Archive for the ‘History’ Category
The new Matteo Ricci Cultural Exchange Exhibition Center details the life of the Jesuit priest, known as Li Madou to Chinese people, through an array of exhibits and written accounts.
The center is located near the ruins of the first church and Jesuit house that Fr. Ricci and his companion Jesuit Father Michele Ruggieri were allowed to build after they arrived in China in 1583. The church, called “Xianhua Temple” out of respect for Buddhist custom, was dedicated to the Blessed Mother.
Jesuit Father Gabriel Li Jiafang of Jiangmen, who attended the opening, hoped the exhibition, which is designed to boost tourism, would make more people aware of the missionary and the Catholic faith.
“The local Church has provided historical material such as books and written records for the Ricci exhibition center which is managed by the city museum. A replica of a Ricci statue owned by the parish is also erected there,” the pastor of Zhaoqing’s Immaculate Conception Church said.
Other exhibits include Fr. Ricci’s writings, items of clothing, scientific instruments and astronomical data, to help visitors understand his background, his six years in Zhaoqing (until 1589) and his contribution to cultural exchanges between East and West.
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.
A Time to Build: Maryland Province Provides a New Spiritual and Nurturing Home for Its Senior Jesuits
The Jesuits of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus recently completed a breathtakingly modern new building on their northern Baltimore campus. This new residential community is designed to offer senior Jesuits assisted-living services while also enabling them to continue their ministries in and around Baltimore and throughout the Maryland province.
The new, light-filled steel and concrete St. Claude la Colombiere Jesuit Community Residence, designed by the architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, replaces the previous residence on the property which was built in 1961. Designed around a stone entry courtyard, the two-story chapel is the central design feature and the heart of this Jesuit community home. The facility provides rooms for the 38 members of the community along with a dining hall, commercial grade kitchen, living room, library, office and work space as well as recreational facilities.
“The new building, built in harmony with the beautiful site, will promote better spiritual and psychological health for our men,” notes Jesuit Father William Rickle, superior for the Colombiere Jesuit community.
As the need for assisted living had grown more pressing for the Maryland province, with more than 60 percent of the 349 Jesuits in the Maryland province 60 or older, officials began looking at their options to provide for its senior men in the Society.
Dedicated in the fall of 2011, the new structure is located on the highest point of the property, set among mature trees and open space. Since the need for assisted living is predicted to decrease in future years, the design of the building is flexible so that it can in the future serve as a community for Jesuits in active ministry, allowing the continuation of a dynamic Jesuit presence in Baltimore for decades to come.
In the video piece below, created by Halkin Photography, Jesuit Fathers Rickle and James Casciotti, socius for the Maryland province, discuss how the building ties in with the spiritual elements of Jesuit community life and, in turn, how the building fits into the landscape of the property.
This Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the world’s most famous and ill-fated ocean liner, Titanic. Among the lesser known stories surrounding the steamship’s last days is the fascinating tale of Irish Jesuit Father Francis Browne, whose photographs are some of the only surviving images of life onboard the luxury liner during its first, and final, voyage.
Fr. Browne sailed the first leg of the Titanic’s maiden voyage, between Southampton, England and Cobh, Ireland — taking a series of black-and-white photos of life onboard the opulent ship. He planned to stay on the ship to New York but was ordered by his Jesuit superior to return home instead.
That order saved his life. After striking an iceberg on April 15, 1912, the Titanic took 1,500 people to a watery grave miles below the surface of the Atlantic.
Fr. Browne survived, as did his photographs, which were rediscovered in 1985 by a fellow priest.
Fr. Browne’s absorbing photographic record of the Titanic is documented in the book “Father Browne’s Titanic Album: Centenary Edition,” which has been rereleased by Ireland’s Messenger Publications to coincide with the anniversary.
The new edition of the book is edited by Jesuit Father Edward O’Donnell, and the foreword is written by Robert Ballard, who first located the ship’s wreckage in September 1985, the same month as a chance finding of 42,000 of Fr. Browne’s photographs in the basement of the Jesuits’ headquarters in Dublin.
Because of the remarkable documentation they provide of life on the ocean liner, Fr. Browne’s photographs were used as historic references during the set design process for the film “Titanic.” Fr. Browne’s images have also been studied by maritime historians and engineers eagerly seeking answers to a tragedy that still grips the public’s imagination.
While onboard, the self-taught photographer managed to obtain pictures of the Titanic’s first-class accommodation and dining rooms as well as gymnasium and library. He also captured passengers enjoying a stroll on the promenade, as well as many passengers in third class, recording some of those who would later perish in the freezing waters of the Atlantic. He took the last image of the Titanic’s captain, Edward Smith.
Fr. Browne’s story is as amazing as his unique photos. In 1912, the Jesuit novice was still three years from ordination. But because of a gift from his uncle, he was able to experience the Titanic’s luxurious accommodation during the initial stages of its maiden voyage.
The young Jesuit photographed the Titanic leaving port for the last time as it left Queenstown, in County Cork, for New York. He could have been onboard: an American couple he befriended on the ship offered to fund the final leg of the journey to New York.
From the Titanic, Fr. Browne sent a telegram to his provincial in Dublin requesting permission to stay onboard. However, a frosty telegram awaited him in Queenstown: “Get off that ship.”
When news of the Titanic’s disastrous fate reached Fr. Browne, he folded the telegram, put it into his wallet and kept it there for the rest of his life. He later said it was the only time holy obedience had saved a life.
You can see some of Fr. Browne’s photographs via this link to FoxNews.com.
You can listen to an audio interview from the Jesuits of the Irish Province with Fr. Edward O’Donnell, who found Fr. Browne’s collection, here.
Messenger Publication’s book “Father Browne’s Titanic Album: Centenary Edition,” can be purchased at their website.