Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category
If you can’t remember what comes after “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” but want to return to confession, don’t worry says Jesuit Father Jake Empereur.
Whether it’s been a few years — or even decades — parishes and dioceses are inviting inactive Catholics to return to church at Lent, with the sacrament of reconciliation as an incentive. Fr. Empereur, a priest since 1965 and a parochial vicar at St. Matthew Parish in San Antonio, said the motivations for wanting to go back to confession can be many.
“It could be because of health issues. It could be because their conscience moves them to finally be able to participate in the church and the liturgy and Communion,” said Fr. Empereur. “People get married. Sometimes it’s someone’s first Communion, sometimes it’s a wedding. It’s all sorts of different reasons.”
And what they have on their mind — and want to get off their chest — can vary as well, Fr. Empereur told Catholic News Service.
“Each case is really, truly different,” Fr. Empereur said, adding he tells penitents to focus on “what they came to say” because it “gives me further questioning on what I need to do [as a priest]: whether or not they’re married, personal relationships, issues in their life, whatever it might be.”
“They don’t talk about a lot of non-sins, small things and so forth,” Fr. Empereur continued. “They have a couple of major things: they got married outside the church, they had a bad experience with a priest, or so forth.”
Fr. Empereur said he asks penitents whether they pray. “Usually they’ll say something like their evening prayers before they go to bed, or they pray before meals. Usually they have not been going to Mass.
“Then you can talk about participation in the Eucharist. So you have to kind of instruct them, helping them along,” he explained. “Encourage them. ‘Are you going to be more involved in the church? Are you going to go to Mass? Are you going to go to confession once in a while?’”
Fr. Empereur said there’s usually something they have on their minds and that’s why they come back in the first place. “Usually I find my questions have to do with their relationships or their spiritual life. After all, that’s the purpose of all this. I can’t say I’ve had two identical confessions,” he said.
Read the full story at the U.S. Catholic website.
Eric Ramirez, a Jesuit scholastic, says he discovered his vocation while in college and was further inspired by the World Youth Day celebrations in Denver and Toronto, where he decided he would become a priest.
His family was supportive when Ramirez told them he was joining the Society of Jesus, although his mother wanted to make sure it was for the right reasons.
“My mother was really clear. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing it for her, and that was never a problem, I was doing it for me,” Ramirez says.
Ramirez is now studying theology in Rome, giving him the opportunity to pray in the same room where St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society, worked for many years. Ramirez says he has learned the importance of the Spiritual Exercises as a way to develop a personal relationship with God.
“There’s a hunger among every human being in that search for God. And I think the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius really become a pathway to get to that hunger, to recognize that hunger for what it is, and then to be able to recognize that God responds to our hunger,” he says.
For more on Ramirez, watch the video from Rome Reports below.
Building a better prayer life through research and data may sound like a strange concept, but that is exactly what Jesuit Father Bill Watson is doing through the Sacred Story Institute (SSI).
A national Ignatian apostolate founded a year ago, SSI is based in Seattle. The Institute’s focus is to bring St. Ignatius’s Examination of Conscience, known as the Examen, to modern audiences and help them use it in their prayer lives. The Institute also collects data from those using its prayer method to learn about their experiences for the purpose of shaping more intuitive and strategic spiritual formation resources.
Fr. Watson’s ultimate goal is to help people pray and connect personally to Christ, so as to know how best to serve the Kingdom — the goal of the Spiritual Exercises. “We tend to focus on our spiritual life when we’re in a spiritual context, like Mass on Sunday,” he says. “I’m focused on how can we take Ignatian spirituality and use it for evangelization to a much broader audience than just those who may come to a retreat center.”
Fr. Watson has been engaged in retreat work for three decades, including as Director of Retreat Programs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Vice President for Jesuit Identity & Mission at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.
Through his retreat work, Fr. Watson says, “I became keenly aware that you can give people the best retreat experience, but the big challenge is to keep people spiritually connected to God after the retreat when they go back to their busy lives.”
Since recommitting to the Examen while on sabbatical 20 years ago, Fr. Watson has focused much of his work on this five-step reflective prayer.
During the Sacred Story Institute’s first research project this past year, hundreds of people from six Seattle parishes took part in a 40-week Examen course based on a new method of the Examen that Fr. Watson developed in his recent book: “Sacred Story-An Ignatian Examen for the Third Millennium.” They also did weekly surveys, providing the Institute’s research director, Mr. Joseph Youngblood, with data about their experiences.
“We’re research-focused,” says Fr. Watson, “but the purpose of the research is to build smarter spiritual resources that can help people grow.”
In addition to developing and offering the Examen course and collecting data from those who participate, the Sacred Story Institute decided to do its own publishing. Fr. Watson said the Institute plans on doing quite a bit of publishing, and managing its own book portfolio gives it greater flexibility. In the spring, the Institute will publish its second book, “Forty Weeks—An Ignatian Path to Christ with Sacred Story Prayer,” a popular version of the short Sacred Story method in the book of the same name.
In its second year, Fr. Watson says the Institute is using the Sacred Story Examen method to construct K-8 Conscience Formation resources for K-8 students. As part of the project, the Institute, through the Archdiocese’s Offices of Adult Faith Formation and Catholic Schools, is offering its 40-week program to all K-8 teachers in the Seattle Archdiocese’s schools.
The Institute will also customize the prayer program for different audiences: pastoral ministers and teachers; married and engaged couples; persons contemplating vocations; people with addictions; and other groups that approach the Institute for special research applications of the Sacred Story method. A long-term goal is to have research offices in Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Jesuit Father Joseph Bruce is one of the few priests in the world who has been deaf since childhood and the first deaf Jesuit priest. This hasn’t stopped him from ministering to both the hearing and the deaf. Fr. Bruce reads lips, knows many variations of sign language and speaks clearly — despite never having heard a spoken word in his whole life.
Currently Fr. Bruce ministers to a predominately deaf congregation in Landover, Md. He is one of eight deaf priests in the United States today, and when he was ordained to the priesthood in 1981, there was only one other deaf priest in the country.
Fr. Bruce said he first thought of becoming a priest while attending the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., when Jesuit Father Joseph LaBran suggested he become a Jesuit priest. “I responded by saying that the church did not allow deaf men to be ordained priests,” Fr. Bruce recalls. “Then Fr. LaBran said, ‘God is full of surprises. He can change things whenever he wants to.’ After that I began to think about it.”
Fr. Bruce says the greatest challenge in serving people is being able to lip-read. “Every person moves his or her lips differently when they speak,” he says. “Lipreading is very tiring. Lipreading every day is like running the Boston Marathon every day!”
He also recalls challenges as an undergrad. He wanted to be a Spanish major, but the modern language department wouldn’t allow it because he couldn’t “hear Spanish.” So Fr. Bruce asked if he could major in English, and he was given permission. “I remember keeping my fingers crossed, hoping that no one realized that I can’t hear English either!”
He also prevailed, after setbacks, to become a priest. Fr. Bruce applied to the diocese and the Franciscans, but both told him no. The Dominicans didn’t reply. Finally, the Society of Jesus said yes.
Today Fr. Bruce does pastoral ministry for the deaf community in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Marlana Portolano attends St. Francis of Assisi, the predominantly deaf parish where Fr. Bruce ministers and where her daughter attends catechism classes in sign language.
Portolano writes in America magazine, “In order to embrace the Catholic faith, my daughter needed to receive direct communication in a language she could see and understand. In signing the Mass, Father Joe, as he is known, opened my daughter’s eyes to essential practices of Catholicism. Every week Father Joe is able to hold the rapt attention of the entire congregation, even when he does not speak at all.”
Jesuit Father Rocco Danzi, director of campus ministry at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J., was a guest on The Busted Halo Show with Fr. Dave Dwyer last fall, where he discussed vocations, spirituality, pastoral ministry and what inspired him to join the Society of Jesus. “The movie that fired me up for the Jesuits was ‘The Mission,’ Fr. Danzi recalls. “I began to say to myself, what if I joined this group and found myself going over a waterfall? Well you have to watch what you ask for!”
Fr. Danzi first encountered real-life Jesuits when he attended Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. After college he was working as a teacher when he began to discern his vocation to the priesthood. Fr. Danzi says he felt a calling to the Society but was resistant because he was not sure he fit in. “I was selling myself short because the Jesuits I knew had doctorates and were professors at St. Joe’s,” he explains.
With encouragement he met with the Jesuits and entered the Society in 1989. “My own ministry as a Jesuit has been very pastoral. As a Jesuit you can do all sorts of things, with or without a doctorate,” says Fr. Danzi. “It’s not the degree, it’s the heart. It’s the call within the call and discerning what kind of ministry excites you the most.”
As a campus minister, Fr. Danzi has enjoyed going on service trips with the students and says that many young adults are not sure about the prayer portion of the trip before they go. Fr. Danzi says that often changes. “Service seems to trigger and bring forth a lot of personal and spiritual things that come to the surface,” he says.
Fr. Danzi has been inspired by his own service trips to Haiti while he was a Jesuit novice. “It’s a place where I really encountered God and found that strength to keep going on that journey toward Jesuit priesthood and Jesuit ministry,” says Fr. Danzi.
Listen to the entire interview with Fr. Danzi at the New York Province website.