Things Jesuit

Knocking and Persistence

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 09/01/2021 - 05:30

By Gretchen Crowder

One Saturday morning, while our sons were playing peacefully inside, my husband and I went out into the front yard to discuss what work we wanted to do next on the house. While we were outside, one of our four-year-old twins locked us out. The minute we heard the click, we turned around to catch […] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

In Always Discerning, Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ, shares how we can implement discernment into not only life’s big decisions but also into the everyday, more mundane choices we constantly have to make.

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

Categories: Things Jesuit

A Song for Discerning to take that Leap of Faith

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 09/01/2021 - 02:33

As a scientist, I am sometimes terrified of not being able to predict the outcome of my actions. But as a Jesuit, I’m often called to take huge leaps of faith. Discernment has taught me a lot about working through those conflicting feelings.

Many times, the most terrifying moments boil down to what a Jesuit friend calls “our fundamental life question.” As he explains, we often ask a basic but critical question, usually having to do with love and belonging, and this question is usually unconscious and unspoken. My own fundamental question is some version of: “will they still love me if…” These are the questions that feel like risks and leave us open to the possibility of falling. Here’s a song that has helped me take those leaps  over the past few months.

If I fall, will You catch me? // If I get lost, will You find me? // I feel afraid of leaving what’s safe, but I can’t stay here. // If I fall, will You catch me?

If you’ve ever tried walking through a dark room before your eyes have adjusted, you know the feeling of anxiety that comes with taking each step. For me, that feeling often leads to inaction, the freeze response to a perceived threat, like waiting for my eyes to focus in low light.

I had a lot of those moments this past year throughout the Pandemic, asking myself questions like: could going to a store put my whole community at risk? If I try to reconnect with an old friend, will they feel the same way? I realized that I was asking my fundamental question again: Will they still love me if I made a mistake? Will they still love me if I have changed? Will they still love me if they have changed?

If I walk through that doorway // And the look on their faces say I’m crazy // I’m learning that risks feel like mistakes, but isn’t that called faith? // And if I fall, will You catch me?

The thing that makes these moments feel so perilous is the uncertainty. We cannot predict the outcome. Yet these moments also offer us a choice and that extraordinary gift of exercising our free will.

In Ignatian terms, we use the tools of prayerful discernment and seek indifference toward all created things, favoring that which leads us closer to God above all else. Part of Ignatian indifference for me means not acting because of a guaranteed outcome but because of my relationship with God. And relationships always involve risk. 

Discernment does not take away that risk, but it can help us work through our anxieties and act anyway. Acting on our discernment is the way we test it out. We place our well-discerned action into the world and wait for a response. In some ways, we are always asking: will this choice result in greater death or life?

And what if the doors all close and lock // And I find out I chased a mirage? // Wondering if I even heard You at all // And what if the cost is high to pay // And I’d rather you take the cup away? // I second guess if the choice I made was worth it.

And, of course, the answer is often: Both. All Most choices involve some type of death: of our ego, of a relationship, of a promising opportunity. The most difficult discernment for me is between two good things, because choosing one means letting the other die. Sometimes I have to let go of things or people I love. Yet for Christians, the promise of new life is always stronger. We do not seek out the pain and suffering involved in death, but we accept them insofar as God invites us into new life. And when we do fall, we trust God to help us back up.

We can borrow another piece of encouragement from the Spiritual Exercises, the method of prayer developed by St. Ignatius which many people experience through a 30-day silent retreat. Several of the contemplations propose that we imagine the whole Heavenly Court with us at important moments to bring us courage and support.

But what if Heaven is cheering me on? // David’s pleading, “Sing your song” // Mary’s shouting, “Waste it all! // He’s worth it!”

Amidst this supportive community, we can find an answer and gain the confidence to claim that God will catch us. In answer to my fundamental question, these answers often come in the form of small and surprising gestures of love from my communities. It is those moments when I am able to see clearly that a simple text message is God’s answer to me: “yes, they still love you.” 

And You will catch me.  // You will catch me.

In those kinds of moments, what fundamental questions are you asking? Try taking this question to prayer, and with the whole Heavenly court surrounding you, listen for an answer. Then the next time you find yourself asking that question, do your best to discern well, and then act. If you involve God in the process, you can’t go wrong. Take the leap, and ask God “will you catch me?”

Oh, say You’ll catch me // I know You’ll catch me // You will catch me


Categories: Things Jesuit

Prayer of an Aging Disciple

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 08/30/2021 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

Lord, grant me the grace to live in the present and recognize what is possible to look to the future and trust you to be silent, and hear your voice in the stillness to do what you ask without arguing to humbly adapt to radical change to serve, and to graciously accept being served to […] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

For all who sense that there is a missing peace in their lives, Busy Lives & Restless Souls by Becky Eldredge will help them find it—right where they are.

Click through to read the full article Prayer of an Aging Disciple, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

The Things That Come From Within | One-Minute Homily

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 08/29/2021 - 01:00

Jesus says it is what comes out from within that can defile. Eric Sundrup, SJ, reflects on our own need to take a look within our own hearts in this week’s One-Minute Homily. Based on the readings for Sunday, August 29, 2021.

I’m rubber and you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!

Hi, I’m Fr. Eric Sundrup and this is my One-Minute Homily.

Ever been scared of what all the other kids are going to say about you? I remember having some of those fears when I was years old, and those were real and they were big. When I told my parents they taught me some silly little rhyme about rubber and glue. And yeah, it didn’t make me the coolest kid, but it is an important lesson.

It tells you about what’s inside and that’s what counts. The way we treat others, that tells people who we are.

In the gospel today Jesus notes: 

“Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.

From within people, from their hearts, come evil….”

Let’s all take a little time today and search our hearts, what’s in there? Anything we need to clean out?

Probably, and that’s fine. We could all use a little cleaning. Let’s get to it.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Prayer for Vocations

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 08/27/2021 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

We conclude our month of Faber Fridays with this video version of St. Peter Faber’s “Prayer for Vocations.” Continue to be inspired by Faber with Jon M. Sweeney’s book, Peter Faber: A Saint for Turbulent Times. ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

For all who sense that there is a missing peace in their lives, Busy Lives & Restless Souls by Becky Eldredge will help them find it—right where they are.

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

Categories: Things Jesuit

Seeing the Good: “Shaman King” and Human Dignity

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Fri, 08/27/2021 - 02:33

What is your dream?  What would be the thing that you would strive for no matter what?  We can answer that question in a myriad of ways, and the answer may vary from year to year.  But, I think that deep down we all have something we want more than anything else.  The question is how hard are we willing to work to make that dream a reality?

The newly released anime series Shaman King comes at that question a little differently.  In its world, there is a group of people called shamans who have the ability to interact with the spirits of the dead.  Shamans can temporarily fuse with the spirits to take on their skills for themselves, and more advanced ones can also channel the spirits into objects related to them (like a samurai spirit into a katana).  Every 500 years, there is a tournament to determine who is the titular Shaman King.  And the winner of the worldwide tournament gains the power to make their wish come true as they live out the rest of their life.

The series follows a teenage shaman named Yoh as he prepares to enter the Shaman Fight.  1  In the beginning of the series, the character is carefree and lazy. His dream is only to live an easy life, but initially he’s not even motivated to train to win the tournament. It takes the prompting of his fiancee Anna to hone his body and his techniques in order to stand a chance in the tournament itself.

Yoh’s dream is very selfish.  He wants to win the tournament because it will let him do whatever he wants.  And Yoh’s desires are very simple: to listen to his favorite music and to relax.  His desires, however, grow and change as he meets more participants.  As the series goes on, Yoh even begins to take on the dreams of others too.

Part of what makes Yoh such an interesting character to me is that he sincerely believes that only good people can see ghosts. Therefore, none of the shamans in the tournament is a bad person.  Even so, only one person can become the Shaman King; only one person gets to make their dreams come true.  But Yoh is moved by the people he battles against and promises to make their dreams his if he becomes Shaman King.

His empathy is his most endearing quality.  Yoh does not give up on other people, nor does he mock their dreams.  He is able to create allies out of his former enemies, and he shows people that they’re not alone.  He does this through a surprisingly strong emotional maturity, something that is not often the case for anime protagonists.  Everybody we encounter in the series, in his mind, deserves a second chance, because they can see ghosts and must be a good person, if only deep down.

And in our own lives, do we honor that same stance?  Do we see the other people in our world as good and capable of redemption?  Do we hold fast to our own hurts or grudges and think others cannot or will not change?   If you’re like me, you probably have days where you see the good in others, and days where you’re convinced someone is irredeemable. 

Having grown up Catholic, I cannot help but think of the old teaching that each person has inherent, inviolable dignity.  When I taught freshman theology, I made it a point to focus on the first creation story in Genesis, which says that we as people are created in God’s image (Gen 1:27).  No matter what we do, we are still worthy of love and dignity because we reflect God in our very selves.  And all too often, I can forget that about others and myself.

So, do we let hurt and pain dictate the way we interact with the world (as so many other characters in the series do)? 2  Or, do we choose to follow Yoh’s example and trust in the inherent goodness of others and try to help them?  And even though it is not easy, that is the challenge to which our faith calls us. 


Categories: Things Jesuit

Four Strategies for Discernment

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 08/25/2021 - 05:30

By Vinita Hampton Wright

In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, there are various “rules for the discernment of spirits”—what we would simply call principles of wise discernment. Included in these rules are four helpful strategies to use when trying to make a good decision. Line up the pros and cons. Make a list of all the advantages of […] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

For all who sense that there is a missing peace in their lives, Busy Lives & Restless Souls by Becky Eldredge will help them find it—right where they are.

Click through to read the full article Four Strategies for Discernment, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

A Wider Circle of Friends

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 08/23/2021 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

As friends of God, we are invited to become friends with all of God’s friends. God invites us to widen our circle of friends to include God’s friends wherever we meet them. There are no boundaries limiting God’s friends; friendship with God opens us up to a wider and wider circle of potential friends. Because […] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

By discerning our deepest desires, we discover our truest selves. Read Tim Muldoon’s Living Against the Grain.

Click through to read the full article A Wider Circle of Friends, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Abandoning Afghanistan: Trying to Process It All

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Mon, 08/23/2021 - 02:33

I have yet to discover how I am supposed to feel about the abandonment of Afghanistan.  I can only imagine how it must be for the people who were more intimately involved in the war than I was.  As an Air Force officer, I served in an airborne command center that arranged close air support for ground troops under fire.  It is one thing to coordinate close air support from 30k feet  – it is quite another thing to fight the battle on the ground.  They carry something I will never know.

Regardless of how anyone served, every person who served lost something or someone over there.  For me, I lost the belief in the moral superiority of the Department of Defense.  When people who are responsible for the region around Herat, Afghanistan, lament that their situation is not as intense as the Afghan city of Kandahar (as some of my own teammates did), then there is a severe moral disconnect.  We were not sent to be excited by violence.  That said, my disillusionment does not amount to much at all next to the loss of even one human life.  We all lost and none of us gained anything but some combat pay and a few ribbons or medals to put on our uniforms – a consolation prize of sorts.  It’s a strange “thank you”, but how’re you supposed to thank people for waging a war to bolster an Afghan government that was perennially struggling with legitimacy?  You award them, promote them, and thinly pretend that they’re winning all along.

All I know is that my heart is breaking.  It breaks for the people of Afghanistan, especially our collaborators (interpreters, etc.) whom we abandoned to be executed alongside their families.  More than 300,000 Afghan civilians have aided the US government.  The US government has agreed to receive 22,000 of them.  Is there no more that the US can do?  Is this really the extent of our solidarity and hospitality?  I cannot help but feel that the US would have found a place for more of them if this had been a European war and they had been German or French, but this cynicism offers no comfort.  It only offers another reason for a heart to break.

My heart also breaks for my fellow veterans who were involved in Afghanistan.  I find myself asking if this was all for nothing?  Surely, we all wanted the horrible thing to be over, yet we Americans have this strange way of consenting to the pain of a prolonged war rather than deal with the pain of defeat.  When we tell ourselves that we must stay the course (or kick the can down the road) in order to avoid the shame of defeat, we lie to ourselves – clearly we are now stuck with both the painful memory of a long war and the pain of defeat.  Is there any healing from the pain that those who served suffer?  The loss of lives, limbs, friends, time, mental health, spiritual health, etc.?  Will we just ignore the pain like our country ignored the war for the better part of 20 years?

My heart breaks for the soul of the United States.  After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan fell off the government and media radar.  The Obama Administration showed renewed, if minimal, interest, but that died with the Arab Spring.  In all the presidential administrations from George W. Bush to today, a cold war with Iran was more important than a hot war in Afghanistan.  The people who waged the war were well aware of Washington’s boredom with war.  Presidents would take on new wars in Iraq, Syria, and Libya rather than focus on the war they already had.  Washington would constantly push a refocus on Eastern Europe or a pivot to the Pacific, all while still sending people to take care of the dirty job of Afghanistan.  It was clear to those who listened that Washington would have rather forgotten all about Afghanistan.  

Not even the citizens of the United States cared unless a loved one was deployed (as of 2019, 775,000 troops had been deployed to Afghanistan, not counting those who worked on operations in Afghanistan from other countries).  It was a vastly unpopular war, but the US citizens could not even muster the energy to protest it.  It was always a war best forgotten – a tedious and confusing war, one that embarrassed us if we chose to remind ourselves of it.

Where is God in the collapse of Afghanistan?  My answers feel like trite platitudes.  In my attempt to make sense of this all, I wonder if the situation serves as a reminder that we live in a fallen world desperate for a Redeemer.  Yet we already knew the world was fallen and we could have easily done without all this pain.  Perhaps God is trying to remind us that American Exceptionalism is true only insofar as America is exceptionally bad at resolving conflict, but that sounds more like my own agenda than God’s.  In my annoying and impatient search for God in the midst of so much suffering, I can take some solace only in knowing where God is not.  God is not in the excuses for the war.  God is not in the hatred and the bloodlust that pervades in Afghanistan and in the hearts of some who served.  God is not in the seemingly futile exercise of thinking about what we should have done about Afghanistan (something I fall into often).

Yet I must believe God is still here.  In my quieter moments, I can just barely find a mere silhouette of God – our God kneeling and crying on the flight line in Kabul, amidst the throngs of desperate people.  I can perhaps see our God mourning this damnable war and the senseless loss of life.  I can maybe see God’s heart breaking.

As is often the case with suffering and evil, I can only find God in the grief.  And while I remember that “blessed are those who mourn,” I certainly don’t feel the blessing.  Perhaps now is not the time to feel blessed, though.  Perhaps the sadness of grief is what I am actually supposed to feel.

Categories: Things Jesuit

The Hard Work of Discipleship | One-Minute Homily

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 08/22/2021 - 01:00

Being a disciple of Jesus is not easy, but it is worth it. Are we willing to put in the work? Doug Jones, SJ, reflects on discipleship in this week’s One-Minute Homily. Based on the readings for Sunday, August 21, 2021.

Following Jesus is hard work!

Hi, I’m Doug Jones, and this is my One Minute Reflection.

Have you ever started a diet, or an exercise plan, and struggled to keep it going? Don’t we always joke about New Year’s resolutions failing by mid-January? Making changes in our lives is hard work, and keeping at them is even harder.

Even more than a diet or exercise plan, God’s call demands our full commitment. We see in today’s Gospel that even Jesus’ closest followers, those who knew him best, started to abandon him. They couldn’t commit to the work.

What about us? Will we abandon him too? 

Committing to the work of God is a choice, and it’s one that we keep making throughout our lives. Each day, we face a decision: to put in the work to serve God and God’s people, or not. To return the love that God has lavished on us, or not. 

Jesus gives us the freedom to follow him or abandon him. But where else but Jesus can we find the “words of eternal life?”

Categories: Things Jesuit

Peter Faber and the Heart Space

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 08/20/2021 - 05:30

By Rebecca Ruiz

Ignatius Loyola and Peter Faber were students together at the University of Paris, roommates in fact. Peter tutored Ignatius in Aristotle, and Ignatius tutored Peter in spirituality. Faber already had a rich and deep spirituality. Ignatius had already composed his Spiritual Exercises in the cave at Manresa. One can only imagine the late night talks […] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

By discerning our deepest desires, we discover our truest selves. Read Tim Muldoon’s Living Against the Grain.

Click through to read the full article Peter Faber and the Heart Space, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Christ Plays in 10,000 Places eBook

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 08/18/2021 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

Celebrate the Ignatian Year with a free eBook of seasonally inspired prayers, poems, reflections, and illustrations. Contributors include Mark Thibodeaux, SJ, Vinita Hampton Wright, Eric Clayton, and 23 more from across the Jesuit network. Sign up to receive the eBook, Christ Plays in 10,000 Places: Through the Year with Ignatian Spirituality, from the Jesuit Conference […] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

By discerning our deepest desires, we discover our truest selves. Read Tim Muldoon’s Living Against the Grain.

Click through to read the full article Christ Plays in 10,000 Places eBook, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

What St. Alberto Hurtado Said about His 1946 Visit to America

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 08/18/2021 - 01:00

The following is a translation of a reflection by St. Alberto Hurtado about his visit to America in 1946. It is published in Spanish here. Today, August 18th, is St. Alberto Hurtado’s Feast Day. 

I just returned from the greatest country in the world. At least that’s what the leader of the second greatest, Churchill, said about the U.S. while staying in the largest and most comfortable hotel on the globe, the Waldorf Astoria. The U.S. has the tallest building: the Empire State with 102 floors. They have Radio City, the largest theatre, teeming with people all day and night. Subterranean tunnels cross under the rivers. There are three, four or more means of transportation. They have all the records: speed, four thousand kilometers in four hours; production, five hundred automobiles an hour, soon to be a thousand. They have 46% of the world’s gold. There’s fantastic technical progress. Death has been delayed, life prolonged. From Washington DC, a plane takes off every three minutes. Their great ships can cross all the oceans. There are millions of automobiles and refrigerators. Yet, as someone has said, “So what?”

What was my impression as a whole? Material things are not enough. Civilization does not satisfy. Comfort is a good thing, but it’s not where happiness is found.  It gives too little and costs too much! These toys rob people of their true greatness. The price of all this “lifestyle” for the great majority is its own destruction, losing touch with the spirit, blindness towards the supernatural. 

People of progress dominate matter. They are clean, hygienic, well built for sports, healthily fed, well clothed, with access to music and a car, a nice car! Perhaps for some, there are trips around the world, comfortable homes, spouses for as long as one gets along with them. You eliminate sickness and die at seventy. What more can you ask?

Having just returned from this splendid trip via cargo ship, nice and slow, the only passenger, with time to pray, think and write, I reflected, “Is this all there is?”

I look up at these splendid, magnificent, and imposing heavens that protect us: again, is this all there is to life? Seventy years with all these conveniences? Humanity is the king of creation. Is it all for this? Is human progress merely the possession of a bathroom, a radio, a washing machine, and a car? Is this the greatness of humanity? Is there nothing more than this? Is this what life is all about? All the while, we wait for the next war that we can all sniff in the winds of our times. We await it with fear and trembling.

Empire State, Chrysler: how much longer will you stand? The Ford, Packard and Chrysler factories, how long will you last? Horrified by the threat of nuclear war, not long ago, Einstein wrote that we now have atomic energy at our disposal. We have recently managed to achieve fission, and, as a result, two thirds of humanity might perish! Is this life? Is this our crowning achievement?

And then I look at the calm, serene night sky. I see the stars sending their gentle light. And these words resound in my ears: “God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son” (John 3:16). God loved me, even me! Who? God! The Creator of all energy, of the stars and the earth, of humanity, of perhaps two thousand generations of people who have lived on the earth and millions more that may come. This immense God before whom insignificant humanity disappears.  God is so much greater than we are!

What does God think of humanity? Of human life? Of the meaning of our existence? Does God condemn these inventions, this progress, this eagerness to discover effective new medicines, fast cars, planes with zero risk? No. Rather, God is overjoyed with these efforts to better this life of ours.  But for those who still have ears to hear despite the noise around them, God tells us, “I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).

Listen, son. Listen, daughter. It’s me. Who? Me, Jesus, Son of God. Jesus, true God. Me, the eternal God. I have come. I have journeyed, a very long journey.  From the infinite to the finite, a journey so long it scandalizes the wise and rattles philosophers.  From the infinite to the finite! The eternal to the temporal! God to the creature? Yes, that’s it! This journey is real. I have come. This is my journey! 

For humanity. The only reason for this journey: humanity. That minuscule yet great creature! Because though small, humanity is great. The greatest creature in the universe? Greater than the stars? I have never made a journey for them, even less suffered for them! But for humanity, yes.   

For humanity, but perhaps you do not understand me: I have come for you, for you! I do not love the masses, I love each person: each man, each woman.

I have come that you may have life. Life? What life are you talking about? Life, true life. The only life that can justify God’s journey is divine life: “That we might be called and be children of God” (1 John 3:1). We are called and truly are God’s children! The eternal God does not make such a journey except to give us a gift of great price: nothing less than God’s own divine life, participation in God’s nature given through grace.    

Do we believe in this life? There are Catholics, like the one I met on my trip who said to me, “Another life? No, Father, you’re joking.” There are Catholics who have never thought about this life. In fact, the majority are not even concerned about it. They ignore it. And yet this is the only true life. Whoever has this life, truly lives. Whoever does not possess it–though healthy, rich, wise and blessed with friends–is dead. 

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26). “He who wishes to save his life will lose it and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mark 8:35). So go the old refrains of the Church. This life, divine life, is the only thing necessary: so great because so old, or better yet, so old because so great. So necessary, so irreplaceable! The person who enjoys all civilization can offer cannot extinguish the echo of these words, and, if he should do so, he will die, not only to that life but even to his own human life.   

“That they may have life in abundance.” There is a poor sort of life, hardly to be called life; a life of infidelity to grace, spiritual deafness, lack of generosity; and there is a rich life, full, fruitful, and generous. This is the life to which Christ has called us. This is holiness. And Christ wants Christians of integrity who do not close their souls to any invitation of grace, who let themselves be possessed by this invading wave of grace, who allow themselves to be taken over by Christ, claimed by him. Life is truly life in the measure that we possess Christ, in the measure that we are Christ–through knowledge, love, and service. 

God wants to make me a saint! God wants twentieth century style saints: Chilean style, high school style, lawyer style, each fully reflecting the divine life. This is the greatest thing in the world! Greater by far than the Empire State Building, than a Ford factory with a daily production of eight thousand automobiles. Of greater value for humanity than the discovery of atomic energy, a vaccine or penicillin. 

Here we must say along with the Samaritan woman, “Lord, give me this living water so that I may no longer thirst” (John 4:15). Or like Nicodemus, “How can I be born again when I am an old man?” (John 3:4).  This is God’s gift that God desires to give me because God so loved the world that He gave us his only begotten Son” (John 3:16).  If God has given us God’s only Son, what would God now refuse us? 

Lord, give us this life, life in abundance.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Instruments in a Symphony of Grace

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 08/16/2021 - 05:30

By Loretta Pehanich

“Make me an instrument of your peace,” we regularly pray at our parish. I wonder what instrument I would be in God’s orchestra—an oboe, a cello, or something else? Following Jesus involves playing a part in a graced performance. The Holy Spirit conducts beautiful movements, offers subtle direction, and provides new sheets of music just […] ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

In Ignatian Spirituality A to Z, Jim Manney provides a brief, informative, and entertaining guide to key concepts of Ignatian spirituality and essential characters and events in Jesuit history.

Click through to read the full article Instruments in a Symphony of Grace, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Charles Taylor on the Twin Challenge of Christians in a Secular Age

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Mon, 08/16/2021 - 01:00

What if God loves us as we are? And God calls us to something higher?

These might seem like odd questions to address to a great philosopher and social theorist, but I propose they are good ones to bring to Charles Taylor. Taylor is a scholar whose work not only attracts widespread attention from academics beyond his academic speciality, but also remains remarkably rooted in the lived experiences of his time.

It’s this second part that compels me to raise spiritual questions to an academic philosopher. Because I believe Charles Taylor has something to say about them. 

Taylor has renewed his fame for his 2007 book A Secular Age, and it’s a book worth reading. In it, Taylor offers a rich account of religion and its place in the modern world. Perhaps most importantly, he offers a view of secularism as a condition where all modes of belief—including unbelief—are equally questionable and fragile. We no longer live in an age of unquestioning faith, if that ever existed, but we also no longer live at a time when atheism can claim the high ground, as at moments during the Enlightenment. 

It’s how Taylor describes the Christian life that is of particular note for me. According to Taylor, Christianity animates us in two ways: it calls us to accept high goals, but also to sanctify the ordinary. Taylor speaks of an equilibrium “between the demands of the total transformation to which the faith calls to, and the requirements of ordinary ongoing human life,” (44). In other words, Christianity calls humans both to self-fulfillment and self-transcendence. 

Tensions and equilibria are tricky things, and their twists and turns play a leading role in Taylor’s book. For how does one define and live out high spiritual aspirations while also offering a path to transformation that does not crush its adherents? How does a religion that calls us to be perfect like its founder (Mt 5:48) not grind its adherents into the dust? How, for that matter, does a religion that calls all people children of God not lead to complacent mediocrity? 

As James KA Smith notes in his wonderful commentary on A Secular Age, meeting that challenge requires a great deal of imagination, lest the choice seem to be between crushing orthodoxy or banal freedom.

Indeed, as Taylor has it, too much of the history of Christianity seems to be a history of this lack of imagination. Many Christian groups have tried to eliminate the gap between quotidian sanctity and heroic virtue. Some do so by denying the goodness of creation, some by advocating for an empty moralism that asks nothing of humans and gives them even less.

But Christianity does not release us from this dilemma between everyday holiness and salvation: it promises a final transformation that is not yet. And so we live in hope toward that transformation. That hope challenges us to stretch ourselves beyond the present even as it consoles us in present difficulties. 

Because God loves us as we are. And God also calls us to something more. 

How can we live out this tension? As a Jesuit, one of my preferred heuristics for the issue is Taylor’s image of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. For Taylor, Ignatius always lived out the perennial tensions between immanent and transcendent, between everyday and holy, between the renunciation and affirmation of everyday life.

Ignatius did so by living not only in the everyday, but through it: with a sense for what transcends it, to affirm the eternal basis of the temporal. Whatever we do, we “do it all for the glory of God.” 

Living this tension is hard work, and in no small part because the challenge of living out tensions is supremely practical. How do we do it? This eschatological tension requires that we learn again how to live together in uncertain, fragile times and no amount of books is going to teach us that. We need practice, and we need friends and teachers to help us along the way.

Thus the importance of moderation for our time. Moderation means finding a mean in all we say and do. We need to eat, but we don’t want to eat too much or too little. We want to be generous, but we don’t want to give away everything. We want to share the truth, but we don’t want to crowd out other truths. 

Moderation is not a flashy virtue. But it guides us in so many parts of our life. Moderation is about avoiding extremes that pull us away from our deepest commitments. 

In this sense, moderation is among the most concrete virtues. It does not allow us to drift into abstractions, to separate ideals from realities. Those principles are ultimately grounded in a care for persons. It cares about institutions, practices and habits that protect people, particularly the most vulnerable. It therefore neither seeks to raze them to the ground because they are not perfect, nor does it preserve them for the sake of nostalgia. 

Christianity does not call us to defend any “-ism”, but rather to proclaim the Reign of God here and now. We might ardently believe that some system of thought or belief helps to advance that Kingdom, but make no mistake: it is a shadow of it, at best. 

Moderation does not mean a moderation only about earthly living or transcendent yearning. That would be to try to separate what we know with every fiber of our being to be combined: our present life and the beyond toward which it always points. Moderation cannot mean giving up on the greatest gift of humanity: the final promise that we will all be one, both interiorly and with our fellow humans in God. 

Categories: Things Jesuit

James Martin, SJ: How to Let God Renew You

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 08/15/2021 - 01:00

A few years ago a Jesuit friend of mine told me that he was looking forward to “Jesuit summer.” Huh?

When he explained that phrase, it made sense. For him, Jesuit summer was the period between the Ordination Mass for Jesuit priests, usually in the second week of June, and Vow Mass for younger Jesuits, usually in the second week of August.

That phrase never caught on, but it’s lodged itself in my consciousness. And for many Jesuits that time of year is a time of renewal. Whether or not Jesuits work in a college, university, high school or middle school, the Jesuit year tends to revolve around the school year. So “Jesuit summer” is naturally a time for not only ordinations and vows, and a chance to reconnect with other Jesuits, but also one’s annual eight-day retreat. And of course rest, that increasingly precious commodity. Maybe even some vacation, or “villa,” as we Jesuits call it.

I’m writing this from my own time of “villa” in Cape May, New Jersey. After over a year of Covid, I felt an almost physical need to go to the shore and swim in the ocean. I had never felt anything remotely like that before. I’m all for vacations (though I usually limit myself to one week a year), but I’d never felt that I needed it as much. In short, I needed some renewal.

We all need renewal. That includes the Catholic Church, a statement (a fact, really) that sometimes surprises people who think about the church as only embodying an unchanging tradition. Yes, the church embodies tradition, but part of that embodiment is the openness to being renewed. Pope Francis, in a talk to the Vatican Curia in 2019, said, “Tradition is not static. It is dynamic. It is the guarantee of the future, not the custodian of ashes.”

In this he echoed St. John XXIII, who said on the eve of the conclave that would elect him Pope, “We are not here to guard a museum but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life.” What a beautiful metaphor for renewal!

As the church needs renewal, so do we all.  Even websites like TJP need renewal.  Thus their redesign!

But that leads us to ask a hard question: How can we renew ourselves? Especially in a time of pandemic, when it’s difficult to break away from old routines, and when the very goal of cultivating a “garden of life” may mean resisting new things—new places, new people, new events—in order to preserve life, how can we renew ourselves?

Let me suggest a few ways.

First, take time. “Jesuit summer,” as I mentioned, is the time when many Jesuits make their annual retreat. St. Ignatius Loyola required Jesuits to do this once a year, because he knew that no matter how experienced in the spiritual life one is (and we’re all learners, after all) we all need to be refreshed in our relationships with God. One important way to renew is to make a retreat: weekend, five-day, eight-day, even 30-day.

Now not all of us can do this, for reasons of money, time, or health. But even a day of personal retreat—turning off your phone, giving yourself solitude and spending time in prayer with God—is helpful. This can be at home, in a church, even in a park. Give yourself time to renew. Gardens need time to grow.

Second, be open to challenges. Often the people who are the most adept at renewal are those who listen to others who really challenge them: a spiritual director, a therapist, a trusted friend. You might be challenged to let go of an unhealthy pattern of behavior, to forgive someone who wronged you (or to seek forgiveness) or to start a new practice that will help you to grow in love (not gossiping, being less sarcastic, opting for a positive outlook). It’s extremely difficult to be challenged in these ways, and yet, like a garden that needs to be weeded and pruned, it’s necessary for true growth and renewal.

Third, remember that it’s God who is renewing. This may be the most important step of all. Often, we are liable to clench our fists and try to “white knuckle” the process of change. “Oh, I must change!” Our intentions are important, but in the end, it is God who is doing the renewing. Your role is to be open, to participate and to say yes to the change.

That can be frustrating as you wait for God to move you ahead in the renewal process; it may not seem that things are going fast enough. In fact, it almost never seems that way! But it’s ultimately consoling because the process is not simply in your hands. You have a partner in this renewal: the Master Gardener. But it happens in God’s good time, not yours.

When is the time for renewal? When is the kairos moment? Jesuit summer is a good time. So is summer proper. So is the fall, winter, and spring. The time for renewal is now, is always. And on the other side of that process is a beautiful garden, which God is weeding and pruning and tending and watering and feeding and delighting in. For that garden, which is ever being renewed, is you.


James Martin, SJ, is editor at large of America Media and consultor to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication.  His new book is Learning to Pray.  

Categories: Things Jesuit

Papal Infallibility and the Assumption: What difference does the location of Mary’s body make?

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 08/15/2021 - 00:30

What better way to celebrate the Assumption than with a bit of Catholic Trivia. 

Q. How many times has a pope used Papal Infallibility, or the dogma that a pope can speak without error on specific matters of faith and morals, to promulgate (i.e. roll out) a revealed truth of religion which Catholics are required to believe?

A. For all of the contentious ink spilled over the idea of Papal Infallibility since it was proclaimed by the First Vatican Council in 1870, Papal Infallibility has been invoked only once by a pope in defining a dogma ex cathedra that all Catholics must believe.

This first and only usage in the history of the church occurred in 1950 when Pope Pius XII declared that all Catholics (including us, today) must hold “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” This is the fourth of the Marian dogmas of the Catholic Church. The other three Marian dogmas are: 

    1. That Mary is the Mother of God (defined at the council of Ephesus in AD 431)
    2. That Mary was a virgin prior to, during, and after the birth of Jesus (defined at the first Lateran council in 649)
    3. That Mary, from moment of her conception was preserved from original sin (defined ex cathedra by Pope Pius IX in 1854) 

So, we must believe that Mary’s body is in heaven as Catholics. Inoffensive enough, I guess, but also seemingly random. What difference does the location of Mary’s body make? Why should it matter to us? 

Simply stated: the Assumption matters because it reminds us, with almost embarrassing boldness, of the shocking materiality of Catholic belief in the afterlife—a facet of our faith that we’d often rather forget. Most of us learn something like this in catechism: At the end of our lives we will all be judged by God. Depending on the outcome, we will then go to heaven (or heaven on the slow track a la purgatory) or hell, and that’s that. Forever. 

This version of our eternal fate is true, but it is glaringly incomplete. Every single Sunday, we Catholics publicly profess that we expect “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” I’ll bet that most of us don’t spend too much time thinking about what this means. 

For Christians, the separation of the soul from the body is unnatural. God created us as embodied souls, and Christ redeemed our matter and souls by his Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection and Ascension. God took flesh, God exalted that flesh and he revealed his glorious plan for creation: to share this glory with him. 

Heaven and Hell are real, but they aren’t the end of the story. On the last day, we will all rise just as Jesus did. We will have resurrected bodies: mysterious, powerful, yet material and real like his, and our souls will be reunited with them forever. Where Christ has led, we too will follow, if we remain faithful to our baptismal call to build his kingdom in anticipation of his return. 

Mary, the mother of God, is the first and the best Christian that has ever been or will ever be. Her entire life is an example for us. She leads the way to Christ. Mary was just as human as we are; she needed a savior just like we do. She struggled to understand God’s plan through joys and sorrows just like we do. At the end of her life, Mary died like Jesus (and like each and every one of us will). Death though, for her (and for us!), did not have the final word. She was resurrected, and exalted, and she reigns with Christ in the kingdom of God which is bursting forth at the seams all around us. 

Thus, the Assumption, just like every Marian Dogma, is really a statement about who Jesus is and who we are as his followers. The Assumption tells us that Jesus is true to his word, and that he will do for all of us exactly as he promised. Pius XII himself, in the document which promulgated the dogma of the Assumption wrote, “It is our hope that belief in Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.” 

The Assumption bids us all celebrate a wonderful truth: an empty tomb awaits each one of us beyond our individual calvaries. The Assumption boldly promises that every lowly person who follows Christ as Mary did will be exalted. The Assumption is the realization of that song of joy which Mary sang when she visited her cousin Elizabeth: 

The almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name…He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has scattered the proud in their conceit and has lifted up the lowly…for he has remembered his promise of mercy, which he made to our parents, Abraham and his children forever. 

Categories: Things Jesuit

Praying with the Assumption of Mary | One-Minute Homily

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 08/15/2021 - 00:00

How can we pray with the Assumption of Mary? Br. Sullivan McCormick, SJ, offers a reflection to pray with today’s solemnity. Based on the readings for the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.

How do we pray with the Assumption of Mary?

Hi, I am Br. Sullivan McCormick and this is my One-Minute Reflection. 

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

I want to offer a meditation for this Solemnity. Start by asking Mary to unite you with her Son and show you her Son. Take a moment to locate and name whatever might be pressing or stirring in your heart, whether that may be joy, happiness, frustration, sorrow, pain, or suffering. Imagine bringing that to Mary as she is assumed into heaven, body and soul. As she is reunited with her Son in heaven, ask Mary to help you talk to Jesus. Do not hold back. Be as free, open, and genuine as possible. 

In the words of Saint John Paul II “Taken up into heaven, Mary shows us the way to God, the way to heaven, the way to life.”

Categories: Things Jesuit

Prayer of Desire to Sense Christ’s Presence

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 08/13/2021 - 05:30

By dotMagis Editor

We commemorate the August 2 feast day of St. Peter Faber with Faber Fridays this month, inspired by Jon M. Sweeney’s book, Peter Faber: A Saint for Turbulent Times. Today, enjoy a few moments of quiet reflection with this video version of Faber’s “Prayer of Desire to Sense Christ’s Presence.” ® is a service of Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry.

In Ignatian Spirituality A to Z, Jim Manney provides a brief, informative, and entertaining guide to key concepts of Ignatian spirituality and essential characters and events in Jesuit history.

Click through to read the full article Prayer of Desire to Sense Christ’s Presence, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

The Sacredness of Saying Goodbye

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Thu, 08/12/2021 - 02:33

This summer I’ve been struck by the number of goodbyes I have said. Some were to people I had just met; others to people I have known my whole life. But regardless of the length and depth of familiarity, each goodbye has stirred up some amount of heartache, wistfulness, or sadness. It’s easy to see God in the people I love, but how is God present when it comes time to say goodbye to them? Where is God in this messy, emotional, and often painful experience of parting with those we love?

The summer began by saying goodbye to friends who were moving out of our community in St. Louis. We came from different parts of the country and belonged to separate provinces, and so a sadness hung over me as I wondered whether I would ever see some of these friends again.

When it was my turn to leave St. Louis for the summer, I travelled to El Paso with a few other Jesuits to serve at a migrant shelter. As the guests left the shelter there was often effusive thanks for the help received and joy at the prospect of reuniting with family they had not seen in years. But the sadness struck me when my six-week stint at the shelter came to an end and I had to say goodbye to the other volunteers. I hadn’t appreciated how much camaraderie I had come to feel with them, nor was I aware of what my presence had meant to others until I was leaving. Since leaving El Paso, I’ve visited and said my farewells to a friend moving abroad, to family and hometown friends I had not seen since before the pandemic, and to a sacred place, the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth, which will be closing on August 15th. It’s where I made the Spiritual Exercises as a novice and discerned to profess vows. 

Those vows call me to fully love and give myself to others and to have the freedom to move to a new assignment when missioned.  It can be very difficult to hold these two callings simultaneously, especially when I feel affection for the people I have served and befriended, and for the places where I have encountered God. Of course, this tension is not unique to Jesuits. Anybody who has had to part with loved ones or move from a beloved place knows this difficulty. It just seems that in my four years as a Jesuit, I have gone through this experience more frequently than in my 28 years before becoming a Jesuit. And the quickness with which friends are made and then separated during formation has caused more than a few moments of emotional whiplash. After experiencing that whiplash again this summer, I realized that if I was going to be both as loving and as available as I wanted to be (and as God was calling me to be), then I had to discern how God was present in the midst of these difficult goodbyes.

To my surprise, God guided me in this discernment through a Wendell Berry novel I happened to be reading. The book’s eponymous narrator, Jayber Crow, is a barber in a small town in Kentucky, and he describes the moment when he looks into the faces of some of his regular, elderly customers only to recognize that they are dying. The barber reflects that in this moment, “[T]his man, your foolish neighbor, your friend and brother, has shed somehow the laughter that followed him through the world, and has assumed the dignity and the strangeness of a traveler departing forever.”

That analogy of the “traveler departing forever” leapt off the page and I suddenly saw myself in a way I had never seen before. I saw the “dignity” and “strangeness” that I had assumed in each of my goodbyes, even the ones that were not forever, and I saw that same dignity and strangeness in those I had parted from. And in that dignity and strangeness, I found the presence of God.

We have a tendency to take for granted not just the presence of friends, family, and others whom we know well, but also their personalities and identities. It is natural to reduce others to our knowledge of them, especially those with whom we spend the most time. But in saying goodbye, there comes a sudden realization that there is something of this person that is beyond my knowledge and escapes what I have been able to capture. There is a life, a future, an inner depth that is separate from me, and so this person whom I thought I knew so well suddenly becomes a mystery. And from that mystery comes their dignity and strangeness.

When I picture the faces of those whom I have said goodbye to this summer, I see in each of them that mystery, dignity, and strangeness, and I am filled with awe and wonder. And when I continue to gaze at this person with that newfound awe and wonder, I catch a glimpse of their sacredness and transcendent beauty. That is, I see the image of God.

Saying goodbye will continue to be difficult. As long as we love, there will be no avoiding the sadness of parting. But I no longer fear or dread this part of my Jesuit vocation, or more accurately, this inevitability of life. I have come to accept these frequent partings and the accompanying sadness with humble gratitude. I now see the sacred when saying goodbye. What a privilege it is to dwell for a little bit in the other’s mystery. And it is worth the sadness, as I have come to feel more deeply than ever before that even in parting we remain united to each other. The shared dignity and strangeness in our parting reveals our shared divine image, and the same Love that created us unites us to His Body and in our unique travels guides us all to Himself.

Categories: Things Jesuit