Friday, February 27, 2009

So, In Your Opinion, What Reform do the Jesuits Need?

So, what do you think that Jesuits need to change? What kind of reform do we need? Please, readers, weigh in. I would like to hear from you, at the beginning of this Lent, what you think is the primary kind of renewal that we need. I have often been curious about how outsiders view us. Positions are often so extreme -- intense love and intense hatred. So I thought this would be a beneficial activity for us. Please offer your experiences and observations in the comment box. Thanks.

Dumpsters Within

I don't like to look inside.
Too many open garbage cans,
lids off, and trash spilled around.
And scrawny dogs with fevered yellow eyes
scratching through the things that were my life.
And dumpsters iron-strong, pushed up against
walls in alleys long since lost and darkened,
places where I used to curl up and sleep,
and forget I'd ever seen the light of day.
It hurts to look
within where there is now no place to dwell
except the dirty dumpsters of the past.
And a heart all but strangled that has forgotten
blood that once flowed freely from pierced head
and reddened beams upholding hands that die
and spread stretched out against a darkened sky.

(Another old college poem)

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

Jesuits, Legionaries, and Reform

As I was browsing around the other day, I came upon this post here: 
Something weird is happening. I keep hearing about the Jesuits. And it’s from completely random, completely unconnected sources. It started about a month ago I think, and has gradually picked up steam until this past week, when I started noticing like maybe 3-4 mentions of Jesuits per day. A lot of them are really weird. I’ve found quotes about how Hitler idealized them. I’ve found quotes about their complicity with the Croatian Nazi Ustasha faction (another word which has been coming up again and again). I’ve had people mention to me their Jesuit friend. I’ve had somebody ask me conspiratorially if I was an “ex-Jesuit.” Supposedly also the prophecies of Malachy may have been forged by them in the 1600’s. 

So the question I’d like to put before you all now is: What the hell is up with the Jesuits? I know very little about them, but I suspect that I ought to start finding out. Something doesn’t pop up that many times in such a freakin’ short span of time without there being a tremendously good reason. 
The author asks a good questions, especially in the current climate.  As I mentioned in a post earlier, because the Legionaries of Christ were often called the "New Jesuits," the fact that they are now receiving so much press means, interestingly enough, that the Jesuits are also getting a lot of press.  People want to know, who is this group that they were supposedly modeled on? And with that comes a certain amount of ridicule.  For instance, a comment a few weeks ago on this blog read:
You are a Jesuit for crying out loud. Your universities are the richest and most endowed in the world. The Jesuit residence at any school is a far cry from any option of the poor. You want a broken body, go live with some homeless guy that has been hit by a truck, now that is real blood and real body.....
I had written about simplicity of life, and this was the (legitimate?) response.  This should not be a time for Jesuits to begin gloating about what they have, taking the demise of the Legionaries as some kind of proof of the legitimacy of their own lifestyles.  Rather, especially with Lent coming on, this should be a time of serious introspection.  If the Legionaries of Christ need transparency and introspection to mark the next years of their existence, then so also do we.  

I remember before I entered the Jesuits having a conversation with Fr. Benedict Groeschel.  He was on the board of  directors of Franciscan University of Steubenville, and I chatted with him briefly after attending a meal with the board members.  When I told him that I was joining the Jesuits, he looked at me squarely, and said very seriously: "Don't join the Jesuits.  You'll lose your vocation."  He went on to inform me that there were only a couple of good Jesuits left -- men such as Fr. Fessio and Fr. Pacwa -- and that the rest were going to hell in a hand basket. I tried to convince him otherwise, to no effect.  He is a firm believer in new groups in the Church, in renewal groups such as the CFR's and, possibly, the Legion, who would do the primary work of renewing the Church.  And I did visit many of these groups.  I stayed with the CFR's in the Bronx and with the Companions of the Cross in Ottawa, to name a couple.  

But what is it that makes so many people count the Jesuits out?  I think that I could introduce many friends of mine now who are Jesuits who might change Groeschel's mind.  I think there is a tremendous renewal going on within the Jesuits, and renewal is something that must happen all the time, without stop in every group.  At the time I chalked Groeschel's attitude up to the fact that he was a Franciscan; that this is how Franciscans do renewal: they split off.  Jesuits do not operate this way, and John Paul II made that clear to a group of Jesuits who tried to do such a thing in Spain.  But I think there is more than that.  Many people -- primarily "conservatives" -- count the Jesuits out.  We are done, beyond redemption.  I have heard conservative traditional Catholics even declare that we should be suppressed again as we were from 1773-1814.  What a sentiment!  

And  yet who am I to just write that sentiment off?  What is it about us that many people find so deplorable, so in need of renewal?  I have quite a few ideas, and I think many of them revolve around the question of the structure of our daily life.  There is much we could change.  

For a first example, Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the previous Superior General, asked that every formed Jesuit pray for and hour and a half a day.  For me, that would work out to 20 minutes at mass in the morning; 30 minutes for my two daily examens (examinations of conscience that every Jesuit must do twice a day); 20 minutes for morning and evening prayer with the breviary, and then 20 minutes for a rosary.  I do like breaking up prayer like that, since I am a firm believer (with Ignatius I think) that small segments of prayer throughout the day are better than one long hour of prayer.  But for many, an hour and a half is almost nothing. It seems so short.  And none of it is done in common in a Jesuit house.  It is all done individually.  

Is this really religious life?  I think a lot of people doubt.  And have for a long time.  A Legionary would do a lot more prayer, they would say.  He would keep a very strict structure. He would have a set time for prayer; exercise; mass; meals; spiritual reading; study.  Yet this is not Jesuit life.  I am sitting in a coffee shop right now with shorts on.  Is this really religious life?

I do agree that many things need to be modified about our daily life, possibly to make it stricter.  Though Ignatius often quoted that a truly mortified man does not need more than the examen as his prayer.  But that just raises the question:  how does one become truly mortified? Does one require the extreme forms of living of the CFR's and the Legionaries?  They were certainly attractive to my romantic temperament when I was looking at groups.  

For a second example, I think many of us Jesuits watch too much TV.  Would a Legionary do that?  Probably not.  Could we cut out a lot to make more time for prayer?  Yes.  So I would recommend these two to ourselves as possibly ways of beginning renewal: increasing our prayer and cutting out television.  These are two things I offer to my brother Jesuits.  We are in desperate need of renewal.  This is no time for us to gloat at the Legion.  Instead, let us look deeply into ourselves and "rend our hearts, not our garments."  

But I would also like to hear from you, the readers, about how you observe the Society of Jesus. This is how transparency works.  The Legion was not able to self-criticize, and so this fed into their downfall.  So I think for me, Lent would be much more beneficial if I can hear some criticism about the Jesuits from you.  What do we need to change?  How do we need to reform? This is what I will ask in the next post.  

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Brother's Reflections on Lent (Pretty Funny)

Just wanted to point you all to some Lenten reflections my brother, a current senior at Gonzaga University in Spokane, wrote in his school paper, the Gonzaga Witness:
I remember the absolute worst lent of my life back when I was about 7 years old. Back then I owned 22 stuffed animals, all of which were named, had individual personalities, occupations, voices, friends and enemies. I guess I was what you could call a "special" child (and to be perfectly honest I was 18, not 8). Thinking about it now, it just occurred to me that maybe I was homeschooled not because of the way I would be influenced by un-Jesus loving kids, but because my parents were just embarrassed of me. In which case mom and dad had to deal with all kinds of embarrassment, because my two older brothers had more stuffed animals than I did. 

I had a mountain lion named Simba who was enormous but was vegetarian and ate nothing but Caesar salads (I should really introduce him to Dorothy), and a panda bear who used to be a star soccer player, but was reinjured (code for leg came off) so many times that he was now washed up and extremely bitter. I also had a dog who was incredibly, incredibly stupid; his name was Clifford and he was my favorite. Somehow I also had a penguin named Banana. (OK, quick thought about the word banana: I absolutely hate spelling it because I'm never quite sure when to stop. Attempt #1 always looks like this: bananana, at which point Spell Check flips out. Attempt #2 will look something like this: bana. Thankfully, Gwen Stefani came on the scene with "Hollaback Girl" and has solved this problem forever. Unfortunately, humanity is left with bigger problems, like what the heck is a hollaback girl?)
To read the rest, go here.  My only quibble is that Simba was actually my stuffed animal. 

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

Island of the World

I decided that I couldn't move on from Island of the World -- Michael O'Brien's most recent novel that I just finished -- without giving you a few quotes. As you know, I love quotes, and I'm saving the best for tomorrow, with some personal reflections to spark the beginning of lent. But first, a quote to justify my coffee addiction, on page 710:
He will leave in a moment, after just one more cuplet of coffee. Europeans know how to make it right! This is the best in the world, better than the specialty brands he experimented with in the delicatessens on Fifth Avenue. Europeans understand that flavor is not about sensory stimulation, it is about evocation. It is art and memory. It is reunion with exalted moments, and such moments are never solitary ones. In short, life without coffee is not really life.
Amen! Page 777:
It is essential to have nothing in order to keep the riches he has been given. Yes, he is rich -- he is a man who can distill sight and insight into bits of salvaged paper; he is a man who can enjoy taking the garbage down to the corner; he can chat with fishermen and carpenters and housewives, never as condescension but as the replenishment of his true self. Every day he can swim in the greatness of the ordinary. This is freedom, and he is very grateful for it. It is all good, just as it is.
Finally, from pages 789-790:
You would not hurt the tiniest sparrow -- not because you are a recidivist Hindu, but because you are so sensitive to death entering the world, and thus you do not wish to reduce the number of living symbols in our existential spectrum.... What am I saying to you? Perhaps it is only this: man does not look deeply at the world. He lives by habit and pleasure and impulse. He does not read the poetry in things. And so I say, if he must kill a creature, that is his right, but he should see its beauty before taking its life and understand its presence as language. Moreover, he must understand that blindness to the miraculousness of existence makes it easier for him to pull a trigger and end a human life. Do I exaggerate? We both know the 170 million answers to this.
About as eloquent an argument against hunting for pleasure as I've read in a while. I find that paragraph beautiful. Anyway, couldn't let Island of the World get away without some quotes. It was and excellent book. I still prefer Sophia House I think, and Cry of Stone, but I do think he becomes a better writer with every book. For you who have never read any of his novels, I would recommend them all.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"It's About Human Dignity"

Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore is now going on the record discouraging his flock from involvement in the Legion of Christ or Regnum Christi. Here are a few key quotes from the Archbishop.
It seems to me and many others that this was a man [Father Marcial Maciel, L.C.] with entrepreneurial genius who, by systematic deception and duplicity, used our faith to manipulate others for his own selfish ends.
Finally someone has just said it! I have been less than satisfied with those who defend the Legion by saying that Father Maciel was just a troubled soul who lost his way. The evidence does not point to an otherwise holy man who went astray in the last years of his life. He was first investigated and temporarily removed as head of the Legion in 1956, with subsequent allegations coming in the '70s and '90s. As the public record on Father Maciel grows, it is a very sustainable conclusion that he was, from the beginning of public ministry, a charlatan.
While it's difficult to get ahold of official documents, it's clear that from the first moment a person joins the Legion, efforts seem to be made to program each one and to gain full control of his behavior, of all information he receives, of his thinking and emotions. This is not about orthodoxy. It is about respect for human dignity for each of its members.
For all charter members of Fortress Catholicism, please read the above quote again. It is wrong to use orthodoxy as a cover for totalitarian tendencies. “They love the Pope” should not be a justification for cult of personality. “They love the Blessed Mother” should not be a justification for psychological blackmail. “They hate the Buddy Jesus crowd” should not be a justification for vowed secrecy. We respect the life and dignity of the human person and must defend it from ALL attacks.

I hope more bishops will be buttressed by Archbishop O'Brien's words and take the necessary steps to combat these evil influences.

Mason Slidell

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Only in the South

Saw this while down on break in Alabama outside a Baptist church.  Wish I could have heard that homily.  

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Nostos and the Corporation

In his De Anima, Aristotle is unclear as to whether each individual human being has a single mind, or whether there is a world mind, or soul.  The soul is spiritual, or immaterial, Aristotle almost reluctantly agrees, erring on the side of the empirical over the ethereal forms of his master, Plato.  Yet he never makes it clear whether there is only one world soul, or many individual souls.  In the 12th century, Averroes argues precisely to that conclusion.  

Such a thesis is appears to be not untenable, given the way that American society exists, and now also many parts of the world, thanks in large part to globalization.   Actually, it seems to me that the "free" market operates precisely under this assumption.  Now let's be clear: there is a single human nature. This is an assumption of the free market as long as it plays to its benefit.  But more important for the success of the current free market is that there is a single world soul, residing, however, external to the person. In other words, precisely the kind of soul that Judith Butler, following Foucault, describes in Bodies That Matter.  Picking up on the fact that most modern individuals no longer have a nostos, a homecoming, as described in the early lines of the Odyssey, corporations have taken it upon themselves to go ahead and create this for us.  

Let me explain.  Free markets only work when a particular understanding of "freedom" is in place.  This is primarily a negative conceptualization of human choice.  Freedom is the ability to make a choice that advances one's own personal ends. There is  no such thing as a primary End or Goal of human nature (hence the rejection of human nature), but only now and then aggregate individual ends that are the result of individuals grouping together.  This being the case, each individual can simply choose what is offered from a list of options according to his own individual preferences.  Such is the concept of the free market.  No external coercion of choice = free market.  

So what's the hitch.  Well, when there is no ultimate goal of human nature, no primary End of human desire, desire is unfettered, unhitched, and so easily manipulated by the most powerful bidder.  And so "free" markets become playpens for the libido dominandi of the strongest man. 

And so we find in modern America.  Corporations have become the enemy of the nostos.  Since they don't want us to believe in a homecoming, a primary end of human desire, but rather intend to convince us through advertising what our true desires are, they play the role of Circes to perfection.  We wake up from their clutches, only to realize that instead of five days, we have been in their arms for five years.  

They are the World Soul.

They project, much like Plato's cave, our very selves onto a wall.  We look at that wall, and actually take the shadow to be our image.  And so the self is a constructed world soul, externally projected by corporations who have a vested image in the construction of consumers.  The nostos never happens, and we become wanderers on the seas of consumerism.

The only safe boat is the Church.  But how is this Church not just another manipulator, another power relation?  It is a good question, especially when one has only to look around at many present day protestant megachurches to see the corporate image projected yet again even into spaces of worship.  Everyone is looking for a homeland.  It is not found within, since the inside has rotted out of the spiritual life.  Dualism reigns supreme.  American spiritual life is a Cartesian ghost in the machine.  Except the ghost has long since gone, expired, since it was discovered that the pineal gland was not adequate to connect it to the body.  Cast afloat, the soul and body are no longer one, and they drift apart.  The ghost expires, and in its place is the corporate hologram of Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, or, less sinister, a megachurch, the projected unity that people are unable to find within themselves.  

The problem with megachurches is that they too are projections, bearing too strongly the image of the culture they are meant to evangelize.  No more ghosts in bodies.  Just bodies. Descartes thus left a hollow space for corporations to fill, and they have, projecting holograms into the empty bodies, creating their own pineal glands, causally manipulating our choices of ends.  With our personal desires unhitched, they project a soul onto the wall, and then funded advertising becomes the pineal gland.  And our selves are externally created anew.  

The Catholic Church alone can escape this mass projection only because of its Mass projection (pardon the terrible pun).  It projects the true body of Christ, and that is the center of unity, the Eucharist held high, the body whose body we are members of.  It alone can provide the end of our desires, thus shaping them according to itself, not as consuming beings, but as consumed beings, becoming the image of the love of him whom we consume.  

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Madame Speaker meets the Bishop of Rome

During her junket to Italy this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California was given a 15 minute audience with Pope Benedict XVI. The meeting was private, no minutes or photographs taken. Each side released a statement to contextulize the meeting and reading them both, you wonder if they were in the same meeting.

First, the Speaker's statement:
It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, today. In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the Church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel. I was proud to show His Holiness a photograph of my family’s papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren.
From the Vatican Press Office:
Following the General Audience, the Holy Father briefly greeted Mrs. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage. His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception until natural death, which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists, and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of development.
I have no sympathy for Catholic politicans like Mrs. Pelosi and Vice President Biden, who not only have the gall to publicy support abortion, but also attempt to cloud the waters with statements claiming that the Church's opposition to abortion is a 20th century phenomenon. A dressing-down is well deserved. I pray that Mrs. Pelosi's conscience is not so deadened by political ambition that she will be able ponder the message she received.

Mason Slidell

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Catholic Commentariat

From the always insightful Father Robert Barron.

Mason Slidell

Fortress Catholicism Under Attack

If you are a charter member of Fortress Catholicism, the last few weeks have been hard. With the revelations of Father Maciel’s licentiousness and Bishop Williamson’s anti-Semitism, traditional Catholics have been spun into a tail spin as they face the most serious criticism they have ever faced.

So, it turns out that Father Marcial Maciel, L.C. was very much what critics had accused him of being -- an ephebophile, fornicator, drug abuser and embezzler. A case can certainly be made that Father Maciel constructed the Legion of Christ as sort of a sick joke. While giving the pretense of manliness and hyper-orthodoxy, Father Maciel used the organization to fund and hide his numerous, habitual, global and grave sins. Given the extent and duration of Father Maciel’s transgressions, it is also clear that, at the highest levels of the Legion and Regnum Christi, there was an equally widespread and durable conspiracy to cover up his actions.

Not only does this tarnish the whole LC/RC organization, it also tarnishes the legacy of Pope John Paul II. As claims of abuse and evidence of malfeasance continued to pile up against Father Maciel, the late Holy Father seems to simply have refused to hear of it. As great as he was, this is a serious failure on the part of the late Holy Father. More evidence and testimony will need to be collected to know for sure, but it seems that as long as a particular individual showed an intense loyalty to the papacy, much was overlooked.

The situation with the Society of Saint Pius X provides both joy and sadness. Certainly one of the key duties of the papacy is to seek reconciliation with our separated brothers and sisters. In this sense, the lifting of the excommunications against the Lefebvrist bishops is a step forward in the willingness of the Church to repair the wounds of the breach. Bishop Richard Williamson's denial of the Holocaust is quite revolting. As one explores SSPX further, one sees a pattern of anti-Semitic beliefs and practices in the whole organization. To put it as plainly as possible: there is absolutely no place for such disgusting views in the Church. And this is my fundamental concern with attempts to reconcile with SSPX.

The great steps forward in Jewish-Catholic dialogue since the Second Vatican Council should not be put into jeopardy in order to integrate anti-Semites back into the Church. I am sure Pope Benedict XVI is well aware of this tension and I hope he continues to make it clear to the Lefebvrists that the acceptance of Vatican II AND the purging of all anti-Semitic beliefs and practices are required for a return to full communion.

I am sure those progressives in the Church are feeling a bit more justified than they have in a while. And a little bit of "I told you so" may be in order. To the traditionalists who are feeling downtrodden by these recent revelations, I hope you will take this moment as a chance to grow in wisdom. In the future, harden not your hearts.

Mason Slidell

Jesuit Obedience and the Legionaries of Christ

Although many people on many different blogs have weighed in about the Legionaries of Christ and their current crisis, I thought I would throw in a few Jesuit reflections that come to mind.

Meaning what. Well, before entering the Society of Jesus, I was told by many at my alma mater that I should instead enter the Legion. Why? Well, because they are the new Jesuits of course. They are the real Jesuits, what the Jesuits used to be, what the Jesuits were meant to be. I heard this from no less than priests from the Legion. It struck me as a bit odd and arrogant, and had the cumulative effect of pushing me far away from them. My own suspicions were confirmed when they were thrown off campus and not invited back to Franciscan University of Steubenville. But for a while, to criticize the Legion was to criticize orthodoxy for many, since the two terms were considered synonymous. This annoyed me to no end, but it was unavoidable. If I didn't like them, it was probably because I could not follow their rigorous lifestyle.

I won't go into the many wounded individuals I have met who left the Legion or RC and continue to struggle to live normal lives. My point here is different. Many told me that I should join the Legion rather than the Jesuits because they practiced the true form of Jesuit obedience. Ignatius told Jesuits to pride themselves on their observance above all of obedience. This vow, he said, separates us from other orders. We live a strict form of obedience. And so I was told by Legionaries, since this form of obedience is best found in Ignatius' letter to Simon Rodrigues, SJ living at the time in Portugal, and since many Jesuits these days notoriously do not follow such a notion of obedience, therefore, Jesuits no longer know how to live obedience.

A couple of distinctions are in order. Yes, there are several high profile Jesuits who do or did not live obedience very well. Robert Drinan, SJ, former congressman, is one of those. No doubt about that. And his disobedience to Rome and his own order is to be rejected as an example of a proper living out of Jesuit obedience.

Next, the well known letter on obedience to Simon Rodrigues was precisely that: a letter. It was written to a Jesuit in Portugal who was at the time living in the king's court and nurturing a rather devoted following of Jesuits. Ignatius was attempting to bring him under reign, trying to curb his sumptuous living and his predilection to get his way. We learn:
Rodrigues' method of government had erred on the side of mildness and softness, with the result that, when he was removed, these subjects refused obedience to any other superior than himself or one appointed by him.

And so his letter is written with very strong language. Some famous quotes include:
But he who aims at making an entire and perfect oblation of himself besides his will must offer his understanding [which is a further and the highest degree of obedience], not only willing, but thinking the same as the Superior, submitting his own judgment to his, so far as a devout will can bend the understanding.
Therefore, each Jesuit is to submit his "judgment which must approve the command of the Superior, in so far [as has been said] as it can, through the energy of the will, bring itself to this."

After talking to several ex-Legionaries, I began to understand that a.) this was the only item on the topic of obedience from Ignatius that they ever read, and b.) they read it in excerpts, as I was told by an ex-Legionary. Ignatius is careful to mention twice above the proviso "in so far as it can." He understands that the will can only bend the intellect so much. Each Jesuit must do his best.

But he can do more than just his best. Another part of the letter mentions something called Representation.
In spite of this, you should feel free to propose a difficulty should something occur to you different from his opinion, provided you pray and it seems to you in God’s presence that you ought to make the representation to the Superior.

This was a part of the letter that many Legionaries apparently never saw. They received their instructions under their door in letter form, and were not allowed to discuss their assignments. This, coupled with their well known Vow of Charity by which they were never allowed to criticize or even second guess a superior created, as we know now, a very poisonous atmosphere.

Jesuit obedience is not blind. It has as its pre-requisite a praying, discerning man in conversation with his provincial. Ignatius allowed for a man to Represent up to three times to his superior before submitting himself. A regular Account of Conscience also provides a Jesuit ample chance to share about his own personal prayer and discernment. There is a reason that all young Jesuits spend 30 days of prayer learning how to discern spirits, and that reason is not so that they can never do it again in their lives.

Rather, this discernment is written into the very core of Jesuit obedience. It is for good reason that GC 35 quoted a famous letter that Ignatius wrote to a Jesuit appointed patriarch of Ethiopia. In the letter he states:
All this is proposed under the heading of advice. The patriarch should not consider himself obliged to comply with it. Rather, he should be guided by discreta caritas, taking into account the circumstances of the moment and the unction of the Holy Spirit which should be his principal guide in everything.

But this is not an isolated letter. One only need to read the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus -- or re-read them as I am doing now (and finding lots of wonderful things too!) -- to find repeated over and over again a common Ignatian phrase, stated in various ways: according to persons, places and circumstances; as circumstances permit, etc. All over the Constitutions, one finds Ignatius making constant provision for circumstances, places, persons. While he is writing the rules, he wants there to be the requisite flexibility for individual Jesuits to use their own discreet charity and discernment in specific cases.

To bring this all back around then, did the Legion just sort of go wrong? Did they have most things right and just mess a few things up? I feel like going back to those people in college who told me that the Legionaries had it right and demanding that they now look at the present situation, caused in large part precisely because they misunderstood Ignatian obedience. As a Legionary, one could not represent, could not discern, could not manifest. And so within this atmosphere, the poison spread. This is not a situation where for the most part, they have an intact spirituality, with all the "good parts" of Jesuit life -- as I was so often told. Where are all those people who said those things now? I wish they would come out and admit they were wrong. Admit that Ignatius knew what he was talking about and did not need to be modified even stricter than he ever intended to be. "Strict" is actually not even the question. Rather, psychologically destructive. Ignatius was a good psychologist, a reader of men's hearts and minds. He knew better than to propose an obedience that the Legionaries impose. And wisely so.

I'm not going to ask people to stop criticizing the Jesuits. That is healthy, and we learn a lot from it. But if all those "orthodox" people out there had been willing to criticize the Legion more, maybe we would have uncovered this stuff a lot earlier. Tom Hoopes of the Register has done a noble thing by apologizing. The Legionaries themselves, well, my thinking right now is that of a colleague at work: Rome should make them a group devoted exclusively to caring for the sexually abused.

But that aside, let's remember not to cut off bits and pieces of a spirituality that we like. The "good parts" by themselves are only parts, not the whole. The whole is a rich spirituality that cannot be gleaned from one letter. It must be pulled together from the writings and the lives of a whole religious family, the Society of Jesus.

A good quote to end with from the GC 35 document on obedience:
37. We encourage Jesuits in formation to grow in the spirituality of obedience and in availability for placing their lives and freedom at the service of the mission of Christ throughout the stages of formation. It will be good for them to take advantage of the opportunities for self-abnegation that community life, constant and rigorous dedication to studies, and other aspects of their experience will doubtless provide. Self-abnegation, “the fruit of our joy at the approach of the Kingdom and the result of a progressive identification with Christ,” is a virtue Jesuits need if they are going to take on the sometimes difficult demands of obedience.

38. We encourage formators to help Jesuits in formation understand and live the mystical source of obedience: an unconditional love for the Lord which will bring them to a desire to serve him in fulfilling the Father’s will. We ask formators to help Jesuits in formation become progressively aware of the demands of a life of obedience: transparency with superiors, esteem for the account of conscience, the responsible exercise of personal initiative, and a spirit of discernment which accepts the decisions of the superior with good grace.

39. The spirituality and tradition of the Society require that Jesuits in formation and their formators be filled with a spirit of obedience to the pope as something essential to the mission and identity of the Society. Jesuit spiritual and ecclesial formation should emphasize availability for mission and “the proper attitude we ought to have in the Church” established by the Thirty-Fourth General Congregation.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

Monday, February 16, 2009

Father Thomas: Quotation

Father Richard Thomas was the biggest Jesuit influence on my life. To go along with the prior post on conversion to the poor, a letter was recently sent to me that was found among his effects. He wrote it from El Paso and the ministry that he ran there, a ministry that my parents continue to operate along with others. This man will be a saint someday; of that I have no doubt. There is much I could write on him. I'll wait to his anniversary to give a more detailed biography here. But he was a man of profound poverty, and for him, the poverty of the Society of Jesus was often a scandal. As for many saints, the status quo is hard to abide. And as with many saints, they receive a grace to live differently. He lived differently. He first moved out of the Jesuit parish in El Paso when he found children living in the dumpster outside of Our Lady's Youth Center. He and another Jesuit allowed them to sleep in a Jesuit car over night. The car stank so much in the morning, they had to tell what happened. But he was so convicted by this event, that he obtained permission to move to OLYC so as to give these kids a place to stay.

That is all a story for another day. Here is a letter he sent home to his province, a letter we as Jesuits can all read as from a saint and use for reflection on our styles of living:



Executive Director
515 S. Kansas
P. O. Box 1422
EI Paso, Texas 79948
Phone: 533-9122

Dear fellow Jesuit:

Enclosed is a copy of our October letter to the Anything A Month friends of Our Lady's Youth Center in EI Paso. It is their donations that keep us going. I felt you would want to read this letter.

Right now we are all concerned with Province planning. The Church is being criticized for not being, and not giving the appearance of being, poor-in-spirit. We who have taken a vow of poverty should especially be beyond giving cause for such criticism. So it would be appropriate to include in our planning an objective consideration of our very mode of living.

The needs of the poor are not so obvious because few of us ever really meet the poor. Our work in the Southern Province has kept us primarily with the middle class and the wealthy. This October letter tells about a tragedy that occurred just a block away from our residence.' Sadly, one of our priests knew of Carlos and knew the conditions of his destitution. Similar incidents are happening constantly all over the Province. Every city has its slums, but we are not always serving its people. Yet we must admit that if Christ were visible today, that is where He would be found serving.

May I recommend multiple, prolonged visits to your city's slums. I say multiple and prolonged because until one gets on a first name basis with more than one family, he won't begin to absorb their attitudes and comprehend their true needs.

The poor and the middle class or rich have a mutual need for each other. The poor need the rich: their money, their initiative, their education. The rich need the poor because there is no other way for them to go to heaven.

In the monthly letters to our Anything A Month friends I thank them for their help to the needy of this border city. I know they would approve my expenditures for this mailing, pleading for the poor of the whole Province.


Richard M. Thomas, SJ

I have not included the newsletter to which he is referring, but it is one of many moving stories that occur daily at The Lord's Ranch and with Our Lady's Youth Center. Let us all resolve to have regular contact with the poor of our cities. In this way we are assured that we are in contact with Christ.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

Daily Quotation

From Dorothy Day's journal The Duty of Delight:
Every one must go through something analogous to a conversion -- conversion to an idea, a thought, a desire, a dream, a vision -- without vision the people perish. In my teens I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and Jack London's The Road, and became converted to the poor, to a love for and desire to be always with the poor and the suffering -- the workers of the world. I was converted to the idea of the Messianic mission of the proletariat. Ten years later I was converted to Christ because I found him in the people, though hidden.

In the people, not in the masses. The pope has pointed out in his Christmas message this year '44 the distinction between the masses and the people and these words called down the wrath of Stalin. The masses, insensate, unthinking, moved by propaganda, by unscrupulous rulers, by Stalins and Hitlers, are quite a different thing from the people, temples of the Holy Ghost, made to the image and likeness of God.
Both conversions are important. I see as one of my primary missions to convert my ninth graders in my scripture class to the poor, to God's love for the poor. And to Christ in the poor. They are inseparable. If I can achieve these two conversions, I will feel my teaching has been a success.

Day also points to the ability of books to convert, to change minds, to plant an idea. I realize that these kids no longer read, and that saddens me tremendously. I don't know where I would be without The Brothers Karamazov in high school, The Lord of the Rings and other great books.

I'm currently reading a short story in three of my classes to prepare them for the New Testament. I can already that many of these kids were never read to as kids as I was. They hardly knew at the beginning what to do, how to listen, how to follow a story. Gradually they figured it out and got into it. But their ears are out of tune. How will they pray if their ears are so out of tune? Their eyes are over strained, and their ears out of tune. Such is the situation of our kids.

But even more important than a book is a poor person. For a long time we have spoken of philosophy as a prolegomena fidei. But the poor should be named first. They are the best prolegomena. They are the ladder that brings us closest to the leap that we must all take: closer than art, music and beauty; closer than books and ideas; closer than anything else. For they are persons, imaging within themselves the kenosis most clearly. They must be studied. They must come to our classrooms and we must lead our classes to them.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Been Too Long

Ok, it's been too long, and I've been too busy. But I hope to get to posting again on a more regular basis. But I'm still kind of strapped for time, so I'll catch up just by listing some interesting articles from the past few days worth looking at.

In the Wall Street Journal about the work of Fr. Greg Boyle with Homeboy Ministries. They were on the front page yesterday, as you may have seen. The article can be read here. The title is: "A New Gang Comes to Los Angeles: Solar Panel Installers." A lot of these ex cons that Fr. Greg works with are finding work installing solar paneling. Kind of cool. Not only working, but contributing to the green revolution.

Next, also in the Wall Street Journal, a scarier article about Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis, called for short PGD. Found here, the article is about a new fertility clinic opening in Los Angeles that will allow couples to select for gender and physical traits, such as eye and hair color. What is even more scary is that:
While many countries have banned the use of PGD for gender selection, it is permitted in the U.S. In 2006, a survey by the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University found that 42% of 137 PGD clinics offered a gender-selection service.
Wow. Leaves us much to think about, especially on the birthday of Darwin and Lincoln. PGD essentially offers the opportunity for people to work out their racist tendencies in ways never before thought possible. You want blond hair and blue eyes? Fine, just pay for it. You want no physical deformities? Fine, just pay for it. Children have truly become commodities, not loved for their own sake, but bought as trophies for their parents so that they can live out their fantasies in their "perfect" children.

What Lincoln would have thought of this, I don't know. Maybe I can tease Mason Slidell back into writing by saying something like "Lincoln was a hero who hated slavery." He will no doubt comment back that even while the Civil War was being fought, Lincoln's slaves were forced to continue building the dome on the Capitol building. But Darwin is more interesting. Viciously against slavery, one only has to read small parts of his book, "The Descent of Man" (it's long, so small parts may be all you get to), to recognize that his application of evolution to human descent is terribly racist. Selecting for genes would have been right up his alley. I'm no Darwin hater. But he had some weird ideas in that book. Benjamin Wiker has an interesting article on this connection between Darwin and Lincoln here. He's in the Intelligent Design movement, so I'm not much of a fan. But he's entertaining.

Can you imagine a world where all children born are the genetic results of the passing whims and fancies of their parents, as opposed to the eternal design of God?

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ