Wednesday, 23 January 2008

A New Jesuit General

The General Congregation of the Society of Jesus continues but there is now a new Superior General- Fr. Adolfo Nicolas.

He has spent most of his time in ministry in Asia, especially in Japan, where the Jesuits have a long and noble history. I had never heard of him before now, so naturally when I heard the news I hot-footed it to the nearest Internet access to do a bit of background on him. Not sure what to make of the man yet- he hasn't had time to do anything yet as Superior General, after all. However, I must confess, having read some interviews with him, I don't think the Society of Jesus is going to experience much renewal in the days to come.

Take, for example, statements made during an interview with the Australian Express last year.

Asked if people from a culture like Japan experience Ignatian Spirituality differently than those in the West, Father Nicol├ís says the experience was indeed different, but it had yet to be formulated.‘I think the real experience of the Japanese is different. And it should be different. But the formulation continues to be very much a Western formulation’, he says.

So far, so good. I could agree with that. But wait, what exactly does "Western" mean?

A Japanese Jesuit, Father Katoaki, has recently translated and added comments on the book of the Exercises from a Japanese-Buddhist perspective. Father Adolfo says there has also been some discussion on whether the Exercises could be presented to non-Christians, and how that might occur.‘The question is how to give the Ignatian experience to a Buddhist’, he says. ‘Not maybe formulated in Christian terms, which is what Ignatius asked, but to go to the core of the experience. What happens to a person that goes through a number of exercises that really turn a person inside-out. This is still for us a big challenge.’

So, evangelisation becomes, not the spreading of the good news about Jesus Christ, a message which the Spiritual Exercises are designed to interiorise and impact upon a person, but the "Ignatian experience". Not the Christ that the Exercises proclaim and try to make present, but the subjective experience of them. A subjective experience that we should try to reproduce in people who don't know Christ without even trying to introduce them to Him. Let us throw Christ out of the Spiritual Exercises and do a Buddhist version! Ignatius would weep.

Is it just me or does it sound like when Fr Nicolas says "Western" what he actually means is "Christian". If that is indeed the case, he gives the lie to the Church's consistent teaching that "there is no salvation in any other [but Christ] for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) Salvation comes to European and Asian alike through Jesus Christ and no other. The saintly Jesuits of past centuries believed that truth and were prepared to sacrifice much for it. Would that today's Society had chosen to do likewise.

The next paragraph is telling.

While some work has been done comparing the Ignatian experience with that of Hindus, he says there hasn’t been a lot of work on finding similarities say in Japanese, Chinese or Korean cultures. He says East Asia has been more slow to do this than India, partly because the East Asians have a strong respect for tradition, and hence a respect for Christianity’s European traditions.

Isn't it curious that Fr Nicolas will respect the Buddhist ways of the East Asians, but not their respect for tradition when it comes to how they treat Christianity and the cultures it has permeated. Some East Asian customs are worth emulating, but not so for others.

Perhaps I have been hasty in judgement and things will turn out differently. Perhaps I have read too much into statements that could be misinterpreted. I pray God it might be so. In any case, the news of the election of this new Superior General causes me to pray even harder for the future of the Jesuits.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Sheep without a Shepherd

I had a unique and curious experience today. There had been a huge storm during the day in the area around Seven Hills where I am gainfully employed most days. This included thunder, lightning and a blackout.

On my way home, one of the sets of traffic lights at a busy intersection had ceased to function. The reaction of the motorists was most interesting. As they each approached the intersection, like a new dawn dawning upon them came the realisation that no longer would they be able to take mindless cues from multi-coloured lights. Instead they would have to somehow negotiate the traffic coming from all directions, and employ their wits and driving skills (and, indeed, people skills) in order to get where they needed to go. Most visibly hesitated before moving their cars past the line.

The most curious thing was that, in spite of the lights not working, and with a couple of exceptions, the traffic ended up operating very similarly to what it would have done on a normal day.

It generally transpired like this. Someone from one side of the intersection would venture out. Everyone else would wait for him. While he was coming the cars behind him would seize the opportunity and follow him across the intersection. Then a point would come where there was a gap in the traffic from that direction. Immediately someone from another side of the intersection would venture out, everyone else would wait and the same thing would happen again. This became most interesting for those turning right. And yet the same principle seemed to hold for them as well. Thus, the traffic, after initial hesitation, intuitively felt its way back into the ordinary pattern of things, without traffic lights or a policeman or any other voice from above, as it were, telling them to do so (or indeed how to do so). It was entirely spontaneous and intuitive.

Maybe you're thinking this was a rather trivial and pointless observation and I'm about to draw some significant spiritual lesson from it. I'm not. I found the incident fascinating for its own sake. A glimpse into the strange workings of human nature.

A Grammatically Correct English Sentence

Found this at What's Wrong with the World. And, what do you know, it checks out. Here it is.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

This is properly paraphrased as:

Bison from the city of Buffalo who are bullied by other bison from the city of Buffalo in turn bully yet other bison from the city of Buffalo.


Saturday, 12 January 2008

Scary Hillary

There are many reasons I am glad I am not American. I have, however, just been given a new one. Imagine the prospect that this lady might become Head of State in your country:


Sunday, 6 January 2008


Today is Epiphany. Slowly the pagan darkness begins to lift, and those who have sought God despite the darkness of their minds and for want of accurate knowledge may now find Him. The Lord is revealed to the nations. Who can say what these spiritual descendants of Zoroaster expected to find? Who can say what they concluded about what they did find? Yet, whether they knew it or not, they had found God. The one Zoroaster sought to know had come in the flesh.

A foreshadowing of things to come. For most of us have not eaten the meal in order. The vast majority of Christians have come in at dessert, late arrivals to the feast. As Gentiles and former pagans (for so each of our ancestor nations were, those who are not descended from Israel), the Magi lead us towards the light of the true God as our first forerunners, for though many had searched, they were the first of us to actually meet Him.
"Dear friends, now that we have received instruction in this revelation of God’s grace, let us celebrate with spiritual joy the day of our first harvesting." -Pope St Leo the Great
Reminiscentur et convertentur ad Dominum universi fines terrae et adorabunt in conspectu universae familae gentium.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Sin Weakens Us

Sin Weakens Us

An excellent article by Mark Shea (which admittedly only touches on issues that he has treated in greater depth elsewhere). My initial reaction was to recall that line of G.K. Chesterton's : "Every argument is fundamentally a theological argument."