Things Jesuit

The Catholic Church & Antiblackness: An Interview with Katie Grimes, Ph.D.

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 01:00

Katie Grimes is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University. Dr. Grimes’s recent books include Christ Divided: Antiblackness as Corporate Vice and Fugitive Saints: Catholicism and the Politcs of Slavery. Both books take a much-needed, honest look at the Church’s history of slavery and the stances that it did, and did not, take.

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Can you give those who are not familiar a sense of your work?

My work seeks to make sense of the Catholics Church’s relationship to white supremacy in general and antiblackness in particular — the good, the bad, and the ugly of that. Trying to make sense of the relationship between those two things. This includes the way the Church has helped to perpetuate those things, the way it has failed to resist those things, and the way those things have corrupted the Church and “hitched a ride” in some of the Church’s practices, as well as the way the way that the Church has been a force for fighting those evils.

I am focused on the negative story as an emphasis, but certainly there is the other side. The reason this is my focus is in the interest of helping the Church be better, do better, and be what it is supposed to be: more authentically the “body of Christ” to use Augustinian language — to become what it has received, the body of Christ. 

*****

How should we, as Catholics, respond to the killing of Ahmaud Arbery?

Well, is this part of a larger pattern that stretches back to slavery and in some ways recapitulates slavery? If so, we need to connect it to the larger story. If you don’t make that connection, it will be easy to dismiss incidents like this as unimportant.

But when you understand how two white men deputizing themselves, thinking that this person who they did not know had done something wrong, and that he was a threat, and that they were empowered to do something about it re-creates the dynamics of racialized slavery as it took place in the United States, the importance and meaning of this event becomes much clearer. It is no longer an individual event; it is part of a larger, ongoing pattern that helps to uphold the afterlife of slavery.

This connection also helps us better understand the racialized and race-making character of the conversation about events like this. When we debate what the victim should or should not have been doing, we are basically debating black people’s place in society: literally, that is, spatially, but also in a metaphorical sense of place. This debate also inevitably entails a debate about what power white people have to enforce that spatial location. But especially for white people and other non-black people, it can be difficult to make this connection because of the way in which events like this are often presented out of context.  This context includes not just the way that vigilante killings like this serve as a type of echo of Africanized slavery but also the way they are made possible by our racially segregated present.

Paradoxically, however, we cannot interrupt this dynamic by defending the innocence of these victims. This still keeps the focus on black people, which is where antiblackness wants it to be. Because these incidents are often highly kinetic, these debates focus even more particularly on the black body. When discussing the killers, however, the focus tends to be much more squarely on the intentions of the father and son in this case, or their motives or what they were thinking or trying to do or whether their fear was reasonable. This pits white interiority against black exteriority. The white killers are persons; the black victims are bodies. We should instead redirect our gaze onto their bodies and the way that they occupied space. This is what my work attempts to do — help us to focus on the “problem” of white bodies and the way we take up space.

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Can you share another Church concern you see?

Eucharistic imbalance, for example, I went to the University of Notre Dame. We had priests in every dorm. Every dorm had its own chapel. Some classroom buildings had a chapel. You could throw a stone and there would be a Mass going on. It was wonderful. Then, at a diocesan high school that I worked at in Chicago, whose students were African-American and Mexican-American, there was one priest at a huge parish that had a grade school and a high school. We were lucky to have an all-school Mass three times a year. It was not the priest’s fault, he was stretched thin. “What is the Catholic Mass?” is something we really struggled to teach at a Catholic high school. We should be more concerned more about an equal distribution of the Sacraments, especially something like the Eucharist. 

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Regarding racial segregation, can individual Catholics make a difference by discerning where they live?

Rather than individual white people thinking “oh, I need to go live in a black neighborhood,” we need to move beyond just that, since a black neighborhood is not necessarily benefited by a white person living there. We need to focus on “why do these larger patterns exist? Why are these things happening?” We need to realize that antiblack racial segregation is not a natural, organic thing. It is instead something that was in many ways engineered by big government programs and policies.

Rather than focusing on white individuals, I am trying to get us to look at the bigger patterns — the corporate vices, the corporate virtues that operate within society. Simply understanding that our society is racially segregated in an antiblack way is the first step.

It is much easier to critique than to come up with the solution. I am aware of that.  

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What is an example of action which individual Catholics can do themselves?

There is value at the parish level and then at the diocesan level just having some sort of project where people learn the history of their parish. For example, few Catholics realize how many suburban parishes were the product of white flight — when territorial Catholic parishes in cities became integrated, often, the entire parish would pick up and move to a nearby suburb. Simply coming to understand parochial space as not simply neutral or innocent but often racially charged I think could be deeply transformative.

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You make the point in your book, Christ Divided: Antiblackness as Corporate Vice, that the Catholic Church never split over the issue of slavery. Why do you think that was the case? Do you see any contemporary issues as having the potential to lead to an institutional split in the Catholic Church? 

I don’t think Catholics will ever split in this formal, institutional sense, at least not in the foreseeable future. The nature of the Catholic Church makes it much more likely that, as is already occurring, deep disagreements among Catholics lead to not schism, but with those who disagree with the magisterial position switching to another religious tradition or simply dropping out of the formal, institutional practice of religion altogether.  This proves especially likely given the increasingly religiously diverse and interconnected character of the world. I believe it is the case that former Catholics are one of the largest religious groups in the United States. So in a real sense this is what has already been happening.

My sense is that this is not what happened in the case of slavery. For white Catholics, Church teaching on slavery or abolitionism was not a “make or break” issue. The line between nineteenth century Catholics and Protestants was much more starkly drawn, both culturally and theologically. In this way, for example, I suspect that nineteenth century Catholics were perhaps more likely to believe that there was no salvation outside of membership in the Roman Catholic Church, so one could understand how, regardless of one’s agreement or disagreement with any particular magisterial teaching, a nineteenth century Catholic would have a much greater incentive to stay in the church if they thought their salvation depended upon it.

*****

In your writing, you argue that race is trumping religion. What do you see as the main avenues to redress this? Integrated parishes? More competent seminary training? More holistic parish outreach or ministries?

My answer to this question is just my best guess. All of those things could be good and helpful — I honestly don’t know enough about the particular issue of seminary training to even speculate on that part, but I think that, unfortunately, this country’s racial habitat is much stronger than its religious one, at least with respect to Catholicism.

This dynamic could be different in the case of Evangelicalism, for example, but I suspect that even there, Evangelicalism would take a racialized shape. These types of instances of internal reform can definitely be good. I just don’t think they, on their own, can withstand, let alone overturn, the habit-forming pressures of white supremacy and antiblackness.

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Is this country’s racial habitat stronger than its religious one?

As to the existence of a general religious habitat, I honestly just haven’t done the research and lack the knowledge to be able to say.

As for the racial habitat, it is important for me to stress that I wasn’t using the word “habitat” as a synonym for environment. I’m also not trying to describe the way religious communities ought to cultivate practices that build virtue in the way Hauerwas might. I chose the word habitat for its association with non-human animals. I was trying to capture the way that anti-black racial segregation, perhaps uniquely, shapes us at a level beyond, or perhaps below, our reason and will.

It does this because of the way it shapes place, which in turn shapes bodies. As a non-human animal does its habitat, we humans adapt to our anti-black habitat without intending to or often even realizing that we have. This is one of the major reasons I believe we cannot simply perform our way out of it. We have to attend to the ways anti-black segregation habituates us by shaping our bodies.

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You have written that the Church has the habits it desires. What are your thoughts on the frequent disconnect between what Catholics-in-the-pews believe, and what the bishops publicly profess?

By introducing the concept of “corporate vice,” I was trying to draw attention to patterns in the Church’s actions. This approach is definitely limited because, of course, Catholics are not now, and have never been, a monolith.

There is a real risk that my concept of corporate vice can perceive patterns where none actually exist. And it is the case that at different points in Church history, there have been some salient differences between the bishops and the white laity on racial issues. I think, for example, a good case can be made that episcopal teaching about anti-black racial segregation evolved more quickly than white lay attitudes about anti-black racial segregation. And in the 1970s during the anti-busing controversies in disproportionately-Catholic Boston, it is the case that the bishops did a great job of trying to make sure that white Catholic parents were not enrolling their students in Catholic schools simply as a way of avoiding the integration of their local public school.

But I am honestly not sure if such a divide exists between the white laity, considered as a group, and the episcopacy, considered as a group.  This question is also hard to answer by the fact that — thank goodness — the episcopacy in the U.S. is more racially and ethnically diverse than it was in, say, the late 1940s when the bishops first identified racial segregation as a sin, or even in the 1970s.

It’s also tricky because racial attitudes among white people increasingly correlate with, and are tangled up with, other beliefs and affiliations in a way that I don’t think they were previously — but I might be wrong about that. All of that is to say that I think that white bishops are probably relatively representative of white lay Catholics on so-called racial issues.

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What is your next project?

It is on different theories of freedom, from the political, secular realm to the Catholic understanding of freedom, and different Protestant strands or approaches of freedom. Classical liberal notions of freedom are very much a freedom from, as expressed in the Bill of Rights, for example.  This notion of freedom contends that the main role of government is to prevent other people from preventing you from doing what you want to do.

The Catholic notion focuses more on freedom as freedom from sin, freedom to do the right thing. If you are not living a morally virtuous life, in a sense, you are not free. That is fascinating to me, both in a theoretical way, and an “on-the-ground” historical way concerning the way Catholics have tried to mesh those two identities or not mesh.

I have this sense that, in general, most of us conceive of our political preferences as a fight for freedom and against slavery. We just disagree about what freedom and slavery are. We also define freedom and slavery in reference to each other–freedom is the opposite of whatever slavery is and vice versa. But too often — across the political spectrum — the definitions various groups use for freedom and slavery are really untethered from any historical reality and just become projections of pre-existing beliefs rather than a grounding guide or touchstone.

I would like to re-frame debates about freedom by turning more intently to the history of actually enslaved people, especially black victims of Africanized slavery in the Americas as I think defining freedom more directly as the antithesis of actually existing historical slavery will help us retrieve a truer and less subjective account of freedom.

 

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Cover image by Public Co from Pixabay.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Grieve and Gather as You Can

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 05:30

To those experiencing loss due to COVID-19 or any other reason, Michael Rossmann, SJ, says to grieve and gather as you can. That’s his message in the brief video below.  For more resources on grief, see the resources at LoyolaPress.com.

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

What might happen if you gave just one percent of your day to God? Transform your life with The 15-Minute Prayer Solution by Gary Jansen.

Click through to read the full article Grieve and Gather as You Can, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Getting Married in a Pandemic Calls You to “See the Unseen”

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 00:01

Michael and Kelsey Petrany can hardly believe that two months ago they were worried about centerpieces. The restrictions of the pandemic made so many of their initial wedding plans impossible, including the presence of their parents, guests, and a reception. The couple decided they wanted to go through with it anyways. And they are glad they did. 

“I’m glad we stuck with the original date,” Michael says. “It starts our marriage on this tone that no matter what is going on, literally in the middle of a pandemic, this is our vocation and we’re committed to it.” 

Just before the lockdowns began in mid-March, the couple realized their wedding would have to look different. They began adjusting plans, reworking who could come and what was still possible. They began to realize that, for the sake of safety, neither of their parents could come, nor could the older Jesuit priest who was originally set to do the wedding. 

“Our worst fear was that our wedding would be a source of contamination and infection,” Michael said. 

In the end, aside from a priest and a few members of the parish staff, only Kelsey’s sister and friend and one of Michael’s friends were able to be present. The rest of their family and friends watched through a livestream. Some even sat on picnic blankets on a hill outside the Church.  

“Having to drastically change our plans and expectations for what the day would look like really allowed us to focus and prepare for receiving the sacrament,” Kelsey said, noting that the loss of so many of the externals gave them a sense of freedom and intentionality. “If everything had gone as normal, we would have been bogged down or worried about the other details and can sometimes overpower or take away from the sacrament.” 

Michael and Kelsey Petrany with the only three guests able to be present for the wedding.

“To me it’s an example of how when something you expect and are looking forward to is just shoved out the window,” Michael shared, “you don’t get that thing back, but you get something different that is its own thing and completely unique and personal.”

The Petranys are ultimately grateful for how their wedding day turned out and they say it was in some ways the perfect start to a marriage. They’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from other married couples in their own life. 

Speaking of a couple from their parish, Bellarmine Chapel on the campus of Xavier University in Cincinnati, who mentored them, Kelsey said they had a sense of “simplicity” in the way they approached their marriage, “They emulated this idea that it’s not about possessions, it’s not even about experiences, but it’s about the love between the two of us and how you choose to show that to the world.” 

Approaching the sacrament with this simplicity is something they hope to continue to foster for the rest of their marriage. They are also grateful for how the difficult situation brought home a lesson they knew they would have to reflect on during their marriage. 

Michael said there is a common misconception or temptation to believe that “the moment of marriage and falling in love is supposed to be so easy. But no, it’s not always so easy.”

They are also aware that their marriage, even though fewer than 10 people were present at the wedding, is a source of grace for more than just themselves. Kelsey said, “I wanted to get married, but more than anything, I wanted the sacrament because we needed some grace in this time, to be better people and a better couple.” Michael added, “But also to deal with the challenges that this time in the world present us with and hopefully be able to have a united front as a married couple to do what we can to help others moving forward during this time.” 

“We’ve been inspired by married couples in our families and friends and thinking about the idea about being called to a sacrificial sort of love” Michael said. “There is no better time to start that than right at the beginning.” 

In his Urbi et Orbi message for the Coronavirus, Pope Francis said, “Like the disciples, we will experience that with [Jesus] on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.”

Kelsey and Michael seem to have adopted a similar spirit. Michael said at the beginning there were “All these calculations you do in your head to think, how is this blessed moment not going to be a source of tragedy.” In the end, far from tragedy, the wedding proved to be a source of joy in ways they could not have imagined. 

They say they have grown closer together in practical and tangible ways because of the experience, but also in deeper spiritual ways. 

“In a strange way, our parents and our families ended up being, in some weird way that we will be unpacking for months and weeks to come, every bit as present,” Michael noted, saying that they’ve experienced a similar phenomenon with live stream Mass during the pandemic. 

“It really calls you to see the unseen.”

And it seems this is precisely the meaning of a sacrament: an outward manifestation of an inward grace. 

“Was there something missing? Yes. But at the same time, it was very clear that God was there,” The Petranys agreed.  

 

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Photos by Spencer Kolssak Photography

Categories: Things Jesuit

Examen for Those Experiencing Anxiety

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 05/18/2020 - 05:30

Noticing times when God felt absent exercises our ability to slowly and carefully wipe away the clutter that blocks our view of God. This exercise can be compared to the gentle cleaning of glasses with a soft cloth to see more clearly. So writes Stephanie Clouatre Davis in her article, “Examen for Teens with Anxiety.” […]

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

What might happen if you gave just one percent of your day to God? Transform your life with The 15-Minute Prayer Solution by Gary Jansen.

Click through to read the full article Examen for Those Experiencing Anxiety, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

The Risen Jesus Meets Us in Our Anxiety

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 05/17/2020 - 23:16

Only two weeks remain in  the Easter season, but for many of us we may still be waiting to feel the joy of celebrating Christ’s resurrection. It is the greatest cornerstone of our faith, and yet where is there new life, hope, triumph over death, and the glory of God in the midst of a global pandemic? 

Closer to home, how have we coped with social isolation, fear of the virus, job loss or the emotional strain of having no break from the members of our households, while missing being able to see friends and relatives outside? For those who are essential workers, or who live in areas that are opening up, how does it feel to work and interact with the constraints of masks, sanitizing and distancing?

The world has turned up-side-down. 

Add to corona virus the contagion infecting the politics of many countries: leaders who disown responsibility, scapegoat minorities, and make an artform of lying and maligning others. How could this redound to the common good of the people they are sworn to serve? Meanwhile the body count of Covid-19 deaths has resulted in the shocking sight of mobile morgues and mass graves.

All this may leave us feeling mired in gloom and death, far from the Resurrection that we know is real yet fail to see right now. Certainly this is how I was feeling recently, when I sat to pray, in a ‘place’ somewhere between righteous anger and anxious despair.  

But our admittedly up-side-down world is not, perhaps, very different at all from the up-side-down-ness of the world of Jesus’ time.

After all, had things been working perfectly, it’s doubtful that a fickle public would in one moment wave palms and welcome the healer and preacher to the city, and in the next moment shout “Crucify Him!”.  If the world operated according to God’s vision, a leader who recognized the injustice of a trumped up charge of an innocent man, would never have gone along with the injustice of executing him.

The “Ring of Truth”

The scripture reading on the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Acts 2:36-41) has Peter speaking to this crowd in Jerusalem. He explains who Jesus was – that he was the messiah, whom the prophets had spoken about, and for whom they had for generations all been praying and hoping. Yet they had demanded his execution, and now he was dead.

When the crowd really listened and heard Peter’s explanation, it had the “ring of truth” in their ears.  Peter’s message did to them what the truth should always do to us: “they were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37).  The truth goes to our heart, to the center; it brings us home. 

Even when the truth is painful, as it was for that crowd, admitting they were wrong (and tragically, so) must nevertheless have given them some relief. Perhaps you have felt that in your own lives, as I have, after receiving a harsh correction, or realizing that I was wrong and it hurt somebody. It may be a somber moment, because of the feeling of guilt and regret; yet it is freeing too because, in seeing things clearly, one can then apologize, do things differently, make a new start.

Hearing the ‘ring of truth’ is itself a gift or grace. The crowd that day was fortunate, in that their ears were open enough to recognize the truth in Peter’s words. Yet it can take time. For us, among other things, we can pray for our leaders – for all of us really — to have the grace to hear and respond to the truth as the crowd did that day.  

The Risen Jesus Appears to People in Distress

It is not easy to wait, to be patient, especially when suffering or lies appear to dominate the world around us.  In a sense that has been my ‘complaint’ to God lately: “Why must we endure the suffering of our world, and so many important people doing what is wrong?  Why, though it is Easter, do I feel overwhelmed by my awareness of death rather than life?  Your light, O God, seems very dim right now!”

Then, in praying these days with some of the resurrection appearances of Jesus, my complaint has seemingly been answered with a gentle insight:  Almost every time the Risen Jesus appeared to his disciples, they were in gloom, grief or fear.  He came, spoke, instructed, and left them amazed and changed. 

Mary Magdalene was weeping outside the tomb, Jesus appeared, spoke to her and, in saying her name she recognized him, was elated and ran to tell the others (John 20:11-18).  

Two disciples beset by grief and uncertainty, fearful about the future, were fleeing Jerusalem. Jesus drew near, walked with them, cast new light on their experience by his words, they felt like their ‘hearts were burning,’ they recognized him for who he was while they broke bread together, and they ran to share the news (Luke 24:13-35).  

Twice Jesus appeared to the disciples while they were locked away in fear, encouraged them and turned their attention to what lay ahead, not what lay behind (John 20:19-29). 

It almost seems as if gloom, grief and fear were not a hindrance for the risen Jesus to appear, but actually the perfect context.

When will we experience the joy of Easter?  How will the resurrection truth manifest in our world? 

As for his disciples, when we hold still for a bit – giving room to our grief, letting tears flow, but doing it together with others — the two Mary’s at the tomb, the two disciples on the road, the disciples in the locked room) – Jesus will draw near, speak to us, set our hearts on fire with hope, and a mission to let his love transform the world. 

Although we may be physically isolating to keep corona virus from spreading, let it not be a social or a spiritual isolation.  Let’s not hide from one another, from God, or hide even from our unpleasant feelings. Instead, let’s cry together, pray together, hope together—and do it in Jesus name. For he promised that when we gather together in circumstances such as these he would be with us (Matthew 18:20).  And that is the truth, which ‘cuts to the heart,’ and makes all the difference in the world.

***

From the Canticle of Zechariah:

“In the tender compassion of our Lord

The dawn from on high shall break upon us,

to shine on those who dwell in darkness

And the shadow of death,

And to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

 (Luke 1:78-79)

Categories: Things Jesuit

It’s Still Easter and Things are About to Get Better | One-Minute Homily

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 05/17/2020 - 01:08

Jesus tells his disciples that he is sending an Advocate to be with us always. Jeff Ryan Miraflor, SJ, reflects on this message of hope in this week’s One-Minute Homily. Based on the readings for Sunday, May 17.

Christ is Risen! It’s still Easter!

Hi, I’m Jeff Ryan Miraflor and this is my One Minute reflection.

Even though it’s been Easter for over a month now, we should still be filled with that same joy that we had on Easter. And why? Because today Christ tells us that things are going to get even better. He’s promising to be even more present to us through the Holy Spirit. He says he will not leave us orphans! What a consolation, especially for us who didn’t live during Jesus’ time here on earth. He’s already getting us ready for the feast of Pentecost.

But that’s not all of it… He’s giving us a heads up that it’s gonna require some things on our part. We have to love him, and if we love him, we have to follow his commandments. Why? Because it’s not enough to just know Jesus and know his commandments. We have to let Jesus and his commandments really sink into our hearts. And only then are we ready to go out and bring others to Christ.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Knowing God’s Call

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 05:30

One of the most common questions I get asked in spiritual direction is, “How do I know God’s call for me?” So often we are looking for a quick answer and magic bullet to this question. There is not a quick answer to this question, because when it comes down to it, it takes time […]

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

What might happen if you gave just one percent of your day to God? Transform your life with The 15-Minute Prayer Solution by Gary Jansen.

Click through to read the full article Knowing God’s Call, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Easter is a Family Reunion

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Fri, 05/15/2020 - 01:00

This continues to be one of the most extraordinary Easter seasons of my entire life. You see, I’m a Jesuit in formation, but I’ve spent the past two months at my parents’ house. Instead of going through the stay-at-home trials and tribulations with my Jesuit community in the Bronx, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of the global pandemic with my family. To say the least, I did not anticipate all this when I came to visit my family on March 12th at the start of Fordham University’s spring break. 

But spending the quarantine, and Easter, with my folks has caused me to reflect on the gift, and challenges, of family life. But more than that, it’s deepened my own sense of the importance of family on a cosmological dimension.

Jesus’ Resurrection brings the human family back together. It frees the dead from separation from God and one another. Jesus is also re-united in a new way with His mother and His disciples. At Pentecost they, and we, receive the Holy Spirit and the party is complete. Easter holds the same love, joy, and excitement as when you see your family again after a time away.

Though strange for a Jesuit, the fact that I’m with my family during the stay-at-home measures is in many ways not unique. Many people who are not labeled as “essential” have had to stay home with their family during this time. Parents not going into work, kids not going to school, college students returning to their parents’ homes early, are all in similar “extraordinary” circumstances such as I find myself.

My parents live in a residential neighborhood in Wichita, Kansas, where I have been crashing in their guest room for two months. One luxury I’ve had here is the ability to walk freely around the neighborhood without risk of breaking social distancing protocol. That’s not guaranteed in the busy streets of the Bronx. I’ve utilized that luxury and put in quite a few laps around the neighborhood. It’s a short trip around the block and I’ve come to recognize neighbors, and they recognize me. 

I’ve noticed how my neighbors are spending their time — taking walks together, playing ball, sitting in their screened-in porches. I’ve noticed the father who has spent much of his daylight hours at home training his son in basketball on the driveway hoop. I’ve seen siblings spending hours outside create sidewalk chalk art. On several occasions I saw those same siblings recreating TikTok dance challenge videos. At the small pond in my parents’ neighborhood I’ve seen several groups of families fishing together in the middle of the day. 

These families are no different than my own. I’ve been doing many of these things with my folks (not the TikTok dances, but I have created my own sidewalk chalk art, thanks to my niece’s encouragement). The pandemic, for all the terrible suffering it continues to cause, has carved out a space for many families to spend more time together. 

And that’s how I spent my Easter: with my family, watching a live-streamed Mass like many other Catholics. It is bizarre, but it has also shaped my spiritual experience of the Easter season.

St. Ignatius, as almost all saints, maintained a fervent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. So much so that, in the Spiritual Exercises, the first meditation of the Resurrection is Jesus appearing to his mother.1 This meeting is not in any of the gospels, but Ignatius had the keen insight that, of course, Jesus would make sure his mother is the first to know that He is risen. It’s a profound meditation, and I can still see, hear, and feel this encounter when I prayed with it during my long retreat four years ago. Easter was a family reunion for Jesus, but not just because he (probably) visited his mother first.

The Resurrection itself was the affirmation of the relationship of Jesus as Son of the Father. And as Paul wrote to the Colossians, “For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross.”2

We, too, have been drawn into that familial relationship with the Father, through the Son, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, we are reunited with the Father in love. The fullness of the relationship we are invited into is revealed by the life, death, and resurrection of the only begotten Son. Jesus Christ is our Savior, yes, but he is also our brother. In Baptism, we become members of a divine family, and Easter is a time when we especially celebrate this identity. 

Our God is a God of familial relationship, and this means that our families can represent the sort of love that exists in the Trinity. But, if your family is like mine, then we often fall short of this love both individually and collectively. I’m so thankful for the extended time I’ve spent with my folks, but I have also struggled. I’ve started petty arguments which descended into fights. I’ve assumed the worst of others’ intentions. I’ve taken so many things for granted. But the one thing that has resolved all these is love. If an apology was necessary for starting a petty argument or assuming ill intentions, I tried to offer one before the end of the day. 3 Most days, I practice the Examen and I name the things for which I’m grateful for that day—family is always a part of that.

Now, you may be missing your family at this time, or you may not have a good relationship with your parents or siblings, but this does not mean that Easter isn’t a family reunion for you. Who are the people you share your life with? How can you express your love for them this day? For what relationships, family or friends, can you give thanks to God this day? Above all, spend time in prayer celebrating the relationship with God  that Jesus has made possible for us in the Resurrection. It is the greatest gift of all. 

Photo by Jude Beck

Categories: Things Jesuit

The Bystander

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 05/13/2020 - 05:30

In a time of pandemic, temptations arise to live out anger and judgment of others. We want things to be different. How can I react to strong emotions from others with extra helpings of gentleness? What can we learn from St. Stephen? The following imaginative reflection is based on Acts 7:54—8:3. The approaching angry mob […]

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

What might happen if you gave just one percent of your day to God? Transform your life with The 15-Minute Prayer Solution by Gary Jansen.

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

Categories: Things Jesuit

This is What Happened When Jesus Found Me Wallowing in the Lilac Patches

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 05/13/2020 - 02:33

In my second year as a Jesuit, I was sent to work with a group of students at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, NY. 1 It wasn’t the assignment I was expecting. I had tried to plot my way into an assignment where I might work with theater students, live near friends along I-95, and escape the Upstate NY winter. I was sent to McQuaid because I had a history of tutoring. They needed a tutor.

Disappointed that my plots hadn’t worked out, I decided to suck it up and do my best. Seventh grade homework help is no one’s dream job, but it would be over soon enough. I dove headfirst into algebra homework, vocabulary tests, and almost-due assignments.

I also spent months laughing. I mostly remember the laughter. We laughed about the nicknames seventh graders make up for each other. We laughed about the way they would try to trick me to avoid homework. We laughed about the pneumonic devices we’d devise to memorize vocab words.

And then, very abruptly, I had to leave. I was needed back at the novitiate so we could begin our summer schedule. The school year wasn’t finished and exams loomed on the horizon, but my superior called me home and I had to say goodbye to the algebra and the vocabulary and the laughter.

I was distraught.

The students had come to rely on me and I had come to rely on them. What would my life look like without them? What would theirs look like without me?

My departure took place during the Rochester Lilac Festival as the city burst with flowers and fragrance and visitors. The small flowers bloom in clusters of  white and rose and lilac, natch. They smell like my elegant grandmother’s perfume. Overwhelming in abundance, they also reward getting up close and inhaling with one’s nose and eyes. After school most days, I would ride my bike to the gardens and bathe in the flora. I moped and cried as I wound through the radiant flowers.

A few weeks later, I made my Vow Retreat in Guelph, Ontario, a sort of final confirmation that I wanted to profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Jesuit. Despite the gravity of the discernment, my heart remained in Rochester. I yearned to be back with the students and our jokes and routines and even the tedious vocabulary tests. I couldn’t pray through the grief. Three days in, I stumbled into a new part of the grounds.

Lilacs.

Again I soaked in the flora.

Again I relived the joyous times with the students.

Again I mourned the fact that our experience had been cut abruptly short.

The lilacs finally brought me back to prayer. Jesus told me that my experience with those amazing students was like those lilacs. While in bloom lilacs are glorious and colorful and fill the air with sweetness. But lilacs fade, quickly. Most lilacs reach their glory for only two weeks. After that, we wait fifty more weeks for them to reemerge.

Lilac experiences punctuate my Jesuit life: a run of strikes at the bowling alley with my friends at L’Arche Syracuse; an original performance coming together at Teatro La Fragua in Honduras; a college retreat with a group of beloved students at Loyola University Chicago. I savor these moments when everything converges in a wondrous harmony. I have seen God’s glory come alive.

And then it ends. Sometimes much sooner than I’d hoped.

I think of those flowers when I reflect on the many people whose lives were crescendoing into lilac moments when care for our fellow humanity abruptly cut off those experiences. Senior years of college and high school are ending with a whimper and a Zoom graduation. High holy days were celebrated without the ritual that sustains us. Weddings have been postponed and dramatically changed.

So many things that I thought were stable were actually ephemeral. Like lilacs, they faded before their beauty had satiated me. It has been destabilizing, and often so sad.

Amidst the sadness, I remember Jesus approaching me in the lilac patches in Guelph. He held me in my sadness, mourning the time I wouldn’t spend with my students: solving for x and memorizing definitions. He promised me, though, that such relationships would bloom again just like those lilacs. He makes that promise to each of us right now as our own lilac patches have wilted too suddenly.

So consider those lilacs, and trust that though they neither sow nor reap, God brings them into glorious bloom every year. We don’t know how, but our own glorious blooms will blossom again.

-//-

Photos courtesy of the author. 

Categories: Things Jesuit

Waiting for the Spirit: An Online Retreat

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 05/11/2020 - 05:30

Spend the days between Ascension and Pentecost in prayer with the IgnatianSpirituality.com community and the online retreat, Waiting for the Spirit. Just as the Apostles and Mary waited in prayer between Christ’s Ascension into heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, we await the renewal the Holy Spirit brings as we close […]

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

What might happen if you gave just one percent of your day to God? Transform your life with The 15-Minute Prayer Solution by Gary Jansen.

Click through to read the full article Waiting for the Spirit: An Online Retreat, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Finding Freedom in a Lockdown:The Common Good and Liberty Don’t Have to be at Odds

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 05/10/2020 - 23:51

Our country has been straining under the pressure of stay-at-home orders. When told to wear masks, people have responded with vitriol in forms such as spit, snot, profanity, and most tragically, murder. In a more organized and public form, people have expressed their anger in protests at state capitals across the country, with the tension reaching frightening heights last week as armed protesters entered the Michigan senate. 

Those protesting the orders say they are defending their inalienable right to freedom, while public officials have defended the orders with appeals to security and the common good. To the detriment of the country, our public discourse has set these two goods against each other in a zero-sum competition. 

At the root of this conflict is a debate about the nature of freedom itself. Is it an absolute and inalienable right or is it a conditional right dependent on the overall good of society? The conflict between these different notions, I would argue, arises from thinking of freedom solely as a political right. But if we understand our freedom primarily as a gift from God, then the opposing sides in this conflict are not inherently opposed, but can be recognized as different expressions of a shared desire, namely to love. 

Reframing freedom in this way does not settle the debate about what to do, but it does dissipate the ostensible zero-sum conflict between individual freedom and the common good. Furthermore, it can lead to greater humility and charity in our public discourse by revealing the legitimate good found on each side.

Freedom is at the very heart of what we believe it means to be an American. The rights and protections enshrined in our founding documents and the virtues lauded in our national stories tell us that our ideal (if not always our reality) is that to be American is to be free. 

It is understandable, then, that the recent mandates restricting our freedom to move and gather together would be met with unease and even resistance. Any government action that sacrifices individual freedoms for the sake of the common good by its very nature challenges American identity and the United States’ raison d’etre, even when that good is necessary. 

Individual liberty and the common good can be reconciled, though, by understanding freedom above all else as a gift from God. For if freedom is a gift, then contrary to our national values, it is not a good in itself. As St. Ignatius writes in the First Principle and Foundation of The Spiritual Exercises, God grants gifts to each person “that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created,” that end being “to praise reverence, and serve God.” 

As Americans, we typically think of freedom as a power of choice, the license to do or say what we please unobstructed. But faith reveals that we are truly free only when we live according to the purpose for which we were made, that is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mt. 22:36-40).

Understanding freedom in this sense sheds light on the protesters’ errors. The outcry seems to spring not from love, but from resentment toward the mandated limitations on our movement. In its extreme form, that resentment is expressed in gun-carrying protesters and violence against fellow citizens; it goes without saying how antithetical this is to the Christian sense of freedom. But even the demand for freedom alone, which seems to undergird the grievance of all the protesters, is misguided if it is desired for its own sake and not as a means to help us love more completely.

Yet the lens of love also fosters sympathy with some of the protesters’ grievances, even if our faith grounds those grievances on different reasons. Stay-at-home orders are concerning not simply because they restrict our freedom, but because they prevent us from loving in the usual ways. We can no longer share love by visiting family and friends in person. We cannot serve those in need through volunteering and ministry. We cannot share our love for God through communal worship. 

This is a painful reality and it more severely affects those lacking reliable internet access or cell phone coverage and those living alone or in more dispersed areas. Additionally, the shocking unemployment numbers just released alarm us to the millions of people who are struggling to care for themselves and their families and are grappling with the loss of meaning, dignity, and purpose that work provides. The government orders have significantly limited our freedom to live out our Christian vocation, and the desire to love tugs us toward wanting to lift these restrictions and reclaim our civic freedoms.

What tempers this desire and prevents the majority of us from joining the protesters, however, is the desire to keep others, especially the vulnerable, safe from this disease. While we may be frustrated by the stay-at-home orders, there is a recognition that staying at home is itself an act of love. By maintaining social distance and “flattening the curve,” we ease the burden on medical professionals, facilities and resources and thereby help ensure that the sick can receive the care they need. Consenting to and obeying the government’s orders, then, can be a way of exercising our freedom and practicing our call to love.

As Christians, we must attempt to see everything, including our freedom, through God’s eyes. And in this light, we see it as a gift given so that we may love more fully and completely. As many states begin to reopen and lift certain restrictions, we must resist the temptation to return to more familiar habits and routines simply because we can. Instead, we must  go to God for guidance and prayerfully discern, asking, “God, in these confounding circumstances, how are you calling me to love?” We will discover our true freedom when we humbly accept and act on the reply.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Don’t Let Your Hearts Be Troubled | One-Minute Homily

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 05/10/2020 - 02:00

There are many things that can trouble us right now, but Fr. Joe Laramie, SJ, reminds us of these words of Jesus: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Based on the readings for Sunday, May 10, 2020.

Put your hand on your heart. What do you feel?

Happy Easter! I’m Fr Joe Laramie and this is my One Minute Homily!

Our hearts beat all day, every day, all year long. But how often do we notice? Maybe just when my heart is beating fast: before an exam or a big presentation or when I’m running.

What are the emotions under my heartbeat? Joy, sorrow, anxiety?

Jesus tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” We might tell him all the reasons our hearts should be troubled: wars, violence, loneliness, stress.

He calls us to “have faith in me” and reminds us of the works he has done for us: He made us, loves us, blesses us, gives us family and friends, gifts and talents, dies and rises for us, and gives us himself in the Eucharist. And he has more graces in store for us.

Jesus is the King of Hearts, the Divine Heart Doctor who renews and strengthens our hearts.

Don’t let your hearts be troubled.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Jesuit Rap Response to COVID-19

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 05/08/2020 - 05:30

Michael Martínez, SJ, theology teacher and campus minister at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Miami, FL, performs “The Wake Up Call: Jesuit Rap Response to COVID-19” in the below video. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and Italian.

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

What might happen if you gave just one percent of your day to God? Transform your life with The 15-Minute Prayer Solution by Gary Jansen.

Click through to read the full article Jesuit Rap Response to COVID-19, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

God as the Great Baker

Ignatian Spirituality - Wed, 05/06/2020 - 05:30

These days may be unsettling and uncertain, but we can be assured that God is with us, faithfully providing reassurance and love. My reassurance came recently when I decided to bake bread. Like so many others, I am confined to my home as a preventative measure against the coronavirus. It has been more than a […]

IgnatianSpirituality.com ® 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 God as the Great Baker, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

The Missing Shoe: Deepening God’s Life in Me

Ignatian Spirituality - Mon, 05/04/2020 - 05:30

“Where is my stupid shoe?” I shouted at my bewildered husband. That question burst out of my mouth far more loudly than intended on a Wednesday morning in early March. I slept through two alarms that morning and had only woken up maybe 20 minutes before the rest of my family. In other words, I […]

IgnatianSpirituality.com ® 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 The Missing Shoe: Deepening God’s Life in Me, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Mental Health Awareness Month: Why I Go to Therapy Now

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 05/03/2020 - 23:29

Content Warning: This piece contains language regarding suicide, self-harm, bullying, and trauma.

I hate asking for help. But in August 2018, I finally walked into my superior’s office and asked for the recommendation of a therapist I could start seeing. I had to overcome many barriers to get to this point, including the stigmas and myths often associated with mental health. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To honor this month, I want to share how those myths hindered me and why I’m so glad I sought help.

First, I want to be clear: therapy has not been an instantaneous, miraculous solution.  The process has been difficult and often painful, but also joyful and extremely fruitful. As I reflect on the experience so far, I realize three myths have stood in my way before and during therapy, both consciously and subconsciously.

1) My problems aren’t bad enough: One of the central pithy statements of Jesuit life is “compare and despair.” It means whenever we compare ourselves to others–whether it be our joys, our faults, our prayer life, whatever–we usually end up despairing. This was certainly the case with my mental health. I constantly compared myself to others: soldiers suffering PTSD, those living in poverty, victims of domestic violence. 

I had faced a great deal of bullying from 6th grade and into high school. Classmates daily told me how nobody loved me, nobody wanted me around, and the world would be better off if I were dead. I was politically active and critical of America’s wars, leading classmates to call me a terrorist and tell me I should be shot. Frequently they hollered f*gg*t, the common slur of the day. It even occasionally devolved into physical bullying. When I participated in a day of silence for victims of anti-LGBTQ+ violence, my classmate grabbed the breast pocket of the shirt and ripped it from me.  The result was that from 7th grade through starting college, I considered suicide at most every other week.

Despite this experience, I constantly told myself that my problems were not as bad as others, thus I was not really deserving of seeking help. I felt guilt about feeling bad. This sentiment was a false and dangerous one. The truth is that we all deserve to be healthy, including our mental health. Our problems may be different and they might not appear as extreme, but that doesn’t make them invalid.

2) I should just get over it: I’m a generally tough and resilient guy. I’ve broken my left leg, a few toes, and my nose on six different occasions. I have scars from different work and play accidents. I typically avoid doctors, instead relishing a strange mix of pride regarding my scars/maladies and resentment toward myself for any sense of weakness. Perhaps it is because I had to pretend to be strong to get this far. 

Things started turning around in sophomore and junior year of high school. I began finding a group of friends and growing more comfortable in who I was. I was athletically and academically successful, developing a love for wrestling and lifting, history and theology. Attending the Ignatian Family Teach-In, I found a sense of belonging that I had never before experienced. This sense of joy grew spectacularly as I graduated and moved on to Creighton University, and subsequently in my time as a Jesuit. Yet there was always something there, tugging at me.

Whatever the case, this get-over-it-route simply compounded my challenges. Ignoring illness and poor health only further exacerbates it. The way to health is through taking care. I have had to learn that asking for help and wanting to be healthy is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of responsibility, generosity, and compassion.

3) I need to take care of others first: This myth takes two forms. First, it means that I always prioritize the well-being of others. From making sure I get work done on group efforts (especially social justice tasks) to being the last in line to receive Eucharist, I always have to make sure others come first. Second, even when I did finally go to therapy, I tried to frame it as making sure I was healthy so I could care for others. It was like the airplane oxygen masks and putting on your own first so you can then help others. 

Some of it was certainly the recognition that if I wanted to be a healthy, available, safe, and dependable Jesuit, I needed to follow through and ask for help. An extremely small but persistent piece, however, was admitting that God loves me and I needed/wanted to love myself. My spiritual life over the years has made this abundantly clear, but putting it into practice has been the exceedingly difficult part.

I still often see myself as disposable, only worth keeping as long as I work properly. Given my upbringing, my passion for justice, and generally a life of service, this last myth is perhaps the hardest to break. I really hate saying it and desperately want to equivocate, but I must care for and love myself, full stop.

***

There are plenty more stigmas and myths regarding mental healthcare that keep well-being out of reach: addiction means you’re a bad person; therapy is for “snowflakes”; all you need is prayer; mental health isn’t manly; talking about suicide makes it more likely. Each of these is dangerous and dismissive in its own right. There are also lots of external barriers to accessing mental healthcare: cost, culture, homelessness, geographic isolation

For many who know me both well and in passing, I might not be the immediate image of someone who goes to weekly therapy. I often shared in that sense, believing myself not the type of person to seek out mental healthcare. In going to therapy, I have worked on the myths I had appropriated. More broadly, my own journey has helped me understand that others in need of mental healthcare might not look how I assume. I urge both an awareness regarding mental health as well as knowing how to be open and talk to someone in need, especially how to open up about yourself.

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Cover photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.

Categories: Things Jesuit

The Good Shepherd: Hearing the Voice of the Shepherd

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Sun, 05/03/2020 - 02:00

The good shepherd calls to his sheep by name. Damian Torres-Botello, SJ, reflects on how we learn to recognize the voice of the shepherd in this week’s One-Minute Homily. Based on the readings for Sunday, May 03, 2020.

Shepherds, sheep, and gates, oh my! Shepherds, sheep, and gates, oh my!

Hello! I’m Damian Torres-Botello and this is my One-Minute Reflection.

When we pray, we learn how God speaks personally to us. We get to know the call of the good shepherd leading us day in and day out. The more we pray the better we’re able to recognize the Lord’s voice versus the noise that appeals to us. Like, media ads, political parties, social media, societal expectations.

It’s easy for us to be enticed to another flock, to follow another shepherd, or to be stolen, slaughtered, and destroyed.

Today’s Gospel proclaims that the caring and watchful shepherd sleeps at the entrance of the sheep’s pen as if he were a gate. And when leading the sheep out, the shepherd calls each by name. And they follow. Because the voice they hear is familiar.

Jesus illustrates for us a picture of freedom and security, wanting nothing, a life filled with love, goodness, and mercy.

What Jesus ultimately reveals is the face of God in the form of a shepherd leading his flock.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Indifference the Ignatian Way

Ignatian Spirituality - Fri, 05/01/2020 - 05:30

Tim Muldoon is doing a video series on Ignatian mindfulness. In the episode below, he talks about indifference as understood the Ignatian way and how it relates to our understanding our COVID-19 situation. Muldoon is the author of books including Living Against the Grain and The Ignatian Workout. Find more of his videos on Ignatian […]

IgnatianSpirituality.com ® 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 Indifference the Ignatian Way, which appeared first on Ignatian Spirituality.

Categories: Things Jesuit

7 Things to Brighten Your Day

Latest from the Jesuit Post - Wed, 04/29/2020 - 23:15

It’s still Easter! We may need to look harder to find joy this year, but there are still signs of goodness and humor around us. Here are a few things that have given me a sense of the joy of Easter:

1. “Alexa, let us pray”.  I used to be skeptical of using technological aids for prayer, but the British Jesuits’ “Pray as You Go” app has helped me stay more focused in my prayer life, so I am excited to share that it is now available through Amazon Alexa.

 

2. “Do you have anything to eat?” the Risen Jesus asked his stunned disciples. This passage gives me great joy because it means that the resurrected body is still capable of enjoying food! One vicarious food enjoyment I have indulged in is videos from Chinese blogger Li Ziqi, who uses traditional methods to make Sichuan food. This video all about garlic is particularly enchanting:

 

3. Laughter is the best medicine. The internet is chock full of funny content these days. ICYMI, here are some wholesome memes, some work from home specific, and some home school specific. Also, for those fans of darker humor, this video consistently makes me laugh:

 

4. Reconnecting with nature. This year I am much more in tune with the changes of Spring in the environment outside my window. Whether listening to the birdsong or searching for the fleeting glimpse of the fox, I feel connected and healed by nature. This poem from Wendell Berry captures the sentiment well:

 

5. Witty art history on Twitter. My favorite recent follow has got to be @PP_Rubens who posts works from Renaissance and Baroque painters and highlights details with lighthearted and trivial commentary, like this on a painting of the beheading of John the Baptist:

Women messing with men's heads du jour: Delicate and well-dressed, Salome had not fully conceptualized the job of carrying a severed head back to the party. By Jacob Duck. pic.twitter.com/OaLqpOl7om

— Peter Paul Rubens (@PP_Rubens) April 27, 2020

 

6. #BachAThon on Twitter. Beautiful music and cool videos of musicians in their homes. The footwork in this video is intense:

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could fill twitter with Bach instead of cancellations, fear & sadness? Time for a virtual Bach-a-thon!

Post a video of some Bach &, if you are able, donate to @HelpMusiciansUK to support those musicians struggling. #BachAThonhttps://t.co/bZVoWIq5cy pic.twitter.com/NOWr2uhOFr

— Anna Lapwood (@annalapwood) March 17, 2020

 

7. Nuns Playing Basketball. I mean who can’t appreciate that? Plus “Shaq’s” commentary gets real metaphysical.

 

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Cover photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.

Categories: Things Jesuit

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