Archive for the ‘Hebrew Bible’ Tag

on discernment

Happy Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola!

So there’s an old joke that goes something like: a Franciscan, a Dominican, and a Jesuit are concelebrating Mass. During the liturgy the light in the Church goes out. The Franciscan praises God for the opportunity to live more simply. The Dominican gives a learned homily about how Christ is the light of the world. And the Jesuit changes the light bulb.

I had the opportunity to learn this practical side of Ignatian spirituality while I was an undergrad at Boston College. I knew little to nothing about St. Ignatius of Loyola before I arrived at Boston College nearly 10 years ago, but it is safe to say that St. Ignatius has been one of the most influential saints in my spiritual development.  His was a spirituality grounded in the everyday human experience of each and every individual person encountering God.

When I arrived at Boston College—a Jesuit institution— as a bright-eyed freshman, I was ready to take on the world. I had signed on to be a double major in Biology and Psychology to fulfill my dreams of going to medical school and becoming a pediatric cardiologist. I started my first semester of courses—Molecular Cell Biology, Behavioral Neuroscience, Chemistry, Calculus, and a freshmen cornerstone class. Within days of the first week of classes, I began to sense that something was wrong.  I didn’t enjoy any of my work (and believe me, I love school.) I began dreading going to class and my grades were plummeting.  I had never received less than a B+ in my life, and suddenly I was getting C’s and D’s for the semester.  I could not, for the life of me, understand how I could be failing at something that I “wanted” so badly.

Around this time I got involved with Campus Ministry at BC and began to learn more about the Jesuits and Ignatian Spirituality.  St. Ignatius development a method of discernment that seemed to really make sense to me.  I learned that St. Ignatius believed that God speaks to us in the desires of our heart—anDSC01255d that if we look really carefully at our feelings—what brings us joy (our consolations) and what doesn’t (our desolations)—that God speaks to us in these desires about his will for our lives.

It became abundantly clear that I really didn’t want to become a doctor. I loved the idea of being a medical professional, but it was definitely not in the plan for me. I found no joy, whatsoever, in my pursuit of this goal. That is not to say that life should be without its challenges. But Ignatius would probably say that God speaks to us even in the challenges, and that I would still feel some joy or fulfillment as I strove onward toward my goal.  But there was no joy or fulfillment in my pre-med classes.

I went home that Christmas to break the news to my parents that I wasn’t going to be a pre-med major anymore.  When I returned to BC in the spring, I took a few random classes to fulfill my core requirements for graduation while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.  One of those random classes happened to be “The Biblical Heritage.”

In this course on the Old Testament I was introduced to what would become one of my greatest passions.  I became obsessed with the study of the Old Testament. I hung on every single word, loved the nuances and the poetry and more than anything, I loved the development of God’s relationship with his people.  It became abundantly clear that theology was what I was meant to study.  I finally knew what it felt like to be passionate about my work.  I was thrilled.

I could write a book on how Ignatian spirituality has shaped my life, but it is this practical experience—the experience of figuring out what God wanted me to do with my gifts—that left the most profound impact on me.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,

 All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love a
nd your grace,
that is enough for me.

– St. Ignatius of Loyola

the great pep talk

The Great Pep Talk

“When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.  For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” –Matthew 10 : 19-20

Today’s Gospel is a great pep-talk for any apologists out there.

I am a Catholic. I love everything about the Catholic faith–the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the smells and bells of liturgy, Pope Francis. I love my faith and I try to follow Christ in all that I do.

Yet Christ calls us to more than “simply” following Him in our individual lives. In fact every single Catholic is anointed priest, prophet, and king at their Baptism. Part of the indelible mark of Baptism is the prophetic call.

Most of us don’t want to be prophets. Most of the Biblical prophets didn’t want to be prophets! Moses came up with an array of excuses when he was called: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Ex. 3:11), then “Suppose they do not believe me or listen to me?” (Ex. 4:1), then, “I am slow of speech and slow of tongue,” (Ex. 4:10), “and then the final straw (my personal favorite), “O my Lord please send someone else!” (Ex. 4:13).

Jonah famously tried to dodge his prophetic call and wound up spending three days in the belly of a giant fish.

Jeremiah, too, had his doubts. He cried out, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy!” (Jeremiah 1:6)

The hardest part of the prophetic call is necessarily speaking an unpopular message.  The prophets were virtually never well-received. It is difficult to speak out about something that is counter-cultural or radical. I’ve written about this before—I would much rather blend in and mind my own business than spark a controversy.

Fortunately for us, God doesn’t accept our excuses: God calls us to move beyond our fear. God promises to be with us and to give us the words to speak.  In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”  This has been God’s message to the prophets from the beginning.  In Jeremiah 1:9, the Hebrew is beautifully expressive—God tells Jeremiah, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.” (Admittedly, Jeremiah had the “easy route”—Ezekiel had to eat a scroll! See Ezekiel 3 for that awesome story).

The only choice we have is to move forward, trusting that God will give us the words that we need to continue to joyfully teach and to live Christ’s message of love in the world, as we draw ever closer to the one who knows what it is like to be persecuted.

This post also appears on the Catholic Voices USA Blog

On Doubt

Tonight, I had the pleasure of attending the end of year party for my department, Hebrew Bible. I had been excited about this event for weeks, but by the time this afternoon rolled around, it was the last thing I wanted to do. A rainy afternoon, preceded by a ridiculously fun and relaxing weekend, did nothing to enhance my enthusiasm. But alas, I mustered up my best attitude and I went.

These sorts of parties are hopelessly awkward, but if you embrace the awkwardness, it goes a little better. So for awhile I was fine with my glass of wine, listening to/cracking jokes about footnotes, the New Testament, and source criticism…but after about an hour, I started to feel really depressed. As fellow graduate students began to share their stories about applying to PhD programs, getting in, not getting in, etc… I felt my familiar enemy, doubt, beginning to creep in. After all, being in a room with like-minded colleagues and professors alike is quite an intimidating situation.

I have found, though, that God always has a way of jumping in when I need God the most.  Tonight, a source of encouragment came from the most unlikely of places–one of my teachers from this semester, who I never really had a chance to get to know.  Randomly, he walked up to me and asked what I thought of the program so far.  Before I even had a chance to answer, he said “You know, it is often said of graduate programs, that ‘the cream rises to the top.’  And while that is often true, and the ‘best’ students always get the best placements, more often than not, it is the most dedicated students who are the most successful.” 

I was completely blown away. Those words were exactly what I needed to here in that exact moment.  He then went on to encourage me, and told me to keep working as hard as I possible can–to apply to as many programs as possible, to really seek out who I want to work with. All wonderful advice.

Because, really, doubting myself gets me nowhere. If I could channel every moment I spend worrying about whether or not I am good enough into something productive, I would be a much better student. And if I know anything about myself, I know that I am dedicated. So here’s to dedication and hard work. Someday, hopefully, it will all pay off.

Do you have doubts about yourself? How do you overcome doubt?

How do you eat an elephant?

Welcome to my blog!

I named this blog “the Elephant Project” because it seems to fit my life right now.   

I am a graduate student…one of those people who can’t seem to get enough of classes, libraries, paper writing.  My academic heart beats wildly at animated discussions about the nuances of a particular Hebrew word, the meaning of a single verse in a Biblical passage, and, to be honest, anything and everything having to do with the book of Jeremiah.  “Professional student” is certainly a misnomer…I prefer the term “lover of knowledge.” Yes, my dream is one that happens to require years of work…while many people my age are getting jobs, starting families, and living the 9-5 semi-charmed existence, I am in the library, memorizing obscure dead languages and translating seemingly endless passages in a variety of languages. Someday, with the grace of God, all of this knowledge will prepare me for my dream job.  But for now, my job is to learn.

Which brings me to the elephant project.  Getting into a PhD program feels just about as daunting as eating an entire elephant. My Dad has this picture on his desktop computer at home that reads “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”  This phrase stuck with me, and has become my mantra the past few weeks. So, bite by bite, I am taking on this massive challenge.

I’ll post each day (or so) with random tidbits about my experiences, my work, and my faith. Thank you for listening!

Bob Rice

Catholic speaker, musician, author, teacher

domestic diva, M.D.

my mother raised the perfect housewife...then I went to med school

Faithfully Flawed

The Spiritual Evolution of a Faulty Catholic

Contemplative Homeschool

Helping the whole family grow in intimacy with Christ

The Elephant Project

one day, one prayer, one bite at a time