Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Father James Martin on the Papal Resignation in The New York Times, on The Colbert Report

Jesuit Father Jim Martin on The Colbert ReportJesuit Father James Martin, editor at large at America magazine, appeared on The Colbert Report last night where he and host Stephen Colbert discussed the pope’s resignation, the papal election process, ex-pope etiquette and the unlikelihood of choosing an American pope.

Fr. Martin also has an op-ed, “The Change Upon Christ’s Rock,” in The New York Times today on Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy:

“Paradoxically, Benedict might also be best remembered for how he left the papacy. In becoming the first pope to resign since 1415, he demonstrated immense spiritual freedom, putting the good of the institution, and of a billion Catholics, before power or status. This most traditional of popes — who in his role as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had often been criticized for exercising too much power — has done one of the most nontraditional things imaginable.”

Read the op-ed at The New York Times website and watch Fr. Martin on The Colbert Show below:

Jesuit Strives to Care for Souls in the Digital Age

Jesuit Sam SawyerA year ago, The Jesuit Post, a website for the Facebook generation “about Jesus, politics, and pop culture; the Catholic Church, sports, and Socrates,” launched. Jesuit Sam Sawyer, one of the four Jesuit scholastics who started the site, says during their years of formation the four have repeatedly asked one another: “How does the Church address itself to a contemporary culture that is no longer in contact with the institutional forms we’ve grown up with?”

For the past year, The Jesuit Post, which is independent of the Society of Jesus, has made a case for God in a secular age, with blog posts, essays, a Twitter feed and articles with headlines like “Contemplation After Gaga” and “Crowdsourcing the Saints.” Sawyer, who is in theology studies at Boston College, is a contributor and assistant editor and says he and his fellow Jesuits are seeking out young adults who are “hard to reach through traditional modes” such as parishes and diocesan newspapers.

Sawyer found his own spiritual path to the Jesuits when he attended a lecture at Boston College during his freshman year where Jesuit theologian Father Howard Gray spoke about how the early Jesuits “bonded around a shared desire to care for souls,” Sawyer recalls.

“That’s the name for what I wanted to do — help souls,” Sawyer remembers thinking. “I spent the next six months trying to pretend nothing happened.”

After graduating in 2000, he taught for a year as a volunteer at a Jesuit middle school in Baltimore and then worked for three years as a software engineer on satellite communications and missile-defense radar projects in Boston. But along the way, Sawyer stopped “trying to pretend” and embraced his Jesuit vocation, joining the Society in 2004.

From 2009 to 2011, Sawyer taught philosophy courses at Loyola University Maryland, and it was a defining part of his Jesuit formation. Teaching “at the heart of the curriculum,” Sawyer says, a professor can help students connect the classics to their lives and puzzle out their place in the universe.

Sawyer is now setting his sights on a lifelong ministry in higher education. And he plans to continue asking the kinds of questions that engendered The Jesuit Post: “How do we evangelize our nominally Catholic undergrads? What should our outreach look like in the classroom?”

For more on Sawyer, read the full story at Boston College’s 2012 Annual Report: Becoming a Jesuit: Five Lives at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry.

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

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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

Jesuit Recalls Hitchcock’s Final Days in The Wall Street Journal

Jesuit Father Mark Henninger Interest in the life and work of Alfred Hitchcock is soaring, thanks to the release of a new film about the legendary director.  While his biographer said Hitchcock shunned religion at the end of his life, Jesuit Father Mark Henninger, a professor of philosophy at Georgetown University, writes in The Wall Street Journal that it’s not true: Fr. Henninger was there and said mass for the director in his final days.

Here is Fr. Henninger’s op-ed from The Wall Street Journal:

I remember as a young boy watching the black-and-white “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” on TV and being enthralled from the start by the simple nine-stroke line-drawing caricature of the famed movie director’s rotund profile. The mischievous theme music set the mood as Hitchcock appeared in silhouette from the right edge of the screen, and then walked into the center replacing the caricature. “Good evening.” There followed his droll introductions, so unlike anything else on television.

Such childhood emotions came over me again when in early 1980 I entered his home in Bel Air to see him dozing in a chair in a corner of his living room, dressed in jet-black pajamas.

At the time, I was a graduate student in philosophy at UCLA, and I was (and remain) a Jesuit priest. A fellow priest, Tom Sullivan, who knew Hitchcock, said one Thursday that the next day he was going over to hear Hitchcock’s confession. Tom asked whether on Saturday afternoon I would accompany him to celebrate a Mass in Hitchcock’s house.

I was dumbfounded, but of course said yes. On that Saturday, when we found Hitchcock asleep in the living room, Tom gently shook him. Hitchcock awoke, looked up and kissed Tom’s hand, thanking him.

Tom said, “Hitch, this is Mark Henninger, a young priest from Cleveland.”

“Cleveland?” Hitchcock said. “Disgraceful!”

After we chatted for a while, we all crossed from the living room through a breezeway to his study, and there, with his wife, Alma, we celebrated a quiet Mass. Across from me were the bound volumes of his movie scripts, “The Birds,” “Psycho,” “North by Northwest” and others—a great distraction. Hitchcock had been away from the church for some time, and he answered the responses in Latin the old way. But the most remarkable sight was that after receiving communion, he silently cried, tears rolling down his huge cheeks.

Tom and I returned a number of times, always on Saturday afternoons, sometimes together, but I remember once going by myself. I’m somewhat tongue-tied around famous people and found it a bit awkward to chitchat with Alfred Hitchcock, but we did, enjoyably, in his living room. At one point he said, “Let’s have Mass.”

He was 81 years old and had difficulty moving, so I helped him get up and assisted him across the breezeway. As we slowly walked, I felt I had to say something to break the silence, and the best I could come up with was, “Well, Mr. Hitchcock, have you seen any good movies lately?” He paused and said emphatically, “No, I haven’t. When I made movies they were about people, not robots. Robots are boring. Come on, let’s have Mass.” He died soon after these visits, and his funeral Mass was at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills.

Alfred Hitchcock has returned to the news lately, thanks to an apparently unflattering portrait of him in a new Hollywood production. Some of his biographers have not been kind, either. Religion, too, is much in the news, also often presented in an unflattering light, because clashing beliefs are at issue in wars and terrorism. The violence provokes some people to reject religion altogether. For many who experience religion only in this way—at second hand, in the media, from afar—such a reaction is to a degree understandable.

What they miss is that religion is an intensely personal affair. St. Augustine wrote: “Magnum mysterium mihi”—I am a great mystery to myself. Why exactly Hitchcock asked Tom Sullivan to visit him is not clear to us and perhaps was not completely clear to him. But something whispered in his heart, and the visits answered a profound human desire, a real human need. Who of us is without such needs and desires?

Some people find these late-in-life turns to religion suspect, a sign of weakness or of one’s “losing it.” But nothing focuses the mind as much as death. There is a long tradition going back to ancient times of memento mori, remember death. Why? I suspect that in facing death one may at last see soberly, whether clearly or not, truths missed for years, what is finally worth one’s attention.

Weighing one’s life with its share of wounds suffered and inflicted in such a perspective, and seeking reconciliation with an experienced and forgiving God, strikes me as profoundly human. Hitchcock’s extraordinary reaction to receiving communion was the face of real humanity and religion, far away from headlines . . . or today’s filmmakers and biographers.

One of Hitchcock’s biographers, Donald Spoto, has written that Hitchcock let it be known that he “rejected suggestions that he allow a priest . . . to come for a visit, or celebrate a quiet, informal ritual at the house for his comfort.” That in the movie director’s final days he deliberately and successfully led outsiders to believe precisely the opposite of what happened is pure Hitchcock.

The Wall Street Journal

Father Robert Ballecer: The Digital Jesuit

Jesuit Father Robert BallecerJesuit Father Robert Ballecer serves as the National Director for Vocation Promotion for the U.S. Society of Jesus, but in technology circles he’s known as the “Digital Jesuit.” And he likes that name a lot better than the alternative:  Friar Tech.

A digital guru with a growing legion of 4,000 Twitter followers, Fr.  Ballecer operates his own website, The Tech Stop, which he calls a “site with a soul.”  He also hosts “This Week in Enterprise Tech” (TWiET) on the online tech network TWiT.

Fr. Ballecer, who wears a Roman collar and identifies himself as a Jesuit on the show, says it’s been amazing to read the comments in the chat room from different episodes. There’s been a shift from “Why is there a priest on the tech network?” to the same people saying, “Fr. Robert actually knows what he’s talking about.”

So how did this self-proclaimed geek from Fremont, Calif. end up becoming a priest?

“My vocation story was a little less light from the heavens and a little more gradual leading me up to the inescapable conclusion that this is the only life I’d be happy in,” says Fr. Ballecer.

A first generation Philippine American, Fr. Ballecer was focused on making his mark in business and had already started a computer consulting firm by the time he was an undergrad at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif.  But he quickly realized it wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

A Jesuit priest at Santa Clara helped him recognize his calling. “The Jesuits I saw on campus were some of the happiest people I’ve ever met. They were some of the most brilliant people I’d ever met,” says Fr. Ballecer. “They seemed to have what I wanted — a satisfaction in life. That’s what set me on the track to join.”

After two years of doing retreats and spiritual direction while a student at Santa Clara, Fr. Ballecer says there were “angst ridden” days where he fought against his calling to join the Society of Jesus. “I was fighting myself, thinking why would I want to do this? I’ve worked all my life to get out of poverty and now I want to take a vow of poverty?”

Once Fr. Ballecer joined the Jesuits, he said that his experience in the novitiate cemented that this was the life he wanted to live.

A Jesuit and a Techie

Jesuit Father Robert Ballecer on TWiETBefore becoming the National Director for Vocation Promotion three years ago, Fr. Ballecer was assigned to parishes in California and Hawaii, and he’s also served in China, the Philippines and Bolivia. In addition to his ministries, he’s stayed active in the tech world, with projects such as “Gadget,” an online show he’s run as a hobby for the past five years, which has received over 14 million YouTube views.

Fr. Ballecer’s tech expertise is a perfect fit for vocation promotion with the Millennial Generation (age 28 and younger).

At last count his office has created over 600 hours of You Tube content — from interviews with Jesuits to videos from World Youth Day to his tech content.  “The strategy has been to say anything that shows priests and Jesuits doing things that others might be interested in — that’s vocation promotion and that’s what we want to show,” explains Fr. Ballecer.

One of his projects was a video series called “Path to Priesthood,” which followed Jesuit Radmar Jao from his deaconate ordination to his priestly ordination. The popular series was picked up by CatholicTV.

Pursue Your Passion and Your Vocation

TWiET logoFr. Ballecer says that the Society wants to encourage more Jesuits to show their competence in venues that will reach out to the Millennial Generation. “We want to reach out to people who are looking for something to believe in,” he says.

“I’ve been using the weekly online show as a forum to say ‘Look I’m a priest and I’m a man of faith, but at the same time I have a sense of humor and I’m very competent about my subject material. I’m willing to listen to all different ideas.’ ”

One of Fr. Ballecer’s first vocation promotion projects was “Jesuits Revealed,” a video series of interviews with Jesuits from around the country with different areas of expertise.

“We have these three-minute vignettes into the life of Jesuits and if you watched enough of them you could find someone who believed like you, who grew up like you, who had the same interests as you. It’s reinforcing that a life of faith and a life of the priesthood is not what you think it is,” Fr. Ballecer says.

One of the things Fr. Ballecer tells vocation promoters to look for is the aha moment.

“The aha moment is anything that you do, anything that you say, anything that makes someone say, ‘I didn’t know that about faith or I didn’t know that about religious life.’ It’s where old, preconceived notions are emptied out and you get an understanding that you didn’t have before. I think all vocation promotion is built on that aha moment.”

For anyone considering a Jesuit vocation who may not think they fit the right mold, Fr. Ballecer says, “We’re not calling for what you think a priest is. We’re asking who you are, and we’re saying we can use that in the priesthood.”