Archive for December, 2012

Jesuit Father Bob Fabing: Spiritual Director, Family Counselor and Composer

Jesuit Father Bob Fabing

Jesuit Father Bob Fabing has been ministering to families for over 40 years. The multi-talented Fr. Fabing is also a composer of liturgical music, a poet, an author and the founder and director of the Jesuit Institute for Family Life International Network (, a worldwide organization of some 80 institutes providing marriage counseling and family therapy in the U.S., Central America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Fr. Fabing’s family counseling ministry began in 1961, a year after he joined the Society of Jesus. “Christ called me to stand with the afflicted suffering mothers, fathers and children in homes in need of peace,” Fr. Fabing says.

His call to be with suffering families was as strong and as unrelenting as his vocation to the Society of Jesus. “I joined the Society of Jesus as I couldn’t live with myself anymore resisting Christ,” he explains. “I finally said ‘yes’!”

In addition, Fr. Fabing is the founder of the 30-Day Retreat Program in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos, Calif., where he lives.

With Roses for All book cover

Fr. Fabing has published several books, including a new book of poetry, “With Roses for All.” He says, “Poetry is absorbing. Poetry is engaging. Poetry reaches into the ability of play. Poetry calls out to human freedom by speaking  to heart and mind together at the same moment unraveling human nature before one has the time to stop its invasion.

“What good could come from that?”Fr.  Fabing asks. “The gift of realizing that one is made for more than work. The gift of experiencing oneself as interacting with the world of beauty. The gift of being restored to the person you always knew you were.”

Fr. Fabing says working on these calls each day – marriage counseling, spiritual direction and music – keeps him balanced.

For more, find him on the web at, YouTube,  Facebook,, and


A Jesuit’s Tips for a More Meaningful Advent

Advent wreathJesuit Father Larry Gillick, director of the Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., says that “Advent is a joyful time, if you enjoy longing.”

In our culture, “we don’t like waiting, we like instantaneous gratification,” Fr. Gillick says. So he offers several tips in the video below on how we can have an Advent that will make Christmas special.

One suggestion Fr. Gillick has is to wait to decorate the tree. “Put the Christmas tree up during Advent but don’t decorate it, indicating that there’s going to be life coming. It’s coming, but it’s not here yet,” he says.

According to Fr. Gillick, “All the scriptures of Advent are not about having, but about wanting and longing, hungering and thirsting.”

He suggests using symbols of “emptiness” such as a putting out an empty bowl or waiting to place Jesus in the Nativity scene.

“If you enjoy not having, then you’ll know what Advent is and you’ll have a full Christmas that will last longer than Christmas day,” Fr. Gillick says.

Jesuit Father James Martin on Trying to Make Sense of the Senseless after Newtown School Shooting


Jesuit Father James Martin offered this reflection on “The mystery of pain, the solace of faith” in the New York Daily News after the tragic Newtown school shooting on Dec. 14:

I write these lines within hours of hearing about the horrific shootings in Connecticut, and I write them from a retreat house in New England, a place of prayer. I also write them at the invitation of this newspaper.

The question on so many minds and in so many hearts is: Why?

It is an age-old question, one that believers have been asking, struggling with, raging at, and weeping over, for many centuries. Why would God allow something like this to happen? It is what theologians and saints have called the “mystery of evil.” It was asked in another form recently, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, when many lost their lives.

In this case, however, and in all cases involving children — especially the violent deaths of children — the question takes on even more poignancy and greater urgency.

As a believer I need to say this: There is no satisfactory or adequate answer to that question. It is, to use another ancient phrase, a mystery. That word is often used as way of avoiding complex problems, but in this case it is true, and the thoughtful believer knows this in his or her heart: There is no answer that will take away our grief or fully explain how a good God could permit this.

Anyone who tells you that he or she has an answer to that question (for example: it is a punishment for our sins; it is the result of a vengeful God; it proves there is no God; or it demonstrates meaninglessness in the universe) does not offer a real answer. For no answer will satisfy in the wake of such agony.

Yet, as a believer, I also need to say this: That it is a mystery does not mean that there aren’t perspectives that can help the believing person in times of tragedy and sadness. For me, there are two things have helped me in facing tragedy:

First, as a Christian, I believe that violence, suffering and death are never the last word. God promises us eternal life, and will give us that life just as he gave it to his Son, who also died a violent death. “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them,” is the prayer spoken at Catholic funerals. God, I believe, has already granted all those who were killed eternal rest and perpetual light.

This does not take away our sorrow, but it can offer us hope for those who have gone before us. It also offers us the hope of being reunited with our loved ones in the fullness of time.

The second thing, or person, I turn to is Jesus. We do not have a God who is removed from our sufferings. When Jesus went to the tomb of his good friend Lazarus, whom Jesus would soon raise from the dead, he wept. Why? Because he loved Lazarus, as he loved Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha.

Jesus understands what sorrow is. Jesus understands pain. Jesus, I believe, weeps with us. Our God is not an intellectual abstraction or a philosophical theory, ours is a God who has lived a human life. This helps me during times of sadness. Jesus is with us in our pain, not standing far off.

The two perspectives are really one. The God who weeps with us also promises us eternal life. And the God who promises us eternal life weeps with us. For our part, we can work to end violence, to console those who remain and to build a more loving society.

For those who are not Christian but who are believers, like my Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters, I would not presume to offer a perspective, but I might still say that we all believe in a God who loves us, who is love, and who therefore weeps with us. On this we might begin to find some common understanding. For those who are not believers, I might say that in the wake of such horrendous tragedies, our hearts are called to compassion, to support the families and friends of the victims; and our sense of morality impels us to work for an end to such appalling violence.

There may not be answers that will satisfy, but for the believer there is God, who is sorrowful with us, who offers us eternal life, and who moves us, through our hearts, to build a more loving and compassionate society.

New York Daily News; image via Regis University

New Book Explores Celibacy

Jesuit Father Gerdenio Sonny ManuelFather Gerdenio Sonny Manuel, a Jesuit for four decades and a practicing clinical psychologist and professor, didn’t set out to become a celibacy expert, but the title suits him. Despite the large number of books available on sexual health and wellness, Fr. Manuel recognized that a Catholic priest’s celibacy was a topic that had not been adequately explored, especially in recent years. In the wake of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis, his new book, “Living Celibacy: Healthy Pathways for Priests,” hopes to demystify a vow that is both misunderstood and denigrated.

Targeted at priests and men considering a vocation to the priesthood, the book is also geared for the families of those men and for anyone seeking a richer understanding of celibacy and its potential to help experience God in “vital, dynamic ways,” according to Fr. Manuel, currently a professor of psychology at the University of San Francisco.

“I wrote the book because the life of a priest and our celibacy is not widely understood by the public, and what is understood, unfortunately, is the mistaken assumption that emerged after the clergy crisis, that priests are either dysfunctional and that if they aren’t, the life would make them so,” says Fr. Manuel. “People haven’t been talking about this aspect of our life and they haven’t talked about it in a way that is accessible and understandable. If we keep being told that our way of life is odd, we will begin internalizing that.”

Living Celibacy coverIn writing the book, Fr. Manuel says he relied very much on his own experiences and on firsthand accounts of priests he encountered through his work as a spiritual director. He says that “celibacy is a gift, but it’s also a choice that God graces. It’s a reciprocal relationship, just like in a marriage. It grows out of all of your own personal history and depth into a new possibility and future; that’s the same dynamic in celibacy, where you are introduced to the whole horizon of God. We have to choose our life – whether you are in a marriage or living celibate.”

Trained at Harvard Medical School and Duke University with a specialty in mental illness and community psychology, Fr. Manuel offers five pathways that promote healthy celibacy. The pathways describe how celibacy is experienced and enacted, some of the opportunities and struggles and how the experience of celibacy can enrich priestly life and ministry.

“I titled the book ‘Living Celibacy’ because it’s a way of life, and rather than seeing celibacy as a void, it’s an opportunity to open oneself up to new relationships,” says Fr. Manuel. “In a marriage you have a child and grow a family, you are cooperating in a new creation. By being celibate, you are invited into people’s lives and you get to witness how the sacred emerges in ordinary human experiences. And you basically name the holy for them – that’s the sacramental moment.”

Fr. Manuel says he hopes people read and react to the book and that it “helps them understand what this life is about and how it is a viable life that can help people find God, find their deepest desires and live in community.”

“Living Celibacy: Healthy Pathways for Priests” is available from Paulist Press and

Jesuit Helps Las Vegas Business Community with Ethics

Jesuit Father Max OlivaJesuit Father Max Oliva has built a ministry that focuses on ethical decision-making in the workplace in a locale not often associated with ethics: Las Vegas.

“People are fascinated with a priest that works with businesspeople on ethics,” Fr. Oliva told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Through his Ethics in the Marketplace ministry, Fr. Oliva offers talks, seminars and individual sessions to businesspeople who are trying to sort through dilemmas they encounter in the office, such as how to lay off people out of necessity or handle a contract dispute.

“My experience is there are not a lot of people you can talk to about this stuff,” Fr. Oliva said. “You don’t want to talk to your boss. You can’t talk to a pastor because he is overwhelmed with other things. You don’t want to take it home and make it a big problem.” That’s where Fr. Oliva, a Jesuit with a background in business, steps in to help.

When Fr. Oliva graduated from Santa Clara University in 1961 with a B.A. marketing and business, he had job offers at three family-owned businesses. Instead he chose to enter the Jesuits. He later received an MBA, but most of his work as a Jesuit was in parish or native ministry until ten years ago.

In 2002, he founded Spirituality at Work, which is now Ethics in the Marketplace, after reading a Fortune magazine article on religion in the workplace.

Fr. Oliva ended up in the Las Vegas area after answering a call to help out with a shortage of priests on a part-time basis in 2008 and is now there full time. “My provincial (Jesuit superior) says I’m our missionary in Nevada,” he says.

Since coming to Vegas, Fr. Oliva hasn’t had much contact with business on the Las Vegas Strip. “When I first came here, I reached out by sending letters to Strip executives and never heard back from anybody,” Fr. Oliva says.

“I hope my being here will draw people closer to God and help them be better people in the workplace. I hope that what I have to offer helps to deal with serious issues both personal and work-related,” says Fr. Oliva of his goals.

Read the full interview with Fr. Oliva at the Las Vegas Review-Journal website.