Sunday, 24 July 2011

Final reflections on Denver

 Denver has come and gone.I'm wasn't too sad about it ending because it was never really 'home' for me, but at the same time, I will miss the gorgeous views of mountains,breath taking storms, stimulating conversations, and the spiritual inspiration I have received from many here (from both presenters/teachers as well as novices). It sometimes feel like all we ever did here was go to class, play sports -for those who were inclined towards that, which I hardly ever was!!- and write papers...but in the end, I feel that our days were pretty full. Prayers, readings, meetings and extra curricular projects -preparing for vows, hostice (read: hosting parties with food and drinks. I made my famous cookies stuffed with cookies witch vanished in a flash. There were legends told of those cookies by those who had tried them!! Ok, I'm done patting myself on the back now!! My fellow novice, Adam Lalonde, also had his own culinary triumph that night as well!!),faith sharing, getting organized for our contribution to the talent show, and practicing our sketch for said talent show (which we performed a few nights before we left Denver. Our act was one of the only ones that got a standing ovation that night!It was pretty good, hopefully I'll be able to post a video of it at some point) among and other stuff I'm sure I'm leaving out- meant that our days went by pretty quickly..and there was rarely ever a dull moment. Of course, my 'claim to fame'... I got to climb one 14er (14000 foot mountain) and made it close to the top of another. I considered attempting my luck with a 3rd one this past weekend, but opted to stay on campus and focus on vow cards, post cards and all kinds of other little errands that awaited me instead. It felt good to be productive again!!
   Denver has also been a good learning experience. I've grown into my role of 'beadle' (essentially: the Beadle of the community is the middle man between the Novices, and the outside world, but also the Novices and the Novice master. It's actually not that difficult, but not without challenges either!) but I've also grown in my spirituality and my intimacy with God. Most importantly, through 4 papers that I've written and many reflections that I've had here, I've grown in my understanding of  my Jesuit vocation. Not so much, what will it entail, or what do I want to do (I kinda leave all questions about the future in God's hands!!), but more, how will I approach life's challenges? How will I respond to obstacles? How will I receive new opportunities and possibilities? It sounds strange that I would face all this simply by being here in Denver, but in a way, this is Our Way of proceeding -note: Whenever I use Our, I mean the Jesuit- . Jesuits don't spend a month with other Jesuits without growth or change. They ask questions, they actively seek answers, and they get closer to God in the process. Whether through a better understanding of Our History, or through my interactions with others, my heart and mind were opened up a little more day by day. I guess..that's the best way I can describe this growth.

 One of the most moving experiences was during the classes. There were many exciting topics and deep conversations, but one presenter in particular had a message that was unsettling for many of us. He was talking about Our presence online..what's good about it..what's not so good..what needs to change, what has improved since the beginning of the millennium etc...but what was unsettling for all of us I think, is all the anti Jesuit stuff that already exists online. In fact,  it is probably easier for one to go on Youtube videos made by angry people  that live in their parent's basement ranting incoherently and hatefully about the Jesuits than it is to find an actual video that informs one about who the Jesuits really are. Most unsettling of all for us was a picture that the instructor showed us that he had seen on a blog, that basically linked the Jesuits to the Nazis.
That image kind of really stunned me, but not because it's the first time I've been exposed to this kind of hatred. I had done my share of research online about the Jesuits before entering. Furthermore, this whole culture of hate that Jesuits have to face is nothing new to us as a Society.

   Like a good Jesuit novice, I am beginning to understand that many people (even other Catholics) are threatened by, and even hate the Jesuits because of  the successes (both historical and contemporary) of the Society of Jesus. We've faced that kind of 'hatred' ever since the Society was formed in the 16th century. Back then, it came from other Catholics who weren't ready for the reforms Ignatius was proposing, and paranoid Inquisition people looking for an excuse to condemn any heretics, or anyone who practiced the faith differently. In the 17th and 18th century, it was the Jansenists (Pseudo Protestant, Catholic community that were more probably more Lutheran than they were Catholic)and the Enlightenment folks who were convinced that The jesuits were the source of all evil seems that every generation has produced 'enemies' for the Jesuits, and the modern era is no different.

  So why did this picture we saw in class trouble me so much? Well, maybe it didn't. There is no question that the picture in question (A Crucifix on top of a Swastika) is shocking at first sight, but in the end, the only things it conveys is the author's deep seated hatred of us, but also,  his incredible ignorance of what we really stand for. I guess it's not really that different than the people calling Obama 'Stalin', or drawing a  Hitler mustache on his face. I feel that the lessons here is that, the moment I commit mysef to the Radical Christ and to the building of God's Kingdom by serving others, the moment I embrace  Social Justice and work at bringing spirituality into the lives of others...I'm  bound to anger some people along the way. This is just something I'll have to learn to live with.
    In the end, it matters little what the angry people of the world (whether they be Christian Fundamentalists, or  Atheistic agnostic  feminists, Raging liberals or Staunch conservatives etc..) think about the Jesuits or even the Catholic Church. I am called to believe that we walk closely with Christ, and I am called to continue that walk no matter what the cost... even if that cost is that I'll have to tolerate people's hatred and insults ( "blessed are you when they insult you because of me!"). Most importantly, I am called to be patient with those who are angry, and to hope that through me, God can bring a little bit of peace in their lives. Sounds like a lot of work..but I can't back down at this point. I believe too much in the beauty of the Kingdom of God that we are all called to help build here on earth.