Archive for May, 2012
The Society of Jesus in Nepal recently celebrated a milestone in its service when the Republic of Nepal’s first president Ram Baran Yadav graced the Jesuits’ 60th anniversary function on the St Xavier’s School grounds in Jawalakhel, Kathmandu.
Sixty years after Jesuit Fathers Marshall D. Moran, Francis Murphy and Ed Saxton first arrived in Kathmandu and set up the St. Xavier’s School with 65 students in Godavari, north of Kathmandu, there has been no looking back for the Nepal Jesuit Society (NJS).
Owing to the steady growth in the number of students, the primary section of the Godavari school was shifted to Jawalakhel in 1954.
“The NJS sapling planted by the three Fathers in 1951 has today grown into a beautiful tree with branches spread all over Nepal,” said Jesuit Father Amrit Rai, the principal of St. Xavier’s School.
In an address during the celebration, President Yadav lauded the work of the Jesuits and said the NJS brought about a revolution in the education system of the country.
“Nepal has always been a land of tolerance and religious harmony … with people allowed to practice the faith of their choice without fear,” he said.
The Maoists in Nepal waged a 10-year-long insurgency that ended with the government and the former rebels signing a peace accord in 2006. Subsequently, a freshly elected assembly in 2008 abolished the 239-year-old monarchy in Nepal and declared the then Hindu kingdom a republic.
Apart from the two schools in Godavari and Jawalakhel and two more in Jhapa district in Eastern Nepal, the Jesuits run a social service center, a drug rehabilitation center, a center for the sick and elderly and the Human Resource Development Center in Kathmandu.
They also run a child care center in Pokhara in western Nepal, while around 3,500 students pursue higher education at the St. Xavier’s College in Kathmandu.
Since 1847, the Jesuits and Ignatian Spirituality have both been cornerstones of Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. Even with this 165-year-old tradition, many students know very little about the mission of the Society of Jesus and the Jesuits on campus. Senior James Burke set about to change that with his senior thesis video project called “Men for Others,” which introduces viewers to the Jesuits at Spring Hill.
Interviewing five Jesuits at the college–Jesuit Fathers Chris Viscardi, Marvin Kitten, Richard Salmi, Stephen Campbell and Michael Williams–the video highlights their service to Spring Hill through their varied professions of theology teacher to campus minister, president of the school to theater director. The common themes of diversity, uniqueness and individuality resonate through the interviews. But for all these Jesuits, forming and creating not only well-educated college graduates but, more importantly, men and women in service to others for the greater glory of God is their ultimate goal and purpose.
In this video, the men talk about what motivates them as individuals and what being a Jesuit means to them.
This year marks the four hundredth anniversary of the death of Christopher Clavius, the great Jesuit mathematician. He was a contemporary of Copernicus and Galileo, and lived from 1537 to 1612.
Clavius, who signed his 23 books Clavius Bambergensis, after his birthplace in Bamberg, was received into the Society of Jesus by St. Ignatius in 1555 and studied in Coimbra , Portugal, where he observed an eclipse of the sun, a portent of his later interest in astronomy. He became the Professor of Mathematics at the Jesuit Roman College in 1567 and held the chair until 1595. After his retirement he revised his publications and focused his attention on astronomy.
Clavius’ great work lay in the teaching of mathematics. At the Roman College he fostered good scholars who went on to teach in the Jesuit Colleges throughout Europe. He published several manuals for teaching mathematics and wrote commentaries on the geometry of Euclid and Theodosius.
He came to public notice, however, with the reform of the calendar. The Julian calendar, prescribed for the Roman Empire by Julius Caesar in 45 BC, was current though Western Europe. But it was inaccurate, and the inaccuracies affected the dating of the spring equinox, and consequently of Easter. Gregory XIII commissioned a reform of the calendar and proclaimed it in 1582.
Clavius was given the task of explaining and defending the reform. This was a delicate task, because the reform meant that 10 days would be lost from the calendar in 1582. Such theft of time from people’s lives could cause riots. Some Protestant critics also saw the reform as an abuse of papal power. Clavius published three books explaining and defending the reform.
This work focused his increasing interest in astronomy. One of his earlier books had been acommentary on the astronomical synthesis of an English thirteenth century teacher, Johannes Sacrobosco (John Holywood to his friends). This was based on the authoritative work of Ptolemy, a second century scholar from Alexandria. Clavius remained convinced of Ptolemy’s argument that the earth was the centre of the universe, and that other heavenly bodies revolved around it. But although not persuaded by the heliocentric thesis of Copernicus, he was impressed by his arguments, as he was by the discoveries of Galileo. He saw the need for a reformed astronomical theory.
In this Clavius was true to his fundamental insight, that science needed to be founded on mathematics and on experiment, not simply on deduction and on ancient authorities. In this respect he was part of the beginnings of modern science. And his position provokes one of the great unresolvable ‘what ifs’ of Jesuit and European cultural history.
Clavius worked to persuade other Jesuits of the importance of mathematics in the educational curriculum. In a draft revision of the Ratio Studiorum, the curriculum for Jesuit studies, he proposed that mathematics should be made central within the teaching of philosophy in Jesuit Colleges. He also proposed that the lack of good teachers should be remedied by a specialist academy for the training of gifted Jesuit mathematicians.
The response to the draft was that the lack of good teachers made the proposal unworkable. The final draft was simply aspirational in its general commendation of mathematics. At a time when the Jesuit Colleges played such an important part in higher education and culture in Europe, one wonders what would have been the effect of making mathematics a central part of their curriculum. Might the gaps that developed between church and science, and between metaphysics and the common scientific world view, have become so neuralgic?
Clavius made a key contribution to his age, but some doors even he was unable to unlock.
By Andy Hamilton SJ
Jesuit Father John Ruane, who was interned in the Los Banos civilian internment camp on the island of Luzon in the Philippines during World War II, recently passed away at the age of 92. He was Professor Emeritus at Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City for 38 years.
Fr. Ruane, who entered the Society of Jesus upon graduating from St. Peter’s Preparatory in 1937, said that going to the missions appealed to him, and he was sent to the Philippines to study philosophy at Ateneo de Manila in July 1941. By 1942, all the priests and seminarians were placed under house arrest by the Japanese military, and in 1945, the Jesuits were moved to the Los Banos camp. They could take few belongings, and the 80 Jesuits were assigned to live in huts with 16 internees in each.
Given rice mixed with a little meat and water twice a day, Fr. Ruane said, “We were weak.” He said that they didn’t move around too much to preserve their strength and people would blackout often. “One pig would last for 1,000 servings.”
The priests would take turns saying Mass with the wine they had smuggled into the camp, and some of the Jesuits professors who would lecture the internees.
Fr. Ruane said they never gave up on the Americans and knew they were close since their airplane engines were stronger than the Japanese. Eventually, Fr. Ruane and the other internees were rescued by the U.S. troops.
After World War II, Fr. Ruane returned to the United States to be ordained; earned a doctorate in philosophy at Louvain, Belgium; and then returned to Cebu in the Philippines to teach Jesuit seminarians until 1969.
With the passing of Fr. Ruane, Jesuit Father James Reuter, now 95, is the only other Jesuit survivor. Fr. Reuter still lives in the Philippines.
Jesuits are taught to see God in all things. This makes Jesuit photography a little more intense than family snapshots.
This year four Canadian Jesuits will show their photographs as part of the 17th annual Contact festival. With more than 1,000 venues spread around Toronto and as many as 1.8 million sets of eyeballs taking in the work of an international lineup of photographers through the month of May, Contact is the largest photography event in the world.
The Jesuit show at Regis College on the campus of the University of Toronto is called “In All Things.” It runs May 10 to 26.
Second-year theologian Marc Aristotle de Asis loves the process of discovery inherent in photography. The Contact show will be the first time the 29-year-old Jesuit will see his photographs hung for a gallery crowd.
“I let myself be amazed by what the camera captures,” said de Asis of the fireworks photos he will show.
His photos will hang along with nature and abstract photography by Jesuit Fathers Gilles Mongeau and Teo Ugaban, and Jesuit Trevor Scott.
De Asis has been playing around with cameras since he was very young. Growing up in the Philippines, de Asis’s father had a darkroom. Though he claims to have been a haphazard photographer and printmaker in those days, he loved seeing what would come out of the trays of chemicals.
Photography wasn’t part of his spiritual life until his novice master, Fr. Philip Shano, urged him to channel some of his energy into photography. In the context of the initial two years of Jesuit life photography took on new dimensions.
“It’s all contemplation,” he said. “It’s a way to enter into the whole experience.”
To capture a moment requires the kind of attentiveness that is at the very heart of Ignatian spirituality, according to de Asis.
Find out more about the Contact photography exhibit and the works by the Jesuits which will be on display in this article from The Catholic Register.