Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

06 January 2007

On Retreat

Today is my last day at St. Andrew's Hall, the Jesuit novitiate in Syracuse, NY. Many thanks to the community of St. Andrew's for hosting us so graciously. Yesterday we finished an excellent workshop on Praying the Psalm. The psalms are much richer when understood in the context of spirit and song, I thank Fr. John Endres, SJ for shedding some light on this topic for us.

Tomorrow we head to Gonzaga Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, MA for the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. During the retreat, my blog will be on vacation, look for it to return the second week of February. In the mean time please keep my brother novices and I in prayer as we go through the exercises.

01 January 2007

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Today is also the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God and the titular Feast of the Society of Jesus.

The Detroit and Chicago Province Vocation conference finished up yesterday with a New Year's Eve Party. The theme of the conference was the Strategic Discernment currently underway in the United States Assistancy of the Society. Demographically the Society of Jesus is changing rapidly as the large numbers of Jesuits who entered in the 40's and 50's move out of active communities to the retirement center. Our numbers in this country and in Europe are dropping substantially, though the worldwide demographic picture is more rosy with some areas experiencing strong growth. Clearly with fewer guys in the US we can't staff Jesuit institutions like we once could. The Society's role in some institutions must change. Some ministries will be closed. Many ministries which were started by Jesuits will be left to function on their own without the Society's involvement.

All this sounds pretty dire. Especially for one just beginning life as a Jesuit; no one wants to board a sinking ship. Despite discussing these difficult issues over the weekend, I come away from the conference with a great optimism. St. Benedict once said, "succisa virescit" (pruned it will grow again). I think this maxim is true of my life, the Society of Jesus, and the Church as a whole. I found it fascinating when working with my Bonsai trees that trimming them back could encourage greater and healthier growth than leaving them alone. So too in my life growth inevitably comes out of difficultly. Within the Society of Jesus the past decades have witnessed and we continue to witness a great pruning, I see the Holy Spirit in this. This pruning has forced the Society to consider what missions are truly important, to examine its relationship with the Church and with the larger world. It teaches humility and above all trust. Through worldly diminishment there can be a growth in holiness. God prunes back our pride and lets His light shine on our darkness.

Though numbers continue to decline, I already see signs of spring within the Society. The men at the formation conference are a sign of rebirth. I found these men in formation to be of great and varied talents; men deeply committed to Christ, the Church, and the Society. Men getting ready for their mission for the greater glory of God. There is also growth in recognizing the importance of Catholic values in the Society's institutions many of which have drifted in a secular direction. The Society is reaching out to lay partners in its institutions and attempting to inculcate the Ignatian spirit in them. In many places folks are realizing Catholic identity and values don't just happen they must be carefully fostered. There is growth in freedom. Freedom to start new works where their is need rather than simply trying to sustain the status quo. Freedom to follow God's spirit wherever it leads.

I have great hope the Society of Jesus and the Church is being lead into a new springtime. I don't know what this springtime will look like but I trust it will be blessed.

Tomorrow the first year novices head up to the Syracuse novitiate for a workshop on the psalms before heading up to Gloucester for the Spiritual Exercise, a thirty day silent retreat. Hopefully I'll be able to post once from Syracuse. Otherwise this will be my last post until the middle of February after the long retreat.

I encourage all to read Pope Benedict's New Year's Message for peace. In 2007 let us all pray for true peace and understanding.

Finally as promised here is a picture of the "Star Trek Tree".