Sunday, 31 July 2011

A Fool for Christ

"I desire more to be thought worthless and a fool for Christ, who first was taken as such, rather than to be esteemed as wise and prudent in this world.” (Spiritual Exercises 167)

How can I express best what Ignatius of Loyola (+ 31/07/1556) means to me? He is a teacher to me because everything of what I know of how to live a Christian life I learned from him. He is a friend to me because his words and example have given me courage in difficult times. He is like a father to me because he has held my hand when I was looking for God. How can this young Basque nobleman whose dreams of knighthood and courtly love were shattered by a cannonball mean so much not only to me, but to countless Christians all over the world? It is, so I claim, because he was a fool, a fool for Christ, and a fool puts us before a simple choice: "Do I join him or do I reject him?"

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Jesuit Students in Tanzania

A group of sixth-form students from the north London Jesuit comprehensive, St. Ignatius College, Enfield, are out in Tanzania helping their partner-school in Dodoma. Read all about their adventures and those of their staff leaders, including Fr. Tim Byron SJ (a member of my community), here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Catholic Blog Awards Nominations Open has opened nominations for the best Catholic blogs and new media around the web in 2011. If you're a fan of Catching Fire and have enjoyed our musings, do support the blog by nominating us (registration required, unfortunately!).

Monday, 18 July 2011

Life-lessons from Tom Pellereau: Five Things to Learn from The Apprentice 2011 Winner

Last night's finale of The Apprentice (UK) threw up the 'blaahdiest' of all surprises: Tom Pellereau, quirky inventor, serial loser (he had a record 8 losses out of 11 tasks coming into the finals) and all-round nice-guy, walked away with a £250,000 investment and 50-50 partnership with business mogul Lord Alan Sugar. (If you missed the episode, you can catch-up on BBC iPlayer here.) On a reality show renowned for its back-stabbing and bitchiness, what can we learn from this feel-good victory?

Friday, 15 July 2011

You're Fired, Yeah?

Last night's episode of The Apprentice saw the firing of Natasha 'Yeah' Scribbins (she ends every sentence with 'yeah?'). On paper, Natasha was one of the more impressive candidates this year. She was raised by a single mother on a council estate in Taunton. She worked hard through school, resisted the temptation to drop out, worked part-time for lunch money and was the first in her family to go to university. Like last year's winner, Stella English, who also struggled to corporate success from an impoverished background, Natasha's victory this year would've made an inspirational success story.

Monday, 11 July 2011

South-American Experience Part III

This post is the last of three parts and consists of a reflection I wrote just after a three month stay in the interior of Guyana, South-America.

The most life-giving and energizing experience of my time in South-America was the participation in the daily life of the village. From a simple lifestyle consisting in drawing water from a well, eating at candle light and showering with a bucket to establishing friendships and taking part in the joys and difficulties of the people. One day I even participated at the digging of a well!

Looking back at my time in South-America I think I learned what it means in practice to follow Jesus in the concrete service to his people. Moreover, the experience of working as a Jesuit and the companionship that I shared with my fellow Jesuit made me desire more than ever to be part of the Society of Jesus. I hope that many more young people will discover this desire in their hearts.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

South-American Experience Part II

This post is the second of three parts and consists of a reflection I wrote just after a three month stay in the interior of Guyana, South-America.

A great chunk of my work in the village consisted in being available to the local primary school. At times I supplied a teacher who was absent, other days a teacher needed some work done on the computer and every so often I just hung around chatting with the staff and children. The last weeks I was busy with computer classes. Most children had never worked on a computer before. Together we learned how to work a mouse and how to edit a basic text. Vital skills, as most of these kids will end up in Brazilian cities looking for work.

With the parish we organized a four-day Gospel Seminar for people interested in serving the church community. Approximately fifty persons attended, among which there were many young adults. By means of the life of St. Ignatius, the participants were made familiar with various prayer methods that use the bible. A couple of times a day everyone spent some time in personal prayer. Then we returned to small sharing groups where special attention was given to how the Gospel challenges our way of life and above all the way of life of the community. Problems were noticed: drinking, abuse, strife among church leaders; and some concrete suggestions were made to start moving towards a solution. One direct fruit of the seminar was a reconciliation meeting for the church leaders of the village in the subsequent week.

To be continued...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

South-American Experience Part I

This post is the first of three parts and consists of a reflection I wrote just after a three month stay in the interior of Guyana, South-America.

In the early stages of Jesuit formation a wannabe Jesuit is sent to different places where he (no she's I'm afraid) can gain first-hand knowledge of the life that awaits him later in life. Last year, I was very lucky to be able to spend three months in a little Amerindian village in the South-American Savannah's close to the northern border of Brasil with an experienced Jesuit priest.

Prior to leaving England, I wondered how I would react to a country and a people so different from everything I knew. Ignatius puts great store on Jesuits who listen and are slow to speak in order to understand the meaning, leanings and desires of those who speak. This, I learned, is the basic attitude of a missionary today. Two aspects stand out from my three month stay with the tribe as belonging to the spiritual attitude proper to the Society of Jesus: service without holding back and the importance of companionship both for sharing on the daily work and for discerning the way forward.

To be continued...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Redemption of Benjamin Linus (Spiritual Themes on Television)

I cannot remember a more cunning, manipulative, Machiavellian villain on the small screen than LOST's Benjamin Linus. Portrayed brilliantly by Michael Emerson (for which he won an Emmy in 2009), Ben had no remorse whatsoever for his numerous crimes: kidnapping, blackmail, torture, murder, mass murder – which is what makes his eventual redemption the most spectacular character arc of the series.

SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers for all six seasons of LOST, including the series finale, in what follows – read on at your own peril.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Climate change? Not my responsibility?

Estimates by the International Energy Agency and published by The Guardian seem to shatter hopes for the people worldwide that global warming will stay below 2 degrees Celsius. That particular threshold, so says the chief economist of the IEA, is now just a "nice utopia". Such a rise might be nice for England which will see regular 40C summers, and the richer among us will be able to mitigate the effects. But what about the poorest? Will they suffer again because of what we do or fail to do?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Astonishing Hope

It is summer and the weather actually agrees these days with this wonderful fact. Yet while most people are planning their holidays and most students are recovering from exams, some 16 young Flemish and Dutch Jesuits are gathered in Drongen (Belgium) for three days of prayer and reflection: What is the future of the Church in Flanders and Belgium and what is the role of the Society of Jesus in that future? The atmosphere is very positive despite dwindling numbers both in the Church and in the Society of Jesus. A strong hope and sense of renewal is present in all of us. That is surprising, since looking at the statistics should be enough to give everyone a funeral feeling. But not so. A small group, a new beginning. Jesus started out with twelve and changed the world. This is Christian hope that flourishes and gives life even there where apparently the end is near. And this Hope is astonishing in the words of Charles Péguy:

Hope, says God, that is what astonishes me.

I, myself, find it astonishing
that my children see what happens and believe things will improve.

That is the most astonishing, the most marvelous gift.
And it astonishes me, myself, that my gift has such incredible strength
since it first flowed in creation as it always will.

Faith sees what is.
Hope sees what will be.
Love loves what is.

Hope loves what has not yet been
and what will be in the future and in eternity

(La Porche du Mystère de la deuxième vertu, Translated by Anne Primavesi and Colin Carr)