Archive for the ‘Pope Francis’ 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 Light of Christ in Rio

There’s a great me992810_659039764107551_348015512_nme making its way across social media—it features a picture of Pope Francis, gesturing as if he is having trouble hearing, with the caption, “Did you say ‘young people think the Church is irrelevant?’  Sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the million young people at World Youth Day!”

World Youth Day is, in a word, inspiring.  Hundreds of thousands of young people are in Rio celebrating their Catholic faith—a faith that is one holy, catholic, and apostolic.  The oneness is self-evident in the presence of the tens of thousands of young people from all over the world, waving the flags of their own countries but celebrating their oneness in faith.  Young people at this event gather for speakers, for prayer, for Mass—and on their journey to greater holiness they celebrate that the Church indeed is catholic, universal.  How incredible that this massive group of people from around the world can gather as one to celebrate Mass.  Their native tongues may be different, but each and every moment of the Mass is celebrated in the same way throughout the world.  All will feel at home in the presence of God. That is the beauty of the Catholic faith. And all who are present will celebrate Mass with Pope Francis, the successor of St. Peter, the guardian of apostolic tradition.  Pope Francis’ holy joy and genuine love for Christ and His church is contagious.

Yet it is all too easy to lose sight of all of that tradition and inspiration in our increasingly secular world. Oftentimes, believers feel alone in their conviction. That is what makes experiences like World Youth Day so vital.  World Youth Day provides communal and universal experiences of faith, of encounters with Christ. I attended the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis as a teenager, and I can still remember the feeling of awe as I sat in the crowded stadium that usually holds bellowing Colts fans but on that day was filled with young Catholics just like me. We sang together, listened to witness talks together, celebrated the Eucharist together. I left with my faith emboldened and with the knowledge that I belonged to something much bigger than myself.

As Pope Francis wrote in Lumen Fidei, “Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion: it comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed” (Lumen Fidei, 22).  Just like in the story of Emmaus in Luke 24: Jesus walked side by side with his disciples—though they did not yet recognize him—and they shared stories of faith with one another. When they gathered together in the Eucharist, suddenly their hearts and their minds were opened—“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?” When they recognized that Christ was with them, when they had experienced the reality of Christ as a community, they returned at once to Jerusalem to evangelize.

Let us pray for all of these young pilgrims, that they may encounter Christ and set the world aflame with the light of faith.

This post also appears on the Catholic Voices USA blog here.

What’s in a name?

White smoke billowed out of the Sistine chapel chimney today and it is official…we have a pope!  My classroom was filled with cheers as the white smoke first wafted onscreen, and then impatient chatter as we all waited for the official pronouncement on this momentous day.  Such a profound historical moment.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, now Pope Francis, is the first Jesuit pope AND the first Latin American pope.  As a graduate of a Jesuit university, I have to admit that I was beaming with pride when I heard that the new pope is a Jesuit.  I was also intrigued by his name selection–did he choose Francis after St. Francis of Assisi (unusual for a Jesuit to pick a Franciscan name) or St. Francis Xavier (himself a Jesuit).  I have yet to find the correct answer, though most news outlets seem to think that St. Francis of Assisi is his namesake.  In any case, I think both saints have much to offer the new pontiff as he begins to steer the Church through these exciting times.

St. Francis of Assisi is perhaps most commonly known for being the patron saint of animals—who among us has not seen countless statues of St. Francis surrounded by animals, placed in gardens, churches, and front lawns?  But St. Francis is also known for his remarkable love for the poor.  St. Francis, born to a wealthy, noble family, forsook his wealth and lived a life of solidarity with the poor. Coincidentally (or not), one of the most frequent taglines on the news today is that Pope Francis is a simple, humble man—he lives in an apartment, cooks his own meals, and takes the bus to work each day. The example of St. Francis serves as a great reminder of Christ’s love for the poor, and that we as Church need to continue to care for the poor and to work for social change.  St. Francis gave up all worldly possessions to focus on his mission—to preach the Gospel and to lead others to Christ.  His humility and simplicity made him a compelling witness to the Catholic faith.

St. Francis Xavier was also born into a wealthy family.  He was a professor of philosophy and was well on his way to a career in academia when he met St. Ignatius of Loyola.  St. Francis Xavier became one of the first Jesuit priests and served as a missionary in Japan and India.  St. Ignatius of Loyola famously urged Francis as he set off on his mission, “Go forth and set the world aflame.”  I find this to be an exciting parallel–the first Jesuit pope selects the name of one of the first Jesuit priests, and in so doing reminds the church of her evangelizing mission.  Indeed, as a church we are called to evangelization, and in a world marred by sin and death, we so desperately need to evangelize.  We are called to spread the good news, the message of God’s love for us.

I am filled with hope for the future of the Catholic Church, and our inspiring new leader, Pope Francis. May he guide the Church with wisdom and grace, that we may truly “set the world aflame.”

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