, I found myself wondering what exactly I should be doing with this life I had been given. And, it prompted another question that the film also raises: what if I pick the wrong thing?

A particularly powerful scene that authentically addresses the real challenge of discernment takes place with Joe’s barber, Dez. Joe and 22 go to see Dez so he can fix a mostly self-inflicted disaster of a haircut. Joe thinks he has the concept of the spark all figured out: we are all born with something particular, a special purpose that we need to discover. Joe tells 22 that he’s sure Dez’s must have easily figured out his purpose. “Talk about having a spark; this guy was born to be a barber!”

But, during the haircut, 22 muses about this question of the spark, of vocation, giving voice to many of us who have struggled to discover our purpose. If people are born to do a particular thing, how do we figure that out? And, 22 asks the crucial question that had so worried me: “what if you pick up the wrong thing?” But, Joe and 22 are surprised to learn that Dez is not actually living what he thought was his original dream. Dez had first wanted to be a veterinarian, but after getting out of the Navy and caring for a sick daughter, barber school was a less expensive option. 22 tells Dez that she’s so sorry he’s stuck in the wrong job and missing out on his dream. Dez, though, laughs this off. “I’m happy as a clam!” Cutting hair is something he has come to love. Dez thought he knew what his spark was, but life’s events helped him to discover a different one along the way.

When I think back to the person I was in college as I wrestled with vocational discernment, I wish I could recommend this film to myself. One of the many reasons I enjoyed Soul is that it gives some guidance and encouragement to those who are struggling with these big questions of vocation. Dez’s story helps to reframe what the film means by the spark, and might help to shift our thinking as well. As Joe continues his quest to return to his body, he comes to understand the spark in a new way. Instead of a special purpose, he calls it instead “the last piece to fill in when you’re ready to come live.” 

Talking about passion and vocation in this way reframes how we might think about Mary Oliver’s question. We might be tempted to think of discovering our vocation as discovering the one particular thing we were born to do. But, discerning a vocation is not the same as solving a puzzle, which we either succeed or fail at doing. If Dez had thought this way, he might have found himself unhappily wishing he were a vet rather than the spectacular barber he was. Rather, it’s helpful to think of our vocational discernment in terms of this spark. 

God’s call to us is not necessarily to one thing or another, but rather to a life well-lived. Instead of a puzzle we are made to solve, God gives us the freedom to piece together our passions in order to discover what a fulfilled life will look like for us. God’s desire is not to impose something on us from the outside. God instead calls us through our passions, through our sparks. That’s how we can do honor to the gift of life God gives us.

One passion that has always been a part of my own life is soccer. As I discerned a Jesuit vocation, I felt like I was supposed to leave that part of my life behind, even though it’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember. But, I found my way back to the field in philosophy studies as a chaplain, and I have now spent every year of my Jesuit formation since vows working with sports teams. My life in athletics, both before and after becoming a Jesuit, has continued to form me and help me grow in so many ways, including in my spiritual life. Sports has continued to be a spark through which God has called me to be a minister. 

In Soul, Pixar gives us a parable about vocation. This is not an accident; director Pete Docter relied quite a bit on Fr. James Martin’s book The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything. We can see echoes of Ignatian prayer throughout, including a good understanding of consolation and desolation as the signposts we need to be attentive to in our discernment process. Although Joe and the other characters do not use these terms, we can see his life being guided by a growing awareness of moments of joy and also disquiet. After he plays his gig and experiences dryness afterward, a reflective moment helps him to realize that his consolation, his joy, isn’t just from playing piano, but also from his relationships with friends, family, his students, and even 22. 

In the end, both in the film and in our own lives, finding the spark is not the conclusion of the story. In fact, we don’t even learn what 22’s spark is, even though most of the film is spent on the quest to discover it. What the spark itself is, the passion that is discovered, is not the most important point. The spark is not the end, but rather another beginning, moving us toward living a passion-filled and joyful existence. That is a way to really honor the “wild and precious” gift of life we’ve been given.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Getting Ready for Lent 2021

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 05:30

Ash Wednesday is February 17, 2021, so today we’re highlighting just a few of the many Ignatian-inspired features designed to help you observe Lent. The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness Lenten Read-Along Plan now to join a special Lenten read-along with Loyola Press. We’ll be reading The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness: 10 Steps to Healing at […]

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

Discover 10 habits for a better life (and world) with Chris Lowney’s Make Today Matter.

Click through to read the full article Getting Ready for Lent 2021, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Inauguration Day: A Prayer for Transition

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 01/20/2021 - 02:33

Eternal God –

We ask you to send forth your sweet and peace-filled Holy Spirit. Help it flow through us as we stand witness to a moment of transition.

Help us to remember that today, as every day, the struggles of our world persist.
It feels sometimes like the darkness has overcome us.
Chasms seem unbridgeable.
Hunger grows.
Work is tenuous.
Preventable death stalks us.
Collective moral imagination stumbles.
Racism rages.
Beloved members of our communities are ridiculed; we do not hear them.
Others are excluded; we do not see them.
Still others are discarded entirely; we do not know them or think of them as human.

But, whether in a whisper or with a wail, help us to speak a simple truth –

It does not have to be this way.

And so we ask you God, in the name of Jesus, and in the unity offered us through your Spirit, for the grace to bring about a revolution of the heart, and to remember that transition is change.

We ask you to bless our leaders.
We ask you to give them courage.
We ask you to keep them safe.

And, God, we ask you to help us.

Help us, as Peter Maurin says, to create a world in which it is easy to do good.
Help us, as Dr. King says, to go on anyhow.
Help us, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin says, to remember that we are one, after all.
Help us, as the prophet Micah says, to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with you.

As Dorothy Day says, we do this one brick at a time, and we take one step at a time.
We desperately need you, God, in this transition. We need your ever-presence among us.
You are the God of the last four years, and the God of the next four.
You are the God that was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.


Catholic News Service photo by Tyler Orsburn

Categories: Things Jesuit

As We Anticipate Inauguration Day, What Should Christians Ask of our Leaders?

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Tue, 01/19/2021 - 01:00

As America prepares to inaugurate a new president, I’ve found myself listening to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” a good bit. At my church growing up, we sang it at Mass on virtually every civic holiday. There is something comforting about hymns and scripture passages that tell of God’s ultimate victory over evil. Part of me hopes that elections or inaugurations will bring a similar sort of ultimate victory—as if new political leaders could save us from all that ails the country. 

Julia Ward Howe wrote the original poem, set to a traditional melody, to give a morale boost to war-weary Union soldiers during the Civil War. My renewed interest in the hymn likely comes from a similar desire for inspiration. It’s not hard to see why. 

In dark and uncertain times, the idea that God “has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword,” “is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored,” and “has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat” reassures believers that a strong savior is on the way. 

At a time when our political discourse is bent on the idea that apocalyptic events are taking place, it’s not a coincidence that the biggest summer blockbusters are superhero action movies. We are desperate to see larger-than-life figures swoop to the rescue and wage battles against evil forces on behalf of humanity. 

This is a theme that should be familiar to Christians: a chosen one will rise up to lead a cosmic battle of good against evil. Hosts of supernatural forces will fight over the very survival of everything we love, and at the end, the good guys win and the bad guys are cast out.

Before the Avengers movies, we had the Book of Revelation.

Recent apocalyptic political fervor came to its fullest expression during the January 6th US Capitol insurrection. Many marchers that day saw themselves as “God’s warriors” engaged in “fighting good versus evil, dark versus light,” with some invoking the utter destruction of Jericho, put to the sword by the Israelites at the order of God in the Book of Joshua, as the model for what they were doing. According to this logic, evil has taken over our institutions and everything must go, even America’s very constitutional foundations.

There’s a big problem with that strategy, though: it isn’t how God operates. God does not enter into our reality with destruction and vengeance. 

In fact, Christians have just celebrated the feast of God’s entrance into our reality. At Christmas, we celebrate the arrival of God-with-us, the Christ, the Messiah. Yet when he walked on Earth, Jesus consistently defied prior expectations of what the Messiah would bring. Far from arriving as a conquering king, he was born a defenseless child in an unimportant town on the fringes of an empire. He rejected the use of violence to defend himself when the Roman authorities came to arrest him and refused to plead his cause before the courts with his life on the line. While he overturned tables in the Temple to get the attention of religious leaders, he didn’t then muster a militia to bring violence down on their heads.

Rather than raising an army, what did the Messiah do? We can start, perhaps, with his “oath of office,” if you will, Jesus’ mission statement at the beginning of his ministry:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Luke 4:8-9, paraphrasing Isaiah 61:1)

Jesus spent his time preaching the Kingdom of God and showing what that Kingdom means: he forgave sins, healed people who were sick, and cast out their demons. In doing so, he removed the chains that kept them from full membership in the community, and he affirmed their dignity as God’s beloved children. 

He had harsh words for those who ruled by hypocrisy, insisted the sinful turn from their ways, and spent his time with people others were happy to cast aside. Not only did he never win a position of power, but he accepted the greatest possible loss of power, giving up his very life through execution as a common criminal. 

While Christians have the sure hope that God will one day bring about the ultimate victory of good over evil, we already have a Savior to give us a model of leadership. Jesus was not a zealot or a judge, but a teacher who brought healing and reconciliation. At the beginning of a new presidential administration, and amid so much political turmoil, it’s more important than ever that Christians take a hard look at whether our leaders match up to his example. 

If we seek a better life for all Americans, apocalyptic destruction is not the answer. Rather, we ought to insist our leaders look more like Jesus: empathizing with those they lead rather than demonizing them, building community rather than tearing it down, and seeking justice rather than vengeance.  

Categories: Things Jesuit

Five Ways of Praying Through Sorrow

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 01/18/2021 - 05:30

It is hard not to hear our cries of sorrow and prayers of lament. Our world and all in it are groaning. I feel like I see and hear suffering around me everywhere I turn. A question I get asked often in spiritual direction and retreat ministry is, “How do I pray through sorrow and […]

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

Go on a personal at-home prayer retreat with An Invitation to Love by William A. Barry, SJ.

Click through to read the full article Five Ways of Praying Through Sorrow, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

What Dr. King and St. Ignatius Taught Me About Discernment and Anti-Racism

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Mon, 01/18/2021 - 01:00

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Like many Americans, I grew up with an inadequate understanding of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In Catholic grade school, we heard snippets of the “I have a dream” speech and offered vague prayers for racial harmony during February. In high school, I began hearing classmates’ whispers aimed at undermining his legacy. In college, MLK Day meant committing to peace and service. Not until graduate school did I gain a fuller understanding of his teachings, actions, and legacy. 

I recently read Dr. King’s book Where Do We Go From Here? It has shaped my understanding of Ignatian spirituality and its relationship to racial justice. Here are three lessons that MLK and Ignatius taught me about discernment and anti-racism.

Discernment and Freedom

What is freedom? It is, first, the capacity to deliberate or to weigh alternatives…Second, freedom expresses itself in decision…A third expression of freedom is responsibility…The immorality of segregation is that it is a selfishly contrived system which cuts off one’s capacity to liberate, decide, and respond. 

King’s words on freedom sound quite like those of Ignatius. Ignatius spoke of freedom as being opposed to disordered attachments. We must cast off our attachments in order to freely discern God’s call. Doing so enables us to make decisions true to the Gospel. 

It is a disappointment with the Christian church that appears to be more white than Christian, and with many white clergymen who prefer to remain silent behind the security of stained-glass windows.

Ignatius and MLK rightly identified fear as one of the greatest disordered attachments. A longing for a sense of security inhibits a movement toward God and justice. Elizabeth Eiland Figueroa states that “this clutching does not allow much space for God. Fear tells us that if we lessen our grip, chaos will ensue.” I constantly see arguments against racial justice, reparations, and liberation framed in terms of possibly dangerous consequences or an allied group not perfectly aligning to Church teaching. These arguments desperately cling to power and comfort, hiding behind the security of stained-glass windows.

In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius has the retreatant pray about three categories of people. Each has acquired a significant amount of wealth (not necessarily by wholesome means) and desires to part with it to save their soul. The first postpones until their death, deeming other things more important. The second rationalizes and deceives themself into believing that God wants them to keep their wealth. The third asks to be free from the attachment to the wealth, to do with it whatever God asks. 

White privilege and white supremacy are particularly insidious because the attachment is often to comfort, social standing, or claims of social innocence with no awareness of their connection to whiteness and racism. Attachment to white privilege and white supremacy leads to an inauthentic faith. They are not open to the power of God’s justice. For me as a white man, Ignatian anti-racism means I must learn to recognize my unfreedoms regarding racism.

Vociferously Reject Heresy

The greatest blasphemy of the whole ugly process [of slavery] was that the white man ended up making God his partner in the exploitation of the Negro. What greater heresy has religion known? Ethical Christianity vanished and the moral nerve of religion was atrophied. This terrible distortion sullied the essential nature of Christianity. 

In 1554, Ignatius wrote an emphatic letter on heresy to Peter Canisius. He states that the success of heretics was due to negligence of those who should have taken action to prevent false teaching, particularly the clergy. He encouraged the publication of pamphlets and easy-to-use print materials to combat heresy. Centuries later, American Jesuits published thousands of pamphlets aimed at evangelization and defeating perceived theological enemies like communism. We rarely, however, took on the heresy of racism with the same zeal. 

Racism is a faith. It is a form of idolatry…In its early modern beginnings, racism was a justificatory device. It did not emerge as a faith. It arose as an ideological justification for the constellations of political and economic power which were expressed in colonialism and slavery. But gradually the idea of the superior race was heightened and deepened in meaning and value so that it pointed beyond the historical structures of relation, in which it emerged, to human existence itself.

Racism became an American ideology and embedded in white Catholic faith. In recent years, we white Catholics have begun making strides to address this heresy. I wonder what would happen, though, if we Jesuits and all of our institutions were to give anti-racism the same or more attention than we give to other priorities. Doing so would fit perfectly within our guiding Universal Apostolic Preferences.

Discernment Leads to Action

But declarations against segregation, however sincere, are not enough. The church must take the lead in social reform. It must move out into the arena of life and do battle for the sanctity of religious commitments.

The fruit of discernment is action. Bad discernment leads to actions that simply confirm our attachments. For example, I regularly encounter people arguing against action on racial injustice by using quotes from Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. Like most historic figures, both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ignatius Loyola face the danger of softened, misused, and abused legacies. In their lifetimes, they demanded bold action.

The practical cost of change for the nation up to this point has been cheap. The limited reforms have been obtained at bargain rates.

Discernment demands concrete steps and actions. We Jesuits have begun making some important changes, such as researching our participation in slaveholding and being in dialogue with the descendents of individuals who were enslaved. Dr. King makes several suggestions that Jesuits, our institutions, and our colleagues could pursue: using our significant purchasing power to demand changes from businesses; clergy collaboration to demand racial and labor justice; and, most importantly, organizing.

Strong discernment and anti-racism are responses to God’s love and action in the world. They demand the magis, a full commitment to God’s liberating action. Pursuing this liberating action asks us to cast aside disordered attachments, seek truth and authentic teaching, and take bold action. Ignatian discernment and anti-racism ought to spur us to a transformation of ourselves and our communities.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Moodle 3.10.1 and other minor versions released!

Latest Moodle News - Sun, 01/17/2021 - 19:03
by Sander Bangma.  

Hello all!

This morning we have released the following minors; Moodle 3.10.1, 3.9.4, 3.8.7 and 3.5.16. 

All releases are now available for download via https://download.moodle.org or Git.

As always, the minor releases include bug-fixes, as well as security improvements, and we recommend that you upgrade your sites as soon as possible. Upgrading should be straightforward. 

Administrators of all registered Moodle sites will receive an email with details of the security fixes and we'll publish these more widely shortly.

The release notes for each version can be found here:

Moodle 3.10.x and 3.9.x (LTS) are the current supported versions. 
Moodle 3.5.x (LTS) and 3.8.x are supported for security issues only, until May 2021.

Please see the releases page for more details.

Our Mission to Point to Jesus | One-Minute Homily

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 01/17/2021 - 02:00

John the Baptist shows us true humility by pointing his followers to Jesus. Hunter D’Armond, SJ, reflects on this humility and our own mission to bring others to Jesus and get out of the way. Based on the readings for Sunday, January 17, 2021.

Hear me out, if John the Baptist played baseball, I’m sure he’d be a catcher. 

Hi, I’m Hunter D’Armond and this is my one-minute reflection.

I have a great respect for catchers in baseball. They have to block balls thrown in the dirt, call the right pitches, and on top of all that they spend hours crouched down in uncomfortable positions. The Latin root of “humility” is “humilitas,” meaning “close to the ground,” and by that definition, catchers are baseball’s embodiment of humility. 

In today’s gospel John the Baptist exemplifies profound humility as he points his own disciples towards Jesus and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” and then they go and follow Jesus. That’s the last we hear of John the Baptist in this passage! 

John’s mission then is ours today: to point and lead those in our lives towards Jesus with the grace of humility. And just as the catcher calls the pitch and leaves the pitcher to deliver, so too is our mission to lead others to Christ and leave the rest up to him.

Categories: Things Jesuit

God in the Ordinary Bingo

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 01/15/2021 - 05:30

Where have you experienced God in the ordinary moments of life? William A. Barry, SJ, explored that question in his book, Experiencing God in the Ordinary. To encourage people to think about finding God in all things, some less-than-obvious, Loyola Press created a God in the Ordinary Bingo game inspired by Barry’s book. Download the […]

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

Go on a personal at-home prayer retreat with An Invitation to Love by William A. Barry, SJ.

Click through to read the full article God in the Ordinary Bingo, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

What Does Reconciliation Look Like After the Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol?

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Fri, 01/15/2021 - 01:00

January of 2008 and January of 2021 found me focused on the same building, but at profoundly different points in my life and for profoundly different reasons.

In January of 2008, I had just acquired my Congressional ID badge. As a freshman at Georgetown University, I was, like so many of my classmates, an ambitious and aspiring politico. My grand career plans seemed well on their way to realization, as I had secured an internship with the Congresswoman from my home state of South Dakota. (Yes, South Dakota only has one congressional district. Back off, Californians and New Yorkers.) Over two semesters of interning in Congress, I would answer the phone, read and respond to constituent correspondence, attend and take notes at committee meetings, and carry the occasional box of copy paper up to our third-floor office from the basement supply room. The part of the job I most enjoyed was giving tours to visiting South Dakotans, showing them all around the Capitol, through the Rotunda, Statuary Hall, and the old Supreme Court chamber, always ending in the gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives, occasionally staying to watch a floor debate. 

Thirteen years later I have (largely) abandoned my political aspirations, joined the Jesuits, professed perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, studied philosophy and theology, taught high school, been ordained a deacon, and done a million other things I never would have predicted in January of 2008. I still love politics, believe public service, properly understood, to be a noble calling, think of DC as my adopted hometown, and have many friends who work in politics, including in Congress.

And so it was with horror, sadness, rage, disbelief, and fear that I watched the events of January 6th, 2021 play out. Armed hordes of domestic terrorists overwhelmed (or, in a few shocking cases, were let in by) the Capitol Police, broke through the doors and windows of our seat of government, and shouted violent threats and messages of hate through the halls that I had only ever known to be reverently quiet. These rooms, home to landmark moments in our nation’s history and to my own treasured memories, were occupied by seditious goons and conspiracy theorists, egged on by unscrupulous and self-centered “leaders.” Where once I described a historic painting to a sight-impaired visitor, a man now carried the Confederate battle flag. Where once I sat and listened to a debate about health care policy, people now hid behind those same seats, fearful of being shot. I reeled in the face of such horrific contrasts: how could this be happening in this country, in this building?

In the days since this unprecedented attack on our democratic republic, many people have called for unity, to come together, to reconcile. I understand the motivation for those calls and I too desire to see them realized. But what does that word mean right now: reconciliation?

In my experience, the Sacrament of Reconciliation consists of two parts: the uncomfortable one and the beautiful one. 

The uncomfortable part comes first. Taking the time to honestly and carefully look at my own sins and the ways in which they break down my relationships with God and those around me is uncomfortable. Admitting the pain and harm I cause is embarrassing and humbling. I squirm, sweat, and regret. Honesty is key to this process, though, and I know that. So, I take the time to examine my conscience and assemble my mental list of sins. And then off I go, into the confessional.

Next comes the beautiful part. Walking away from the Sacrament, having received absolution, I always feel 15 pounds lighter, relieved, and utterly freed by the great gift of God’s mercy. I’ve almost always received kind, non-judgemental advice from the priests to whom I’ve confessed. “X seems to be connected to this other thing you just mentioned. Y is something you should stay attentive to. I’ve found Z to be helpful in dealing with that same pitfall in my own life.” Reconciliation ends with God’s encouragement and liberating mercy. The discomfort of the first part is always worth the beauty of the second part.

We find ourselves as a nation in need of reconciliation, with both of its requisite steps. This is indeed a time for our country to come together, and such unity would be beautiful to behold. Are we prepared to first unite around honesty though? 

We must come together to denounce the violent coup attempt we all witnessed. We must come together to hold accountable all who took part, including those people who incited and facilitated this attack. We must come together to recommit ourselves to reality, dispensing ourselves of “alternative facts” that allow us to choose our own truths. We must come together to soberly account for the role white supremacy played in the events of January 6th, 2021, and all too many events in the centuries preceding that date.

There can be no reconciliation without honesty.

[Editor’s Note: This piece can also be found on Encounter: a community blog from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.]

Categories: Things Jesuit

America, Stop the Denial. This Is Who We Are.

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Thu, 01/14/2021 - 01:00

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Mediaset Italia, Pope Francis revealed his surprise by the insurrection at the US Capitol: “I was astonished because they are people so disciplined in democracy,” he said. We all want the world to believe that America should not, could not, be defined by these angry insurgents. But we are. 

Based on the history that has shaped this country, it’s time to shine a light on our true face. This insurrection makes clear the difference between Black Lives and White Lives in America. 

America, this is who we are. 

What Senator Ted Cruz called an “assault” and a “despicable act of terrorism,” for us in the Black community, was the reinforcement of several realities that we have known for centuries: that our nation is characterized by white privilege and racist violence. 

Never mind, for now, all of the lies and venom waged against Black people (and, basically, any one other than able-bodied white men) over the past four years. What we Blacks saw on January 6th was a group of privileged white (mostly) men illegally storming our nation’s Capitol, disrupting a hallowed democratic process, many of them ending the day back in their comfortable homes. 

And it was not shocking. 

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris pointed out the irony that if the insurgents had been Black, the day would have ended quite differently. The Vice President elect put it clearly, “We have witnessed two systems of justice: One that let the extremists storm the U.S. Capitol yesterday, and another that released tear gas on peaceful protests last summer. It is simply unacceptable.” 

The President-elect reinforced this in his press conference by saying, “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stomped the Capitol. We all know that’s true, and it is unacceptable,” Biden said on Thursday.

We all recall the events of last summer when more than 10,000 people took to the streets to draw attention to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in response to the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Thousands of Americans—most of whom were Black — suffered from police pepper spray, rubber bullets, tear gas and other brutality. They were captured during primarily peaceful protests partly due to the color of their skin. Jail cells were packed with peaceful protests after hours and during demonstrations. Today, just a handful of White terrorists who stormed the Capitol last week are in jail.  We cannot accept this hypocrisy. 

We remember the long reign of the Ku Klux Klan that terrorized our families for more than a century. Again, the events of Jan. 6 triggered many Black Americans who have suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress due to white theorists who came with Confederate flags, crosses, ropes, and venom and stormed the Capitol. Just to help us remember who we are. We Black people cannot forget.

Black people remember the 1898 Wilmington massacre in North Carolina, a successful coup d’etat led by Whites that took countless Black lives and gave rise to White mobs. The 1921 Tulsa Massacre trained our unconscious to America’s pro-White system. We will not pretend to forget the murders of several Civil Rights leaders in the 1960s, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

America, we are invited to give up this self protective instinct of perpetual denial and the lies that distance us from our true history and identity which is deeply colored by racist violence. 

As Catholic Christians, we can no longer stand by and witness these atrocities. We can no longer live our lives in denial, claiming these events were an anomaly and do not represent who we are. We can no longer remain silent, as many Catholic clerical leaders do, in the face of these realities. We can no longer passively allow our nation to claim this identity. We must accept the reality that what we saw last week is a true reflection of our identity, and that America is in need of repair. 

As Christians, we can channel our emotions towards positive change. What we saw unfold in the Capitol was rage, but the emotion that can move us towards healing in reconciliation is anger. Just as St. Thomas Aquinas said,  “Anger is the passion that moves the will to justice.” The more we repress our anger by negating the reality, the more we implicitly participate in the oppressive system that maintains those behaviors in our fragile democracy. 

As Fr. Bryan Massingale has explained, truth remains fundamental for justice. Until we acknowledge it, we will be unable to move to the next step for reconciliation and healing. Reconciliation and healing are sine qua non elements for justice. It is difficult to reach those elements without the recognition of our reality. Quoting St. John Paul II, Massingale reminds us, “Truth is the mother, basis, and foundation of justice.”

Perhaps, the truth is that the violent insurrection we witnessed on January 6th is actually the basis of our American identity. Perhaps white terror is America’s DNA, and denial is her identity. Without facing this, we can never change. 

Inspired by Childish Gambino I conclude:

‘This is America,’

Stop your  denial’ now

White mobs are moving now

The Capitol has been taken now

Look at white people dancing now

Black police are running now

White police are posing with terrorists now

‘This is America’

Categories: Things Jesuit

Writing Spiritual Autobiography as It Relates to the Spiritual Exercises, Part 2

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 01/13/2021 - 05:30

In terms of the Spiritual Exercises, one critical goal of writing a spiritual autobiography is to recognize God’s action in our past: God’s presence, grace, and gifts to us. If you have done the exercises of Part 1, then you have looked at significant wounds and sins in your life story, and you have received […]

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

Go on a personal at-home prayer retreat with An Invitation to Love by William A. Barry, SJ.

Click through to read the full article Writing Spiritual Autobiography as It Relates to the Spiritual Exercises, Part 2, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

I Am a Mere Disciple and This Is How I Know

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 01/13/2021 - 02:33

Mere Discipleship

Mere discipleship
Sheds easy excuses,
Burns hot and bright.
All escapes slam shut.
Merely strikes with the searing clarity
Of a metallurgist’s mallet,
Sparks flying
Bending resistant, habit-bound,
Rough hewn raw materials
Into instruments of peace.

Mere discipleship
Means being ready
To give everything away
For the sake
Of sorely unloved souls.

Mere discipleship means
Where Jesus told us he would rest –
With weary, poor, repugnant,
ill and sin filled
People in pain.

Or rather,
To recognize
That I am the ill and sin filled,
Perhaps hidden
As I feign fullness.

Just ask some simple questions;

Do I love God more than everything else?

Do I pray everyday?

Do I forgive my enemies?

Would I really sell all I have,
Give to the poor,
And follow Jesus
If he asked?

Does the existence
Of one innocent victim
Inflict an overwhelming wound?

Does my own indifference
Garner a guilt that
Nauseates my every nerve?

Do I believe
That my heart too
Bears the original wound
That with sin continuously pins –
Today –
Christ’s body on the cross?

Can I still believe I am unconditionally loved?

Do I believe God will forgive my greatest sin,
Even if I commit it
Over and over again?

Will I give away
What I see to be my deepest desire
If God deigns I do so,
Even when it feels
Like I’ve lost everything
That holds me steady?

Do I believe that my spirit must die to live?

Once I see
How far I am
From mere discipleship,
God’s voice is no longer hidden.

The question is no longer “How?”
But “When?”

God’s voice
The metallurgist’s mallet,
I cannot miss.
I can only choose
Whether or not to submit.

If I do not go now,
The pounding
Of the merely mercilessly merciful mallet will
Still unceasingly echo
In the haunted hallways of my heart.


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Categories: Things Jesuit

Review: “The Promised Neverland” and the Importance of Friendship

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Tue, 01/12/2021 - 01:56

Warning: Spoilers to follow for “The Promised Neverland”

Sometimes the world doesn’t operate how we might think.  In the first season of The Promised Neverland, Emma, Norman, and Ray discovered that the orphanage where they lived was not as warm and loving as it first appeared.  Their caretaker, known as “Mama,” has kept the thirty-some children on the orphanage grounds, unable to see or hear from anybody on the outside before they are all “adopted” by their twelfth birthdays and are never heard from again.

When Emma and Norman discover the cruel reality that the “adopted” children are sold off to monsters who desire the delicacy of human brains, Emma decides that they need to find a way to save all the children, not just themselves.  Emma’s selflessness shocks her companions because her plan is unnecessarily risky.  It would be difficult enough to escape with just the three of them.  Trying to involve all  thirty children  would make any plan more complicated.  What if one of them  reports them to Mama?  What do they do with the smaller children who are uncoordinated and cannot keep a secret?

But Emma persists.  They can save others if they work together in subtle ways.  Only a few other children need to know the reasons behind their planned escape.  The dark secret of the orphanage could paralyze the others with fear.  Once everybody is safe, then they can tell them the whole truth about why they had to leave.

Emma’s noble desires seem to be met with roadblock after roadblock.  Mama recruits another adult to come and help keep watch over the children.  There is a spy among their ranks.  And, after a failed escape attempt, Mama breaks Emma’s leg.  When Norman is “adopted” earlier than expected, all hope seems lost, and Emma is forlorn.

As her leg heals, Emma continues to direct the other children in preparation for their escape.  The first season ends with Emma leading all the children age five and older away from the orphanage.  Emma promises to come back within two years to save the youngest children so that they all can have full and happy lives.

The second season will begin with the children exploring their new and unknown world, facing whatever dangers confront them.  The compassion and selflessness that Emma brought to the rescue attempt rubbed off on her companions, making them more altruistic .  In their actions, the children discover that seeking after their own good is not enough.  They couldn’t rest easy if they got away at the cost of the suffering of others.  

At one point, Norman is given the chance to escape just before he is “adopted.”  Ray and Emma set up a distraction to keep Mama occupied, and Norman scales the wall in the forest at the edge of the property.  However, he returns to the orphanage, choosing to accept his fate and offer the others valuable information for their escape.  He recognized that if he escaped, then his friends would not be able to escape themselves.

That lesson of striving towards the common good is a lesson that can easily be applied to our own lives.  It can seem easier and perhaps even safer to act in ways that only serve our own good, not thinking about or sometimes willfully ignoring the negative impact our actions can have on others.  And we need the example of good people (whether people we know or among the saints) to remind us of how working for the good of others over ourselves is what our faith asks of us.

But this goal can never be accomplished by ourselves.  We simply cannot do everything by ourselves.  Each of us has different skill sets, and we must work with others to better work towards the common good.  Some of us are good organizers while others have good people skills.  As my dad would put it, we each have different tools in our toolboxes, and we have to see the complementarity of those skills.  A screwdriver and a hammer have different functions and neither is better than the other.

But that doesn’t mean that the lesson is easy to put into practice.  We all learn and relearn teamwork when we reach our limits in a difficult course and try our hand at a new game or instrument.  Perhaps it’s more important to think about how we can work with others to help others improve when we have the choice to be selfish.  I’ve picked this up myself as an assistant cross-country coach.  For me, it could be a temptation to look at practices as my own workouts after a long day, but I learned that by working with the other coaches, we became better able to notice injuries early or make certain kinds of workouts feasible.  And as a result, our team improved, and, as it should be, the runners received the accolades.

Emma chose the difficult path of trying to save everyone because she had relationships with the other children at the orphanage.  Her care for them made her want to strive and push herself harder for their sake.  But, if she didn’t have the tempering influences of Norman and Ray who forced her to think critically through the escape plan, she would not have been able to succeed.  She needed them and they needed her to grow as people and to make their dangerous mission plausible.

Here we stand at the start of 2021, in a world that is broken and divided and in need of our goodness.  How will we choose to make decisions that move us in the direction of the common good and of good relationships?


Photo from Flickr

Categories: Things Jesuit

Resumé and Eulogy Virtues

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 01/11/2021 - 05:30

Last month, I attended an online funeral held for William Barry, SJ, a well-known Jesuit spiritual director and author who recently went home to God. The eulogist, Bill Russell, SJ, spoke beautifully of the shape of Fr. Barry’s life and of their good friendship together. In the course of his eulogy, Fr. Russell mentioned two […]

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

Helping Families Recover from Addiction: Coping, Growing, and Healing through 12-Step Practices and Ignatian Spirituality retells Jean Heaton’s journey “working the steps” as a family member of people with addictions.

Click through to read the full article Resumé and Eulogy Virtues, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Raphael Warnock’s Black Liberation Theology Stands and the Faux Christianity of the Capitol Insurrection

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Mon, 01/11/2021 - 01:00

A day after Rev. Raphael Warnock won his seat in the US Senate, Christians stormed the Capitol with crosses and Jesus flags in hand. A day after a black man from Georgia defeated a white woman, insurrectionists waved and hung confederate flags in the halls of Congress. A day after this allegedly “socialist” Senate candidate was victorious, a rebel stormed the Hill with a sign that read, “The real invisible enemy is communism.”

The insurrection on January 6, 2021, was a nasty intersection of Christianity, racism, and capitalism, and it stands in stark contrast to the Christianity that Raphael Warnock represents, one informed by liberation theology. 

The right-wing rebels who stormed the Capitol reminded us that Christianity can be used as a tool of unjust and baseless violence. Warnock’s liberation theology shows that there is a better way to be a Christian that doesn’t involve retreating from the public square. But what is this liberation theology, what is its approach to politics, and how does it oppose the false religion of the insurrectionists? 

Liberation theology is a situated theology. It interprets the gospel from the vantage point of the oppressed, and it claims that God intended the gospel to be interpreted as such. God became human in Jesus to bring good news to the poor (Luke 4:18) and woe to the rich (Luke 6:24). Jesus preaches the liberation of the oppressed and asserts that his kingdom belongs to the poor (Luke 4:18, 6:20). The gospel disrupts the domination of the privileged.

A theology that separates religion and politics is a theology from the perspective of privilege. Liberation theologians, including Warnock in his book The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety, and Public Witness, point this out. A solely pietistic theology serves the interests of rich people and white people by preserving the political status quo. It quietly condones the active harm perpetrated by the religion of the militant right. However, a theology whose purpose is precisely to liberate people from all forms of oppression, including political oppression, not only serves the interests of the oppressed but also is truer to the gospel. 

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., launched the same criticism of apolitical, white Christians in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. “I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities,” he wrote. Both Warnock and King lament white Christians whose eyes always look down at devotional books and never look up to see the violence against their black sisters and brothers around them. It’s not surprising that Warnock sounds a lot like King: they both served as pastors at the same Ebenezer Baptist Church in Georgia. 

To be clear, however, Warnock also notes that liberation theology does not discard piety; rather, it addresses the whole human person, a unity of both spirit and body. Christ, who took human flesh, liberates not only the spirit but also the flesh. The church should do the same. Warnock states, “Authentic piety and true liberation are inextricably linked…the mission of the true church is to save bodies and souls.” In his theology, the flesh matters, and the flesh exists in history. Flesh inhabits a particular political space in relationship to other flesh.

There is no such thing as liberation theology in general. Liberation theology always exists in time and space. It exists in specific historical communities who seek their freedom. For black Christians in the United States, liberation has meant and continues to mean resistance to white supremacy. First, it was resistance to white supremacy institutionalized in enslavement. Now, it means resistance to white supremacy institutionalized in the police, in the capitalist economy, in voter suppression, and in many other power structures. Warnock writes, “The black church was born fighting for freedom, and freedom is indeed its only reason for being.” The church exists for the purpose of liberation, so, indeed, a church that does not fight for freedom is like salt that has lost its flavor (Matthew 5:13).

The Christianity that was on display during the invasion of the Capitol is not “good for anything” and should be “thrown out” (Matthew 5:13). Instead of a force for the liberation of the oppressed as Jesus intended, it is a tool of “white capitalistic forces”—that’s the expression Warnock uses to describe this false church in his book. Warnock’s mentor, James Cone, the father of academic black theology, takes this criticism further. He calls white nationalist Christianity “the Antichrist,” which is an appropriate term given that the New Testament speaks of “antichrists” emerging from within the church itself and denying the embodiment of Christ (2 John 1:7). 

Warnock’s mission in Congress then—and ours—is similar to what the Capitol police ought to have done more rotundly on January 6th: expel white supremacists from the centers of power, including the Church and preach a gospel that liberates the oppressed of all nations, not reinforces the passive piety of the privileged.

color and preach a gospel that liberates people of all nations, not reinforces the passive piety of the privileged.

I pray that Rev. Warnock will bring his theology to Capitol Hill. I pray that he will enact policies that will free the United States from the bonds of greed and racism. I pray that he will use the newfound power of his office to liberate the oppressed.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Baptism of the Lord: Baptized and Beloved | One-Minute Homily

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 01/10/2021 - 01:00

What is God saying to you? Fr. Matt Stewart, SJ, reflects on the Baptism of Jesus and the message given to both Jesus and us. Based on the readings for Sunday, January 10, 2021.

Ever wonder what God thinks about you? Today we all get an answer. 

I’m Father Matt Stewart, and this is my One-Minute Homily.

At his baptism, Jesus hears “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased” as he comes up out of the Jordan River. The privileged relationship that the Father and the Son have allows Jesus to hear these words with such clarity. 

Each of us is loved into existence by God, and sustained at every moment of our lives by God’s love and by the love of our family and friends. So these words aren’t only spoken to Jesus, but to you and me.

I admit that I’m not always paying attention, or just can’t hear these words with the same clarity that Jesus does. But that doesn’t change the reality of God’s undying and all-powerful love for each one of us. 

In today’s feast we are assured that God looks into our eyes and in no uncertain terms says, “You are my beloved child. With you I am well pleased.”

Categories: Things Jesuit


Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 01/08/2021 - 05:30

Every year for the past few years, I have chosen a word of the year. I do not have an elaborate process for choosing this word. Most of the time, the word comes up in my writing and reflection towards the end of the previous year. For 2020, my word was grace. It ended up […]

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

Helping Families Recover from Addiction: Coping, Growing, and Healing through 12-Step Practices and Ignatian Spirituality retells Jean Heaton’s journey “working the steps” as a family member of people with addictions.

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

Categories: Things Jesuit

The Capitol Riot, Transactional Politics and Deals with the Devil

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Fri, 01/08/2021 - 01:00

A great deal of energy has gone into arguing about historical parallels to our time: imperial Rome, Gilded Age America, Weimar (pre-Nazi) Germany. It is important that we get those historical parallels right. It is too easy to draw flattened, one-dimensional lessons from “history” that conveniently reinforce what we already think. 

But there is also a risk in being fussy about history. We might miss that the ultimate purpose of making such comparisons is practical and moral, not theoretical. Are there significant and multiple differences between Trump’s America and Weimar Germany? Yes. But are there still lessons one can draw from the parallel? Yes.

The US is not Weimar Germany, but since 2016 we have been faced with a similar problem. All politicians are a mix of good and evil, and we often support politicians despite serious reservations. This is “transactional” politics, and it is painfully normal. 

The problem is when transactional support becomes blind loyalty, a potent mix of self-deception and fantastic thinking. And so Weimar presents America with a question: when does transactional politics become idolatry? 

Weimar Germany had serious problems, and as a result many Germans tied their fortunes to a radical, dangerous leader because they thought that on balance he would be more good than bad.In some cases, they thought they could mitigate his evil tendencies. They were wrong, of course. But most of them could not or would not see that. 

And a lesson of Weimar for America is that such toxic brews are more common than we think – or perhaps that is a lesson of America for future Weimars. In an effort to nitpick over the right historical parallels, we might miss dangerous situations developing right before our very eyes.

Many diagnoses assume that the problem with US politics is politics itself. But Catholics have a nuanced view toward power. We know from Saints Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and ultimately Christ, that political authority exercised by the proper authorities is by nature good and by dint of sin often evil. Thus, even when we seek to work with the powerful, we know they can always lapse into injustice.

That is why character matters. The virtues tell us something about how a person is, which is to say what he or she characteristically does. Are there simulated virtues? Are there partial virtues? Yes. And that is precisely why character is so crucial to politics. How far can we trust politicians to do good? When and where do we expect them to fall short, even grievously so?  

That proclivity to sin is also why the option for the poor matters. Can we tolerate certain failings and foibles of the powerful in the pursuit of higher goods? We can and we must. But when we give ourselves permission to tolerate the oppression of the weak and the vulnerable, what higher good could we possibly be seeking? Likely only a lowly, self-serving one. 

The Church is a contrast society. That does not mean we are always and everywhere opposed to our local culture. Indeed, we are so wrapped up in it that our opposition to one part of it usually ends up miming the vices of another part. 

But, at the very least, it means that when we do have to choose between the Gospel and culture, we choose the former. And it should also mean in a less dramatic sense that we do not relent in our attempts to share the fruits of the Gospel with that culture.

The US has profound political, economic and social problems, but our ability to respond to them comes down to trust: trust in institutions, trust in elites who populate them, and trust in each other. We clearly have precious little of it. It is that lack of trust that ultimately leads to desperation and deals with the devil.

Catholics have many tasks in the present moment, and each of us has to discern what our particular task must be. But, in whatever we do, we must show that trust is good and that it is possible. 

This task is not just a matter of thinking, but of doing. Christians ultimately must be guided by love of God and neighbor, and love ought to show itself more in deeds than words. That line of Saint Ignatius of Loyola will never be truer than in the coming days.

Categories: Things Jesuit