Pope Francis’ Homily on the Feast of Saint Ignatius

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In this Eucharist in which we celebrate our Father Ignatius of Loyola, in the light of the readings that we have heard, I would like to pose three simple thoughts guided by three expressions: placing Christ and the Church at the Center; allowing oneself to be conquered by Him to serve; to feel ashamed of our limits and sins, in order to be humble in front of Him and our brothers.

1. The coat of arms of us Jesuits is a monogram, the acronym of Iesus Hominum Salvator (IHS). Everyone of you can tell me: we know that very well! But this coat of arms continuously reminds us of a reality that we should never forget: the centrality of Christ for everyone of us and for the whole Society, which St. Ignatius wished that it be called of Jesus to indicate the point of reference. Of the rest, even in the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises, he places in first place our Lord Jesus Christ, our Creator and Savior (cfr. EE,6). And this places us Jesuits and the entire Society to be decentered, to have in front Christ always greater, the Deus semper maior, the intimior intimo meo, which continuously takes us out of ourselves, it takes us to a certain kenosis, to escape from our own love, wants and interests (EE, 189). We cannot take for granted the question made to us, to all of us: is Christ the center of my life? Do I truly place Christ at the center of my life? Because there is always the temptation to think of us as being in the center. And when a Jesuit places himself at the center and not Christ, he is mistaken. In the first Reading, Moses repeats with insistence to the people love the Lord, to walk in his ways because He is your life (cfr. Dt. 30, 16.20). Christ is our life! The centrality of Christ corresponds as well to the centrality of the Church: they are two flames that cannot be separated; I cannot follow if not in the Church and with the Church. It is also in this case that we Jesuits and the entire Society are not in the center, we are, so to speak, displaced, we are at the service of Christ and of the Church, the Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our Holy Mother Hierarchical Church (cfr EE, 353). To be men rooted and founded in the Church, that is how Jesus wants us. There cannot be parallel or isolated paths. Yes, paths of searching, creative paths, yes, this is important: going to the outskirts, the vast outskirts. For this creativity is needed, but always in community, in the Church, with this affiliation that gives all of us the courage to continue forward. Serve Christ and love this Church concretely, and serve with generosity and with a spirit of obedience.

2. What is the path to live this dual centrality? Let us look at the experience of St. Paul which is also the experience of St. Ignatius. The Apostle, in the Second Reading that we have listened to, he writes: I strive towards the perfection of Christ for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. (Phil.3,12). For Paul this occurred on the road to Damascus, for Ignatius, in his house in Loyola, but the fundamental point is the same: to let oneself be conquered by Christ. I search for Christ, I serve Jesus because He searched for me first, because I have been conquered by Him: and this is the heart of our experience. But He is first, always. In spanish there is a very graphic word that explains this well: El nos primerea. He is always first. When we arrive, he arrives first and waits for us. And it is here that I wish to recall the meditation on the Kingdom in the Second Week. Christ our Lord, Eternal King, calls each and every one of us saying he who wishes to come with me must work with me, because following me in suffering, will follow me also in glory (EE,95): To be conquered by Christ to offer to this King all ourselves and all our labor (cfr. EE, 96); to tell the Lord that you wish to do everything for his greater service and praise, to imitate Him in bearing even insults, rejection, poverty (cfr EE, 98). I think of our brother in Syria at this time. To let oneself be conquered by Christ means to always reach out to those in front of me, towards the other half of Christ (cfr. Phil. 3,14) e to ask yourself with truth and sincerity: What have I done for Christ? What do I do for Christ (cfr. Phil. 3,14) What should I do for Christ? (cfr. EE, 53)

3. And I come to the final point. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it….He who is ashamed of me…. (Lk. 9,23). And so on. The shame of the Jesuit. The invitation that Jesus makes is to not be ashamed of Him, but to follow him with total devotion, trusting and relying in Him. But looking at Jesus, as St. Ignatius teaches us in the First Week, above all looking at Christ crucified, we feel that very human and very noble feeling that is the shame of not being at that height; we look at the wisdom of Christ and our own ignorance, at his omnipotence and our own weakness, to his justice and our own iniquity, to his goodness and our wickedness (cfr. EE, 59). Ask for the grace of shame, shame that comes from the continuous discussion of mercy with Him; shame that makes us blush in front of Jesus Christ; shame that places us in tune with the heart of Christ who has made himself sin for me; shame that places in harmony our hearts in tears and accompanies us in the daily sequence of my Lord. And this takes us, individually and as a Society, towards humility, to live this great virtue. Humility that makes us aware every day that it is not us that constructs the Kingdom of God, but it is always the grace of the Lord that acts in us; humility that urges us to place all of ourselves not at the service of ourselves or our ideas, but to the service of Christ and to the Church, like earthen vessels, fragile, inadequate, insufficient, but in which there is an immense treasure that we carry and make known (2 Cor. 4,7)

It is always pleasing for me to think on the sunset of the Jesuit, when a Jesuit finishes his life, when the sun sets. There are two icons of this sunset of the Jesuit that comes to mind: one classic, that of Saint Francis Xavier, looking towards China. Art has always depicted many times this sunset, this ending of Xaver. Even in literature, in that beautiful piece by Pemán. In the end, with nothing, but in front of the Lord; this does well to me, to think of this. The other sunset, the other icon that comes to mind as an example, is that of Father Arrupo in the last discussion in the refugee camp, when he tells us – this is how he himself would say it – this I say as if it were my swan song: pray. Prayer, the union with Jesus. And, after saying that, he boarded his plane, and arrived to Rome with a stroke, which began that long and exemplary sunset. Two sunsets, two icons that will do us well to look at, and return to these two. And ask for the grace that our sunset will be like theres.

Dear brothers, let us turn to Our Lady. She who carried Christ in her womb and accompanied the first steps of the Church, may she help us to place Christ and his Church always at the center of our life and our ministry; She who was the first and the most perfect disciple of her Son, may help us to let ourselves be conquered by Christ to follow and serve Him in every situation. She who responded to the announcement of the Angel with the most profound humility: Behold the servant of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word. (Lk. 1,38), may she makes us taste the shame of our inadequateness in front of the treasure that has been entrusted to us, to live humbly in front of God. May the paternal intercession of Saint Ignatius and of all the Holy Jesuits accompany us on this path, may the continue to teach us to do all with humility, ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]

Trees

Trees continually grow. When they stop growing,
they die. Like trees, we also grow, as long as we live. We do not increase in
height; we certainly do not put out additional appendages, such as arms or
legs, but even physically our bodies continually grow new cells that replace
old ones. But, as embodied spirits, our main area of growth is not physical,
but in our thoughts, values and motives and in the ways we fulfill our purpose
in life.

Most of us enjoy the presence of trees in all
their variety. They are not only pleasing to our eyes, but also connect us with
nature. We perceive more than the bark and branches, roots and leaves, and are
at times moved with appreciation for the gift of life even in a form so
apparently different from our own. We plant trees, and nurture them, but we do
not make them. Like trees, we too are not self-created. Though we are unique
individuals, we are communal and interdependent, which often brings us much joy
and pleasure, though at other times sadness and pain as well. Through our
interactions in all manner of relationships, we can recognize our own
connection with nature – human nature.

Though we appreciate the beauty of shrubs,
flowers and grasses, trees are easier to identify with as individuals. We can
see in them many qualities that we value highly. Trees remain steadfast in all
kinds of weather, favorable and unfavorable; they do not try to appear as any
other tree, but retain all their own characteristics whether they are in an
urban or country environment. We admire in trees some of what we respect in one
another: continually adapting to present circumstances, always reaching for the
light, no matter what the surroundings, and never ceasing to grow.

Though trees do not of themselves move from place to place as we do, yet we use the metaphor of “grow where you are planted” in praise of the human virtue of being one’s self in all the unchanging or unchangeable personal qualities that are ours, as well as within the circumstances of our environment. Trees are not considered “stubborn” for
being the kind that they are, nor are we, when we make decisions according to
the values that make us who we are. We adapt, we change, we learn through
experience, but the “tree rings” of our growth are manifested by the way we
take responsibility for all that we say and do.

We do not expect to live as long as oak trees or giant sequoias, but we hope to proceed to a mode of life in which we will at last be able to fully appreciate all of God’s creation, and relate in utter clarity with the very Person of God. For now, we can appreciate the gift we have, as our kind of creature, that enables us to look at trees with our eyes,
but move from physical sight to internal thoughts and uses of imagination that
characterize our ongoing human growth. Our roots are directly in God, while we
are yet part of this earth; our growth is not primarily towards the light of
the sun, but into the very person of God.

Trees turn out beautifully as long as they are
within the proper environment. Our beauty depends upon our freely chosen
response to God.

Father Randy Roche, SJ, Director of the
Center for Ignatian Spirituality, has an M.A. in Theology from Santa Clara
University, and an M.S. in Counseling from San Diego State. He has served as
LMU Director of Campus Ministry, Rector of the Jesuit Community at Jesuit High
School in Sacramento, Director of Studies and Spiritual Director at the Jesuit
Novitiate, and as Pastor, Superior, and Director of Diocesan Campus Ministry at
the Newman Center in Honolulu.

Throughout his years of ministry, he has
continuously deepened his own experience of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises,
while also acting as a guide in the Exercises for lay people and religious. Not
surprisingly, his specialty is Ignatian spirituality as a tool for discernment
in decision-making.

The Cross and Resurrection Always Intermingled

In the fall of 2010, one of the women in our Love & Lunch support groups, Cecilia, was dying. She was our translator. Because our support group which had sustained her through years of an abusive relationship was located in a church, she joined that church. In the two years of her life, Cecilia had gone through RCIA and been confirmed, attended every retreat we had and translated it into Spanish, and was a quiet spiritual force in our lives. She fought cancer for 9 years, and then it went to her brain. We supported her through the end or her life, helping her get into the same Extended Care Center as her mother,  moving the support group to her bedside, giving her the first birthday party she ever had in her life, and loving her to death. We paid for her funeral, and housed her sister, Rosita who came in from out of town. Rosita made the rounds of all Cecilia’s support groups, meeting all her friends and hearing their love for her sister.

The Tuesday after Easter 2013, I got a call from Cecilia’s sister, Rosita. She told me their mother, Blanca, was now dying. I arranged for her transportation from the airport to the hospital, and waited for her call to bring her to her place for the night. She called once, left no message and when I tried to call, a weird busy came on. When she couldn’t contact me, Rosita resurrected her contact with her long lost brother to stay with him.

I also contacted the various people who supported Cecilia and Rosita 2 and ½ years ago. Their relationships are being resurrected, and their friendships renewed. The times we shared with Cecilia are always with us, and Rosita’s presence reminds us of Cecilia’s journey from the cross to her own resurrection.

When Rosita went to visit her mother on the first day, she looked at the whiteboard where they listed her mother’s caregivers. Imagine Rosita’s surprise when she saw the name of the Nurse’s aide (see picture) written just the way her sister used to write it. Sign of resurrection!! Cecilia is still taking care of their mother.

The trust and reliance of this family on God for sustenance is inspiring, and the response of the community to Rosita’s bravery in coming to be with her mother with no place to stay and no plan except to see and be with her mother all put me in mind of the community of believers that were present at the first resurrection. They were challenged to trust God in their fear.

Jane, one of the women in our Love & Lunch group called during Rosita’s visit with the Love & Dinner group to say that she needed prayer for her son’s back pain. Earlier today Jane had expressed her pain around the death of her younger son many years ago, and we were able to listen and pray for God to be present in her memory. She was able to receive that grace, experiencing that painful memory in a new way. At the meeting this morning Jane had spoken about Simon of Cyrene and how he had been forced to help Jesus to carry the cross, and how we joyfully and lovingly play Simon for one another.

Always intermingled, the cross and the resurrection. Daily we are volunteer Simons helping those we serve to carry their crosses, knowing that our service is to be escorts to the resurrection, and in escorting those we serve, to experience our own daily resurrection, new life, and deepening love. We do what we can to follow in those precious footprints left on the trail to Calvary so many years ago, leading to the Kingdom not of this world.

Please pray for Blanca as she enters her final days, and for Rosita as she escorts her mother to her sister Cecilia’s side. And remember our women and myself who are being Simon to Rosita and her mom. And yourselves as you escort those you serve to the place God is calling them to be.

Louise M. Sandberg is a IVC Spiritual Reflector and Volunteer, as Director of the Mary & Elizabeth Center which reaches out to women in need on Long Island, NY.  She is a pediatric home care nurse, and facilitates Wildflower groups for women healing from childhood abuse, praying for healing of feelings and memories.

Posted April 23rd, 2013 by <!– & filed under Uncategorized–>

Extending the Table

A fantastic blog post on April 30th by Vicky Risacher jumpstarted my thoughts around what it means to “come to the table” in terms of faith. Ms. Risacher’s story perfectly encapsulates the unexpected places and people who bring us hospitality in much the same way our Christ did.

The most obvious metaphor of a table we have in our faith is our sacrament of communion. Much could be said here about the different ways that different faith groups within Chrisitianity celebrate communion, or about the tradition-breaking ways in which Christ changed the Seder, or about transubstantiation. Ok, maybe not transubstantiation, but you get the point.

I have just begun the process of ordination in the United Methodist Church as a candidate for deacon. Though not charged with administering the sacraments, deacons are authorized in the Methodist church to assist in their administration. Now, that can sound pretty second class on first glance. My mentor, however, forced me to think of it in an incredibly empowering way when last we met: We should always be asking the question, “Who’s not at the Table?”

By extending the Table into the rest of the world, deacons are called to bring God into every messy, dark, powerless, and rejected place we can find. In fact, I would venture to say that it is in those places that we find the most need for the Table. If we think of the Eucharist as something that doesn’t just happen at the moment we take the bread and the cup, what does that require us to do in the world? And even if we do think of the Eucharist as that moment during our worship when we queue up and take the Elements, what do those people look like? Do they all look like each other? Are they the people who need God the most? And if they aren’t, why have they not found their way into the place in our communities that are supposed to be the most welcoming imaginable?

I sit front and center at my church every Sunday. I was hesitant to sit there the first few times my wife and I did so, but she plays music at our church and I wanted to sit next to her during the rest of the service. So, when we take communion, I’m always one of the first couple of people in the congregation to do so. I pray at the rail in front and then I sit down. Over the years, then, the most rewarding part of my communion experience has been watching everyone else in the church pass by and take communion. Right there. A few feet in front of me. Every single person. “The body of Christ broken for you.” “The blood of Christ shed for you.”

I can silently judge people all I want. I can inflate my own ridiculous ego. When each and every human being comes to the Table, he or she is exactly as loved, forgiven, and washed as I am. That completely reshapes me every week.

As our Christ reached across lots of culturally divisive lines (and angered the religious authorities in the process) so must we. Who is not at the Table, Church? Why aren’t we letting them eat and drink?

Kenneth J. Pruitt is a teacher by trade, and the Director of Volunteer Management at Kingdom House, an IVC partner agency focused on social services and founded during the settlement house movement. He is proud of St. Louis, his adopted home. His wife is far more attractive and intelligent than he. He loves what you’ve done with your hair.

Posted May 28th, 2013 by <!– & filed under Uncategorized–>.

Please pray for…

The following intentions are brought to your prayerful attention:
 
1- Michael Farrelly – rest in God’s peace
2- Jim Gallagher – repose of soul
 
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May there souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
 
 
 
3- Kelly K. – diagnosed with breast cancer and needs prayers to help discern the right direction to attack the disease
4- John Klein III – special healing, strength  and graces for him and his family as he battles cancer
5- Marilyn – asking the Lord for strength to battle her cancer
6- Keith F. – testicular choriocarcinoma
7- Judy M. – in thanksgiving, tests results negative
8- KK, young mother of three – stage 2 breast cancer, decision for removal or alternate treatment and full healing
9- Anna Katherine, 25 yrs. old – recovering from open heart surgery and struggling with the pain
10- Angela Marchitto – heart attack, critical condition
11- Corey and Liz – come Holy Spirit
 
And Until Further Notice:
~ C.T. – continued recovery
~ Bill S. – very special intentions
~ Dennis S. – for safe and successful treatment of new growth
~ Kevin Wallin – peace in troubled times
~ Diane Difulvio – MS, special healing
~ Phil O’Hara – multiple diseases
~ Anne Anderson – having problems post lung transplant
~ Msgr. Tom Hartman – Parkinson’s
~ Jennifer B. – bile duct cancer
~ LC and CC – special intentions
~ C.S. – employment
~ Michael F. – continued recovery from brain tumor treatments
~ Kathy B. – battling stomach cancer
~ Davein – childhood leukemia
~ Carol J. – special healing
~ Kelly B. – continued recovery from brain tumor treatments
~ TJD – special intentions
~ Mike Maggiore – continued recovery
~ Matthew – special intention
~ Thomas – special healing
~ Paul Cross – Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
~ John T. Dillon – special healing
~ Our troops, here and abroad – keep them out of harms way
~ L.A.W. – heart issues
~ Joe C. – ALS
~ Joseph LaRose – entering hospice care
~ Peggy H – Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (B cell)
~ MBM – breast cancer
~ Dana Marella – special intention
~ Phil L. – healing and peace
~ Jim Scott – esophageal cancer
~ Karen D. – healing from breast cancer
~ Chuck Dee – special healing from bladder cancer
~ Anne S. – special healing
~ John D. – employment
~ Peggy H. -  Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma  (B-cell)    
~ DBD – special intention
~ Carol N. – rheumatoid arthritis
~ Anthony P. – mental health issues, and his family as they help him cope
~ M.G. and H.G. – special intentions
~ David B. – continued strength and courage battling brain cancer
~ Gloria D. – re-occurrence of cancer has spread throughout her body
~ JB and RB – special intentions
~ Catherine Doherty – stroke
~ A.P. – special intentions
~ John McC – pancreatic cancer
~ Claude T. – special healing
~ DP – special intention
~ PM – special healing
~ JG – continued recovery
~ LH – ALS
~ M.T. – in recovery
~ Halia M. – 10 years old, suffering from Guillaume-Barre syndrome paralysis. Please pray for her full recovery
~ Brian Pearlman – cancer
~ Carol – aggressive chemo & radiation
~ Brittany – safe pregnancy
~ Cindy McCaffrey – in a serious biking accident and is now in an induced coma
 
Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow men and women throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them, through our hands, this day their daily bread and by our understanding love, give peace and joy.  Amen      Rev. Peter Schineller, S.J.
 
6/12/13

Honesty

We can say of most of the people we know that they are honest. Depending upon the context, we expect that those we trust will say what they mean and will act justly. We value honesty in others. How important is honesty as a quality in our own lives, in its various meanings and levels?

We are familiar with one basic meaning of honesty: that of not lying or cheating, whether on taxes or on tests, in speaking or in text communications. We might be especially solicitous about honesty in financial matters as one level of honesty, but less so when telling stories about some of our experiences. Honesty has more than one narrow meaning, and is not, in our experience, an absolute. To deliberately fail in honesty is to be dishonest. But honesty is sometimes our primary focus and guide, and at other times not, as when love for another requires keeping silence rather than “being honest” in an uncaring fundamentalist manner.

No matter how much we value honesty, we do not share equally with everyone all of our internal matters of mind and heart. When we are honest with others about some of our thoughts and feelings, opinions, judgments and decisions, we choose carefully what we share with whom. Though we learn to deeply trust some people, God is usually the only one with whom we can become completely honest about our innermost thoughts and feelings, our desires and doubts, our beliefs, hopes and loves.

Complete honesty with God might seem quite reasonable, because God knows everything anyway. But most of us have to negotiate honesty with God as carefully as we do with others, because trusting is not automatic, and is not primarily a result of logical reasoning. No matter how much we trust, we take a risk whenever we freely open ourselves to anyone, even to God. We do not know what the consequences will be within ourselves once we freely bring into a relationship some of our innermost thoughts or feelings, decisions or impulses, fantasies or judgments.

Although being honest entails some risk, our growth as a person requires honesty as much as plants require water. When we are honest with ourselves, we gain self-respect and confidence; when we are honest with others, relationships of mutual respect and love become possible. When we choose to share appropriate personal beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and aspirations with God or with others, two things happen simultaneously: we become more deeply aware of those particular aspects of ourselves, and we give to those with whom we share, the gift of knowing us as we are. Even though God knows us entirely, and others might know us quite well, when we consciously open ourselves to them, we offer a priceless and unique free gift, one that cannot be coerced.

Fear of being misunderstood or misjudged, or of not having our truth accepted, presents an obstacle to any real relationship. But only in and with honesty can we relate positively with a friend, counselor, family member or God. We can overcome our fears when we focus not only on what we hope to achieve, such as closeness, acceptance or love, but on the movement in our spirit that lets us know – beyond mere reasons – when this is an occasion when we need to open ourselves. With the support of such God-given mini-inspirations, we are able to move through fear to occasions of letting ourselves be known.

Honesty is not entirely something we do, or even who we are, but an ongoing experience of God watering our spirit that we might grow.

Father Randy Roche, SJ, Director of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality, has an M.A. in Theology from Santa Clara University, and an M.S. in Counseling from San Diego State. He has served as LMU Director of Campus Ministry, Rector of the Jesuit Community at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, Director of Studies and Spiritual Director at the Jesuit Novitiate, and as Pastor, Superior, and Director of Diocesan Campus Ministry at the Newman Center in Honolulu.         

Throughout his years of ministry, he has continuously deepened his own experience of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, while also acting as a guide in the Exercises for lay people and religious. Not surprisingly, his specialty is Ignatian spirituality as a tool for discernment in decision-making.

Posted June 11th, 2013 by <!– & filed under Uncategorized–>.

Slow Dancing

Sculpting Movement and Time: Making Slow Dancing

Slow Dancing, David Michalek’s video installation featuring larger-than-life, hyper-slow-motion video portraits of dancers and choreographers, offers insight into the physics of movement and the essence of creativity.

With these images, Michalek conjures a fluid stillness, creating a meditative time and space amidst the rush and crush of contemporary life. Slow Dancing engages the senses and the mind in an encompassing experience of awareness. The work also transforms Harvard Yard, calling forth its symbolic significance as a place for contemplation.

Michalek stresses the importance of incorporating different styles of dance as not simply pluralistic, but also as aesthetically interesting. A ballerina’s split-second pirouette drags out across an agonizing span of time, and each muscle’s contraction gets a starring role in its own few moments of screen time. Meanwhile, on a neighboring screen, a break-dancer’s gravity-defying movements change at a glacial, gorgeous step. Creative imagination, says Michalek, lives in that tension. And the work itself is driven by his desire to create “a little oasis of contemplation—a secular chapel—” in the midst of our daily bustle.

Eloquentia perfecta

In the 1599 Ratio Studiorum of the Society of Jesus- the official edition of the Ratio throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries- the First Rule of the Professor of Rhetoric specified the goal to be pursued in the final year of pre-university studies: Eloquentia perfecta. Seeking to clarify this succinct phrase the drafters indicated in the same First Rule that the three elements were included: praecepta dicendi, stylus et erudition, which might be paraphrased as “rules of persuasion, skill in Latin, and humanistic learning.” For a full understanding of these expressions one must review the historical roots from which this educational ideal slowly grew.

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