Friday, March 30, 2012

Artwork of the Week

Jesus Returning in the Spirit, John Lee Vince, oil on canvas.

Click on the image to see a larger version of the painting.

"Then Jesus returned in the power of the spirit to Galilee." (Luke 4:14)

John Lee Vince is a contemporary artist who works from California. He has an online gallery

What Exactly is Glory?

"I wanted to be loved because I was great; A big man. I'm nothing. Look at the glory around us; trees, birds. I lived in shame. I dishonored it all, and didn't notice the glory. I'm a foolish man."
 Mr. O'Brien, The Tree of Life

In yesterday's Gospel Jesus made a statement about glory. He said that If I were to seek my own glory that would be no glory at all; my glory is conferred by the Father…" Jesus saw fit to point out that everything about him – his preaching, his life, and even his soon-to-be death and resurrection – he was not doing because of the glory it would accrue him. Self-glorification is not the motive behind his mission; rather, it is for the glorification of the Father. Yet Jesus is frank to acknowledge that he does receive glory, as a gift from the Father, a glory that rebounds to him when he fulfills the Father’s will.

What is glory, then? My Concise Dictionary of Theology says that in the Old Testament glory was the majestic radiance manifesting God’s presence. In the NT, the glory of God is revealed in the Incarnation, death and resurrection of the Son. The many meanings of glory were summarized by St. Augustine, who simply called it clara notitia cum laude, or "brilliant celebrity with praise".  Since God is the origin of all that is, glory is one of his attributes, and by our being we reflect it back to him.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Collier's Annunciation

The Annunciation, John Collier

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent  from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" (Luke 1:26-28)

Happy Feast - March 26

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jesuits in Canada

Last summer, the Jesuits of English Canada, together with a number of lay collaborators and some Jesuits from the French Canada province, joined with the Father General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, for a congress in Midland, Ontario. The occasion was the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jesuits in Canada, and to pray, discern, and discuss directions for the future.

A short video was just released today on that gathering, which also serves to provide a certain portrait of the Society in Canada today:

For those with a little more time, here's a video of a talk recently given by Sylvester Tan, SJ, a Jesuit from the New Orleans Province, at Loyola College (New Orleans). It's on the question of "What is Jesuit Education? This, too, gives a certain portrait of the Society of the Jesus, from both a historical and spiritual perspective. Highly recommended.

Finally, I wrote a short blog article over at Ibo, our SJ scholastic group blog, on last weekend's atheist and papal gatherings, called A Tale of Two Rallies. We love to hear your comments on our site.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Artwork of the Week

Dinnertime on the Prairies, William Kurelek, 1963. Oil on masonite.
McMaster University Collection, Hamilton, Ontario

Click on image to see larger.

Dinnertime on the Prairies is best described by the artist himself. On the label for the back of the painting Kurelek wrote, “This is an intuitive painting. I was wondering how to paint a Western religious painting and suddenly this idea came to me so it is open to interpretation. The meaning I put on it is that sin, which crucifies Christ over and over, can just as easily happen on a summer day on a Manitoba farm as anywhere else. The farmer and his sons doing the fencing may have had an argument just before dinner or one of them may have enjoyed a lustful thought. Or got an idea how to revenge himself on neighbours, etc.”
To preview the exhibition and learn more about William Kurelek, visit:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Climbing Canada

Brendan Quigley (l) and Frank Callaghan (r) with
Bishop Nicola de Angelis of Peterborough
In 2008 two friends, alumni of Wayside Academy in Peterborough, Ontario, planned and executed a bike trip across the Australian continent, cycling through nine dioceses while begging their way in a manner reminiscent of the Ignatian pilgrimage (of the Jesuit novitiate). They arrived 50 days later in Sydney for World Youth Day. The local newspapers covered their departure, and the young men blogged about their great adventure, which is still a great read. 

Frank and Brendan are off once more, this time planning a monumental expedition to "climb Canada", from sea level in Newfoundland to the summit of Mount Logan in the Yukon. These intrepid adventurers have been leaders in various Catholic groups and projects in their home diocese and beyond, and are an inspiration to many. They have written about their latest mission, with an appeal for support, which I append here below. Be sure to visit their expedition website and blog, and watch their trailer at the end of this post.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Heidegger on Technology

For a long time I've wanted to read Martin Heidegger's essay "The Question Concerning Technology" as its topic concerns my thesis. I spent the greater part of today plowing through its nineteen pages, plus footnotes. It's not an easy text; he uses lots of original terms (which have been translated from the German). But it was worth the effort.

What follows is the shortest possible summary of this essay that I can make.

For Heidegger, truth is unveiling or revealing, in ways that are beyond mere knowledge, because human beings are more than mere knowers. We love, have goals, desires and personalities. Modern technology poses a problem because it views the world as a pure resource. The difference, he cites, between a windmill and a hydroelectric power plant -- the difference between technology and modern technology -- is that in the former there was greater harmonious relationship with nature, while in the latter, nature is seen as an object to be exploited, in which other principles such as gaining "the maximum yield at minimum expense" predominate. Furthermore, the problem with modern technology is that it requires us to view the whole world in this way, as a "calculable coherence of forces", and excludes other forms of revealing. He calls this mentality "enframing", that which calls out, impels, and challenges forth the revealing of the actual. While it's true that all objects in the world have the aspect of being resources, of being objects of scientific analysis, there are poetic, religious and aesthetic modes of revealing truth as well.

Heidegger does not see danger in technological inventions per se, but only if they prevent us from experiencing the other forms of revealing. In his conception, a fullness of human consciousness results from allowing nature to more fully reveal itself, that is, in greater variety. We can resist the overwhelming power of modern technology to reduce our worldview by recovering the sensibilities of the craftsman or artisan or poet, which, he holds, was the pinnacle of ancient Greek culture. Just as nature allows a tree to come out of a plant, the artist brings a pot out of clay, or a song out of silence, and his or her sense of wonder and respect for the object is retained. In this way we have a harmonious relationship with nature, rather than one that merely seeks to corral and consume its energy. This "saving power" regarding technology lies in our ability to listen, reflect and witness.

Food for thought.

P.S. This past weekend I also posted on maternal prayer-leading, called Theology in 15 Seconds at the Jesuit blog, Ibo et Non Redibo

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Discernment of Spirits

Today I've been attending "day one" of a weekend retreat on "Discernment of Spirits", directed by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV, and sponsored by the Sisters of Life at their centre at St. Catherine of Siena Church on the Danforth in Toronto.

Fr. Gallagher is growing in renown as popular retreat leader, lecturer, and scholar of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He has written best-selling books in recent years on discernment of spirits, the examen prayer, discerning God's will, Ignatian meditation, and a few other themes. He is a gifted communicator, and the message clearly flows from his own interior life.

The "rules" for the discernment of spirits, of course, come from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. They were the fruit of Ignatius's own experience and observation of interior motions, which he refined and bequeathed to the Church. They are as valid a means of spiritual growth today as they were when he wrote them in the 16th century. In brief, they are rules for becoming aware and understanding to some extent the different movements which are caused in the soul, to discern which ones are good, and which are bad (and accepting or rejecting them).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Discernment Retreat in April

There's a retreat coming up on the weekend of April 20-22 in the Toronto area, for young men who wish to discern a possible vocation to some form of consecrated life. To be lead by Fr. Anthony Wieck, a Jesuit from the United States, this silent retreat will be based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It is not a vocations retreat for any particular order or group, but an encounter with Christ to help clarify his Word in the life of the retreatant. There are only a small number of spots available, so if you think you or someone you know might profit from this, please contact me directly.

My email address is on the bottom of the following poster. Thanks and God bless. -John

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Wayside Academy: Light on a Hilltop

Faces run headlong into the wind,
Oblivious to its ferocity,
Sending sonic ripples shooting into the sky,
Proclaiming the innocence of Eden.

Swiftly they make their way to the gates,
Testing new virtue and gallantry,
Parrying and thrusting in the poetry of play,
Young warriors on fields of Pelennor.

They gather their experiences,
Spoils of war, and tuck them away,
Anticipating the trials and unknowns,
But conscious of deep-beauty and grandeur.

The tears of loss, and cries of victory —
All the breathing tangibles of existence,
Are manifest here in this nondescript place,
Hidden by the wayside.

("Wayside" -  2006)