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Thinking and writing at the intersection of faith and culture. We focus on both sacred and secular issues, and everything in between, because God does too.
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The Second Week (Part 1): Why We Walk This Path | Seeking God: A Jesuit Retreat

Tue, 04/07/2020 - 23:03

The Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises is split into two episodes. This first one focuses on why we walk this particular path on our journey of faith, and not another. It begins with the Meditation on the Incarnation, and how God looks on the world with love and enters into it. Similarly, God enters into the messiness of our lives and enters into it. We constantly find evidence of God at work in our lives. Then this episode moves on to the Call of the King, a meditation in which we reflect on the compelling call of the voice of Jesus in our lives. Lastly, this episode presents the Meditation on the Two Standards, which sets up the competing calls in our life to “riches, honor, and pride,” or to “poverty, dishonor, and humility.”

  • Suggested texts:
    • John 1:35-45
    • Luke 5:1-11
    • Matthew 9:9-13
    • Matthew 4:1-11

 

  • Points for Reflection: Reflect on God’s activity in your life and the different voices that call out to you.
    • Meditation on the Incarnation: How does God enter into the messiness of your life? Where do you find evidence of God at work? In the silence of prayer? In the busyness of your everyday life?
    • Call of the King: Imagine a worldly leader, and then imagine Jesus. Where do you hear the voice of Jesus in your life? Where is Jesus calling you?
    • Two Standards: When are you tempted to pursue riches, honor, and pride in an unhealthy way? How is Jesus inviting you to deepen in poverty, dishonor, and humility?
Categories: Things Jesuit

How to Celebrate the Easter Triduum at Home

Tue, 04/07/2020 - 03:00

The Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter marks the most solemn feast in the Catholic calendar. The rituals in this celebration make present the great mystery of Christ’s Resurrection, which is beyond what words can capture. The washing of the feet, the dramatized retelling of the passion, the pillar of fire, the processions, the silence, the incense, the music, all of it building to a staggering trumpet blast: He is risen!

What are we to do, however, in a time when we cannot go to a parish to celebrate these great and holy days? Many of us are looking for a way to celebrate the Triduum at home. Some will tune into a live-stream from their parishes. Others may wish to celebrate a Liturgy of the Word with their families or to pray the Liturgy of the Hours together. For those who are interested in adapting the Triduum rituals to the home, I have prepared liturgical guides based on the Roman Missal.

The liturgy is not only the realm of the ordained. It is a gift and a responsibility for all the faithful. The Second Vatican Council identified the family as “the domestic Church” in which parents are “the first preachers of the faith to their children.” 1 Likewise, John Paul II called for families to extend the liturgical prayer of the whole Church into the home so that they may celebrate “God’s loving intervention” in their lives and in the life of the world. 2

Finding some creative ways to celebrate the Triduum in the home can be daunting. It may even seem awkward to lead your family or roommates in ritualized prayer. My hope in creating these guides is to remove some of that pressure and to bolster the life of the domestic Church. Though we mourn the fact that we cannot gather in our parish communities, perhaps these guides will help to make a meaningful and prayerful Triduum at home.

Click the links below to download the PDF guides for each day.

Holy Thursday At Home.
Good Friday At Home.
Easter Vigil At Home.
Easter Sunday At Home.

 

****

Acknowledgements

The Lectionary Texts

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

The Liturgical Texts

Excerpts adapted from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Categories: Things Jesuit

The First Week: Obstacles on Our Journey of Faith | Seeking God: A Jesuit Retreat

Mon, 04/06/2020 - 23:12

This episode is titled “The First Week: Obstacles on Our Journey of Faith.” The grace of the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises is to feel a deep and intense sorrow for my sins, shame and confusion that my sinfulness is an obstacle between myself and God. This episode will focus on four primary types of obstacles faced on our journey of faith: sin, false idols, attachments, and self-doubt. Reflecting on the obstacles that we face always has to be framed within the context of God’s infinite love and mercy. We are sinners, loved by God. So, this episode also includes praying for the grace to experience the profound joy of being forgiven by God.

  • Suggested texts:
    • John 8:1-11
    • Luke 18:9-14
    • Matthew 6:19-21
    • Romans 7:13-23
    • Psalm 51
  • Points for Reflection: Reflect on the obstacles on your journey of faith.
    • Sin: What leads you to turn away from God and go the wrong way?
    • False idols: What distracts you on your journey and causes you to lose your focus on God?
    • Attachments: What are the things that you cling to that weigh you down?
    • Self-doubt: Are you facing a daunting obstacle right now? Can you offer that up to Jesus?
Categories: Things Jesuit

Introduction to the Journey of Faith | Seeking God: A Jesuit Retreat

Mon, 04/06/2020 - 02:46

Join us for our online preached retreat, based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Brian Strassburger, SJ, will guide us through themes of the exercises and offer resources for prayer and reflection. This is the first of six talks that will be released daily from April 6-11. Join us to listen, reflect, and pray.

This episode is titled “Introduction to the Journey of Faith.” It includes an introduction to the Spiritual Exercises and the guiding theme of this retreat, which is framed around our faith as a journey. The host, Brian Strassburger, will introduce himself, and will share from the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola and his conversion. This episode will also present a key bedrock of Ignatian spirituality called the “First Principle and Foundation.”

Suggested texts:

  • Psalm 139
  • Psalm 23
  • Isaiah 55
  • First Principle & Foundation (Text below)
  • Luke 18:18-23

The First Principle & Foundation:

God created human beings to praise, reverence, and serve God, and by doing this, to save their souls. God created all other things on the face of the earth to help fulfill this purpose. From this, it follows that we are to use the things of this world only to the extent that they help us to this end, and we ought to rid ourselves of the things of this world to the extent that they get in the way of this end. For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things as much as we are able, so that we do not necessarily want health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long rather than a short life, and so in all the rest, so that we ultimately desire and choose only what is most conducive for us to the end for which God created us.

Points for Reflection: Reflect on your journey of faith, your freedom, and holy Christian indifference.

  • Do you ever make yourself the center of the universe? How might God be reminding you that you are a supporting actor?
  • How do you exercise the freedom to choose the good? When do you struggle to choose the good?
  • What are the things in your life that are out of your control? How are you growing in holy Christian indifference as you approach those things?
Categories: Things Jesuit

Is God Punishing Us?

Sun, 04/05/2020 - 23:00

“I can’t but help think God is punishing us,” my 87-year old great Aunt from Rhode Island recently said to me over the phone. I was listening to her thick New England accent as we discussed a world shaken and upended by the Coronavirus. She then reminded me that in 10 minutes we would need to hang up because Pope Francis had made a request to the world to join him in praying the rosary that day at 4pm. 

When we later continued our conversation, she referenced lines from the Old Testament where God smites the people of Israel because they turned away from Him and floundered in their commitment to Him. I responded by explaining theologically: sin, disaster, and death are a result of fallen human nature, while at the same time emphasizing that God is still here loving us. However, that response did not feel satisfying. It didn’t entirely address her concerns. 

I empathize with how the “punishment explanation” can seem to align more intuitively with the current picture of the world: spike in global mortality rates;  global economic distress; loneliness of social distancing; anxiety and uncertainty about future; dread; news headlines of impending doom; and the sudden disruption in plans, dreams, and careers. Although I still trust that God isn’t punishing the human race, I couldn’t quite articulate why. 

After listening to and reading Pope Francis’ meditation on the calming of a storm at sea in the Gospel of Mark during his Urbi et Orbi blessing, I found a response more satisfying than what I could provide: 

Lord you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “be converted!” “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12) You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. 

Pope Francis directs us away from the question “Are you punishing us and letting us perish?” to this question: “In this moment of my faith journey on Earth, how will I draw closer to God?” My initial response to the “punishment explanation” was to intellectualize our reality. In contrast, Pope Francis doesn’t choose to rationalize the pandemic. He instead looks at the pandemic with the eyes of faith, seeing it as an opportunity for conversion. Pope Francis extols us to ask for the grace to trust in God, so that we might be like Jesus, who by being in the stern is closest to the storm, yet he’s asleep, confident and assured of God’s immense care and love. 

Pope Francis’ response also aligned with what I had been re-reading in Victor Frankl’s seminal work: Man’s Search for Meaning

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual. 

The pandemic has disturbed my implicit expectations on life: good health, safety, in person classes, ministry at an elementary school, summer plans involving international travel and Spanish acquisition, etc. Yet Francis and Frankl remind me that I need an attitude change. It doesn’t matter what I expect, I cannot control global disease spread. But I can control how I respond to the crisis. 

When thinking about being questioned by life, I’m left pondering the example of Mary. The young girl, betrothed to Joseph, with a simple life ahead of her faced a radical decision: stay the course or give birth to the son of God. She chooses to abandon her implicit expectations on life and courageously accepts God’s will. Her response mirrors the response of Jesus in the stern of the boat during the storm: trust in God even in the midst of turmoil, chaos, and uncertainty. 

The poet Denise Levertov writes how we now face our own annunciation moments:

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another in most lives?
Some unwillingly undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
uncomprehending.

More often those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.

The pandemic approaches us not as a punishment but as an annunciation, a moment when “roads of light and storm open from darkness.” The pandemic has opened within us roads tangled with uncertainty and fear but also hope and potentiality. Levertov helps us face the pandemic by imploring us to ask this question: what personal destiny has been announced to me by the pandemic? If we ignore or avoid the question we then desperately grip the edge of the boat, simply waiting for the storm to end. But if we answer the question, and act on the question,  we enter the stern of the boat and imitate Christ.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Judas and the Price of Betrayal | One-Minute Homily

Sun, 04/05/2020 - 02:00

Judas had a price. Do we? There are things that we might put before our relationship with God, but Damian Torres-Botello, SJ, reminds us that there is always hope in Christ. Based on the readings for Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020.

 

JUDAS! Ugh! Every time!

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

30 pieces of silver, that’s the price for Judas for Jesus. That’s the price of a household slave way, way back in the day, 30 pieces of silver. Judas had his price, what’s yours?

The price for our betrayal doesn’t need to be cash or coin, but it could be our career, our ambitions, our achievements, comfort, material possessions, anything that we place in absolute priority or primary over God. So much so that God is no longer in our purview, perhaps ignored, maybe completely forgotten.

What’s wonderful, though, is that God does not turn away from us. Even though Jesus saw his own betrayal, Jesus did not reject his disciples, nor allow their anxiety to silence God’s Word, or keep him from turning to God in his hour of need. Jesus continued to give and share.

What have we done for Christ? What are we doing for Christ? What ought we do for Christ? Some food for thought.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Music Videos on YouTube Have Helped My Prayer During This Pandemic

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 01:18

In this world of increased distance and isolation, I imagine lots of us have gotten stuck in a YouTube vortex at one point or another. As I write, I’m in one, and it’s been going for a few hours. It’s late, and I need to go to bed, but I’m watching musicians do their thing – as Elizabeth Bishop says, “I am in need of music.” 

As opposed to simply listening to songs, I’ve found watching videos helpful in connecting to the music I deeply need right now. In a video, there’s an added layer of meaning and interpretation on the part of the artist to show us what the music can reveal and how it might impact us. 

So, here are six YouTube videos involving music that strike me as helpful these days. They were all created before COVID-19. They offer me some insight / advice as I navigate these unusual and challenging times, and they make me feel connected. 

Watch them with me. Indulge in them, and don’t feel bad spending the time. Enjoy them. Tell me what you think, and add to the list. 

(1) ‘Want You Back’ by Haim. Note the empty streets of LA, hardly a normal scene, and the way they reflect the streets of cities and towns across the world. Note the silliness of the sisters (Haim is a band of three sisters) and the way they play through those empty streets. It reminds me of the extreme lengths to which families and roommates are documenting their endless efforts to stay entertained. Note the occasional example of excellent social distancing as the sisters move along together. And note the clear message of the song, to which I think we can all relate. I haven’t hugged someone in like 17 days. I want hugs back. I want you all back.

(2) ‘Changes’ by Charles Bradley. As soon as we can get past the fact that this song serves as the soundtrack to the opening credits of Netflix’s filthy (and hilariously uncomfortable) animated show “Big Mouth,” the song stands on its own as a brilliant work. The video is simple – one man showing us heartbreak as he lives through changes in his life. His is perhaps the most expressive face in the history of expressive faces, and we’re all going through changes these days. It’s worth sitting in the reality of those changes and naming them as they are. And, Bradley does it in one long take. He’s a genius.

(3) ‘Light On’ by Maggie Rogers (La Blogothèque – Live in Paris). This video captures visually both the vulnerability of being alone in the dark, but also the utter joy of what it means to be together in the light. I have daydreams about what it will look like when we are all together again – I hope it looks like this video. There are people being brave, singing and dancing, being joyful with one another – a good and healthy thing to see these days.

(4) ‘Shadow Days’ by John Mayer – In this video, while Mayer isn’t totally isolated from others, it’s clear that the conclusions he draws about himself come in the solitary space he occupies reflecting on hard times he has faced. The scenes reflect that solitude beautifully – a long car ride alone out of the city, a vast landscape, the ever-changing western sky. He is convincing himself that he is good, and in that, he invites a good question for all of us – what can we learn about ourselves during this time of relative stillness? What can we forgive? How might we live differently on the other side of COVID-19, when these shadow days are past us?

(5) 2002 – Anne Marie and Ed Sheeran. Let’s imagine these two are quarantined together, healthy, and bored enough to embrace creativity and write new songs. Something like this tune might emerge, hearkening back to happier, less troubled times. If you’re lucky enough to be with loved ones you can share your musical gifts and talents these days, do it! And, share those gifts and talents with others through the vast digital network you have.

(6) ‘Ironic’ by Alanis Morissette – a classic for any child of the 90’s, and an iconic music video that shows how many layers of identity one person can have. There’s a certain melancholic joy to this video which resonates with me these days. While I’d rather opportunities to share my joy fully with others, there are simply joys I’ve encountered because I’m alone more often now – the absence of FOMO (fear of missing out), the sense of being less busy, the chance to breathe deeply and remind myself that, in this quiet space, I still serve others, and I am still breathing. And, as so many things are different than we expected them to be these days, the song reminds us that life has a funny way of teaching us sometimes.

What are your quarantine jams and videos? Pass them along – Lord knows I’ll get lost in the vortex again soon.

Categories: Things Jesuit

When I’m Anxious, Worried, and Uncertain I Pray, and Here is My Prayer

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 02:33

Dear One,

Thank You for this day. For waking me up. For inviting me to move about as I have thus far. For the way you help me carry on. For the hope of more life to experience tomorrow. You are always generous and loving, and so I offer up my abilities and my shortcomings. Again, I say thank You. For my successes and failures, thank You. For my wisdom and ignorance, thank You. These all have brought me to You today. I ask, please – listen to my heart, read my soul. For my words fall short, and yet I will try.

I hear news from colleagues, neighbors, friends, and family of their struggle, their sickness, their need for life sustaining resources. I notice parents and teachers and students adjusting to new ways of learning. I witness leaders struggling to comfort their people, to inform them and offer reassurance that all will be well. I recognize that those who have always been in need are now joined by new faces in financial struggle. The ill are united with the newly diagnosed. The table of the hungry is expanding to include more stomachs. 

What are You inviting me to discover at this moment? Help me find the good and grace when I’m struggling to understand what is unfolding around me. Help me locate You more clearly Lord, so that my eyes may find You in the fog of this crisis. I know that from struggle will come new life, because I believe the resurrection is always the new beginning after any heavy cross. And it is with this cross that I come to the altar where Your arms are open wide. I bow down low before You, Lord of Hosts. I come to your altar, Dear One, knowing I’m forgiven and loved. I bring my sorrows and concerns to exchange them for hope and faith. I sing alleluia, because You will rise, You are risen, and so too will we all be on the other side of all this. For what I need now is patience and trust, strength and courage, a peaceful heart and calm mind to carry me through this time in my life. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven…

St. Ignatius  of Loyola. Pray for us. 

Mary, Queen of Peace. Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts. Forever.

-//-

Photo by Rodolfo Clix from Pexels

Categories: Things Jesuit

The Coronavirus Isn’t Everywhere. God is.

Mon, 03/30/2020 - 23:09

When I was a child, I once read a vignette in my mother’s Catholic Digest magazine about a saint who thought about God all the time. That’s right: all the time. I don’t remember who the saint was or anything else of the story of their life, but I can still recall the mixture of amazement, disbelief, and challenge that such an idea stirred within me. In these days of pandemic and social distancing, I have returned to this idea as something else competes to dominate life, both externally and internally.

On its face, constantly thinking about God seems not only impossible, but also undesirable. We know naturally that obsessing over one thing is not a healthy way to live. The fears and anxiety induced by COVID-19 provide clear evidence of this, but we also know the futility of telling ourselves not to think about something. 

One of the reasons the pandemic has come to dominate so much of our lives is that it seems omnipresent. It has permeated and affected all aspects of our lives and consciousness, from working from home and remote learning to Zoom happy hours with friends. But to say that it is omnipresent is to give it an attribute only truly applicable to God, that is, to make it an idol. Sure, it is prudent and necessary to adjust our daily lives to minimize the impact of the virus and protect the most vulnerable. This does not mean that it has to occupy our minds at all times and order our lives completely. COVID-19 is not God, and certainly not worth the attention due to God.

How can we then turn away from worshiping the virus through our constant attention and fear? From making it into an idol that we fixate on without relief, as though it truly is omnipresent? The answer must be to follow the example from that saint in my mother’s magazine: to think of God. 

Thinking constantly of God is not risk-free though — we run the risk of merely setting up one idol in place another. We can sometimes have false and unhelpful images of God, whether it be the “Santa Claus god,” who knows if we’ve been bad or good and rewards/punishes accordingly, or a “distant god,” who rarely bothers with human affairs. If we latch onto one limited image of God, even if it captures some partial truth of the divine, it will stifle us if we devote our thoughts only to it. These images of God can become false idols in our lives too.

The truly transcendent God of Christianity is not omnipresent as a foreign invader, nor a suffocating blanket that covers everything, but rather God is omnipresent like air or gravity. God is the ground underneath us that holds us up.

Thinking constantly of God does not mean limiting our consciousness, but freeing it. There is nothing you can think of that isn’t related to God. Everything that exists is good, a gift from God. If we think of God all the time, we are merely thinking truly, recognizing this fundamental reality of existence.

Practically, the fear of coronavirus can give us occasion to turn to the truly omnipresent God for comfort. Every time I think of the virus or read related news, I try consciously to turn my thoughts to God, either offering up my feelings or asking for help for those in need. Thinking of God, along with care for our physical, social, psychological health, will profit us spiritually in these extraordinary times. 

While it might seem like the coronavirus is everywhere, God actually is. And in the midst of all this, God is lovingly seeking you out. Think about that.

Categories: Things Jesuit

What Do We Do Without Sports?

Mon, 03/30/2020 - 01:54

Wait, wasn’t baseball season supposed to have started by now?  Shouldn’t we be awaiting a great Final Four matchup right now? Effectively, because of Coronavirus, all sporting events have been either pushed back, suspended indefinitely, or cancelled.  For many of us, myself included, this is a difficult scenario to face.

That’s because sports add color and excitement to our lives. 

The world of sports gifts us with two rewards: it’s a place of bonding with others and is also  a means of striving for excellence.

For those of us who are sports fans, I doubt that we watch our favorite teams or players in a vacuum; sometimes we are the fans in the stands or we watch the games with family and friends at home or in a bar.  We talk about our love for these games with the people we watch with and the others we know who share our interests.

Sometimes we also watch for people we care about.  We watch because our friend really likes the game and it is a way to spend time with her.  As a high school teacher, I go to the school’s games because I want to support my students past and present, because I already have a relationship with them.  Those chances are not available right now.

And for the athletes, the games allow us to push ourselves and become better.  My students were heartbroken to learn that their seasons were going to be cut short.  They won’t have the chance to push further into the playoffs. Some won’t even play their senior (or freshman) season if they played a Spring sport.

We  don’t have live sports right now.  And we don’t know when our favorite teams or sports will come back on the air.  And these delays really sting.  

Teams on the verge of winning it all may never see their season come to a close and end their championship drought.  Teams poised to have a great Spring season or to turn a mediocre Winter season around have to wait to see their next chance, be that later this year or next year.  Athletes in their prime may never have that stellar season they have been working towards.

And yet all is not lost.  The bonding with others and the striving for excellence need not stop simply because we aren’t currently playing or watching our respective games.  Whether sports have been a source of bonding or of pushing ourselves towards excellence, here are a few alternatives we can do right now.

Instead of watching the new games, watch a few classics in the interim.  Whether your favorite is baseball, basketball, hockey, football, soccer, or something else, there are numerous classic games to watch. 1  And we don’t have to watch these games alone; get a few friends together (via Facetime or video hangout) to stream some great games and share stories of some of your favorite eras.  And if your favorite team seems poised for a great run or a breakthrough, talk about your hopes for the franchise’s (or school’s) future with fellow fans.

In short, this break in sports is an opportunity to remember why we love these games in the first place.  During this time we can go back to that source of life, whether it’s through memories, replays, or conversations with friends and mutual fans. 

And for the athletes, thankfully there is still the chance to exercise .  There are solo practice drills we can do, running, lifting weights. Athletes can, and are, continuing to strive for excellence. And while these are obviously important, we can always keep up with teammates to encourage each other and to be encouraged ourselves.

Ultimately, none of these provides the excitement or energy  of playing or watching sports in real time, but we have to do the best we can with our current circumstances to keep our love of these games alive. We can make  it out through this time by remembering why we love the games and by keeping that love alive though talking with others, rewatching old games and moments that are important to each of us.  

One day, the games will come back.  Perhaps the absence from them will help us to appreciate them all the more when they return.

Photo by Free To Use Sounds 

Categories: Things Jesuit

Raising Lazarus: Death and New Life | One-Minute Homily

Sun, 03/29/2020 - 02:00

The raising of Lazarus shows Jesus as both human and divine. Jesus weeps for his friend and is also able to raise him from the dead. Fr. Joe Laramie, SJ, reflects on this account in this week’s One-Minute Homily. Based on the readings for Sunday, March 29, 2020.

Life is sweet. But Death stinks.

I’m Fr Joe Laramie and this is my One-Minute Homily.

Jesus is the eternal Son of God, and he is fully a man. We see him sweating, weeping, hungry, rejoicing, and even angry. He experiences the full range of human emotions.

In Sunday’s Gospel, Martha meets Jesus just after her brother, Lazarus, has died. Jesus becomes ‘perturbed.’ In the original Greek, it says, “he snorted” or groaned, or grunted. Lazarus is a close friend of Jesus. Jesus is sad and upset. And then Jesus weeps.

Jesus tells them to, “Take away the stone.” Martha reminds him, “Lord, he has been dead for 4 days.” But, Jesus is not afraid of our human condition. He plunges into our lives, into our weakness, even into death. He raises Lazarus and promises to raise each of us, from death to new life.

Categories: Things Jesuit

#UntilNextTime: Why Your Next 3-day Weekend Should Be Spent in Montgomery, Alabama

Fri, 03/27/2020 - 02:33

There may be no place in the United States as intentionally constructed as the National Memorial for Peace & Justice of the Equal Justice Initiative. Right down to the bricks used, it seems every inch of the memorial was carefully and delicately designed. There are a number of layers to history and optics of the memorial that begin even before entering. It struck me that metal detectors were in use, especially since the memorial is entirely outdoors. What is more, a private security team monitors the perimeter of the memorial. It’s not possible to enter into, be in, and learn from this place and space without constant monitoring, not unlike the lives of the people it seeks to memorialize.

Wooden planks at the memorial entrance create the feeling of entering a jail cell. In fact, it creates the feeling of being in the hold of a ship. That is, visitors enter into their visit and experience at the memorial mimicking the position of a slave. Perhaps if that’s somehow lost on anyone, a sculpture confronts all visitors to make the point clear.

The entire memorial is at once overwhelming and understated. There is not much by way of text, artwork, or other images to get lost in, either. Instead, the plainness of the memorial perhaps speaks to how little most visitors actually know about the history being shared, and how simple the facts of the matter are. Legal decisions are summarized in comments smaller than Tweets. They are haunting.

It was not until the end of this opening walk that I noticed that the footprint of the entire memorial was in the shape of a ship. The sharp angles, the wooden planks, both underfoot and as side rails, serve to create not only the look, but even the sound of walking on the deck of a ship. It is not an accident, then, that some of the memorial coffins, hanging from the only roof of the entire memorial, actually hang over the edge, as if to symbolize those who were both enslaved and killed before making it ashore. What were their stories? What were their names? Were they sick and tossed overboard to prevent the further spread of disease? Were they killed for plotting to overthrow the slave traders themselves? Did they jump overboard in an attempt to swim to freedom?

Of course, the number of memorial coffins is astounding, but so is how they are displayed. Placed, at first, close together, visitors have to weave through coffins that appear at eye level, as if brushing shoulders with those on an overcrowded slave ship. Suddenly, the coffins hang from the roof, having already left stains down below from the erosion of its metal structure, as if footprints.

Eventually, the coffins hang higher and higher, or more accurately, the visitors descend lower and lower so that, quickly, they are forced to strain and squint to read the locations and names of those who were lynched. As the coffins themselves get further from view, detailed court documents come into view. The contrast is clear between these long and complicated court documents and the horrifyingly over simplified legal decisions. If visitors were to get lost reading these, they would actually end up walking off a cliff, perhaps a nod to the danger, harm, and depression that such a study could inflict upon others. A memorial though it may be, not all the names can be read because the coffins hang too high for visitors to read. That is, no matter how hard we try, there is a limit to how much we will truly know.

And then, just as soon as your eyes have adjusted to the squinting, visitors are confronted with the words of Toni Morrison, oversized and overwhelming, but simple. The heart is what matters.

“…And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver–love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.” –Tony Morrison

Ironically, visitors then view an extensive display of coffins, this time not hanging, but laying, as if waiting for burial. In fact, they are. The Equal Justice Initiative is willing and wanting to work with any municipality or county which is willing to properly memorialize the deaths that took place on its own soil. Perhaps what is most overwhelming is how many coffins remain unclaimed, unwanted, ignored. Exposed coffins can be unnerving to see, especially so many all at once, but what perhaps should be even more unnerving is the fact that most of the people killed were likely not even given the dignity of a burial.

Visitors do not leave the memorial without hope. Visitors must brush shoulders with statutes of the boycotters that walked the very same streets. Ironically, if a visitor were to stand at eye-level, and in the same direction as the statues, the view they would see is much like that of a landfill — an odd terracing of the hill on which the majority of the memorial sits, perhaps meant to signify the messy, man-made results of man’s own creation and racism. The protestors must necessarily be like the tall, strong pines in whose shadows they stand.

Even a visitor’s exit from the memorial is calculated. There are no quick exits. It takes time to leave. Visitors must walk through a painfully slow, winding path that leads to the largest sculpture on the grounds. At first sight, the figures appear as enslaved persons drowning at sea, or perhaps simply stuck in a wall, with only their raised hands, heads, and chests exposed. Perhaps it is only as visitors walk behind the sculpture that they may realize its intended commentary on police brutality and shootings.

My timely prayer is that no memorial like this need be made ever again. With the racism now being perpetuated against Asians as a result of COVID-19, I will be praying all the more.

A note about the pilgrimage: The Jesuit Antiracism Sodality, formed by Jesuits in formation to confront racism, hosted a Civil Rights Movement Pilgrimage earlier this year. Beginning in New Orleans, and traveling to Mobile, Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, before ending in Atlanta, men in formation from the Midwest and Central and Southern Provinces visited historical sites, museums, and met with Black Catholic leaders along the way, including Joseph Brown, S.J., professor of Africana Studies at Southern Illinois University. 

-//-

Photos courtesy of the author.

Categories: Things Jesuit

A Religious’ Letter to Quarantined Catholics

Thu, 03/26/2020 - 01:59

The Catholic hierarchy is cooperating with civil mandates to protect and save lives from a global pandemic. In a rare moment in the history of Christianity, Churches are closed and the sacraments are not being given out on a large scale.

Some are posting online that they are sad and confused at the cancellation of masses and closing of churches. Some believe bishops made the wrong decision. Some defend the bishops’ decision. And some are indifferent. 

Rather than make any claims in favor of or against the decisions of cardinals, bishops, and priests (not to mention politicians, public health officials, and epidemiologists), I want to bring to light something significant for our reflection. 

We Catholics often forget how incredibly strange we are. 

At the risk of making our religion commonplace, we continue to practice it as if it were normal to believe that God—the Creator, Savior, and Life of the Universe—becomes a piece of bread and a bit of wine.

As an example, I invite you to read this next sentence as if it were the first time you had ever heard of Catholicism, as if this list of information was all fresh without any context: 

Catholics gather in a public space, kneel before a sacrifice made on an altar, worship and consume consecrated bread and wine which they believe to be the Flesh and Blood of a first century Palestinian Jew named Jesus, and dialogue with a priest in order to converse directly with God. They believe that this is all to let God work in their soul in order to save it. 

This is anything but normal. And the moment this sort of cultic-worship becomes commonplace is the moment we lose any sense of the wild nature of religion. 

Losing that sense is like falling out of love with a spouse. When spouses first fall in love, they’re often overwhelmed and surprised by each other. New love puts them in a state of constant awe and wonder. But when the love they share becomes commonplace, they can lose sight of the wonderful person they fell in love with at first. This same crisis can happen with our religion. 

The good news is that a crisis can be the test of true love. And we are in a crisis.

I think many Catholics are upset that they can’t receive the sacraments because they are in love. Many Catholics are confused and conflicted because they want people to gather for Mass and other sacraments but can’t because it would risk disease and death. 

This tension in their hearts arises because they are in love with their religion and the truth it captures. When this love is unbridled, it can naturally rival the good sense of doing what the secular world can empirically show is best.

As a vowed-religious, I can’t help but sympathize. The religious life is built upon such strange love from its beginning. 

On the day I took perpetual vows as a Jesuit, I knelt at the foot of an altar with eleven other novices. The Jesuit superior held the Body and Blood of Jesus in front of my face. Trembling, I looked up and spoke my new name. I confessed Jesus and his infinite and merciful love. I then professed the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In doing so, I told Jesus in the Host and Chalice that I was making my entire life an offering to Him. 

By all accounts, the twelve of us publicly knelt and spoke to what appeared to be a lifeless wafer and a gold cup of wine before consuming them. 

We dove headlong into our religion—as if life depended on it, as if life itself was in it.

Since many church doors have been closed to laity and the sacraments are not available, it can appear as if the Catholic Church has stopped doing what it loves most, what gives it its very life. 

But there is a deeper reality quietly at work in the Church, one which has carried it through great trials before. Hundreds of thousands of religious brothers, sisters and priests are still celebrating Mass and receiving the sacraments on behalf of the whole world.  

As the religious theologian Fr. Elio Gambari, SMM writes:

“In the person taking the vows, the Church offers herself to Jesus…In a certain sense, at profession we cease to be ourselves and become the Church. Our personality is not diminished by this fusion with the Church, but our ‘I’ is stamped with the ‘I’ of the Church.”

When we religious go to God in all of our liturgical and personal prayer, we bring all of humanity with us and offer all of creation back to God Who made it and died to save it. We pray the Psalms and call down the Holy Spirit across the face of the earth from sunrise to sunset. We continue to enter into union with God on behalf of everyone who cannot receive the Body and Blood of Jesus and yearn to join Him.

And we do this every day, as we have always done and will do until the end of time. This is something which we have decided we all cannot live without. This is something wild and strange we do because we know the Church is still deeply in love.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Facing Death and Finding Hope in Light of COVID-19

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 01:00

My dad has a saying he’s been repeating for at least 15 years now: “Erin, everything past 60 is icing on the cake.”

The outbreak of COVID-19 has reminded the world – if we ever needed reminding – that like my dad, every human being has to come to terms with the fact that death is in our cards. Unfortunately, we also know ourselves and so recognize that even when frank acceptance of death is warranted, the better part of our energy is spent running away from it instead. We develop diets to promote longevity, we take supplements to increase lifespan, we avoid ‘germs’ like, well, the plague. We, like every other living thing on Earth, tend to want to hang on to what we’ve got for as long as we can. And the first and most precious thing we have is life.

Now let’s be clear. There’s nothing wrong with hanging on to life! To avoid dangerous situations and especially death is healthy. “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin” writes St. Paul to the Romans.1 Likewise the prophet Ezekiel declares that God finds “no pleasure in the death of anyone”2 for death is the end of something good. And God desires not that the good die but that the dead live, just as Christ was raised from the dead. 

So in the specter of death, we rightly discern the darkness of sin, and in gratitude for God’s gracious gift, we correctly surmise a responsibility to care for our lives as vessels of the Holy Spirit and instruments of God’s designs on Earth. Death is an evil and life is a good.

And yet, the mystery of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice bringing life to the dead and reconciliation to sinners is also an important reminder that as Christians death does not have the final word.  In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul exclaims, “Where O death is your victory?  Where O death is your sting?”3 “No, in all these things,” St. Paul goes on to say in his letter to the Romans, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”4 

Christ’s resurrection changes the calculus not only on living – how we ought to face life – but also on dying – how we ought to face death. Death, we as Christians are convinced, is no longer an end point. It is no longer the final word in a tragic (or perhaps comic) play in which we, as Shakespeare put it, “are merely players.”5  On the contrary, death is now God’s invitation to more life with him, in fulfillment not only of our deepest aspirations but also those of the entire world where we, along with all the saints, hope to continue our labors beyond the grave until the final coming of God’s Kingdom on Earth.

So how might this new ‘Gospel calculus’ function in today’s world with sold out shelves of toilet paper and stockpiles of hand sanitizer? It doesn’t mean “don’t wash your hands” and it certainly doesn’t mean we should ignore appropriate precautions – these are, after all, as much for others as they are for ourselves. But what it does mean is that whether we are 74 years old like my dad or 27 years old like myself, death is not a dark and meaningless force waiting to snatch us from safety and cast us into a hopeless oblivion. In fact, it’s just the opposite, for as St. Paul writes to the young church in Philippi, for Christians “life is Christ, and death is gain” because “to depart this life…is to be with Christ” forever.6

On the global scale, the chances of any healthy individual dying from COVID-19 remain small. But we all know people – it might be our parents or it might be us – who are at higher risk if they should contract the virus. Perhaps the present pandemic can be a reminder to us of what we’ve always believed as Christians: that a life well lived – be it for 27, 74 or any other number of years – is not nullified by death. On the contrary, in death it is redeemed.  

I like my dad’s motto, and I hope I can adopt it for myself if and when I live to be his age. But in a time when fear of death is the order of the day, I don’t think we as Christians need to wait until we’re 60 (or 70 or 80) to join with the spirit of gratitude in a little prayer very much like my dad’s motto: “God, whenever you chose to take me home, every day down here was icing on the cake.”

 

//

Cover photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash.

Categories: Things Jesuit

The Man Born Blind: An Encounter with Jesus | One-Minute Homily

Sun, 03/22/2020 - 02:00

How do we get to know Jesus? Well, talk to him! Eric Immel, SJ, talks about Jesus, the blind man, and what it means to encounter Jesus in this week’s One-Minute Homily. Based on the readings for Sunday, March 22, 2020.

If we want to know who Jesus really is, who should we ask? Well, Jesus of course! I’m Eric Immel, and this is my One-Minute Reflection.

Today’s gospel is filled with people who don’t want to believe that Jesus is the Son of Man. After Jesus heals a blind man on the sabbath, people get lost in speculation about whether he’s a sinner, a prophet, or something else entirely. All they seem to know for sure is that the man was blind, but after meeting Jesus, he can see.

At the end of the passage, Jesus and the healed man meet. Jesus tells him – “Hey – I’m the guy who healed you – the Son of Man!” And, the man chooses to worship. They revealed themselves to each other, and the relationship became strong.

We can know a lot about Jesus without really knowing Jesus. When it comes to having a relationship with him the best way to start is by talking with him. Through those conversations, I think we’ll come to know Jesus more fully, and he’ll come to know us as well – what we hope for, what we need – and, because the relationship is strong, how we can love each other best. Talk to Jesus – he’s a good friend to have around.

Categories: Things Jesuit

When I’m Social Distancing I Need Christ: Resources to Finding God During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Fri, 03/20/2020 - 02:33

In the saga of national emergencies there was always an outlet. Locations to release tensions and fears. Places to escape and find momentary respite from the real. Spaces to process and understand the world at hand. You see it in movies sometimes. People running to the church to pray in the trenches, searching for hope and meaning, peace and comfort. However, in this moment of our history, where people would seek solace, tenderness and mercy, those doors have been closed. All for the safety of the community, indeed, and yet the void is quite felt. Where do we turn for accompaniment, for direction, for some sense and meaning in the confusion? 

We have put together a list of resources that could aid your discovering God’s presence through virtual communities in a time of social distancing. It’s not an exhaustive list, and perhaps these links will lead you to more outlets to engage your faith, to lean in closer to Christ, and to find God in all this mess. 

We also invite you to share in the comments below any additional links that may not be on this list that you have discovered to be helpful to you. Afterall, faith is a communal act, and we are in this together. 

For Family
52 Sundays for Families
Catholic During COVID-19 (Life Teen)
Coronavirus Response Lesson (Loyola Press)
My Catholic Kids
Tiny Saints

Mass
Practice of Spiritual Communion (Alcuin Institute for Catholic Culture)
Catholic Holy Mass Live Online (Mass Search)
Catholic T.V. (Daily Mass live broadcasts and rebroadcasts)
Daily Mass Live Stream with Cincinnati Jesuit Community
EWTN (Daily and Mass live broadcasts and rebroadcasts)
La Santa Misa (Sunday Spanish Mass)
Sunday Mass at Notre Dame 
Word on Fire: Daily Mass from Bishop Barron’s Chapel

Prayers
A Spiritual Care Package (Boston College Kairos)
Centering Prayer (Contemplative Outreach)
Examen for Life During COVID-19 (Ignatian Solidarity Network, in multiple languages)
Give Us This Day
Magnificat Online
One Hail Mary at a Time (Prayer Requests)
Popes Francis’ Prayer to Mary During Coronavirus Pandemic
Prayer Resources (Archdiocese of Detroit)
Stella Coeli: A Prayer in Time of Pestilence 
USCCB President’s Reflection Reflection and Prayer During Coronavirus

Reflections 
AMDG Podcast: Fr. Jim Martin: Ignatian Spirituality Can Guide Us in the Storm (Apple Podcast Reflection)
Catholic Women Preach (Reflections)
Coronavirus: A Reminder That We are All Connected (Reflection)
Detroit Catholic: ‘My peace I give to you’: Gaining peace of heart in a time of high anxiety (Reflection)
Gesu Church Detroit (Homily)
Hope and Community in the Time of Coronavirus (Reflection)
Ignatian Wisdom for COVID-19 (Jesuits in Ireland) 
Listening for God When We’re Stuck (Reflection)
No Mass? Practice Spiritual Communion (Reflection)
Social Distancing: What Would Jesus Do? | One-Minute Jesuit (YouTube Reflection)
Sts. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church (Weekly Homilies)
What Can Christians Do in the Time of Coronavirus? (Video | Article

Resources
BibleGateway – Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition 
Catholic Online
Church Fathers – Teachings and Resources 
Coronavirus Resources: Responding in Prayer, Reflection and Solidarity (updated regularly) 
iBreviary – Catholic Prayers 
How to Handwash Catholic Style (Catholic Diocese of Dallas)
Resources for Prayer and Engagement during Coronavirus (Current Catholic)

Virtual Communities 
BrianGeeding (Instagram IGTV; 8:30 a.m. EST morning prayer)
Catholics Quarantine for the Common Good (Facebook)
Center for Faith and Justice at Xavier University (Instagram)
Detroit Jesuits of the Midwest Province (Facebook)
Detroit Mercy University Ministry (Facebook – Watch this!)
Fr. James Martin, S.J. (Daily Faith Sharing on Facebook)
Jesuit Community at Loyola University in Maryland (Facebook)
John Carroll University Campus Ministry (Instagram – Watch this!)
Theology Quarantined (Facebook)
We Pray the Rosary Together (Instagram)

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Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Categories: Things Jesuit

Contemplation in Quarantine

Thu, 03/19/2020 - 03:30

The last month has brought a global pandemic that has challenged the narratives of our busy lives. COVID-19 is forcing many of us to take a step back from our daily routines as we try to prevent its spread. Many of the moments that we expected to share, from March Madness to T-Swift concerts, have instead yielded to a time of quarantine and isolation. Freelancer friends have shared concerns about their threatened livelihoods.Their anxieties are not unique. We are all now, in one way or another, acutely aware of our personal and communal fragilities.

Uncertain as this time is, it seems to me that the pandemic is providing an opportunity for us to collectively examine our lives and to perhaps look anew at the unseen and ordinary. This crisis has surfaced during the season of Lent, a time when we have already been thinking about our priorities in life in an effort to  reorient our gaze to our relationship with God. In this era of busy-ness and overstimulation, we are invited, I believe, to collectively contemplate human living in the 21st century. 

What does it mean to contemplate? For some, contemplation may conjure images of medieval monks lost in rapture. Yet, contemplation is an activity accessible to us all. It involves seeking to read the “signs of the times”, to see where God, the deepest reality, is present amidst the events of our lives. I think that Walter Burghardt’s definition of contemplation as a “long, loving look at the real” can be helpful to us in seeking God in our current moment.

Long

It seems that the lifestyle changes induced by COVID-19 will be with us for several months.. To look at all the changes induced by COVID-19 for a long time requires us to be attentive not just to the sacrifices of the scientists, first responders, food truck drivers, and countless others at work but also to situate this challenge in human history.  There is no doubt, in the words of a friend, that COVID-19 will be a “paragraph in history” and it will be a marking point for our generation. But to students of world and even ecclesial history, we know that humanity has dealt with plague and pandemic before. Can we imagine ways to draw on the strength of those who have gone before us as we seek meaning and serenity in these times?

Loving

Sometimes, personally and communally, we succumb to the myth of leading solitary and independent existences. But, COVID-19 reminds me that we are all in this together. Disease does not discriminate. For better or worse, the coming together of the global community to combat this virus has been a reminder that we are wired for connection. The viral videos of Italians singing and dancing together independently on their balconies demonstrates how much we need each other. #InThisTogether, trending on Twitter, shows us how we can each commit to solidarity. If germs can spread, how much more can kindness and good deeds? 

Look at the real

Burghardt reminds us that when we seek God, we have to begin with what is real. Even when it hurts, we do not avert our gaze from the difficult. COVID-19 has forced us to confront our false narratives of complete security and insulation from pain. In the 21st century, an age with such paradoxes of brilliant technology and vast inequity, we have to acknowledge our vulnerability. Despite all of our progres, we have not escaped the human condition. The dead who we mourn and the pain of their families testify to that. 

Yet, we also look and see the possibilities born out of a different way of life. The possibility of greater solidarity with our local and global communities. The possibility of escaping from the narrative that we only matter to the extent that we produce and are busy. The possibility of reimagining social and political structures to better serve others. The possibility of seeing ourselves not as independent agents but as creatures who want to sing, dance, and share our lives with one another. 

 Have you added any new contemplative practices to your life? When you look at this time, what essentials have emerged? Where have you been surprised by joy or by sorrow? What possibilities has COVID-19 opened for you? 

Photo by Noah Silliman

Categories: Things Jesuit

Coronavirus Has Shifted Reality, and My Mind and Heart Are Scattered

Wed, 03/18/2020 - 02:33

It’s hard not to move through the world these days feeling like toxins saturate everything. In my scattered mind, I’m actively choosing not to be afraid. 

***

The text came at 10:39 p.m. on Saturday. It’s a girl. She is healthy, eating and pooping as newborns do, and her parents are with her in the hospital, soon heading back to their semi-country home just outside Madison, Wisconsin. As the birth unfolded, the father was the only guest allowed in the room with the mother and medical staff. They didn’t know the child’s gender before she was born, and had taken to referring to her as ‘Larry.’ That’s not what they named her.

Grandparents will have to hold off on holding her for a while. The already sterilized process of handling an infant will be even more calculated and cautious. Yet there she is, a light in the midst of darkness. The father told me that everyone there – the doctors, nurses, staff – were filled with joy for the young family. Little Lady Larry is here, ready to live.

*

I have a distinct memory from 2nd grade. One day, I was sitting in my assigned seat, likely a bit squirrely and bent over a book for SSR – sustained silent reading. Unthinking, I did something that I often did – I extended my pointer finger and plunged it into my nose. I rifled around for a second, found the gold I was digging for, and then – I’m embarrassed to say – ate whatever was schmeared under my nail. My teacher saw, and made a big scene.

“Eric Immel – that is absolutely disgusting!” she shouted, and the whole class turned on me. To her credit, she didn’t say out loud what I had done, but my classmates probably knew. Eating boogers as an eight-year-old is a hard habit to hide after all.

Rest assured, my friends. I was more careful about picking my nose after that. 

*

I live in community with 60 Jesuits. We range in age from our late 20s to mid-80s. We come from dozens of countries. We’ve had knees replaced and organs transplanted. We have survived political uprisings, viral outbreaks, and shortages of food and water. We have tried to be good Jesuits, men who at our core want to go about doing our best and remaining faithful. 

I say ‘we’ not to take personal credit for the incredible lives these words represent, but to remind myself that right now, nothing is about me. It is about ‘we,’ that is, us. 

One of our older guys and I have a great rapport, and as we gathered for our final all-community meeting recently, I wanted nothing more than to give him a hug and let him know of my prayers. But, I had to show my love from six feet away, because that’s what we’re called to these days. That’s something that will help.

***

The gift of a scattered mind is that it reaches to the limits of everything I know and grasps to make sense of it. It’s the only way that a new baby girl, a recollection of old habits, a life in religious community, and a global pandemic can come together and remind me that love is greater than fear. Love is the only thing that brings my mind back to center.

There are people who need my prayers, and I’ll offer them – newborn babies and new parents, folks that are at great risk. There are new ways of living I must engage to keep myself safe. My hands are chapped from frequent washing, and I haven’t picked my nose in almost a week. As much as I want to bear-hug my brothers during the sign of peace at Mass, my love for them has to be shown through a committed distance and stillness. 

Painful realities abound right now. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has limited social visitation for people held in detention, causing even further alienation. Friends who work with nonprofits dedicated to supporting unhoused people can’t get essentials to maintain their services. I’m getting emails from lists I didn’t know I was on – Macy’s department store, the Greater Oshkosh YMCA, the AARP for God’s sake – about how they’re handling the virus and what advice they have. Friends may never teach their graduating students face-to-face again. Weddings have been cancelled. I’m sitting in my room, doubting whether I have shortness of breath or if anxiety is simply raising my heart rate. 

Coronavirus affects everything. I’m doing my best to respond. It strikes me, though, that other contagions are in the air – fear, anger, sadness. I don’t want to diminish in any way the reality of this virus and what it can do. I do, however, think we have the cure to other contagions, and I think it’s time to engage them. Life, and love, must go on and win the day.

-//-

“Pick-Your-Nose Pen” by VodaBlatoKri

Categories: Things Jesuit

A New Resource: the TJP Curriculum Guide

Tue, 03/17/2020 - 01:00

Since 2012, TJP has offered a Jesuit, Catholic perspective on the contemporary world. Our team is comprised of young Jesuits seeking God in all things. Our work focuses on both sacred and secular issues because we are convinced that God’s does too. Over the years, we have received lots of feedback from educators and ministers who use our content in the classroom, on retreats, and for faculty formation.

Now we have a new resource to share. Introducing, the TJP Curriculum Guide. This guide includes articles and videos published by TJP, organized by nearly twenty different themes, with hyperlinks to the content.

The themes include the following:

  • Addiction
  • Climate Change and the Environment
  • Church Teaching
  • Education
  • Ignatian Spirituality
  • Immigrants and Refugees
  • Mental Health
  • Race and Racism
  • Politics
  • Pop Culture
  • Post-College Life
  • Prayer
  • Sexuality
  • Social Justice
  • Spirituality
  • Sports
  • Technology
  • Women in the Church
  • Vocations

You can view and download the TJP Curriculum Guide here. We hope you find this content helpful in your work and ministry. It will be updated periodically, so be sure to check back at the start of a new semester.

Submit your email address to this Google Form if you are using this in your work or ministry to let us know how it’s been helpful and how we could make it better. On the form, you’ll find an option to receive a direct copy when we update the TJP Curriculum Guide every 3-6 months with new content.

If you want to stay in the loop about updates and get connected to others who are using TJP as a resource, you can also send us an email at editors@thejesuitpost.org.

Categories: Things Jesuit

Life Changes from Lent and Coronavirus: What TJP Readers Are Doing

Mon, 03/16/2020 - 00:00

I’m not the only one to point out the resonance between the COVID-19 crisis and the spiritual season of Lent. Both seem to be desert experiences. 

With Lent comes new activities and practices, some of which are quite practical. We wear different colors (purple vestments), we alter our eating habits (no meat on Fridays), and we refrain from certain activities (saying Alleluia, singing the Gloria at Mass). But we also bring into our lives other small practices that we’ve noticed can help us live healthier and holier lives. 

The same is true for our current situation in this season of COVID-19. We are all adapting to new practices, guidelines, and abstinences for the health and safety of ourselves and our fellow community members. 

A few weeks ago we asked our readers to share some of the practices they are engaged in during the Lenten season. In this uncertain and anxious time, we want to share with you some of the spiritual practices and graces our readers have experienced this Lent. They may not be grand or overly dramatic. However, we can trust that they are true. And any act of acknowledging God’s activity in our lives, especially during an uncertain time, can be cause for an increase in faith, hope, and love. 

Prayer

Multiple readers responded that they were planning to pray the rosary every day. Others said they were making a commitment to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or attend daily Mass. Many included the practical ways in which they would insert this into their schedules—like praying their daily rosary on the way home from work. Others gave very specific plans for their prayer—like reading a paragraph of the Gospel of John every day. 

Others are adding new habits into their existing prayer routines. One reader wrote about “taking the advice of Jake Braithwaite, SJ — Sit before the Lord, let God marvel at you as you marvel at God.”

A few readers mentioned that they were getting involved in various prayer/bible study groups that their parishes were hosting during Lent. 

Fasting

A lot of TJP readers are fasting from technology. One reader is fasting from headphones, another deleted the podcast app for the remainder of Lent. Another common theme was giving up alcohol. One person is giving up the use of plastic water bottles. 

Almsgiving

The most creative responses came under what could be described as almsgiving, or doing good deeds. One person responded, “I’m trying to tell one person each day about a holy thing that they have done that’s inspired me.” Another said, “Each morning, [I’m] choosing someone to pray for throughout the day.” Others responded that they are trying quite simply to be kinder. 

Graces Received

Any Lenten practice is not an end in itself. All of our spiritual practices—penances, prayer, good deeds—are aimed at bringing us into closer relationship with God and making us more loving people. This was clear when readers told us about some of the graces they’ve received through their Lenten practices. 

“My hope is that it will help me see God in the parts of my life where I wasn’t looking for him but I believe he was there.”

“I feel it’s an important way for members of the Mystical Body of Christ to support one another on the way to salvation.”

“After Reconciliation and confessing the same sins for the hundredth time, the priest had me read James 3:1-12 as penance. I felt the grace from that sacrament and have been reading the passage every day. I see a difference in my gossip and disrespect habit. I will continue during Lent and after, and hopefully replace this sin with good.” 

“The feeling of being loved is at times overwhelming, all the time inspiring.”

“I was made aware of my need to forgive the smaller hurts in my life.”

“I am learning to trust God more each day.”

“The history of my life is a record of God’s seeking me out, so if I can remember that, God will faithfully do the rest.” 

*****

I hope you can find these statements, simple or profound as each may be, consoling. Many of the practices of the Lenten season, as well as the coronavirus precautions, we take on with a promise that they will aid us.

When I read these responses, I am reminded that when we make practical decisions in our daily habits to cultivate a greater sense of God in our life, God responds. It gives me consolation to hear about this process taking place in the lives of others. 

Please feel free to share in the comments section more of what you are doing during the Lenten season, or during the coronavirus situation, to cultivate a deeper relationship with God.

Categories: Things Jesuit

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