Personal Introduction

Welcome! My name is John Roselle, SJ, and I took lifelong ("perpetual") vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a Jesuit on August 13th, 2011 after a two-year novitiate. I am now a Jesuit Scholastic for the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus. I will study philosophy and theology for the next three years at Loyola University in Chicago. At the same time, I will do part-time ministry in some capacity with the poor. After that, I will likely teach for three years before finishing three more years of theology. Then, God willing, I will be ordained a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest! It's a long road, but a blessed, fun, and enriching one. This blog exists as a resource for friends, family, and others who are interested in my progress through the Jesuit process of formation. Every day is its own adventure, and I am happy to have you along with me to share in this. This blog contains my own personal thoughts and should not be taken to speak for the entire Society of Jesus. Feel free to contact me. God bless you!















Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recent Twitter Stories

Going through recent "tweets," I came across the following stories that I thought I'd share:

Pope Speaks to Prisoners and Tells Them God Loves Them:
http://www.americancatholic.org/news/report.aspx?id=3723&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Saint "Action Figures"
http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/denver-school-creates-action-figures-of-saints-for-kids/

St. Francis of Assisi's Vision of the Incarnation:
http://www.americancatholic.org/news/report.aspx?id=3724&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

"The State of the Church" Speech
http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/renewed-faith-needed-for-reform-pope-says-in-state-of-the-church-speech/

Pope's Christmas Message: "God Extends Hand to Hurting Humanity"
http://cnsblog.wordpress.com/2011/12/25/pope-to-the-city-and-the-world-god-extends-his-hand-to-hurting-humanity/

Pro-Active Christian Manhood
http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=1966

Intro. to Ignatian Imaginative Prayer

St. Ignatius and St. Aloysius Gonzaga, gazing upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus

St. Ignatius of Loyola personally experienced the power of the imagination to be guided by the Holy Spirit in prayer, bringing him closer to God.  This trust in the imagination as a gift from God (as influenced/inspired by Sacred Scripture) is a cornerstone of Ignatian spirituality.  Here are some links to follow, including videos, etc. to teach you more about this way of prayer.  Have fun!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnv8Nb9fZ78&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oN4Q6g8AFVU

http://ignatianspirituality.com/3428/ignatian-contemplation/

http://ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/pray-with-your-imagination/

http://www.jesuitscalifornia.org/page.aspx?pid=890

http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Imagination/

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!  I am having a great time with my family.  Here is a 2 minute video that someone sent me that I got a real kick out of.  Enjoy!

http://www.flixxy.com/best-christmas-lights-display.htm

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NEW Female Doctor of the Church!!!

I was quite pleased to read today that Pope Benedict XVI will name the fourth female Doctor of the Church soon.  To read more about this amazing woman, here is an article (I won't say more, so that you read the article :)  This is a pretty big deal, considering Blessed John Paul II only named one Doctor total during his illustrious career.   That doctor happened to be a twenty-something woman when she died--St. Therese the Little Flower.  Doctors of the Church are those that have made huge, definitive contributions to the Church's understanding of the Faith.

http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2011/12/benedict-xvi-to-name-fourth-female-doctor-of-the-church-in-2012.html

There was also a movie made about this new Church Doctor last year.  You can rent it right now on iTunes.  Here is the awesome trailer.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEI1QrZINeg

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Intro to "The Examen"

The "Consciousness Examen" is a cornerstone of Ignatian spirituality.  I assembled the following guide for learning more about it:

Note that the Examen is NOT simply an examination of "conscience" (which might only deal with sin), but it is focused not on sin but on consciousness of GRACE.  Granted, sometimes we don't respond to grace (and that could be sin), but the point is to find God in all things, throughout our lives.  As St. Paul wrote, "where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more."  So, here are a ton of good resources to mull over.  Take your time reading these, watching the video, praying with the Examen. Try to pray it every evening over the next month.  It will really be a blessing to your self-awareness and vocational awareness.  It isn't a quick-fix, but a gradual learning to listen to where God has been in your life.  

I encourage you especially print out and pray with the First Principle and Foundation below:

I hope this will be engaging and relevant to you, offering you a tool for greater spiritual growth.  I am still growing into the Examen myself, but having practiced it for over 3 years, I can attest that it is a powerful resource.  Check this out.  Let me know if you have any questions or ideas for the presentation, things you want me to address, etc. 

PS: word to the wise--don't get hung up on the "right" way to do this prayer; there are a few variations but one common theme: growing as a contemplative in action, able to see God at work through reflection on our daily lives

As you read this: how than this be helpful for spiritual growth?



Examen videos:



In order to make the most of the Examen, it is best to understand the basics of St. Ignatius's discernment of spirits, since the Examen is basically a daily discernment of spirits.  



Quick Video on Discernment of Spirits:

Basic article:
http://ignatianspirituality.com/making-good-decisions/discernment-of-spirits/introduction-to-discernment-of-spirits/

More in-depth: how do I know I'm experience God?
http://ignatianspirituality.com/making-good-decisions/discernment-of-spirits/how-do-i-know-im-experiencing-god/

Lastly, definitely read over the short First Principle and Foundation of St. Ignatius.  It is basically the meaning of life, according to him, and the basis of his spirituality.  It is how the 30 day silent Spiritual Exercises begin.  I recommend printing these out, praying with them, seeing how they strike you, etc.  Again, the Examen will make a lot more sense and mean a lot more if these pieces are in place.  It take time, but it's worth it.  

Here is Ignatius' words (of course he wrote in Spanish):

The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.
All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created.
It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one's end.
To do this, we need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no other prohibition.
Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.



Here is a more modern but still faithful reading of the spirit of the First Principle and Foundation, written by the late Fr. David Fleming, SJ:

God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of love allows God's life
to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts from God,
Presented to us so that we can know God more easily
and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God
Insofar as they help us to develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
They displace God
And so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
Before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice
And are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
Wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
A deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
To God's deepening his life in me.


Monday, December 19, 2011

"Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!"

Dear Friends,

Peace of Christ and Merry Christmas!  A couple days ago, I finished my first semester of First Studies and vowed Jesuit life.  Dang, it has been liking climbing the mountain pictured below (but then again, we rode in a car up that one!).  Classes have been tough ("have I gotten stupider or has school gotten harder?"I've wondered, :) and Jesuit life (and, of course, Christian life) is always calling for greater maturity, growth, and fidelity.  However, it has been worth it!  There is so much good work to be done, and I dare not let the little things (or the big things) get me down.  Not once have I wished I were anywhere but Chicago or in the Society of Jesus.  This Jesuit vocation is God's great gift to me; I am confident I made the right choice this past August.  

Below is a recent update and then a poem I have written about the Catholic Church, which I share with you.  Truly, I am reminded of how beautiful and necessary she (Holy Mother Church) is in these times of much turmoil/confusion in the world and in the Church.  But then again, when in the history of the world/Church hasn't there been turmoil?  This Christmas, I invite you who are Catholic to help "bring home" any of those who may need some encouragement to return to the Church this season and into this New Year, which Pope Benedict XVI has declared will be an upcoming "Year of Faith" starting in October for the 50th Anniversary of the great Second Vatican Council.  We are blessed right now to have a successful advertising campaign on television, called "Catholics Come Home" (maybe you've seen the TV ads) but friendly invitations and prayers (more so than commercials) are able to reach out and make the difference.  At the bishop's conference recently, the President of the US Bishops, the joyful Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, echoed Blessed John Paul the Great's words: "Love for Jesus and His Church must be the passion of our lives!"  I can't agree more, and I am indeed using this blog and this moment to spread this message also, as I urge you to do in your own ways.  If you are interested in the Catholics Come Home campaign, here is their best commercial (2 minutes):
And their general website:
Here is the text of Archbishop Dolan's honest, powerful speech:

Truly, these can be sad and difficult days, as scandal and mistrust (caused by a small minority) threaten and loom over the Church we love.  However, let us remember that all of Satan's plans backfire, and that we are witnessing what Vatican II called "a new springtime for the Church."  We aren't giving up, and in fact, the Church is growing stronger each day as we re-build and re-claim Christ's Church so that is a safe, loving, inspiring, and courageous home for all people.  Let us remain faithful to the Church and to her teachings.  Let us consider Archbishop Dolan's reflection upon the late Jesuit theological Cardinal Henri de Lubac: "That truth--that he, Christ, and she, his church, are one--moistens our eyes and puts a lump in our throat as we whisper with de Lubac 'For what would I ever know of him, without her?'"

I am inspired by all of you--people of good will and/or members of the Church--who choose hope over despair.  Indeed, that (HOPE) is the essence of Christmas.  

Give glory to God and have a Merry Christmas!  I love you and pray for you all!  Thanks for your prayers for me; they have carried me.

In Christ,
John, SJ

Some of my Jesuit brothers and I on top of Mt. Evans in Colorado



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Done!

Well, I just turned in my last paper.  The first semester of First Studies has come and gone, and it was awesome, albeit occasionally stressful (but what isn't? :).  

Now, I get to do some errands, relax, etc. before heading home for Christmas.  Thanks for all of the prayers.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quick Update

Friends,

Sorry for being away from the blog for so long!  I bet you all figured that I was super-busy with school, etc., and you'd be right!  It's not over yet (one more test and paper), but I didn't want to go any longer without refreshing the blog.  There is so much more that I could say about each of these, but here it is in rapid-fire fashion:

  • Some of us were able to score some free Notre Dame tickets.  For a few years now, it's been an aspiration of mine to attend an ND game.  I never dreamed I'd get to go see the Irish face Boston College in South Bend.  Although I am quite keen on Notre Dame, now that I'm a vowed Jesuit I would have rooted for BC.  However, I couldn't bring myself to do that at "the House that Knute Rockne built" and at my first ND game.  It was close at the end, but the Irish pulled this one off.  I had a great time.
  • My beloved 16 year old pet frog Cal became ill after an earthquake hit Oklahoma.  Thanks God the family and house were alright.  That was almost a month ago, and although Cal is hanging on, he still hasn't recovered.  Please do pray for him if you can, because I'd like to see him kicking for years to come.  I am of course at peace, despite sadness, about his possible death.   I've been blessed to have him this long.
  • The women's religious life discernment group at Loyola has grown to include 9 women.  They are such inspirational people, and they have so much going for them.  Please pray for them too!
  • I am really appreciating this philosophical education, and I can already feel my mind getting a little sharper.  It is tough work, but I know it needs to be done, and it is worth doing.
  • I am very much enjoying community life and have made many new friends.  I am glad that I took vows (although by no means is this life easy!), because it is an extremely rewarding way of life for me.  I can't begin to say the graces that I have experienced and been a part of in just the 4 months of vowed Jesuit life.  It is priceless.  Still, there is a cost, and every day (like marriage or any other major lifelong commitment) those vows must be renewed.  
  • On Dec. 3rd, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, my Dad finished a flourishing career with the US Army Corps of Engineers as an attorney.  He was the epitome of a virtuous, courageous lawyer, and his coworkers are really going to miss him.  His family couldn't be prouder of him.  Special note should be made of my Mom, without whom such a career could not have happened and would not have had the meaning.  Clearly, they did it all for their children, and in that way I am continually reminded of Blessed John Paul II's call to the strengthening of families and the fundamental "cell" of society, on which its health is based.  My parents are huge Fr. James Martin fans (a Jesuit author).  I Facebooked Fr. Martin and asked him if he could send them an inscribed copy of his latest book about joy to them.  He did, and my Mom and Dad were delighted to receive it.  
  • Being in Chicago is a real experience.  It's a huge city with a lot of riches, not the least of which is beautiful lake next to campus.  However, I am continually reminded of the suffering of many people here and the need for all of us to help build "the culture of life" (as Blessed John Paul II envisioned it).  That is a mighty and never-ending task, but an imperative.  For my little part, my ministry will be working both with retreats for the homeless and with faculty faith formation at our Jesuit middle school that serves the African-American community. 
That's enough from me!  Make sure I hear from you!  God bless!

A Poem About Catholicism


This is a poem I wrote this past summer for someone I know who loves reading/writing poetry, was raised Catholic, feels distant from the Church, and asked me to write a poem about what I see in the Church.  It alludes at one point to both Blessed Pope John Paul II visiting the man who shot him in prison in order to counsel and forgive him, as well as Pope Benedict's pain and grief as he has visited with abuse victim's groups across the globe.  At the end of one of these private meetings, one of the victims said to the media to the effect of, "the Pope wept with us who were weeping."  The point of the poem is really to recognize our baptismal calling to be in Christ and like Christ (i.e., saints), and faithful sons and daughters of His bride, the Church. 

“Why be Catholic?” wonders an age
Confused and daunted, in the wake of so much
Of the past two thousand years
That our heads can reel and soon forget
The vast expanse of Truth revealed
By a humble man born of a peasant virgin
A man who walked seashores and called all people
To become one with Him.

No mere mortal could ever hope
To wash the world clean with the grace He gave:
A Church over which hell cannot prevail,
Offering victory over the grave.

Then we see lives made new in Christ,
Beginning with the least:
Tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes,
And a poor fisherman
Who was charged with leading His Church
And ensuring her faithful increase.

Inspiring countless persons to give their lives
To God and for souls,
It is by the Holy Spirit
That our Mother Church protects, nourishes, and holds
All people to God’s own Son
And the shepherds He has chosen
To keep and guide the fold.

Yet when those brute beasts from the outer darkness
Have attacked us from within,
We must look to Christ and His Church
To see how Mercy and Goodness can triumph once again.

And so we see the heirs of that poor man
Jesus asked to be our Pope
Stepping forward to forgive and console the man that shot him
Crying with those who have been abused
Speaking truth to the forces of death,
And in ten thousand other ways,
Replacing despair with hope.

Can we afford to not accept Jesus’ outstretched hand
In invitation to us?
To follow Him where we did not dream to go,
Yet go with Him in trust,
Into Christ’s Body, the Church,
Into this one big boat
That carries us amidst all life’s doubts and fears?

For with hope of salvation,
An eternity with Jesus, our Perfect Love,
Our Church gives direction,
Calls us to sacrifice,
And thus grants meaning to our years.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Epic Series: Catholicism

I was ecstatic (well, that might be overstating it a bit :) to find out today that Loyola's Hank Center for Catholic Intellectual Heritage has obtained Fr. Barron's epic new series Catholicism, which is being shown on PBS in some areas.  You have to check this out!  10 DVD's of showing the broad sweep of Catholicism across the world.

This is undoubtedly the best media re-presentation of the Catholic Faith in history (and that's NOT an over-statement) by our generation's Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  This is yet another example of how even during dark times, when the Church is assaulted from within and without, God is ever-renewing her so that she might be "the universal sacrament of salvation" to which she is called and for which she was formed by Christ.  Praise God!

Extended Preview of Catholicism:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXz7CiIovJ8

Main Website for Catholicism:
http://www.catholicismseries.com/watch

Edgar Allen Poe and the Jesuits

A little late for Halloween, here is an article about the connections between Edgar Allen Poe and the Jesuits whom he esteemed:

http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Edgar-Allan-Poe-and-the-Jesuits-Pat-McNamara-11-01-2011.html

Remembering a Heroic Jesuit Who Faced the Nazis

Fr. Mayer from http://www.fordham.edu
Here is the story of a Bl. Rupert Mayer, a Jesuit who heroically faced the Nazis, whom the Church celebrates today:

http://www.apostleship-prayer.org/stq4/stRupMay.htm

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Video on Saintliness

Here is a great short video for the Feast of All Saints, from Fr. Robert Barron:

http://www.wordonfire.org/WOF-TV/Commentaries-New/Fr-Barron-comments-on-All-Saints-Day.aspx

                                                    The Conversion of St. Paul, by Caravaggio

A Remarkable New Saint


Happy All Saints Day!  It's a Holy Day of Obligation!

St. Gianna Beretta Molla: a modern wife, doctor, mother, and the last saint to be canonized by Bl. John Paul II.  Read about her truly remarkable story and see the beautiful icon of her:


For All Saints Day, here is an article on the Holy Father's words about the universal call to holiness:



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Birthday of my Beloved Pet Frog

Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, said that "happiness is a warm puppy."  Having allergies and thus dogs in my youth, I can imagine such a bliss but can't say I've had the experience.  Instead, I grew up with frogs as pets.

Today is a "feast day" of sorts, in honor of the day I received a mail-order tadpole from the Grow A Frog company.  It was the first year of being home schooled in the sixth grade, so I convinced my parents to let me have an aquatic African clawed frog from a mail order educational supply company called Grow A Frog.  I named the tadpole Cecil after a favorite baseball player, Cecil Fielder.  It turned out later that Cecil was a woman!  Later, I received a free froglet from Grow A Frog, which I named Cal for Cal Ripken Jr., another impressive baseball player at the time.  If you are curious, check out the Grow A Frog website here, and you can see photos of the kit, etc.  You can even order one for yourself!   http://www.growafrog.com/

Random, right?  So, why is this so special?  Well, first of all, it was these little frogs that lifted my spirits during the middle school years, which are tough for everyone.  At moments when I was pretty bummed out, I would go over and look at the frogs, and Cecil always seemed come over and look at me and have a smile on her face.  Crazy, I know, but at the time (although I knew nothing of it) God was using this frog to speak to me of His grace.  I truly loved these frogs.  After 6 years, Cecil passed away.  My family still jokes about the funeral "liturgy" I created for her, complete with music and a eulogy.  I wish I had a video tape of that ceremony!  It could be blackmail material :)

I am happy to say that Cal is still kicking after 15 years.  Sometimes this species lives past 25 years, so he may only be at mid-life!  Since I am not able to have a pet at this time, I would like to thank my parents, sisters, and a family-friend Susan Mamary for collaborating for his care over the past many years.

This strange but perhaps humorous blog post, isn't it?  After all, who celebrates a frog's birthday?  But then again, Jesus said that His Father watches over the sparrow.  I have heard it said that "God attends the funeral of every sparrow."  I suppose the same holds true for frogs.  Indeed, although animals are by no means equivalent to humans, they are privileged creations of God's providence, able to communicate God's grace in many ways, and are worthy of respect, mercy, and love.

So, I'll have to add to Schulz's statement: "happiness is a cold tadpole."

Overcoming Evil with Good


Let's be honest: this world frequently looks like a mess.  But, by faith, we can see that it is a "blessed mess."  Below is one of the finest reflections that I have ever heard on the way that what seems evil can in fact be overcome by the grace of God.  It comes to us from my friend Steve Calme, who is doing nonprofit work in Cincinnati.  

Steve and I (wearing similar shirts) on a bus trip
You have heard that it was said ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.  If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.  Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.  Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

As I prayed with this Gospel, an image from the long retreat came back to me, from a contemplation of the Crucifixion.  The setting was the top of the hill at Golgotha, at the climax of the frenzy of the event.  Three men writhed with pain, suspended above the crowd on wooden crosses.  The crowd was thick with people, and at that hour they all seemed to be against Christ.  Soldiers taunted him and looked at him with disgust as a criminal.  Parents brought their children and pointed to the gruesome sight, telling their sons and daughters “never to be like that bad man.”  Members of his own worship community gazed at him with anger and hatred, hurling angry insults—and, when the soldiers weren’t looking, stones—at him.  Curious Roman citizens came to be entertained by his pain, to laugh at and mock this contemptible animal.  And as the desire to punish this man, the evil glee at the punishment that was occurring, the desire to see him suffer reached a fever pitch, suddenly the air was pierced by the criminal hanging at Christ’s left, perhaps the person at that moment who best understood what Jesus was going through and so who best understood the unfair consequence of Christ’s life.  In the middle of this loud frenzy of mocking and suffering and hatred, which had become like a big party rejoicing at Christ’s suffering, the criminal, out of despair not for himself but for this inexplicable end for Jesus, pierced the air with a heartfelt scream: “All he’s done is loved!”  Those words rang out over the entire hill, and for a moment—and only a moment before returning to shouts of hatred—the crowd stopped silent in the face of that truth.  “All he’s done is loved!” 

In the face of everything He encountered in His life, Jesus knew only one response: generosity of love.  When with his friends, his family, when with strangers, and finally when with enemies: not violent resistance or retaliation but love.  That’s the message we hear Jesus preach in today’s reading from the Sermon on the Mount: respond to one who is evil not with violent resistance but with generosity. 

From the world’s perspective, this is one of the most impractical pieces of advice ever given.  “Overcoming evil with good” sounds like a nice idea—until you see its results.  Every once in a while you’ll see a clear case of success, like Gandhi’s nonviolent movement, but way more often in the face of evil, generous love will lead to vulnerability and hurt.  When we respond to evil with love, evil seems to win.  The beauty of the Paschal Mystery, however, is that every such victory for evil is a Pyrrhic victory.  As Jesus died on the cross, I imagine Satan’s response: “Yes!” only to be followed a second later, when the meaning and consequence of Christ’s sacrifice becomes clear to him, with a “No!”  And that happens every time we participate in Jesus’s continuing victory by showing generosity of love in the face of evil. 

When Maximilian Kolbe offered himself to die at the hands of Nazis, evil had its way.  And lost some of its power. 

When Fr. Lucid, a Jesuit I met in Portland, refused to stay back with other chaplains during the Vietnam War and instead—though unarmed--demanded to be with his men as they were dying on the battlefield, and his own name was added to the list of the injured (making it one more than would have otherwise been), evil had its way.  And lost some of its power.

When a classmate of mine at St. X, one year after our graduation, offered a late-night ride to two young men in need, and was car-jacked and murdered execution-style as a result of his generosity, evil had its way.  And lost some of its power.

When a teacher spends an extra hour preparing for after-school tutoring for a student who doesn’t show up; when giving someone a second chance results in being taken advantage of, whenever our generosity makes us vulnerable in the face of evil, evil often still has its way.  But it always, always loses some of its power. 

Because of the redeeming power of the cross, despite everything our senses tell us, there is no victory for evil that strengthens it; likewise there is no such thing as a generosity that yields no results. 

Inspired by the example of the One we receive today, let’s pray for the strength to live in such a way that others will say of us, “All he did was love!”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Feast of the North American Martyrs

Today is the feast of the North American Martyrs, who were Jesuits killed during their missionary labors.  Our Dean of First Studies, Fr. Tom Regan, preached the following homily today, which I thought was well worth posting. 


On December 3rd 2005, I was very fortunate to join a large group of Jesuits, all of whom were attending a meeting at the birthplace of Ignatius in Loyola Spain, on a two hour bus ride through the picturesque Basque countryside to the remote town of Javier in the neighboring state of Navarre. There at Javier castle we attended the inauguration of the year-long 500th birthday celebration of Francisco de Javier. It was not only a major celebration for Jesuits, present was Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, at that time still our “Father General,” but also one for the local church. The principle celebrant of the opening liturgy was no less than the bishop of Pamplona -- Yes “the” Pamplona where each year the town stages the famous running of the bulls. Geographically, Pamplona is the next town over from Javier. The celebration was also a big event for the country as evidenced by presence of the Spanish president, who attended with his wife. 

What struck me most, however, was not the pomp and circumstance of the event itself but rather the very ticket, on whose reverse side was an image of Francis Xavier copied from a famous painting that is on display in the castle. So often portraits of Francis Xavier depict him as being what appears to be an old man. For the first time in looking at this painting it really dawned on me that Xavier did his amazing missionary work while he was still a very young man. Born in 1506, he was only thirty-four years old when the Society of Jesus was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540. A year later on his 35th birthday, he departed Rome for India with the hopes of converting China. He would never to return to his European homeland. 

It amazed me to think that if a young man growing up today in this remote region of Navarre were to have thoughts of journeying to the Far East with the hope of converting India and China, it would be an incredible ambition. That someone would have thought to do so in the sixteenth century, struck me as simply mindboggling.

Such was the amazing creativity and apostolic zeal of the early Jesuits. Today as the Church celebrates the Feast of the North American Martyrs, the titular feast of the Society in North America, we are presented with a special opportunity to reflect upon the gifts of those whom the Church calls to be priests and the real sacrifices which so many of them have made on behalf of Christ. For a group like we have in this chapel today, with so many who are presently engaged in studying for the priesthood, this is an opportunity both for encouragement and edification.

For many American Jesuits a pilgrimage to Auriesville, New York, where many of the North American martyrs met their demise, is a common facet of our two year novitiate program.  Today the ravine in this remote upstate New York town seems like such a quiet place far removed from the 17th century. There is little there amongst the landscape that would reveal that this was the crucible in which the blood of martyrs was shed.  But who were these Jesuit priests and what can they teach all of us gathered here today?

John de Brebeuf grew up on a farm in eastern Normandy. He was only thirty-two when he arrived in “New France” in 1625.  The Parisian-born Charles Garnier was thirty years old at the time he arrived among the Hurons, eleven years later. He had been a priest all of but one year.
Isaac Jogues, a native of Orleans, was twenty-nine when he arrived in September, 1636, a month after Garnier. He was ordained just two months before leaving France.  Anthony Daniel, from Dieppe, was thirty-two-year-old. Like some here today, he had studied law before entering the Society of Jesus in 1621.  Noel Chabanel was all of thirty-one when he arrived to work among the Hurons.

Even after the martyrdoms had begun in 1642, the young priests kept coming. In January 1649, Garbriel Lalemant, an “old” man at thirty-eight, arrived at Sainte Marie most eager to offer his life ministering to the needs of the Indians. He knew full-well the risks since he was the nephew of Father Jerome Lalemant, a former Superior of the Huron mission.

We imagine these martyrs to be old men, but in fact they were anything but that. They were young men in the prime of their life and their dedication to serving Christ and his church was total.

From the very beginning of the church, being a witness to the gospel has always come with a price. In our first reading today St Paul chronicles a series of horrific tortures that created the first great cloud of witnesses who gave up their lives for the faith. Many of the sufferings which they endured seem mild given what we know was done to these six young priests from France who attempted to spread the gospel in the “new” world.

In legal language we might say that Jesus was into “full-disclosure” mode in not masking the real cost of Christian discipleship. We read in today’s gospel passage from Matthew, that to those who gathered around him, Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

We sometime think that “formation” whether it is in a college seminary, a major seminary, or in a religious order is all about the future, preparing to be the priest that I will become when I am finally done. But in thinking in those terms, we run the risk of losing the present tense. In the colloquy at the end of the very first exercise of the very first week of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, the exercitant is invited to reflect upon him or herself and ask, “What have I done for Christ?” “What am I doing for Christ?” “What ought I to do for Christ?”

Today’s feast invites all of us to ponder how these six young men from France along with their two lay colleagues RenĂ© Goupil and Jean de Lalande answered the call of Christ. They were simple ordinary men not that different from you or me. Their response to Christ was generous and complete. They now stand among the great cloud of witnesses about which St. Paul speaks.

You and I live in the present tense and from our philosophical studies we realized that we cannot do otherwise. Potentially our response to Christ can be equally generous and equally complete as the North American martyrs. Will we embrace Christ’s invitation or hold back?

While Loyola University’s tag line is “preparing people to lead extraordinary lives,” we are aware that people who truly lead them never put off until tomorrow what can be realized today. AMEN. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Media and the New Evangelization

This is an interview about media and the New Evangelization from Canada's Salt and Light TV.  It features Fr. Robert Barron of Word on Fire Ministries, who has just created a spectacular ten-part documentary on Catholicism which is being shown on public television in some locales.  He is always an astute thinker and speaker.

http://saltandlighttv.org/perspectives/index.php

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Pope's Dream

Here is a short article on a recent meeting that the Pope hosted with 8,000 evangelists.  The title of the article suggests that the Pope believes that "secularized nations can become Christian again."  As I read this, it occurred to me that our Holy Father is a "dreamer." Not that it is impossible, for with God all things are possible.  However, this is a real dream, one that is at the core of his heart and the heart of the Church.  Nevertheless, it will take each and every one of us in order to fulfill this dream of a faith-filled culture of life and love.  A lapsed Catholic student once told me that the Church needed better public relations; I said warmly to her: "You and I, all of us, are the 'public relations' of the Church!"

You can read the article here:

http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/Vatican.php?id=4165

The Power of Friendship


I want to introduce you to one of the most inspiring people I have ever met (and I've gotten to meet quite a few in the past 26 years!): Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM.  She has been serving in the area for the past five decades, and she is the person I have leaned on to help lead the women's discernment group here at Loyola.  Sister Jean is the epitome of a consecrated woman who has given her life totally to God and for others. Today Sister Jean was part of a "This I Believe"-inspired (as on NPR) panel for Homecoming Week.  I asked her permission to share her profound words.  This is worth the read!  Enjoy!  


Sister Jean, BVM, from http://blogs.luc.edu
I believe that friends are gifts of love from God.  I need to put both words--friends and love--together.  Friends beget love and love begets friends thus making friends gifts of love and I believe these gifts are from God.

To begin with we know that God creates human beings in his own image for friendship with himself and one another. One definition states that “perfect friendship is mutual relationship based on the facts that we are humans who are attracted to a good character with a desire to improve oneself.”

I would like you to ask yourself these questions : who are my friends? Why are these persons my friends?  When you give it some thought you may come up with answers similar to mine.  Something in them must have attracted me to them so that I could improve myself and something in me must have attracted them to me for the same reason.  As we think more about our answers we begin to realize that we have friends on different levels; and, some people we like may not even know we consider them our friends.  Our beginning conversations may have been full of our job and other every day topics before we opened our heart space.

From my earliest days my mother and dad told me that God made me because he loved me; and, in turn I should love God.  They also told me that they loved me and as soon as I learned how to talk I was able to say, “ love you, Mommy; love you Daddy.”  Your parents most likely did the same. These early childhood lessons have pervaded my life.  And, the older I grew the more I considered my mother and dad, not only my parents but also as my friends whom I truly loved and considered as gifts of love from God.

From my earliest years I learned to make friends with the boys and girls in the neighborhood and with my schoolmates.  Sometimes I don’t think I realized why some were my friends and others I just took for granted or maybe thought they were not attractive; but I surely knew I liked some boys and girls better than I liked other boys and girls.  I suppose this was some form of loving, rather than just liking.

I want to share with you a story of one level of friendship.  On February 14, when I was in second grade, we had a highly decorated box into which we put our Valentines to be distributed to our classmates whose names we printed on the card.  When our teacher pulled out one written to Charles D. with my name signed to it, and we did not have a Charles D in our room, she asked me who he was.  So, I confidently stood up and said, “O, Charles is not in our room; he is in the sixth grade room and he is my friend.”  Our teacher said, “I think it would be nice if you delivered the Valentine to him yourself.”  So, off I went upstairs to the sixth grade room, knocked at the door and walked to Sister’s desk, stood my full second grade height and told her I had a Valentine for Charles Dullea. She asked him to come to the front of the room and accept it from me.  As I looked back in later years I thought how I must have embarrassed him before his classmates; how he probably did not even know I liked him. Did I ever talk to him or see him again; perhaps I saw him when we were playing in the schoolyard—he on the boy’s side and I on the girl’s with a chain fence between us.  What happened to Charles?  He went to St. Ignatius High School and then entered the Jesuits, and later became the President of the University of San Francisco.  Charles died several years ago.  I always considered him my friend and I liked him.  His brother was in my class, but I did not pay any attention to Ed.

In speaking of friends, I believe that God places into our lives people we need at that particular time; people with whom we are compatible, who understand us, people in whom we can confide and talk over situations we would not discuss with a stranger, or even an acquaintance,  people whom we trust and love, people who are gifts of love to us and who will love us in return; people who will stick with us through thick and thin even though they know some less savory things about us.

I ask you, “Have you had the experience of feeling the chemistry between you and another person clicking upon first being introduced to him or her?” Yes, I have had that experience also.  We “hit if off immediately”; I knew I wanted to be his friend and I hoped he would want to be mine.  Did we become friends; yes, and we still are.  Do we understand each other?  I believe we do. We enjoy spending time together; we communicate frequently. We share ideas, frustrations and mutual feelings. He has many other friends and so do I.  I believe that part of having a good friend is being able to love and to share that friend with others,

Friends are a gift of love from God who is our friend.  I always feel that it is a miracle when a man and woman, regardless of age, know that they are made for each other and love each other enough to spend their lives together.
Many of you in our audience today are examples of this statement.

I always appreciate hearing a man say, “This is my wife and my best friend” or a woman introduce her spouse as “This is my husband and my best friend”.  To me, these are expressions of what I believe—Friends are gifts of love from God. Think about your friends; pray for them; treasure their friendship; consider them true gifts of love; tell them that you appreciate their being your friend.

Before closing I would you like each of you to reflect with me as I say
what I call the LOVE PRAYER of  Fr. Pedro Arrupe who was at one time the Father General of the Jesuits:

Nothing is more special that finding God;
  That is, falling in love in a quite absolute and final way.
Who you fall in love with, what seizes your imagination
   will affect everything.
It will decide what gets you out of bed in the morning;
   what you do with your evenings; how you spend your weekends;
   what you read; who you know; what breaks your heart;
   what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love; stay in love; and it will decide everything.

In conclusion I make my personal statement:  I am Sr. Jean and I believe that friends are gifts of love from God.