Archive for June, 2013
Jesuit Father Kevin O’Brien, vice president of mission and ministry at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., recently appeared on the talk show Morning Joe, where he discussed faith in the United States. He addressed a recent Gallup Poll that found 77% of people said religion was losing its influence in the country. “I think what the churches, synagogues and mosques need to do is get back to the basics. In our case, to preach the Gospel and focus on what we’re most deeply about,” he said.
Fr. O’Brien said he takes his cues from Pope Francis. “His style … is really about getting back to basics. … He’s preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He’s talking about the poor. He’s talking about helping people finding meaning in their lives. He’s inviting people to encounter Jesus and for the Christian that’s a very attractive message.”
Fr. O’Brien also addressed a 2012 Pew Forum survey that found 1 in 5 adults are not affiliated with any religion. Most described themselves as spiritual but not religious.
That’s a call for religious to listen to that longing of those people, according to Fr. O’Brien. “They’re longing for God. I think we do better when we listen first to what that longing is about and then share our tradition.”
As for getting people back into the church, Fr. O’Brien said it’s a call to humility. “The churches must be in a more listening posture: that is to invite and to welcome … I think the reason why Pope Francis has spoken to so many people across religious traditions is that he is a humble man and he’s in a listening posture.
“I think all of us in religion would do better when we listen first,” Fr. O’Brien said. “I think this pope is leading the way. Frankly, for me, he’s making me a better priest if I follow his example.”
Jesuit Father Rick Malloy doesn’t have to go far to get to his “mission territory:” he simply walks down the hall from where he lives in a college dorm at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. While the journey isn’t far, Fr. Malloy says it can be difficult to be noticed in the territory where he’s sent: the minds, hearts and imaginations of young adults.
As vice president for university ministries, Fr. Malloy searches for ways to get today’s young adults to be open to God’s action in their lives. He’s found that one way to get there is the short spiritual exercise made famous by St. Ignatius of Loyola: the Examen.
The Examen involves a review of one’s day, listening for where God was present and active. According to Fr. Malloy, University of Scranton students are finding the 10- to 15-minute Examen doable, transformative and comprehensible.
“St. Ignatius championed this form of prayer and counseled this was the one spiritual exercise that should never be left aside,” says Fr. Malloy. “In order to make this prayer even more accessible, I offer this description of the traditional five steps of the Examen: 1) the prayer to the Spirit for inspiration; 2) thanksgiving; 3) examination of consciousness; 4) firm resolve to improve; and 5) trust and hope for the future.”
Fr. Malloy says he is very aware that what he’s asking students to do—slow down, be attentive, be reflective—is alien to the culture in which they are immersed, with constant texting and tweeting, flashing images and video games. “The Examen can serve as an antidote to the spiritual maladies of our age,” he says.
Paralleling St. Ignatius’ five steps, Fr. Malloy has developed the five “P’s” of the Examen—presence, praise, process, penance, promise—in order to make this prayer even more accessible to young adults.
“There is no ‘proper’ way to practice the Examen,” says Fr. Malloy. “Some people like to sit in a chapel. Some turn off the radio and pray the Examen as they drive home from work. Some people pray the Examen in the shower. … However and wherever you pray the Examen, God will find you and guide you.”
To read more about Fr. Malloy’s five “P’s” of the Examen, visit the St. Anthony Messenger website.
Pope Francis is 100 percent Jesuit and his style shows it off, said the superior general of the Society of Jesus, Jesuit Father General Adolfo Nicolás, in a recent interview with Rome Reports.
“I think we’re already seeing signs. … On Holy Thursday, he told priests that a shepherd should smell of sheep. It’s a great image which speaks to the pastoral mission of clergy, be it bishops or priests,” Fr. Nicolás said.
Fr. Nicolás also said he believes that the election of a Jesuit pope won’t have any repercussions on the Society’s members:
“It’s very clear to us, nothing has changed, nothing. The pope is the person the cardinals chose among themselves because they think he can lead the church. So we obey and work with him with the same intensity as we had with other popes.”
Even though the vow of poverty has always been a basic tenet for Jesuits, Fr. Nicolás believes this idea has gained importance within the church.
“That Cardinal Hummes told the pope the same thing [“Don't forget the poor”], means that it’s part of the church now. And that’s a good thing. It’s good because St. Paul mentioned it in one of his letters: we have to move with freedom because we are free with Christ, but we must never forget about the poor. He said this was one of the signs of being a Christian,” said Fr. Nicolás.
Watch the Rome Reports video with Fr. Nicolás below.
Three months after the historic election of the first Jesuit pope, the Society of Jesus, the largest order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church, is ordaining 16 new Jesuit priests this month in the United States.
Ordination ceremonies are being held at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y.; Holy Name of Jesus Church in New Orleans; Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Los Angeles; and Madonna della Strada Chapel at Loyola University Chicago.
Before entering the Society of Jesus, the ordinands worked in nonprofit community service, higher education, state government, documentary film production, biomedical research and as teachers in high schools and colleges. They highlight the diversity of the Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1540 “to serve the Lord alone and the Church, His spouse, under the Roman pontiff.”
The ordinands hail from every part of the country, including Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. As undergraduate students, several attended Jesuit colleges or universities, where they first came to know the Society of Jesus. As Jesuits in formation, the men have traveled the world, serving and studying in Mexico, El Salvador, Italy, Colombia and Bolivia.
Jesuit Father Thomas H. Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference, said, “This is a joyful time for both the Society of Jesus and the Catholic Church as we welcome 16 new brothers being ordained this month. Their call to priestly ministry is as varied as their hometowns and former occupations, but they have one thing in common: a desire to dedicate themselves to the Jesuit mission of serving the Church where the need is greatest.”
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This past Holy Thursday, Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy, executive director of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, organized Jesuit novices to wash the feet of minors at a Los Angeles juvenile hall, following the lead of Pope Francis, who washed the feet of detainees at a juvenile detention center in Rome. The young people at the center in Los Angeles also wrote letters to the pope, and — much to his surprise — Fr. Kennedy received a response from the pope.
In the letter, Pope Francis wrote: “I was very moved to read the letters you sent to me from the young people of Juvenile Hall and to know that we were close to one another in spirit during the washing of feet on Holy Thursday evening.”
“When I read the letter from the pope, many feelings flowed through me,” Fr. Kennedy wrote in a reflection in The Tidings. “I thought of what Dorothy Day said when working at the margins: ‘To work with the poor is a harsh and dreadful love.’ Most of the time it feels like you are losing. Being at the margins brings its own isolation.”
Fr. Kennedy noted that in a simple letter, Pope Francis “affirmed that the choice to kneel down with a population that society has neglected is where we find God’s presence. With his gesture, he points to where we should serve. Rather than running away from those who are not healthy, we should run toward those who need healing.”
Fr. Kennedy said he realizes a letter will not change the day-to-day workings of being in marginalized places, but “it is a small sign of affirmation from the man at the head of our church. It embodies the Gospel’s message of forgiveness and healing, and it affirms that this is where God truly is.”