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, 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!

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.

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:

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
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.

Pine Ridge Recently Featured on 20/20

As many of you know, I worked for 2 years with the Lakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  The Jesuits have been running a school there called Red Cloud Indian School for nearly 100 years.  It was the desire of Chief Red Cloud that the "Black Robes" would come and educate his people.  We are still in partnership with this indigenous people, and it is a priority of the Jesuits.  Last night 20/20 featured a segment about Pine Ridge.  You can watch it below:

You can find out more about Red Cloud Indian School at:

Chief Red Cloud

Red Cloud Indian School Campus

Friday, October 14, 2011

Guest Reflection on Integrity and Courage

This is a reflection on today's Scripture readings by one of my brothers, Dr. Kevin Embach.  Kevin was an internist for 19 years before he entered.  I like to call him "a consummate Catholic physician" because he consistently applied the wisdom of the Church's teachings in his practice of medicine, in order to build "the culture of life."  He is proof to me that one good doctor can be make a huge difference, just as anyone living their lives with integrity and passion can.  Kevin is also one of the most humble, humorous, and generous people I have ever met.  It is a joy to have him in the Society.  This is a picture of Kevin:

Here are his reflections, directed especially to his brothers, but certainly adaptable to people of other vocations.  The Gospel on which they are based can be found at the link below, in case you want to read it beforehand:

Right before I entered the Society, I ran into a family friend whom I hadn't seen for years.  I knew that he had been in the Jesuits but had left at some point and now had a family.  When he asked what I was doing, I told him that I was entering the novitiate.  He then warned me with a real look of seriousness: "Kevin, guard your vocation carefully."

In looking over today’s Gospel, the phrase “Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples…” jumps out at me. While Jesus is addressing all people in the Gospel, in this Gospel, he is first speaking to his own disciples.
As Jesuits, I think we need to pay attention to that phrase. “Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples…”
There are messages that we need to here as Jesuits here:  

Jesus strongly condemns hypocrisy.  He greatly disliked the hypocrisy that he saw in the Pharisees.  Hypocrisy keep us from being out true selves, which is vital to following Christ.

Jesus instructs his disciples to boldly proclaim the gospel.  The Gospel should be proclaimed without fear. Jesus instructs us to not be afraid of what might kill the body, but instead to be fearful of what might kill the soul.  

The evil spirit will likely work against us Jesuits and the mission of Christ in many ways:  The loss of our honesty and authenticity can do serious damage in our ability to carry out the mission of Christ in the world. If we doubt this we need only look at the sex abuse scandal in the Church, where the actions of so very few, has caused so much damage. Other, less egregious, losses of our authenticity and honesty can also do damage.

The evil spirit likely works on us to be less bold, less intentional and less motivated in proclaiming the Gospel and the teachings of the Church.

Fear, does not come from God. The evil spirit will likely try to slow us down with fear—particularly as we are missioned to places and among peoples where we are not popular or where there is significant physical discomfort or danger.

In our daily celebration of the Eucharist, we are enlightened by Scripture and nourished by the Christ’s body and blood to strengthen us in our vocation as Jesuits.

With so many people in our world looking despairingly on Christ’s Church, it is a wonderful time for heroic men to step forward in response to Christ invitation to priesthood and religious life.
With Christ’s help, the amount of good that can be done is infinite.

As Jesuits, let us ask for the grace to joyfully and courageously accept the invitation of Christ to:
Live our vows heroically, with the greatest authenticity, integrity and witness.
To be attentive and open to God’s will in our lives; to be true contemplates in action.
And to boldly and fearlessly proclaim the gospel wherever we are missioned—to a world in great need of Christ’s message.

Let us also ask for the intersession of the Blessed Mother, to help us protect us and our vocations as we attempt to follow Christ in this least Society.