Breaking a Long Silence

A good friend – who worked in Italy as a diplomat for 40 years – once told me a funny story about his Christmas visit to the Jesuit College in Rome during the early 1970s. He mused that the Jesuits celebrated the Nativity of Our Lord exceptionally well: food, drink, lively discussions, and great joy. However, once the meal was finished and the festivities were concluded, each man returned to his respective room… and – in short time – all that could be heard echoing throughout the corridors of the College building was the clicking of typewriters. Indeed, even on Christmas day, the Jesuits had academic articles to finish and important communication to resume.

I am afraid that this reality is not entirely different for most Jesuits in 2014. Many times, especially in the late evenings, each of the tertians is typically squirrelled away behind his computer typing reflections, finishing presentations, and preparing personal notes. All of this is very practical and necessary for our program. However, last week, something unthinkable happened. For almost eight days, without any apparent reason, our Internet service was disconnected and we were left without access to the World Wide Web.

Now, you might think that those who rely on the Internet for regular communication might be very distressed by such a thing. However, upon reflection, it seems clear that we merely took the opportunity to spend our time lingering at meals, meeting with others in the evenings around a glass of beer or wine, or going for long walks in the neighbourhood. For the most part, the loss of the Internet was merely a minor inconvenience that was easily endured.

In this way, we might consider the call of St. Ignatius that each person (including you) live with a spiritual indifference. We should not ask – as it says in the Principle and Foundation – for a long life over a short life; riches over poverty; health over illness… an Internet connection over no Internet connection. Rather, we should always be content with what the Lord gives to each of us in our own particular state. In all things, we are to trust in the slow working of God, for – in time – all things will conspire toward the good regardless of what we may or may not have.

Hopefully, now that the Internet connection has been re-established, you will have regular updates from us. If you are interested in a daily overview of what we are doing in the house, please check out the Historia Domus provided by one of the tertians. It is a brief history of our daily activities, and it will give you a sense of what we are doing as we progress into the increasingly overcast and damp Dublin fall.

Jesuit liturgy

Jesuit liturgy

There is an ironic saying in some parts of the world that claims a good Jesuit liturgy is one in which nobody gets hurt. That is to say, Jesuits are sometimes known for presiding over liturgical celebrations that are less than flawless or perfectly organized.

vlastoAlthough it is true that we are not Franciscans or Dominicans, whose religious community is focused around regular and sometimes elaborate liturgy, the Jesuits have a very deep liturgical tradition of their own. This past weekend, we were delighted to host Fr. Vlasto Dufka SJ in the house. He spoke to us at great length about the specific importance of Jesuit liturgy and music.

For those who don’t know, which is likely many, the Jesuits were one of the first religious communities in 16th century Europe that focused themselves outward as opposed to inward. Rather than spending long hours singing the Liturgy of the Hours or saying lengthy Masses in the monastery, the early Jesuits – and subsequent generations – believed that they were called to make the world their house and every experience an encounter with God.

And so, though they each believed that it was important to pray in very formal ways, Jesuits were more often known for noble and shorter liturgies – in order that they might return to the work to which God has called them. Over the course of hundreds of years, the liturgical style of Jesuits has become rather dignified in its simplicity. Some have criticized the Society of Jesus for not knowing how to do elaborate liturgies, but this accusation is in fact an error.

Some of the greatest liturgical music and art found in Europe (and throughout the Renaissance period) was created or influenced by Jesuits. When the time and place demanded, there could be a great propensity toward beauty. In fact, many of the most ornate churches in Italy are influenced by the Baroque style – a distinctly Jesuit contribution to liturgy.

All the same, when everything is considered, the liturgical style most associated with the Jesuits is simple… and communal prayer is often done with a quiet dignity that allows each man to return with haste to the mission.

We are grateful for Fr. Dufka’s visit to the tertianship house. We learned that there is a place for all forms of liturgical celebration… it simply demands a discreta caritas – a discerning love – to know the right liturgy for the appropriate occasion.

On human intimacy

On human intimacy

As this post is being written, many Bishops and Cardinals are gathered in Rome for the Synod on the Family to discuss various topics such as same-sex relationships and the annulment process. It is quite important – every so often – to pause and consider issues directly connected to intimacy and relationship.

This is precisely what the eleven tertians did recently at our house in Dublin. We were delighted to receive Fr. Kevin O’Rourke SJ and listen to a lengthy talk on the many issues connected to celibacy and the priesthood. Each of us was provided a tremendous opportunity to reflect ever more deeply on issues such as human intimacy, vulnerability, maturity in relationships, interpersonal affectivity, and the importance of friendship.

Many in the Catholic Church easily forget that the vow of chastity does not mean that the priest (or brother or nun) simply turns off his or her sexual identity. Rather, the vow itself calls each person to a deeper understanding of themselves in relationship to others and to God.

Following the talk, we spent the day in small groups discussing our deep desires to grow in holiness and virtue. Each man freely spoke about some of the many graces associated with living the vow as well as some of the real struggles.

We were very grateful for the opportunity to spend time again considering the depth and beauty of the human experience. It will – no doubt – make each member of the program a more affective and effective priest in the vineyard of the Lord. Below is a photo of Fr. Kevin O’Rourke SJ from his visit to the tertianship community.

kevin

Of new experiences

Of new experiences

The three days we spent in Glendalough were enjoyable for everyone. Most of us were able to pass a few hours wandering in the hills – through the ancient hermitage of St. Kevin and along the two lakes – or in peaceful, prayerful solitude. A number of the tertians spent a sunny afternoon on the first day walking the ancient, rugged paths… Speaking with great enthusiasm about many things related to the sacred and the mundane.

On the second day, the weather turned darker and heavy clouds lingered over the hills. It reminded some of us, in a very tangible way, of the clouds that came down upon Jesus and his friends on the day of his transfiguration. The mist and the fog obscured for us what was holy and beautiful in the region, lifting only infrequently to reveal a glimpse of what we knew was there all along.

Glendalochjsbsj

But – of course – like those on the mountain, we too needed to return to the ordinary life in the tertianship house. Upon returning, we quickly fell into our routine… house jobs, ministry, reading, and study. There really is a dichotomy of experience here – so many things to do that it all initially seems difficult to complete, yet such an enormous amount of time that it simultaneously feels impossible to fill all the hours.

Last night at dinner, we encountered – yet again – one of our many culture shocks. Petr (from Prague) had just taken his first bite of a hamburger – part of the evening’s meal – and another tertian asked him how it tasted. Pausing for just a moment, Petr replied: “I have nothing to compare this to… This is my first hamburger.” Naturally, those of us who were raised in Western Europe or in North America (especially) were shocked, since the majority have eaten more hamburgers than we could ever possibly count.

It was an interesting thought to think that – in the age of McDonald’s – there are some who have still never tasted such an international culinary staple. We all look forward to learning about what we ourselves might experience as a new taste in the coming months.

hamburger

 

A few days in Glendalough

A few days in Glendalough

Glendalough_vista

It is early Tuesday morning and the tertians are slowly getting up, preparing their things for a 2 day sojourn in the ancient region of Glendalough.

For thousands of years people have been drawn to the valley of the two lakes for its spectacular scenery, rich history, archaeology and abundant wildlife. Glendalough is a remarkable place that – as we are told – will still our minds, inspire our hearts and fill our souls.

Glendalough is renowned for its early Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin, a hermit priest – which was partly destroyed in 1398 by English troops. We don’t know much about the place, but many are looking forward to seeing St. Kevin’s Church.

glendalough-st-kevin

The stone-roofed building originally had a nave only, but the sacristy – in back – was added later. The steep roof, formed of overlapping stones, is supported internally by a semi-circular vault. The belfry with its conical cap and four small windows rises from the west end of the stone roof in the form of a miniature round tower. Beside the church, as you can see from the photo above, there is a Medieval graveyard – filled with the iconic tall-crosses that are so familiar throughout Ireland.

We will send you a photo or two once we arrive, but – right now – we are about to have mass to pray for a safe journey and a good experience. Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.