Monday, July 31, 2006

Saint Ignatius, Pray for Us

Up to his twenty-sixth year he was a man given over to the vanities of the world, and took special delight in the exercise of arms, with a great and vain desire of winning glory . . . (So begins Saint Ignatius' Autobiography)

But then things changed.

Saint Ignatius, intercede for us and ask our Lord that as you gave up the exercise of arms, so might the embattled peoples of the world. May the vain desires of people and nations be transformed in, by and to love, so that the world may better know and desire what is for God's greater glory. Amen.

Today is the Feast of our Jesuit founder, Saint Ignatius of Loyola. It is also the day that my brother scholastics and I begin our retreat. Please pray, through the intercession of Saint Ignatius, that as we approach ordination we may receive all the graces we need on this retreat and in the coming years.

This is a silent retreat and therefore both I and this blog go silent for the next eight days. In the meantime, please visit some of my friends: Maggie, Jason, Susan, Amy, Penni, Karen, Steve and Gashwin, to name a few.

Happy Feast!

A treat for the Feast of Saint Ignatius. Fordham will stream live at 12:30 pm Eastern Fr. Lito Salazar, SJ's pronouncing of his final vows. If you see this in time, and can get away with watching it, here's the link.

Loaves, Fishes & Fr. Rick Thomas

In the spirit of Sunday's gospel, R.C. Mommy offers an inspiring anecdote from the life of another recently deceased New Orleans province Jesuit, Fr. Rick Thomas:

"In Christmas of 1972, the people who worked at the ranch, led by Fr. Rick Thomas, SJ (those darn Jesuits! ;) ) who ran the ranch, decided to offer a holiday meal for the people they worked with. They got enough food for about 160 people. When they announced they were going to have this dinner, over 300 people showed up. The workers were horrified. There was no way what they bought would feed everyone. There would be riots when they ran out of food, they feared . . . "

Check out the rest of her post here.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Last Assignment of Fr. Stahel

Before I joined the Jesuits I met regularly with a Jesuit who lived nearby in South Carolina. Knowing my interests in literature and writing, he often spoke of a great Jesuit he hoped that I would soon meet. He sensed that I had something in common with Fr. Tom Stahel, ho had spent many years working as an editor at America magazine. My mentor and I traveled to the Jesuit ordinations at Spring Hill College that year. One of the first things he did was to try to introduce me to Tom. My first impression wasn't the best. Looking back, I think Tom tried to be as gracious as possible, but the truth was that he was in a hurry to get somewhere. Besides, Tom was never a master of the social graces. My first years as a Jesuit I had only the occasional encounter with Tom, as he was serving as the novice master in Nigeria. But, eventually, he returned to province and I soon learned that he indeed was a kind and gracious man. He had not forgotten my mentor's attempt to get us connected and so, when I saw him, he took an active interest in the work, studies or writing that I was doing. I could always count on him to be interested when often others were not.

Because of my positive experience with Tom (save for that first encounter), I wondered at the fact that many men in my province still harbored an active dislike and even hostility toward Tom. The reason was that at 39 years old, Tom had been called upon to be provincial, during a particularly difficult time for the province. Some hard decisions had to be made, some institutions had to be closed, and some never forgave him for those decisions. I suspect also that some of this had to do with the way in which Tom handled these things because first, he was pretty young to be provincial, and second, like I said, he was not always a master of the social graces.

But the years in which I knew Tom were lived heroically. He no doubt knew of the contempt that some in the province had for him, but he never spoke of it or complained about it. Upon his return from Nigeria, he answered the call to be assistant and admonitor to the provincial, a particularly trying job in recent years, as part of his responsibility was to handle accusations of abuse against Jesuits in the province. When he finally got a break from that, he was asked to take over as pastor of both of New Orleans' Jesuit parishes, a big job that would involve stresses that were different, but comparable in degree to his previous job. That was when he began to suffer from what at first just seemed like Bell's palsy, a paralysis of one side of the face which is often merely temporary. It lasted well over a year and began to affect bothe his eyesight and his speech. Yet, he continued his work through it all. Eventually, it became clear that there was more wrong than just the palsy, and he was relieved of his pastoral duties to seek treatment in New York. An exploratory surgery revealed nothing. But, when he began to have difficulty swallowing, the doctors eventually identified a cancer which radiation treatments were not able to cure him of. He spent a brief time at the America Jesuit community, a place he loved and had hoped to go back to work eventually. But soon he had to return to New Orleans where he could be better cared for.

I saw Tom just a few weeks before he died. He was never a large man, but I was shocked to see how frail he had become. He could barely speak, but took my hand with uncharacteristic affection. He sat with the community and seemed to draw a little energy from listening to our conversation. When I spoke of things that I'd been doing, he continued to show that interest which had buoyed me in years past, and seemed pleased to hear of my progress. He got up to leave, having expended all his energy listening. I hardly knew what to say, but embraced him again and just said, "Good to see you."

This all came back, with some tears, as I saw his name in the most recent issue of America. In "Christ, Come Quickly," Tom speaks of others he had accompanied in death, and what it's like for him to now be the one who is dying. Heroic to the end, he offered this last reflection, though he could barely even write:

Others have been here before me, after all. Think of those soldiers in the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” aboard landing boats at Normandy. They knew ahead of time that like soldiers everywhere, some of them would be blown to bits. Or think of Philip Evans, an English Jesuit who was told he was to be hanged the next day. At the time (the date was July 20, 1679), Philip was playing tennis. He continued his game. As they prepared to execute him, he proclaimed it was the best bully pulpit he ever had. St. Philip (he is a martyr saint), pray for me.

So what does it feel like to die?

It feels like a slackening of powers and a tendency to fall like a ragdoll. I cannot swallow, have not been able to for months now. That is the worst of it, although for some time I have been deaf and blind on the right-hand side. Doing anything on the right is difficult—so that writing now is like what left-hand writing used to be. Down to 118 pounds, I move at night with caution; though if I fell, I would not make much of an impression.

Talking is more and more difficult, and this is confirmed by others’ having more and more difficulty understanding my guttural attempts at speech. God never closes one door without opening another, they say. So all this has been felt as numbness, not pain, though doctors warn that pain may come. Who would have thought that dying felt like midmorning and midday exhaustion? Well, perhaps one who has had more experience than I. But in any case, just to be left alone to sleep seems a great blessing. The doctor recommends that I speak with the oncologist. But even to speak with him requires paperwork that I can do only with difficulty—hence, I rely on the kindness of a Jesuit superior who will do it for me.

Such is the quality, or non-quality, of life these days that I am like the nun in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” crying out: “O Christ, Christ come quickly.”

At Tom's funeral mass, Fr. Leo O'Donovan quoted one American provincial who said, "Tom was a good man who was easy to find when you needed a good man."

These words ring so true to me as both the tragedy and the triumph of this great Jesuit's life.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Life in Rome

Here on my blog I occasionally like to brag about my "kids," a group which includes my former students and youth group kids. Jeff Kirby (standing on the left in the photo), one of my former youth group kids, is a seminarian in Rome and was recently interviewed by the Charlotte Observer about the city. Here's a sampling:

Q. As "staff," do tourists stop to ask you questions?

All the time. Some are serious: Can I go to confession? Can you bless this rosary? We can't do these things until we're ordained, by the way.

Some questions are mundane: How do we get to the Vatican Museum? Where can we go to eat? We're happy to answer questions.

Q. OK. So where do you eat?

I like to joke by replying, "I'm assuming you want to eat Italian. ..." Living here for three years, my favorite is a German place near the Spanish Steps. There are only three German restaurants in Rome.

What's good for Italian? Try Pollezze's, near the Chiesa Nuova -- "New Church," built in the 17th century. For Romans, that's still new.

A famous place to eat is Abbruzzi's, near the Dodieci -- which means "twelve," short for the Church of the 12 Apostles. It's especially famous for its green sambuca liqueur. The restaurant is housed in what was the palace of the exiled King James of England (known as the "Old Pretender," 1688-1766).

Jeff will be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Charleston (SC) next summer.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Gashwin.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Approaching Priesthood

Well, I survived L.A. despite being nearly trapped there (that's a story for later) and have made my way to the somewhat cooler climes of Sedalia, CO. Here I've joined about 25 of my brother Jesuits, mostly from the U.S., who like myself are within two years of ordination. We're here for the "Arrupe Experience" a conference and retreat in which we have the opportunity to pray and reflect on our preparation for ordination and priesthood in the next two years. It's an exciting time, and something of a milestone for us. And though we've all been Jesuits for about 9 years now, it's hard to believe that time has come! We approach it with excitement, and some anxiety!

Your prayers for us during this time would be most welcome.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Turn Me Over, I'm Done

Well, yesterday began with a nice, even breezy day at Zuma Beach in Malibu, but finished here:

Seems where my brother lives they broke a record yesterday!

Southern California Endures Another Scorcher
By Deborah Schoch and Jeffrey L. Rabin
Times Staff Writers

July 23, 2006

The San Fernando Valley turned into a suburban Death Valley on Saturday as the mercury hit a record 119 in Woodland Hills, causing sweaty refugees to hug iced lattes, plop down on tile floors and, in at least one case, plead with a salesman to part with his last remaining portable air conditioner, a floor model.

"Today I realized I can't function with just a fan," said Susan Mitnik, who lives in a Topanga Canyon cottage. "It feels like everything is radiating heat. My head begins to pound."

Woodland Hills is a heat-hardy community, typically among the hottest locations in Los Angeles County. But the over-the-top temperature on this day sucked the life from normal Saturday activities — traffic was light, sidewalks were virtually empty — and the brave few who ventured out seemed to move in slow-motion, as if underwater.

read the rest.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Another Jesuit Blog

Well, John Brown SJ may not be offering any squirrel gumbo recipes in the blogosphere anytime soon, but in the meantime check out A Prayer for Generosity, the blog of Mike Rogers, SJ a scholastic studying at St. Louis University, and also blessed to be a fellow Red Sox fan!

My Latest Trick

My latest article, on the ministry of writing (and, by extension, blogging), has just been published in Weston Jesuit's magazine Light & Life. You can check out the whole issue in pdf format here. The whole issue is worth a look, and you'll find my article on page 12.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Super Stamps

Thwack! These hit the post office tomorrow! Anyone who knows my penchant for superheroes can guess that most of my outgoing mail will now be carrying these stamps! I'll be stocking up.

Unexpected Graces

Yesterday was one of those days that I found myself saying, "Well, you just never know!" The best affirmations of one's ministry are those that come unexpectedly, and yesterday I had two. I was minister of the cup at Mass and afterward another attendee at the conference came up to me and thanked me for my reflections that I write in Living Faith. He saw my name tag as he came up for Communion and recognized my name! It was a nice surprise.

Then, later last night I received an e-mail from a friend. Turns out that his brother-in-law was one of participants in the young adult retreat I worked on a couple of weeks ago. My friend was writing to thank me for the time I had spent with his brother-in-law. It was one of those unexpected moments in the retreat in which, because things hadn't gone exactly as planned, we had an opportunity for one-on-one prayer and spiritual conversation. Apparently, it made enough of an impression that he'd shared it with his sister and brother-in-law, not knowing we were friends. What are the odds? . . .

These are such nice reminders that God does manage to work through me, even if I don't always know it or recognize it. It also causes me to wonder at all the people my work may have touched without me ever knowing it! There's something very beautiful in that not-knowing!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Practicality, Trust, and Lacking Ambition

(just had to add this lovely photo provided by Karen)

Saint Ignatius' Autobiography, part 59

He also had many visions when he said Mass, and very frequently when he was drawing up the Constitutions. This he could affirm the more easily because he had the habit of setting down his thought every day, and these writings he had then found. He showed me a rather large bundle of collected writings, a large part of which he read to me. The larger part of the visions he saw in confirmation of some of the Constitutions, seeing now the Father, now all Three Persons of the Trinity, sometimes our Lady who interceded for him and sometimes confirmed what he had written.

In particular he told me of a decision on which he spent forty days, saying Mass each day, and each day shedding many tears. What he wanted to decide was whether our churches should have an income, and whether the Society could accept help from it.

His method of procedure, when he was drawing up the Constitutions, was to say Mass every day, and to lay the point he was treating before God, and to pray over it. He always made his prayer and said his Mass with tears.

I wanted to see all the papers dealing with the Constitutions, and I asked him to let me see them for a moment. But he would not.

Have you ever spent forty days praying over anything? I sure haven’t. Yet Ignatius spent forty days on what was seemingly a minor practical point. Should the churches have an income or not? In the pages of this autobiography we have seen this same basic dynamic rehearsed over and over again. There is a constant struggle in Ignatius between being practical and placing everything in God’s hands. This is just one example of the complexity of the man which those who think they know who Saint Ignatius was and what he stood for often miss out on. Ignatius was only concerned with being consistent when it came to one thing—doing God’s will. At one time that will might be to abandon everything to the providence of God, at another time it might be to take the practical course and fall back on the resources that are available. Taking either course involves placing one’s trust in God, if one is willing to put the forty days in—or whatever time it takes—to realize the will of God.

When the pilgrim Ignatius set out on the journey recounted in this autobiography, he had some ambitions. He wanted to go to the Holy Land on his own crusade to convert those who didn’t know Christ. But, he eventually he realized that this wasn’t God’s will (though it took him a long time to let go of that dream).

I had ambitions also when I felt called to become a Jesuit, both for my life before I was a Jesuit, and for my life as a Jesuit. I wanted to be a college professor. I wanted to write novels. I wanted to do lots of things. But one of the first things that God—and Saint Ignatius—challenged me to do was to lose those ambitions. I had to give them over to God, and see if God gave them back, just as I can imagine Ignatius doing with the financial fate of the Jesuit churches. If I was to be a Jesuit I had to open myself to the possibility—and still do—that I may never realize those ambitions, or any others I might currently have for myself. I have to lack ambition. My one ambition is to be to do what God wills for me. This is, it seems to me, a profoundly countercultural stance, and one I constantly feel myself resisting against. Will I really be available when and if I am asked to do something that I never envisioned for myself. I would like to confidently say “yes,” but it just might require forty days of prayer!

The Holy Spirit is Wrong Wrong Wrong

People who know what the Church should be (or is, it just doesn't know it) are wailing and gnashing their teeth because the Holy Spirit, it seems, has other ideas. Benedict XVI is a disappointment because he hasn't yet returned us to the state of the true Church (which, evidently involves ignoring everything else the Holy Spirit has done in the last fifty or so years of the Church's history). John XXIII--mistake, Vatican II--mistake, Paul VI--mistake, John Paul II--mistake. With the election of Benedict XVI, they thought the Holy Spirit had finally gotten it right. But the returns are in and it seems that the Holy Spirit screwed that one up too.

Karen shares one such assessment with us:

"No doubt our pope is a good person and probably very pious but he is not a conservative in the sense of a pre-Vatican II orthodox Catholic. He will not undo the damage created in the name of the "spirit of Vatican II". He will enforce Paul VI mass, he will maintain the new face of the Church because that is what his whole life has been about.

Unfortunately for the Church what is needed as a true orthodox pope, willing to be forceful, determined and capable of re-establishing the Tradition of the Church. The breed of cardinal and bishops product of the sixties, like our current Pope saw themselves as reformists building bridges to modernity. The true orthodox hierarchy of the past saw themselves as preservers of the Tradition, handed down from our Lord Jesus Christ to the Apostles, Church Fathers and continuing in the Church throughout generations.

The virus of modernity has so infected the Church that is doubtful it will return to the Tradition of the Fathers and perhaps the remnant orthodox will find places like the Society Pious X to preserve them." (Original comment posted here.)"

She also adds her thoughts on the matter.

My question: If the Holy Spirit could be mistaken so many times, might they be mistaken too? I'm just saying . . .

Monday, July 17, 2006

Aaaaw . . . False Alarm

Evidently John Brown SJ was just playing around with blogger and will not be making his blogosphere debut. But you can catch him commenting on various blogs in the Catholic blogosphere now and then!

Wonderland, Sand

So, recently I saw this movie called "Next Stop Wonderland." In the end, the main characters take the Boston Blue Line train all the way to the end, to Wonderland, and end up at the beach. Since then I've been wanting to check it out. Turns out the beach is Revere Beach (which boasts being the first public beach in America), and this weekend they had their annual sand-sculpting competition, so I figured it was a good day to check it out. So, with not too long a T ride, I got out to the beach and got to check out some pretty cool sand sculptures. You can see my favorite here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pacific Standard Time

Today, I'm enjoying the beauties of Washington State for the first time. What a breathtaking view as we landed here in Seattle!

One of my favorite poets, William Stafford, is from these parts (I had the privilege of meeting him in college). Here's one of his better known poems, "Traveling Through the Dark":

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

So, what brings me here? The Ignatian Spirituality Insitute.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Blogger's Mistake Reveals the Dark Edges of the Abortion Debate

What happens when a satirical piece from The Onion on abortion is mistaken as real? We get a snapshot of the dark edge of both sides of the abortion debate. Salon has the story. The referenced response from an anti-abortion blog (warning: accompanying photo might make you sick).

The ironic thing is that the original Onion article, from 1999, is clearly not making a statement in support of abortion. That is, if you realize that it is SATIRE.

From the Salon article:

"The piece that inspired Pete's July 6 extended smack-down was a 1999 Op-Ed by fictional columnist "Caroline Weber." Pete did not realize that the Onion traffics in satire, and that the piece was a send-up of the notion that pro-choice activists are actually "pro-abortion." Weber's outrageous claims that she "seriously cannot wait for all the hemorrhaging and the uterine contractions" and that "this abortion is going to be so amazing" did not tip off Pete. In an utterly unironic retort, he cited lines like, "It wasn't until now that I was lucky enough to be pregnant with a child I had no means to support," and "I just know it's going to be the best non-anesthetized invasive uterine surgery ever!" to illustrate his disgust with the author.

On his blog, Pete expressed his rage at Weber's claim that if her HMO hadn't bowed to pressure not to cover her oral contraceptives, she never would have gotten pregnant to begin with. "Sorry ma'am," Pete responded. "If you hadn't had sex you wouldn't have gotten pregnant, it's not the HMO's fault for not supporting your promiscuity while not married." And in case it wasn't already clear where he stood on the issue of satirical abortion, Pete added, "Miss Weber, you have killed your child, which you admit is a baby/human being, intentionally. That does make you an admitted murderer."

What perhaps is most disturbing (and revealing?) is the more than 1000 comments responding to the blog post (warning: offensive language).

Abortion must be opposed, but the rhetoric on both sides, unfortunately, doesn't always show so much respect for life.

The American Bible (and Flag) Society

Lately I've been receiving a lot of unsolicited junk mail. Where did they get my address? The evidence seems to point to Sojourners magazine. I'm annoyed enough by the junk that I suspect that's one subscription that won't be getting renewed.

This week's unsolicited arrival was a package from the American Bible Society. The included letter begins by asking: "What would you most likely want in your backpack if you were fighting in Iraq?" [A ticket home, perhaps?] The answer is supposed to be, of course, the Word of God. And, so, the letter goes on to encourage me to donate some money so that they can provide New Testaments to "our troops overseas fighting the war on terror for all freedom-loving Americans." Now, you might imagine that they might provide a sample of said New Testament, or a brochure describing it. But, actually, what is included as an incentive for me to give is not that, but an American flag.

Now, I'm all for getting the Word of God to soldiers. Indeed, I would love for them to have a complete Bible, not just the New Testament. But my very own American flag, I'm sorry to say, didn't really bolster my enthusiasm. This freedom-loving American is having a hard time these days comfortably placing my Bible and my country's flag side-by-side. Is the American Bible Society missing something? Or am I?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ten Years a Priest

Congratulations to fellow Jesuit blogger Rob Marsh who celebrates 10 years as a priest this week.

Rob reflects on those years at All Things Seen and Unseen:

Somewhere in there — in that casting of lots — I know that Jesus has cast his lot in with me too. Ten years has seen me painfully learning about love, about limits, about life. And though I have known loss upon loss in these years one thing has been constant, the ready presence of Jesus. I have fought him, ignored him, cherished him, blamed him, loved him — been all over the place — but he has been nothing but here.

Even when I cannot pray I have met him in words and silence — in preaching and presiding at Mass; in giving, receiving, and teaching spiritual direction. He turns up. Sometimes it feels like he performs for me, shows off his creative ingenuity, to catch my eye and hold it like a juggler moved to ever wilder, fiercer antics to wow his watcher. I haven't been the best audience.

read the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Dusting Off the Geneva Conventions, Finally!

It seems that check and balance system we learned about in American Government may be finally kicking in. If you'll pardon my punctuation marks, it's about $#*@ing time!

U.S. to give detainees Geneva rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration, called to account by Congress after the Supreme Court blocked military tribunals, said Tuesday all detainees at Guantanamo Bay and in U.S. military custody everywhere are entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the policy, outlined in a new Defense Department memo, reflects the recent 5-3 Supreme Court decision blocking military tribunals set up by President Bush. That decision struck down the tribunals because they did not obey international law and had not been authorized by Congress.

The policy, described in a memo by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, appears to change the administration's earlier insistence that the detainees are not prisoners of war and thus not subject to the Geneva protections.

The memo instructs recipients to ensure that all Defense Department policies, practices and directives comply with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions governing the humane treatment of prisoners.

"You will ensure that all DOD personnel adhere to these standards," England wrote.

read the rest.

Those Darn Jesuits . . . Provoking Radio

The Washington Times has a piece on the radio ministry of Jesuit Father Steve Spahn:

He is like a lot of other talk-radio hosts: 35, single, friendly, a smooth talker. But the Rev. Stephen Spahn is also a Catholic priest. Father Spahn holds forth every Sunday at 10 a.m. on WBAL-1090 AM, inviting religious leaders of all faiths to weigh in on everything from poverty to prison. A Jesuit priest serving for the past two years as associate pastor at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown, Father Spahn dislikes "shrill, call-in radio," he says, but has dubbed his program "Provoke Radio" to "provoke" listeners to action on social justice issues. Radio Mass of Baltimore Inc., a Roman Catholic ministry to the homebound, sponsors the show, which is taped in a confessional in Baltimore's St. Ignatius Apostolic Center.

Hat tip to Jim Tucker. Read the whole thing. Listen in.

Monday, July 10, 2006

This Year's Model

Friends and strangers alike approach you, groups and individuals seek you out, asking you to stretch yourself to do things for which you feel totally unprepared—all because you are a priest. If history is any predictor of the future, I am sure that this group of new priests will experience the same sorts of shiftings, turnings, and unexpected ways in which they are asked to serve the Lord and his people . . . My hope and prayer for them is that when they approach anniversaries such as 25, 40, or 50 years of service, that they, with me, will be able to say "O God, what a life!" I hope, too, that they can add to that the words "Amen and Thank You!"

Get the skinny on this year's new Jesuit priests at Company magazine.

Friday, July 07, 2006


I'm off to Jersey for the weekend to help out with Paulist Young Adult Ministries' Charis retreat for young adults. We'll be off in the woods of Northern New Jersey, so I'm betting no internet access. Just as well, I need a bit of a retreat also.

Please pray for us.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Two Pilgrims' Journey

I've had a few e-mails asking when I was going to finish my reflections on Saint Ignatius' Autobiography. Well, you'll see in the previous post that I have added another. There's actually only a couple of posts left, and I'll be finished!

New readers may not be familiar with what I'm talking about, and loyal readers might need a refresher. So, I have also added links in the sidebar to the entire series of posts. Scroll down to the bottom right and you'll see them listed under the heading "Two Pilgrims' Journey." Happy reading!

Finding God, Made Easy

Saint Ignatius' Autobiography, part 58

(Comments by DeCamara, who wrote down the Autobiography as Ignatius dictated it) That same day he called me before supper. He seemed to be more recollected than usual. He made a kind of protestation, the sum of which was to show the intention and the simplicity with which he had narrated these matters. He said that he was certain that he did not tell me anything beyond the facts, and that he had frequently offended our Lord after he had begun to serve Him, but that he had never given consent to a mortal sin. His devotion always went on increasing, that is, the ease with which he found God, which was then greater than he had ever had in his life. Whenever he wished, at whatever hour, he could find God. He also said he still had many visions, especially that in which he saw Christ as a sun, as mentioned above. This often happened to him, especially when he was speaking of matters of importance, and came to confirm him in his decision.

I have to admit to being a bit jealous when I read this. It seems as if Ignatius has reached a point in his life, as he’s narrating this story, in which it’s easy for him to find God. I don’t exactly need to have visions like Ignatius did, but some days it seems like I can’t find God at all! My prayer is like a stalled car that refuses to start up again, and the oncoming traffic of distraction easily overwhelms me. Yet, I find it helpful to acknowledge that Ignatius is saying this after having just had a close look at his past. And, having done so, he can see the progress he’s made.

Sometimes when prayer is dry, or when everything seems to be going wrong and I can’t see God through the mess, I have to remind myself to look back. Despite the fact that I have always been a “religious person,” my awareness of God in my life has not always been so acute. I can look back to my childhood days and wish for a return to that innocent awareness of the wonder of God in my life, but I can’t capture that again. Nor would that be desirable, because, well, I’m an adult! However, I can console myself by looking back on my early adult life when I was too busy doing things for God—and, in large part, honestly, for myself—that I frequently failed to see God, much less communicate with God.

Things are different now, even despite my frequent frustrations. It all began to change when I made a conscious decision to start asking God what to do with my life, and really waited for God’s answer, not my answer, what seemed like what God would want. That led me in the direction of realizing God’s desires for me, and eventually to choosing to explore priesthood and religious life. All the lessons I’ve learned since then—in my novitiate years, in my studies, in my ministry work as a Jesuit, have all occasioned changes in the ways in which I experience God in my life. God is easier to find in the everyday for me than was the case 10 or 15 years ago. I am less prone to forget God in my busyness, and more apt to remember God in my quiet moments. I sometimes can mistake the frustrations of my spiritual life as a step backward, but what I realize when I take the time to reflect is that the frustrations come because I’m constantly trying to move forward, to make my relationship with God better. But that progress is made only in fits and starts because, like Ignatius acknowledges, no matter how far I progress, I sadly still manage to offend God in my sinfulness. But it helps to be more aware of that too.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Technical Difficulties

I've been plagued by technical difficulties the last few days. Saturday, I went to see a movie and twice during the movie it just stopped and I had to run off to the snack bar to get someone to start it up again. Last night, in a large packed theater, a similar thing happened except when the screen went dark the film kept running. So, when they resumed the movie we'd missed 5 crucial minutes and so had no idea what was going on. Thankfully, the movie stopped again, and a bunch of us just decided to get out of there. That meant a mass of annoyed people at Guest Services, who were ill-prepared for such an eventuality.

This is all a lead in to informing you of another technical difficulty. My e-mail server for some reason has been inaccessible for the last 18 hours or so. This is preventing me from moderating any comments. So, if you've made one, I'll try to get it up as soon as I can.

Update: Evidently the problem is with our internet provider who fears we may be using more than our share of bandwith (our newly installed phone system operates through the internet), running websites and businesses from home or something. And, because of the holiday nothing's likely to happen until Wednesday. Thanks to wireless, though, I'll be able to sneak away now and then to check my e-mail.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The "Young" Jesuits of America

You remember that formation gathering I went to? Well, here we are, most of the men in formation (with provincials and formation directors too) in the United States. No, folks, the Society of Jesus ain't dead! "Young," because young is a relative term given the length of our formation.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

From Morte D'Urban to Kill Bill

Check out Matthew Lickona's commentary on the state of Catholic fiction and apology for the film "Kill Bill" in the latest issue of Dappled Things (not to be confused with Jim Tucker's blog):

"But if it is not a bad thing to be a native of the moral universe, it is also not a bad thing to discover it and make it your adopted world. Living always in a created order has its dangers—the temptation to regard morality as extrinsic, the tendency to form a merely sentimental attachment to goodness, accompanied by a certain brittle absolutism. Again, I find myself envying the converts, people who have found the pearl of great price. Has the moral universe been subverted? Does Enlightenment man rule the silver screen? Then the conversion story will be reverse subversion—undermining the underminers.

Kill Bill is such a conversion story. The conversion takes place before the picture begins, but we don’t get to see it until near the end of Vol. 2. Professional assassin Beatrix Kiddo, aka Black Mamba, aka The Bride, takes a pregnancy test. Before she can read the results, she is attacked by a rival assassin. They end up in a standoff, guns drawn. The pregnancy indicator winds up near Kiddo’s would-be killer; Kiddo begs her to check it. “I’m the deadliest woman in the world,” she says, “but right now, I’m just a mother worried about her baby.”

Just like that, she’s gone from dealer in death to supremely concerned with life. The test is positive; Kiddo’s enemy relents. Without a word to the baby’s father (who is also her boss), Kiddo flees her old life and hides out in darkest Texas.

Now granted, professional killer is a uniquely unfamilial career track, but still, Mom is giving up her job for her kid’s well-being. And nobody complains. Reverse subversion."

read the whole thing.

Those Darn Jesuits . . . Two Bringing Hope in East Africa

A recent Saint Anthony Messenger article highlights the work of two Jesuit priests in East Africa:

"Enter Jesuit Gene Hattie, an 82-year-old priest with the energy of a man half his age. I walked the streets of Kampala with Father Hattie. I noticed the children’s eyes light up with recognition and friendship when they see him approach.
Crowds walk by these children every day. Many adults are frightened, judging them to be thieves and a threat to their security. Father Hattie sees something else: humanity’s future struggling forward. He is determined to find a way to reach them with a loving solidarity strong enough to reclaim promise in their young lives."

"Jesuit priest and medical doctor Angelo D’Agostino founded Nyumbani in 1992 to care for babies who are abandoned by their families who suspect that the HIV virus has been transmitted to the child. Abandonment is a cruel side effect of the fear that AIDS creates.
At first the Jesuit could accept just three babies, but soon found room for 25. Presently there are nearly 100, while the number of AIDS orphans on the continent mounts. Approximately 15 million children have already been orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. That number is expected to climb dramatically, perhaps even double, in the coming decade.
“Time will prove the absolute necessity of what we do. This is a problem that has never happened in the history of humanity,” Father D’Agostino tells me. The enormity of the tragedy is clear to him in a most personal way."

read the whole thing here.

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