Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit Father James Martin’

American Jesuits React to News of Historic Announcement of Their Brother Jesuit’s Election as Pope

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Jesuit brethren of the new Pope Francis I were as surprised as anyone when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was announced March 13 as the first Jesuit to be elected pope. Jesuit Father Gerard Stockhausen, executive secretary of the Jesuit Conference USA, told Catholic News Service that when Cardinal Bergoglio’s name was announced from the Vatican balcony, he didn’t realize immediately that it was a fellow member of the Society of Jesus, the religious order founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in 1534. Jesuits generally don’t seek higher offices in the church, Father Stockhausen said. “There are relatively few who are bishops even. We don’t ordinarily take on those posts.” Even the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, told reporters: “Personally, I’m a bit shocked to have a Jesuit pope. Jesuits think of themselves as servants, not authorities in church.” “Jesuits resist being named bishop or cardinal. To be named pope — wow,” Father Lombardi said. “Must have been result of strong call.” In Dajabon, Dominican Republic, Jesuit Father Regino Martinez, called it “a moment of great hope and opportunity for the church.” He said Pope Francis as the first Latin American pope also offers “an opportunity to support the work being done in the Latin American church and a show of support for Latin Americans.” Father Stockhausen said that even those Jesuits who do become cardinals “tend not to move in ‘cardinal circles,’ where they get to know each other. That’s not our world.” He acknowledged that Jesuits are generally thought of as highly educated, and “men of the world.” There’s a saying that goes “‘Francis (of Assisi) loved the countryside, Dominic loved the countryside and Ignatius loved the cities,’ we’re ‘worldly’ in the good sense of the word,” he said. Jesuits also have a reputation for being careful decision-makers, particularly if they follow the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, said Father Stockhausen. The exercises lead one to make decisions not out of personal interests or attachments, he said, but out of where the Spirit is leading through prayer.

Pope Francis I appears for the first time on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 13. (CNS/Paul Haring)

As Jesuits across the United States watched in wonder as one of their own was elected to the papacy for the first time in history yesterday, it wasn’t long before the phones started ringing as news outlets called upon American Jesuits to comment on the significance of the unexpected and momentous news. From “CBS This Morning” and USA Today to NBCNews.com and The Boston Globe to daily newspapers and local news affiliates across the country, Jesuits were asked to reflect on the significance of the election of Pope Francis.

Jesuit Father Matt Malone, editor of America magazine, and Jesuit Father Tom Reese were barraged with media requests in Rome, and Jesuit Father James Martin appeared on many outlets, including CNN.com and NPR. Many Jesuits expressed shock, saying they never thought they’d see a Jesuit pope.

Jesuit Father Scott Pilarz, president of Marquette University in Milwaukee, appeared on “CBS This Morning” where he said friends had recently asked him if there would ever be a Jesuit pope and he responded, “Absolutely not.”

But, Fr. Pilarz continued, “In extraordinary moments and times, the church has looked to members of the Society of Jesus to play these leadership roles. I think it’s recognition that the church is at one of those moments.”

Jesuit Father Gerard Stockhausen, executive secretary of the Jesuit Conference USA, told Catholic News Service that when Cardinal Bergoglio’s name was announced from the Vatican balcony, he didn’t realize immediately that it was a fellow member of the Society of Jesus.

“Jesuits generally don’t seek higher offices in the church,” Fr. Stockhausen said. “There are relatively few who are bishops, even. We don’t ordinarily take on those posts.”

Jesuit Father Robert Ballecer of the Jesuit Conference explained to NPR why so many were surprised — but why it wasn’t impossible for a Jesuit to be elected. “We have a vow that we will not seek out office. But there have been cases where offices seek us out,” Fr. Ballecer said.

Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran, president-elect of the American Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, described the new pope and his Jesuit principles to NBCNews.com. “Pope Francis took the bus to work every day. He sold the cardinal’s residence and lived in a small apartment where he cooked for himself.”

“That simplicity hides a steely determination to advance Jesuit principles, especially on the importance of traditional Catholic teachings and protection of the poor and the oppressed,” Fr. Sheeran said.

Jesuit Father Michael Garanzini, president of Loyola University Chicago, told The Chicago Tribune that he could envision Francis championing the poor from his position as pontiff.

“Coming out of Latin America, he is very familiar with the plight of the disadvantaged where the divide between rich and poor is very striking,” he said.

Jesuit Father Jack Butler, vice president for mission and ministry at Boston College, told The Boston Globe he was both shocked and excited. “I was flabbergasted, because Jesuits aren’t supposed to be popes, and Jesuits aren’t supposed to be bishops, and yet I’d be lying through my teeth if I didn’t say as a Jesuit it gave me a great sense of joy and pride.”

Jesuit Father Douglas Marcouiller, provincial for the Missouri Province Jesuits, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Jesuits “don’t generally serve as bishops unless the circumstances are rather unusual. I think that that there is a tradition of not seeking roles that require a good deal of power, in order to serve the poor.”

Fr. Marcouiller added, “I think it is quite clear that Pope Francis has the gift of humility that will allow him to use that power and to exercise that ministry in a very effective way.”

He admitted that seeing a Jesuit in the robes of a pope would take some getting used to. “I think it will be a shock for the entire order,” Fr. Marcouiller said with a laugh.

Jesuit Father Kevin O’Brien, vice president for mission and ministry at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., helped explain the Society of Jesus to several major news outlets, including Time magazine and USA Today. “Most people will know of Jesuits because of their schools,” Fr. O’Brien said.

“To be a Jesuit today is to serve the church and the world,” Fr. O’Brien told USA Today. “The church has been sidetracked by sexual and financial scandals. Now, it’s about getting back to the basics. It’s about preaching the gospel and helping the poor.”

Jesuit Father Myles Sheehan, provincial of the New England Province Jesuits, told the West Hartford News, “Although we are, of course, excited about the Holy Father’s Jesuit roots, we are more excited about his ministry to the Universal Church and pray for courage and wisdom for him as he begins this journey of faith.”

Below is video of Fr. Pilarz’s appearance on “CBS This Morning”.

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:

Jesuits React to Pope Benedict XVI’s Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI waving“I didn’t see it coming,” said Jesuit Father Stephen Sundborg about Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, echoing the thoughts of many Catholics. Pope Benedict’s announcement that he will resign on Feb. 28 makes him the first pope to step down in over 600 years. Here are some reactions and commentary from U.S. Jesuits on the pope’s resignation:

Fr. Sundborg told KOMO News Radio he thinks it means that “this is a very thoughtful pope. He sees he doesn’t have the energy to carry on as pope beyond what his current age and strength is. I think people will respect this [decision].”

Fr. Sunborg went on to say that he thinks Benedict will be remembered as “the pope theologian.”

“He was an expert at the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago. He wrote very extensively about the Gospels. He tried to re-engage culture in a positive way.” Listen to all of Fr. Sundborg’s comments at the KOMO News Radio website.

Jesuit Father George Coyne, a former director of the Vatican Observatory who teaches at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., said Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to step down because of poor health is in keeping with the pope’s character.

“I think it was a very courageous move, a very good move,” said Fr. Coyne, who knew Benedict as a cardinal for many years. “I think he had a very personal conviction that he could not carry on the job because of general health conditions.”

Benedict “lived through the aging of John Paul II, and I think that very much influenced him,” Fr. Coyne said. “He didn’t want to see the church go through another period like that.” For more from Fr. Coyne, visit Syracuse.com.

Jesuit Father James Martin, of America magazine, tweeted, “The Holy Father’s resignation is a selfless and noble act done for the good of the Church he has loved and served for his entire life.”

On America’s website, Fr. Martin also wrote about the pope’s legacy: “His most lasting legacy, I would suggest, will not be in the various ‘newsworthy’ acts of his papacy that were highlighted in the media so often … but something far more personal: his books on Jesus. Far more people will most likely read those moving testaments to the person who is at the center of his life—Jesus of Nazareth—than may read all of his encyclicals combined.”

Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen also wrote about the pope’s legacy on America magazine’s website, noting some of the pope’s contributions during his tenure:

“His encyclical Caritas in Veritate, with its affirmation of structural reform as ‘political charity’ and his call for a global authority to regulate the financial sector, may be the most radical since John XXIII’s Pacem in terris 50 years ago. Though not a diplomat himself, he conducted extraordinary visits to Turkey, Britain and the Holy Land. His address to the British leadership in Westminster Hall was both a diplomatic and personal triumph.”

Jesuit Father John Fitzgibbons, president of Regis University in Denver, told the Denver Post that the news was shocking in its impact, but he believed there had been signs.

“I think the Holy Father, Benedict, has signaled in a number of ways he’ was very open to a more humane response to the human realities behind such offices,” Fr. Fitzgibbons said.

Fr. Fitzgibbons said Benedict will be remembered for carrying on John Paul II’s “glowing understanding that this is a worldwide church, and he moved further away from Euro-centrism by appointing cardinals that came from all over the world.”

As for what happens next, Jesuit Father Thomas Reese offers a helpful Q-and-A on the papal transition, conclave and election of new pope on America’s website.

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

An Advent Reflection from Jesuit Father James Martin

Jesuit Father James Martin“Advent is all about desire,” an elderly Jesuit in Jesuit Father James Martin’s community used to say every year. Fr. Martin writes in America magazine that while he didn’t see it at first, now he understands what this Jesuit meant.

“Christians who celebrate Advent desire the coming of Christ into their lives in new ways. The beautiful readings from the Book of Isaiah, which we hear during Advent, describe how even the earth longs for the presence of God. The wonderful ‘O antiphons,’ sung at evening prayer and during the Gospel acclamations toward the end of Advent, speak of Christ as the ‘King of Nations and their Desire.’ The Gospel readings for the season tell of John the Baptist expressing Israel’s hope for a Messiah. Mary and Joseph look forward to the upcoming birth of a son. My friend was right. It’s all about desire,” writes Fr. Martin.

Fr. Martin points out that holy desires are different than surface wants, like wanting a new gadget or a bigger office. When Fr. Martin talks about desire, he’s “talking about our deepest longings, those that shape our lives: desires that help us know who we are to become and what we are to do. Our deep longings help know God’s desires for us, and how much God desires to be with us.”

Desire also plays a key role in a Jesuit’s life, according to Fr. Martin. “As novices, we were taught that our deep longings are important to notice. A young Jesuit who dreams of working with the poor and marginalized, or studying Scripture, or working as a retreat director, will be encouraged to pay attention to his desires. Likewise, Jesuit superiors reverence these desires when making decisions about where to assign a particular Jesuit,” he writes.

Fr. Martin concludes, “Desire is a key part of Christian spirituality because desire is a key way that God’s voice is heard in our lives. And our deepest desire, planted within us, is our Advent desire for Christ, the Desire of the Nations.”

Read the full article by Fr. Martin at the America magazine website.