Things Jesuit

For the Love of a Patient After My Own Heart

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 01/06/2021 - 02:33

The well-known expression, from Shakespeare’s Othello, “to wear your heart on your sleeve” could aptly describe my first day in the cardiac intensive care unit as a student. Try as I might, the jitters brought on by the daunting thought of working with such fragility would not be concealed. Nor could I hide the simultaneous flutter of excitement that pulsed through me at the idea of participating in specialized nursing.    

I arrived early to be an earwitness to the night shift’s report to the dayshift. With awe, I admired how the nurse with whom I was to work that day seamlessly received the report that I could only, at best, make half sense of. Knowledge decanted from the mind of one nurse to the next distilling indispensable bits from any distasteful dregs about the previous night. The final tip-off from the drained night-nurse was her impression that our heart transplant patient would soon begin to recover consciousness as the effect of the heavy drugs diminished.

This was in fact the case:

He was a young adult male with no visitors. Prior to entering his room, I expected to find the symptoms of heart failure that I had been studying for the following week’s cardiology exam. I thought he might be swollen with fluid retention and that his muscles might be atrophied by immobility. Instead, his body showed no signs of debilitating comorbidities, and he was not yet haggard by the wear and tear of longevity. 

If he had not been in the hospital, there would be no reason to think he needed a heart transplant. He did not present weak or bloated. He looked strong. Maybe he was one of the lucky ones naturally gifted with good form, or maybe he spent a great deal of his will to chisel it from potential. In any case, he looked healthy and well cared for and not like my textbook alleged. 

Within the first couple hours of my being there with the patient, he eased his way out of the formerly induced stupor. It began with his subtle grasping after the sheets at the edge of the bed. He made cooing noises. Then he opened his eyes with hesitation the way one does after having been in the dark when suddenly assaulted by light. 

As I watched him come to the realization that he had survived, I felt my own heart wring like a heavy rag beneath my sternum. It worked. The heart transplant was complete; he was here breathing and cognizing on the other side of that moment when he had no choice but to have missed a beat. He searched the bedsheets and eventually found my arm. His first instinct with dawning consciousness was to reach out, gripping with gratitude.    

With a childlike candor, the proud patient exposed to me the sweetness of what he had recovered. A line of Saint Jerome’s articulates the vulnerability, the honesty of which I witnessed: “The face is the mirror of the mind and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.” He clutched my arm, and in a gilded, hazel gaze his new heart spoke to mine. 

He was happy to be alive.

The man’s sense of indebtedness to something greater, as a creature made by a Creator, was communicable in that I understood both his sentiment and it was infectious. I felt with him the gladness that he was given life another day. And with that familiar sensation we humans experience when we are seized by emotion, my heart harshly compressed within my chest and wrung out of me, too, a smile for my own existence. 

Wearing our hearts on our sleeves, another Shakespearean catchphrase was apparent. My patient’s elation avowed that to be is greater than not to be. He prepared himself for the worst case; and in any event, on this side of the heartbeat he had missed it was obvious that the first order was to give thanks. 

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Photo by Magdaline Nicole from Pexels

Categories: Things Jesuit

2020 was the Year of Big Capital. With St. Joseph, Let’s Make 2021 the Year of The Worker.

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Tue, 01/05/2021 - 01:06

Pope Francis recently declared that 2021 will be the Year of St. Joseph, the patron saint of workers. That’s good news for the millions of workers who are suffering from an unjust economic system that the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened. 2020 has been the year of the owner, but Pope Francis’s proclamation gives us hope that 2021 could be the year of the worker. 

Owners of big businesses exploited the pandemic to bolster their personal wealth. USA Today reports, “Over a roughly seven-month period starting in mid-March – a week after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency – America’s 614 billionaires grew their net worth by a collective $931 billion.” If divided equally among every American, that increase of $931 billion, would mean that each person would have gained $2,838. 

However, the fact of the matter is that while Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook saw wealth growth of $46.5 billion, Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX gained $68.2 billion, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon profited by $90.1 billion, many workers earned lower salaries or were fired. At my university, non-tenured faculty, including myself, received a pay deduction but ended up working longer hours to transition classes to online and hybrid formats.

Yet the COVID-19 pandemic is a mere symptom of a deeper economic problem, one that the Catholic Church addresses in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. When Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino presented this document to the Church in 2004, he called on the intercession of “Saint Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer and Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patron of the Universal Church and of Work, so that this text will bear abundant fruit in the life of society as an instrument for the proclamation of the Gospel, for justice and peace.” One of the specific fruits to which the document aspires is a radical change in the way that businesses function. I believe that this change is instrumental in addressing the problem with our economy:

  1. The relationship between labour and capital also finds expression when workers participate in ownership, management and profits. This is an all-too-often overlooked requirement and it should be given greater consideration. “On the basis of his work each person is fully entitled to consider himself a part-owner of the great workbench where he is working with everyone else. A way towards that goal could be found by associating labour with the ownership of capital, as far as possible.”

The idea is simple. Currently, there is a distinction between labor and capital. Labor consists of folks who sell their bodies to their employers for a certain period of time in exchange for wages. Capital is composed of folks who buy these bodies as well as own the raw materials with which labor works and the products that labor produces. According to this arrangement, ownership and capital are coterminous. 

Labor owns neither the raw materials, nor the means of production, the products, nor their bodies during the time at work. Capital owns everything. This distinction means that capital holds significant, almost absolute, power over the workforce. 

When the document speaks of associating labor with the ownership of capital, it is truly asking for something revolutionary: a fundamental change in the way that business ownership works. Instead of the concentration of ownership in the hands of a few capitalists, workers will have common possession with capitalists over the enterprises at which they work. They will be able to shape how management and profit work at their companies because they will be “part-owners.” They will have real, meaningful, decision-making power at all levels of authority in their workplaces.

Just as there has been a historical transition in politics from monarchy and oligarchy to democracy, there can be a democratization in economics that progressively puts power into the hands of workers. In the words of Pope Francis in the declaration of the Year of St. Joseph, the Church wants “fraternal communion” to be the new norm in the workplace. 

This Catholic vision is ambitious. It is unlikely that the aforementioned business tycoons will surrender power to their workers, even if workers pressure them to do so—at least not in the immediate future. Nevertheless, there is a reason to hope. A small but significant change is within reach.

Workers at Amazon may not convince Jeff Bezos to follow Catholic social teaching on the shared ownership of capital, but workers at Catholic businesses such as hospitals, schools, and other nonprofits can persuade Catholic capital to follow Catholic social teaching. 

Laborers at Catholic institutions can organize around their right to own, manage, and share revenue by securing representation on their boards of trustees. They can form unions where unions do not already exist. They can demand that their Catholic employers recognize the rights to which workers are entitled according to the very values their institutions claim to promote. Such a movement of workers would be an important and decisive first step.

It is also possible to leverage the power of ecclesial authorities to achieve the goal of workers’ collaboration with capital. Since bishops grant “Catholic” status to Catholic institutions, bishops could demand that these enterprises comply with a Catholic model of shared ownership in order to retain their Catholic name. The same could be true for businesses that belong to religious orders: religious superiors could call for the organizations under their authority to put paragraph 281 into practice. Pressure to change can come from workers themselves who have an interest in their welfare and from Catholic authorities who have an interest in following the Church’s social teachings. 

St. Ignatius writes that it is better to show love in deeds than in words. Right now, the pages of the Compendium and the pages of Pope Francis’ declaration of the Year of St. Joseph are words. In 2021, with the help of the patron saint of workers and with some labor organizing, we can turn these words into deeds. That way, the prayers of Cardinal Martino will indeed “bear abundant fruit in the life of society.”

Categories: Things Jesuit

Hope for 2021 and the Love of God

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 01/04/2021 - 05:30

What is your hope for 2021? Maybe it’s that life will go back to normal. Maybe your hope is to return to an “in-person” life. Maybe your hope is for a boring news cycle. Is your hope for community? Or to not just survive, but thrive? Hope is the underlining feeling of expectation or desire […]

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

The Scripture, prayers, and reflections in Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2021 will inspire you to a richer daily spiritual experience throughout the liturgical year and invite you to develop a closer relationship with God.

Click through to read the full article Hope for 2021 and the Love of God, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

St. Elizabeth Seton: First American-born Saint | One-Minute Saints

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Mon, 01/04/2021 - 01:00

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is the Saint born in the United States. After facing great loss and tragedy, she focused her life on the needs of others. Juan Ruiz, SJ, reflects on her life and reminds us that her selflessness serves as a model for us to follow.

In the face of personal tragedy and driven by the needs in a new nation, Elizabeth Ann Seton’s selfless response led to her becoming the first American-born saint in the Catholic Church.

Hi, I’m Juan Ruiz with the Jesuit Post.

Born in 1774 into a well-to-do Protestant family, Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton was truly a daughter of the American Revolution.

At 19, she married a wealthy businessman with whom she had five children. Then tragedy struck. 

Her husband’s business failed, and he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. While caring for him, she converted to Catholicism. His health never recovered. When he died, Elizabeth was left as a poor widow of five.

With nothing to her name, she moved to Maryland and opened the first free parochial school for the education of girls. 

Not long after, others were attracted to her mission, and she founded the first community for women religious in the United States. 

Despite tragedy and overwhelming challenges, Elizabeth Ann Seton’s selfless response led to her becoming a true founder of the American Catholic Church and a model for us today.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Epiphany of the Lord: What’s the secret of life? | One-Minute Homily

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 01/03/2021 - 01:00

Today we celebrate the Epiphany, when the wise men visited the child Jesus. They were willing to follow a star to a distant land to find the Lord. How far are we willing to go? Christopher Alt, SJ, delivers this week’s One-Minute Homily. Based on the readings for Sunday, January 3, 2021.

What’s the secret of life? Today’s Feast gives us a hint.

Hi, I’m Christopher Alt, and this is my One-Minute reflection.

In the movie City Slickers, Mitch, an existentially confused urban dweller asks Curly, the rough cowboy, a question: What’s the secret of life? Curly lifts up one finger. “What does that mean?”, asks Mitch. “It means one thing, you stick to that,” says Curly, “and everything else don’t mean nothing.”

On the Feast of the Epiphany, the three wise men give up their palaces, power, and possessions; they say farewell to the most cherished people in the lives to pursue a deeper calling. And from there, they proceed on one mission, they focus on one star, and it leads them to one stable, where they encounter one person, in whom their wildest dreams are fulfilled.

Today’s feast invites us to focus on the “one thing,” Christ, and that all other pursuits mean nothing in comparison.

When we do finally encounter Christ and refuse to hand him over to any Herod or earthly power, then, we will have become truly wise.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Thoughts for January 1

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

This is the octave day of Christmas, dedicated as a solemnity to Mary, the Holy Mother of God. The Gospel invites us to join the shepherds as they visit the newborn child in Bethlehem, and to share in their wonder and joy. Have our celebrations over the Christmas season brought us closer to Jesus and […]

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

The Scripture, prayers, and reflections in Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2021 will inspire you to a richer daily spiritual experience throughout the liturgical year and invite you to develop a closer relationship with God.

Click through to read the full article Thoughts for January 1, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Catholic Guide to 2021

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

Happy New Year!

Let’s all collectively wave goodbye to 2020. Whew- what a year! As we welcome in 2021, this year has a lot in store, and not just the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines or the swearing in of the second Catholic President of the United States. Here at TJP, we wanted to offer you a list of some of the top Catholic events (online and in-person) to look forward to in 2021. 

Get out your calendars and add the following:

1. March for Life (January 29th in Washington, D.C.)

CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic

Beginning in 1974, the March for Life has been held every year in Washington D.C. near the date of January 22nd, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States. This year the event was moved a week later because of the presidential inauguration on January 20th. The March for Life will start at midday with a rally at the National Mall, followed by a march that ends at the steps of the Supreme Court.

In the midst of the pandemic, the March is still going to continue as planned in Washington D.C. But there are also dozens of local marches happening in January to allow people to participate without taking the risks of interstate travel. 

Georgetown University also hosts the annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life every year on the day after the March for Life. This year’s conference will be conducted virtually, allowing people around the country to participate. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $10.

2. FOCUS SEEK21 (February 4-7, live broadcast)

FOCUS SEEK21

FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) is a Catholic collegiate outreach program that sends recent college grads in teams of four missionaries to 170+ college campuses to lead Bible studies and engage the faith of students. Every two years, FOCUS hosts the SEEK Conference. When it was last held in 2019 in Indianapolis, over 17,000 participants attended.

This year’s event, SEEK21, will be a live broadcast experience rather than an in-person event. But it is specifically designed to be experienced in a group setting, so college students are encouraged to participate with their campus community, and others are encouraged to form small groups to participate together (while following appropriate safety measures). Along with tuning in for live events, small groups can organize plans to pray together, attend Mass, have discussions, and share meals.

Keynote speakers this year include international Catholic speaker Chika Anyanwu, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries Bishop Robert Barron, and Christian author and preacher Francis Chan.

3. Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (February 6-9, virtual gathering)

CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering is organized by the Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The event is typically hosted every year in Washington D.C. and draws 500-700 participants.

This year the event will be virtual, and the theme is “Make justice your aim (Isaiah 1:17): Rebuilding Together.” It will focus on the disparities revealed by COVID-19 and new models of justice and solidarity. There will be keynote speakers, workshops with policy experts, best practice-sharing, and even virtual advocacy visits with elected officials. Speakers this year include the Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Tagle, USCCB President Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles, and professor from the Catholic Theological Union Dr. C. Vanessa White.

4. Los Angeles Religious Education Congress (February 18-21, virtual event)

CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Angelus News

Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Religious Education Congress (RECongress) is the largest annual gathering of Catholics in the U.S. with roughly 40,000 people attending. The RECongress is normally split into two parts: a youth day followed by three days for adults. This year the youth and adult component will be held together as the event will be offered virtually.

The theme for this year is “Proclaim the Promise,” inspired by the radical invitation to believe that our lives and our world are sustained by God’s promise (which hasn’t been as easy to believe in the middle of a pandemic). The event will include a variety of speakers and workshops in a mix of English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, along with diverse liturgies and prayer experiences, like a celebration of African American Saints and an Indigenous and First Peoples Prayer Service.

The keynote speakers include Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans Fernand J. Cheri, III, OFM, Sr. Teresa Maya, CCVI, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, founder of El Sembrador evangelical ministry Noel Diaz, and Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ.

5. Pope Francis to visit Iraq (March 5-8)

CNS photo/Vatican Media

After 15 months without international travel, Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to become the first pope to visit the Republic of Iraq. The itinerary is still pending, but he intends to visit the capital city Baghdad, the plain of Ur (named in the Bible as the hometown of Abraham), the city of Erbil, as well as Mosul and Qaraqosh, which stand near the former site of the ancient city of Nineveh.

The Christian presence in Iraq has diminished in the past twenty years. In the early 2000s, there were between 1-1.4 million Christians in the country. But after years of war and instability, including the rise of the so-called Islamic State, the number of Christians has been reduced to 300-400K. The country continues to face political instability and economic struggles, and there are over 1.7 million internally displaced people within Iraq. Pope Francis’s visit will cast a spotlight on these issues while offering hope to a country in turmoil.

6. National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) Convention (April 6-8, live streaming)

CNS photo/Jeff Unroe

The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) is the largest, private professional education association in the world, with membership of nearly 150,000 educators serving 1.7 million students in Catholic education. The NCEA focuses on leadership development in Catholic schools, professional development for teachers, and advocacy for Catholic school education.

Their national convention this year will be held virtually by providing a customized conference experience for each participant. Along with learning best practices from experts, there will be opportunities for networking with Catholic school educators across the country. Teachers or administrators at Catholic schools can sign up individually, and NCEA member schools can sign up collectively.

7. Vatican Conference (May 6-8 in Vatican City)

Photo courtesy of FlickrCC user Neil Howard

Hosted by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Vatican Conference was started in 2011 under Pope Benedict XVI, and it is held every 2-3 years. It brings together the world’s leading physicians, scientists, faith leaders, ethicists, and philanthropists to discuss breakthroughs in medicine, health care delivery, and prevention, along with the impact on culture and humanity from technological advances.

The theme for the 5th Vatican Conference will be “Exploring the Mind, Body, & Soul: Unite to Prevent & Unite to Cure.” It will be moderated by world-renowned journalists including Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN and Robin Roberts from “Good Morning America.” The diverse array of speakers includes Dr. Anthony Fauci, the CEO of Moderna Stéphane Bancel, the co-founder of Partners in Health Paul Farmer, and award-winning opera singer Renée Fleming.

8. Ignatian Year (May 20, 2021 – July 31, 2022)

Mosaic from Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, NYC

Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, the Superior General for the Jesuits, has declared an “Ignatian Year” for the global Society of Jesus. It will officially open on May 20th, 2021, which is the 500-year anniversary of when St. Ignatius was injured by a cannonball in the Battle of Pamplona while he was a soldier. His conversion to a life of holiness that led to the founding of the Jesuits began during his long convalescence from that injury.

Jesuit provinces and Jesuit apostolic works (including parishes, high schools, and universities) will be hosting events over the course of the Ignatian Year. The center of the year will be March 12th, 2022, which marks the 500-year anniversary of the canonization of both St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier. The Ignatian Year will officially conclude on the Feast of St. Ignatius, July 31st, 2022 (a little over one year for those who are counting!).

9. Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (November 6-8 in Washington, D.C.)

CNS photo/courtesy Ignatian Solidarity Network

Held annually in Washington D.C., the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) is the largest Catholic social justice gathering in the U.S. IFTJ brings together roughly 2,000 participants from the Ignatian family (mostly groups from Jesuit high schools and colleges, but many more, including TJP readers!).

The first two days of the Teach-In feature keynote speakers, breakout sessions, prayer and liturgy. Booths are set up outside the event hall, where you can find the smiling faces of TJP staff and pick up free swag! And don’t forget to catch Fr. James Martin, SJ, for a selfie! On the final day of the event, groups head to Capitol Hill to meet with representatives in Congress to advocate for policy changes, on such topics as immigration and criminal justice reform.

Last year’s event was held virtually, and the content will remain available online until June, so check it out. The hope remains to host IFTJ live in November, but details and a theme are still pending. Stay tuned!

10. National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) (November 18-20 in Indianapolis, IN)

CNS photo/Mike Krokos, The Criterion

The National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) is a three-day event for youth and young adults held every two years and organized by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM). During the conference, there is live music, prayer, workshops, opportunities for confession, and shared liturgy. The event is held in Indianapolis with over 20,000 people attending. In 2019, Pope Francis even recorded a message for the event.

The theme for 2021 is “Ablaze-Enciende El Fuego,” inspired by the Acts of the Apostles and the coming of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire. The emcees for this year’s event will be Sr. Miriam Heidland from the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) and Brian Greenfield, a speaker and campus minister.

NFCYM is continuing to monitor the situation amid the pandemic, with hopes that the event can be held in person as planned. Let’s all hope for the best in 2021.

*****

If those ten events aren’t enough to satiate your appetite, here are a few other events that might be of interest:

Categories: Things Jesuit

Goals Set the World on Fire: Messi Nets 644

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Thu, 12/31/2020 - 01:04

One of the few things I carve out time for in my schedule is watching FC Barcelona (Barca) play soccer. Partly because they play the beautiful game, beautifully. The more important reason, though, is the orchestrator of that beauty. You know his name: Lionel Messi. I literally hold my breath every time he gets the ball. Every game he seems to pass another soccer milestone. And on Tuesday, December 22nd, Messi broke yet another record. 

This one, however, might just stand above all the rest. Messi scored a goal in Barcelona’s La Liga match on Tuesday that brought his tally of Barca goals to 644. That is the most any player has scored for a single club. Ever. 

The man who held the record before Messi? Pelé, who played 18 years for Brazilian club Santos FC. That record stood 46 years. 

Why does this record stand above the rest? After all, Messi holds plenty of others: most Ballon d’Ors, most goals in a calendar year (91), La Liga’s all-time top scorer, and the list goes on. This one overtakes this one simply because the chances of it ever being broken are slim to none. 

To put it in perspective, to reach 644 goals a player would need to score 43 goals per season for 15 years while playing for a single club. There will be others with a similar goal-scoring capacity as Messi. Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, has 654 goals to his name. But Ronaldo has played for four clubs in his career. But it’s only ever been Barcelona for Messi. 

Earlier this year, the soccer world was sure Messi was going to leave FC Barcelona, including me. In fact, I wrote an article about it. The truth is I was sad to see Messi leaving because the type of loyalty he has shown FC Barcelona is rare, and it’s becoming ever more rare. Mainly due, I think, to how money influences the decisions of clubs and players alike. You can’t serve two masters. 

It’s a wonder Messi is still at FC Barcelona. Throughout his career, Barca could have sold him off to the highest bidder. Yes, he’s the greatest, but his market value could have bought half a squad, and a good one at that. Add the fact that Messi could have been paid ever more handsomely than he already is to go to another club. 1 Yet, Messi has stayed. And he did long enough to surpass one of the longest standing records in the history of the game. 

And since Messi decided to stay, especially this year when he’s experienced more doubt about his future about FC Barcelona than ever before, he has broken a record that might not ever be surpassed. There are few sports records which will stand for decades. Messi’s ‘most goals for a single club’ is one of them. 

I’m grateful to witness such a record-breaking moment. In a time when I’m mourning the milestones being made with the pandemic and the politics and the environment, it is refreshing to experience observe a milestone worth celebrating. 

I also love that this achievement came just in time for the Christmas season. It has acted as a light for me, something that I can look to and say proudly, “I witnessed the goal that set Messi above Pele.” I don’t think it’s exaggerating too much when I say this was a gift, not only for me, but for soccer fans everywhere. It was a light that peaked through the darkness of Advent, as if to say, “Remember the good! The beautiful! Celebrate life in all its blessings!”

Sometimes in prayer, I wonder why I care about soccer so much. It seems so insignificant and petty when I place it next to all the problems the world is facing. But then God assures me that soccer sparks my heart to life. It fuels my imagination and increases my desire to see something beautiful. And God is in that desire and in that beauty. One can imagine God celebrating things like Jesus first learning to walk as a toddler, or his first spoken words, or maybe his cultivation of his own special gifts and interests, whether carpentry or in studying the flowers of the field and the birds in the air. God is in all these normal, seemingly irreligious things, that fill us with life.

That’s because our God is the God of life! So if you find yourself struggling to see the light of Christmas, recall those “normal” things that spark a fire in your heart. Is it theatre? Celebrate your favorite director, actor or play! Is it biochemistry? Celebrate the wonderful discoveries of science. God is present in all things that inspire awe and wonder in us. 

On this New Years’ Eve especially, let’s put on that hope that we will witness great things in  2021, something that will fill us with amazement and gratitude. Maybe it will be another Messi record (fingers crossed!). But I’ll also settle for something simple, like being able to give my friends a family a hug. That gives me life, too. 

Photo by Chaos Soccer Gear.

Categories: Things Jesuit

I Am Yosef

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 12/30/2020 - 05:30

O Lord, I am Yosef. I am David’s son, heir to your holy promise to make of this people a great nation. But I am small and I am afraid. You have spoken to me in my dreams. I am where you have called me to be, here in this place of my ancestor’s birth, driven here […]

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

The Scripture, prayers, and reflections in Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2021 will inspire you to a richer daily spiritual experience throughout the liturgical year and invite you to develop a closer relationship with God.

Click through to read the full article I Am Yosef, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

About Family Therapy, the Christmas Creche, and Being Molded Deeply Into God’s Divine Embrace

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 12/30/2020 - 02:33

Imagine it’s Christmas morning again. You reach into your stocking and pull out a hefty lump of clay. Directions are attached. 

Step 1: Make clay figures of the most important people in your life. You may sculpt parents, partners, children, friends, coworkers, ex’s, the person who hurt you when you were six-years-old — anyone you have a relationship with and takes up a significant amount of mental space – for good or ill. Also, make a figure of yourself. 

Step 2: Arrange the figures in relation to one another, attending to posture, spacing, and attitude.

For example, where do you place aunt Jonie? Your eldest child? Are all family members huddled around the kitchen table, smiling, while uncle George is crouched in the corner, holding a megaphone? 

Does your clay hand gently press into your partners’ or is it more a tug of war situation? Be honest.  

Step 3: After finishing touches are put on facial expressions, body language, and spacing, step back and ask yourself: What does the scene reveal?

*     *     *     *     *

Every now and then in my work as a therapist, I’ll lead clients through this exercise. It’s a technique from family therapy called “family sculpting.” One needn’t use clay; barbies and action figures suffice. In a pinch, a crayon drawing does the trick.

Regardless of materials used, the next step is always the same. After the family sculpture is finished, I ask the client to explain why people were placed as they were. 

I remember one client who squished all of the clay figures together. She explained her struggle finding healthy autonomy from her family, which required everyone think, act, and feel the same way. 

A second client crafted her father standing rigid with both arms on mom’s shoulders, who knelt at his feet. The eldest sibling sat covering her face at the house’s front door, while the middle siblings circled around the room at various distances. My client, the youngest sibling, left herself completely out of the scene. 

Another client wrote two columns of words on a piece of tissue paper. In column A, he wrote: matriarch, loving, religious, widower. In column B: anxious, sanctimonious, played favorites, trauma. He suspended the paper like a cloud over the entire scene. The tissue represented his grandmother who suffered abuse early in life, and, though long deceased, still wielded considerable influence over the family. 

Family sculpting is a powerful exercise. It uncovers family dynamics when words or verbal descriptions fall short. It’s often a poignant entrance into a fuller conversation about what’s going on and helps individuals express uncomfortable memories and feelings.   

An equally powerful moment is when clients make a second sculpting, this time of how they would like the relationship to look. In this re-molding, families get to envision and express a new reality, a new dynamic and way of being. Then they imagine how to get there, together.

*     *     *     *     *

Sculpture musings came up at Christmas Eve mass when the priest drew my attention to the creche. Suddenly it dawned on me, the nativity scene is God’s family sculpting of sorts. I stepped back to wonder: What does this particular tableau reveal?

It’s a serene, peaceful affair. But this wasn’t always the case.

Joseph once planned on dismissing Mary. Mary once sat confused, wondering how she might bear a child given her circumstances. Did Nazareth gossipers show up to badger them? And who knows the terror the shepherds needed to overcome in the field that evening. Or all the quarrels the magi had on their journey concerning which direction to go. All of this, to say nothing of the long history of chaos, cruelty, and conflict the human family experienced up to that blessed night. 

And yet, the nativity also reveals that out of the messiness of human frailty, sin, and relational impasses, God was artful enough to mold (like a sculptor with messy clay) a new family. 

If God inspired Joseph, an old man, to follow dreams over dismissive impulses, can’t we be inspired, too? 

If God made a young girl the herald of a renewed world order, where the mighty are cast down and the humble lifted up, shan’t we sing a similar song?

If God made lion nuzzle lamb and positioned lowly, unlearned shepherds equally alongside rich and powerful kings, shouldn’t that work of leveling out be ours as well? 

Indeed, our nativity sets – these holy family sculptings –  provide a model of how we are to be with one another. To give space when needed and invite closeness to those cast out; to value each other’s gifts and respect that everyone has an important part to play. Ultimately, they testify that despite any family or community dysfunction of a given moment, there can be healing and hope. None of us are stuck. 

Those clients I accompanied made new realities out of old relational hurts by taking that first, necessary step:  embracing vulnerability – their own and that of those around them. 

That, too, is the message of the Nativity.

Just think of it. All those figures at the Bethlehem stable, made holy because they allowed themselves to be molded around divine vulnerability in the form of an infant, who, at their feet, laid unguarded, exposed, open to all.

The Christmas season isn’t over. The clay is in our hands. What, with God’s guidance, will we make of it this coming year?

-//-

Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels

Categories: Things Jesuit

Review: The True Villain in “Wonder Woman 1984” Isn’t Who You Think

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Tue, 12/29/2020 - 02:00

[Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984]

Wonder Woman 1984 is the fourth on-screen outing for Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. In each previous movie, she has faced ultra-powerful, god-like monsters, but this time the true opponent is quite different and so is the manner in which the opponent is fought. The official villains of the movie, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Dr. Barbara Minerva/Cheetah (Kristen Wiig), are both powerful in their own right, but there is a greater villain lurking in the background.

Greed is the true monster of the movie. Greed, the insatiable pursuit of more. This drive for more is the ultimate motivator for the film’s villains. 

Let’s start with Maxwell Lord. He takes on the power of the Dream Stone, a relic of an ancient god of mischief that has the power to grant what one wishes at an unknown cost. Lord gains the power to grant wishes as well as the ability to take what he wants from the recipient as a consequence. He becomes desperate to grant people’s wishes because with every wish granted he is able to take something for himself. His desire for more keeps taking him further from the thing that he actually wants, which is to build a life that would make his son proud of him.

As for Minerva, she begins as a good person, although one that is clumsy and largely ignored by those around her. Her original desire is to be like Diana, someone she sees as beautiful, confident, and noticed by others. As a consequence of wishing to be like Diana, she unintentionally gains her powers. Her wish gives her a taste of power, and she wants more. Eventually, this consumes her. Her own goodness becomes corrupted by this desire for more and by the end of the movie she is transformed into the bloodthirsty Cheetah. 

*****

For those well-versed in Ignatian spirituality, the term “magis” should sound familiar. The term is directly translated as “more,” but that interpretation is precisely part of the problem in WW1984. After all, greed, the thirst for more, is the ultimate monster of the movie. But it’s the true meaning of “magis” that actually helps save the day.

Interpreting “magis” simply as “more” can be problematic. It can make us think that we need to constantly take on more, do more, and even have more. WW1984 shows the problem with this pursuit of more. While the initial desires of the principle characters are not necessarily bad, it is greed that corrupts these into an insatiable desire for more.

Even Wonder Woman herself is not immune to this desire. It is obvious in the film that she feels alone. It has been decades since she lost her love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and she has outlived her friends. She inadvertently makes the wish to have Steve back in her life before she even knows the power of the Dream Stone. Her wish is shockingly granted. 

But what she doesn’t realize is that the consequence of her wish is the diminishment of her own powers. Over time she becomes weaker and weaker, and it is evident that she does not have the power that she needs to face Maxwell Lord and Cheetah. There is only one way to regain her powers: renounce her wish and give up Steve for good. When she first realizes this, Diana is conflicted. She wants to be able to help people, but she also wants to keep Steve in her life. In this sense she also wants more

*****

“Greatness is not what you think.” 

The true meaning of “magis” in Ignatian Spirituality is not “more,” but that which is “better” or “greater.” It’s not about doing more, but about doing the greater good. Diana’s desire to keep Steve and to help others are both good. But in this case she cannot do both. 

In the movie, this is because of the consequence of her wish, but in reality, we too are often faced with the choice to do what is greater. We can attempt to do it all, motivated by the misinterpretation of magis, but that will often lead to burnout and a diminishment in our ability to do what is best. This is where discernment comes in, because true discernment is always between good things. Diana sees the chaos and pain around her and knows that she must give up Steve in order to do what is right. 

What ultimately allows Diana to pursue the greater good is another concept of Ignatian spirituality: detachment. In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius writes that all created things are intended to help us grow closer to God. We must take up the things that help us do this and let go of the things that prevent us from achieving this. This requires detachment or indifference. This does not mean being unfeeling, but rather, having the freedom to let go of something for the sake of pursuing the greater good. 

Diana’s detachment from Steve doesn’t mean that she stops caring for him all of a sudden. This much is evident from how painful it is for her to renounce her wish. But she is able to do it because she knows what is the greater good.

****

How does it all play out? Wonder Woman and Cheetah engage in a physical showdown, but the true final battle is an appeal by Diana to Maxwell Lord and the people of the world to recognize the greater good, or the magis. She invites them to see the destruction that is being caused by their own blind pursuit of more, fueled by greed. 

It can be easy to write off the message of the movie because of its fantastical nature, including the fact that much of the chaos is caused by the consequences of a “wishing stone.” But the fact is that our own actions have consequences. And when they are motivated by greed and selfishness, the consequences usually have a negative effect on those around us and ourselves. 

Maxwell Lord thought that he was gaining everything. But he was losing his family in the process. Does this not happen in our world? Barbara wanted to be noticed and desired, and she was willing to give up her best qualities, her kindness and goodness, to do so. Does this not happen in our world as well?

Even with the best of intentions, the pursuit of more can keep us from doing the greater good. Like Diana, we might be tempted to do it all, but we can’t. The danger with interpreting “magis” as “more” is that we can take on too many good things, doing none of them well and harming our mental, physical, and spiritual health in the process. 

This is a huge temptation for many of us. Rather than taking the time to make hard choices or, God forbid, telling someone “no,” we attempt to do everything until we’re completely worn out. Ignatian spirituality has the tools to help us pursue the greater good. Discernment can help us to take an honest look at what is before us and what would be best, for us and for others. Detachment can give us the freedom that we need to let go of some things, even when it is difficult. 

Instead of giving into greed for more, we need to grow in the freedom to let go for the sake of the greater good. Just like Wonder Woman.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Connecting with Family During the Holidays

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 12/28/2020 - 05:30

With the pandemic disrupting so many holiday plans, our family’s generations may be separated from each other physically. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t still connect with extended family in meaningful ways during this last week of 2020. For inspiration, see “Family Stories and Family Faith,” one of the free family downloads available at […]

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

The Scripture, prayers, and reflections in Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2021 will inspire you to a richer daily spiritual experience throughout the liturgical year and invite you to develop a closer relationship with God.

Click through to read the full article Connecting with Family During the Holidays, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Christmas 2020: Holding out Hope | One-Minute Homily

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 12/27/2020 - 01:00

What do you hope for? Simeon and Anna were holding out hope to see the Messiah and their hope was realized in the baby Jesus. Josef Rodriguez, SJ, reflects on hope and the great Hope of Jesus Christ. Based on the readings for Sunday, December 27, 2020.

What are you holding out hope for?

Merry Christmas! I’m Josef Rodriguez, and this is my One-Minute Reflection.

We are finally into the Christmas season. I know I’ve found myself singing, “Yes we need a little Christmas, right this very minute!” even before Advent started. Today we focus on the Holy Family; and in Luke’s Gospel we hear about their encounter with Simeon and Anna, two wise individuals who had been holding out hope for the coming of the Messiah. They were waiting for the first Christmas with even more anticipation and excitement than we have in 2020.

In challenging times like these, we find ourselves holding out hope, whether it’s for the New Year; for the end to wearing masks and safe-distancing; or for a realization of true justice for all human persons from womb to tomb. Simeon and Anna remind us that every single lowercase ‘h’ “hope” should be motivated by the one capital ‘H’ “Hope.” This Christmas season, let’s reflect on what our hopes are and invite Jesus to take part in them.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Merry Christmas!

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 12/25/2020 - 05:30

“How blessed are we all, that one child was born, How blessed are we all on this great Christmas morn!” —The Shepherd’s Story by Jimmy Dunne Enjoy “The Shepherd’s Story Song” as our special musical gift to you. May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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

The Scripture, prayers, and reflections in Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2021 will inspire you to a richer daily spiritual experience throughout the liturgical year and invite you to develop a closer relationship with God.

Click through to read the full article Merry Christmas!, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

A Baby’s Cry: The Sound of Christmas | One-Minute Homily

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Fri, 12/25/2020 - 02:00

Merry Christmas from the Jesuit Post!

The cry of a baby reminds us of their presence in our lives. Today we celebrate Jesus Christ making himself known to us through the cry of a newborn baby. Matt Stewart, SJ, delivers this special Christmas Day One-Minute Homily.

Of all days, Christmas is a day when we should all hope to hear the lovely cacophony of babies crying at Mass.

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

When babies cry, we are reminded that they are there with us. And Christmas is a sacred invitation for us to sit with and contemplate the deep mystery of who God is and continues to be: that God is with us, in the flesh, every moment of every day.

The Almighty, who holds the entire universe in His hands today becomes a baby who must be held in the hands of his mother. The King of Kings, attended by the heavenly court and worshipped by angels, today is surrounded by barnyard animals and adored by shepherds.

And the most eloquent way for God-with-us to announce that reality is not through teachings or parables or words of mercy and love, but with the wordless, beautiful, and heartrending cry of a newborn baby.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Yearning for Light

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 12/23/2020 - 05:30

The Earth is yearning. I can see it in the strings of lights, so many more this year dangling so much earlier. I can hear it in the music of the season playing before that November feast. I have seen it in the Yuletide movies streaming in summer, and even spring. We are yearning afar […]

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

The Scripture, prayers, and reflections in Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2021 will inspire you to a richer daily spiritual experience throughout the liturgical year and invite you to develop a closer relationship with God.

Click through to read the full article Yearning for Light, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

I Saw Love Reveal Itself in Vocations and Baptisms

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 12/23/2020 - 02:33

I expected a look of shock, and maybe some tears. At the very least I thought he’d wince. My hand was shaking a little. What would he think? There’s no way he’d remember this, right? I knew I would though.

***

I met my friends when we were freshmen in college. By the grace of God (acting through some random Residence Life staffer) we were all assigned to the same floor in our freshman dorm. They started dating about the same time I started seriously discerning joining the Jesuits. She was accepted to law school about the same time I was accepted to the novitiate. They moved to Ann Arbor. I moved to Syracuse.

By the time they got engaged, they had moved to Boston. I had moved to New York City. They decided that they wanted to be each other’s adventure companion for life. My daily adventure was teaching high school boys about morality and the Bible. All three of us knew we’d found something worth hanging on to.

I did one of the readings at their wedding and cried a little. We danced a lot and celebrated well into the wee hours of the morning. He started grad school. I moved to Boston and did the same.

I knew she was pregnant before they told me. Your best friend can’t just refuse a cold beer on a hot August day and not expect you to get suspicious. I knew they’d been talking about starting a family. The beer really gave it away though.

The next eight months weren’t all smooth. There were doctor visits, tests, and a global pandemic. But they got through it together, and I was grateful to be along for the ride.

I stood at the bottom of their steps on May 1st holding a couple bags of groceries. They stood just inside the door. She was holding their three-day-old son. My nephew. It was love at first sight.

***

Seven of my Jesuit brothers and I were ordained as deacons on September 20th. I’m helping out at a great parish in South Boston and have been incredibly grateful to dive head first into ordained ministry. I love preaching, assisting at Mass, and chatting with parishioners. But the baptisms have been the highlight.

Kids are involved, so something is almost guaranteed to go off-script, and it’s entirely guaranteed to be joyful, memorable, and holy.

There was the little girl who, seeing me hand her sister’s godparents a baptismal candle, interrupted, “I want a candle too!” Another day the family decided to improvise their answers to the renunciation of sin and the profession of faith. 

ME: Do you reject Satan? 

THE PARENTS: Absolutely!

ME: And all his works?

THE PARENTS: Mmhmm!

ME: And all his empty show? 

THE PARENTS: Sure do!

And then there was the baby boy who, seeing my hand outstretched to anoint him, lunged his head forward and rinsed the oil off my thumb in a flood of drool. The parents and I laughed. I resolved to tell the story to my housemates later. The children became members of the Body of Christ. And we’re all holier for it.

***

I’m utterly convinced God calls each and every one of us to the exact same vocation: to love. The way in which God calls us to love is a much trickier question to figure out and a more winding road to walk. My friends’ path to marriage and parenthood started about the same time as my journey to ordination. We’ve been walking together (both literally and figuratively) for the entirety of our adult lives. 

At 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, September 21st, our shared journey found us, along with a few friends and family members, at the parish where I’d just finished giving my first homily. I hadn’t been ordained for a full 24 hours yet. We gathered around the font.

I glanced up at my friends. What would our 18-year-old selves say if they knew that this moment was where this path of life and love would lead us? It’s tough to say which of the three of us would have been the most surprised by this scene. I prayed that their son, my nephew, would give and receive that much love – no, more, even more – as he began his life as a Christian. I plunged my hand into the water and started pouring.

“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

I still struggle to find words to explain what it meant, baptizing my best friends’ son as one of the first things I did after ordination.

There was no look of shock, no surprise, no tears, not even a whimper. Just love.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Mary, Mona Lisa, and Seeing Through the Icons

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 12/21/2020 - 05:30

When I was 16 years old, I saw da Vinci’s Mona Lisa for the first time. Sort of. I was on a high school exchange trip to France for two weeks, and even at 16 knew that visiting the Louvre and seeing this masterpiece was a “must.” But once I arrived, I had a hard […]

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

The Scripture, prayers, and reflections in Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2021 will inspire you to a richer daily spiritual experience throughout the liturgical year and invite you to develop a closer relationship with God.

Click through to read the full article Mary, Mona Lisa, and Seeing Through the Icons, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Before We Give, We Receive | One-Minute Homily

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 12/20/2020 - 02:00

Sometimes we feel more comfortable giving gifts rather than receiving them. Hunter D’Armond, SJ, reflects on Mary and how we need to humbly receive God’s grace before we are able to give to others. Based on the readings for Sunday, December 20, 2020.

Why is it so awkward receiving Christmas gifts???

Hi, I’m Hunter D’Armond and this is my One-Minute Reflection.

If you are anything like me, you might enjoy giving other people gifts, but when it’s time to receive a gift, well, it becomes a little uncomfortable.

We shouldn’t worry, though, because I think Mary felt similarly when the angel Gabriel told her, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” The gospel says she was troubled and didn’t know what that meant.

But at the end of Mary and Gabriel’s conversation, she humbly accepts this gift from God in saying “may it be done to me according to your word.” It’s by humbly accepting this tremendous gift from God that she is then able to give birth to the greatest gift to the world: Jesus Christ.

So, following the example of Mary, let us remember that the more we allow ourselves to be filled up with God’s gift of grace, the more we can give birth to Christ in our own lives.

Categories: Things Jesuit

How Someone Who Trusts in God Acts

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 12/18/2020 - 05:30

If I trust God, how will that affect my behavior? That depends on what I trust God to do or be. If my expectation is that God will beat up my enemies and make sure I get what I pray for, then I am likely to act proud, vindictive, and entitled. Trusting God to be […]

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

The Scripture, prayers, and reflections in Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2021 will inspire you to a richer daily spiritual experience throughout the liturgical year and invite you to develop a closer relationship with God.

Click through to read the full article How Someone Who Trusts in God Acts, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

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