The 35th Annual Belvedere College Sleep-Out has taken place on 22-24 December 2018 on Dublin’s O’Connell Street and College Green. Some of the students involved met with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications. They spoke about the experience of doing the Sleep-Out last year. “I never realised how hard it could be to sleep on the ground.” They also talked about the homelessness crisis and the work that some Belvedere students do, meeting with people on the streets, offering them food and a chat. Harry Hamlet McGuire says that when they do go on the streets they keep in mind the words of Brother Eamonn Davis SJ: “He tells us that when we go down to meet the homeless that we don’t stand over people… We’re sitting down and kneeling next to them and we’re having a conversation with them… and we’re getting to know them”. According to Matt Grogan: “I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself… I’m fortunate enough that I have a roof over my head every night and there’s food on my table every morning, which I’m incredibly grateful for. And through the school I’m aware that there are people who aren’t as fortunate as myself… and I feel obligated to give back”. Kevin Owens who is taking part in the Sleep-Out for the second year in a row also spoke to Pat Coyle. Last year’s Sleep-Out raised just under 200,000 euro. Cormac Yalloway is really hopeful that they can get well over that amount this year. Whatever money they raise will be divided between the Peter McVerry Trust, Focus Ireland and Home Again.
The novices of Britain and Ireland have just returned from their autumn work experience placements, known in Jesuit jargon as “experiments”. Experiments were designed by St. Ignatius to test a man’s vocation through the two-year novitiate period. Experiments mirror the various steps taken by St Ignatius after his conversion. For centuries, Jesuit formation has included these same methods as a means to test, stretch, clarify, and confirm the novice’s vocation. Typical novice experiments include hospital work (meaning work with marginalised people, who in St Ignatius' day tended to live in "hospitals" or places of safety run by religious), a pilgrimage, the 30-day Spiritual Exercises, and teaching. Testing the equilibrium Paolo Beltrame has just returned from Dublin where for the last six weeks he has been teaching and assisting in the chaplaincy of Belvedere College.  Paolo, who was doing post-doctoral research in astro-particle physics before joining the Jesuits, taught science to fifth formers and was asked to give a number of talks on his specialist subject to wider audiences. “I have had lots of experience teaching at tertiary level” commented Paolo, “but teaching high school boys was new to me.  I think the idea of the experiment is to push the boundaries of where you feel comfortable and test how I can engage, collaborate and work with different groups.” Belvedere College chaplaincy has a well-embedded programme which connects the intellectual approach with opportunities for social justice and retreats for spiritual renewal. “One thing I noticed,” Paolo observed, “is that there is a tension in the Ignatian approach between the intellectual and social justice work. The two poles don’t easily come to synthesis.  I see it a bit like walking for which you need two legs! – Each time you take a step you move out of a state of equilibrium, but you have to do this in order to move forward.  Everything we did in the school - study, homework, social justice ministry - was an opportunity for reflection and was in itself a kind of prayer.  Whether you are looking at stars or supporting the poor you need to engage your intellect, otherwise how do we provoke any change?  These young men were all very thoughtful, very committed and not afraid to question.” More Ignatian than the Jesuits Also on experiment in an Irish Jesuit high school was Ian Jackson who spent six weeks at Coláiste Iognáid (known as The Jes) in Galway.  He taught Maths and RE including teaching St Ignatius’ examen prayer to both pupils and teachers; and he supported the schools’ Kairos leaders, sixth formers leading retreats for younger children, and managed to inspire them with his vocation story - ”I was really happy about that,” he said, “they were very intelligent, mature, creative and independent minds so I was delighted they were touched by my story”.  During the half term break he worked for Educate Magis – the global network of Jesuit educators which connects those working in over 2,300 Jesuit schools worldwide.  Like Paolo, Ian was inspired by the lay collaborators: “They were more Ignatian than the Jesuits, it was awesome to see them just getting on with it”, he commented. A joy-filled time of laughter and love Matthew Tumulty spent his experiment living in the L’Arche community in Edinburgh -  a community where people with and without learning disabilities share life together. Matthew, gained interesting insights of God at work. “I quickly realised as a member of this community that in fact I was the one with the disabilities. The people I was living with who could not communicate verbally were absolute masters at non-verbal communication. I felt much more limited in what I was able to express.  I came to realise that societal norms are very inhibiting, and we tend to smother out the laughter. My friends showed me how to enjoy every moment and to give unconditional love and trust. God was working through them to show me something that I really wasn’t expecting, it was a joy-filled time of laughter and love.”
God Ever Greater: Exploring Ignatian Spirituality is the title of Brian O’Leary SJ’s latest book published by Messenger Publications. The book is the fruit of a life-long immersion in Ignatian spirituality from both an academic and experiential perspective. In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, Brian explains the two-part structure of the book. He suggests that the newcomer to Ignatian spirituality might be better starting with the second half of the book as it consists of a series of short reflections that can lead the reader into meditation and prayer in the Ignatian tradition. The first half of the book is the solid foundation for the second half. It takes the reader on an exploratory journey of Ignatius’ writings and the main themes of his spirituality, including discernment, both individual and corporate. The author offers a helpful explanation of the often-used (and indeed abused) term ‘spirituality’. He argues that one must know the meaning of the noun if one is to ever understand the adjective ‘Ignatian’ which accompanies it. During a wide-ranging and frank conversation about the aim and content of the book Brian speaks of Ignatius the mystic, Ignatius the pilgrim, and Ignatius the aristocrat. He argues that Ignatius’ aristocratic background was responsible for a certain authoritarianism on his part that Brian himself finds less than appealing! The author also voices his concern about the use of Ignatian spirituality today. He wonders if its popularity might have led to it becoming more person-centred and less God-centred. If this is the case, and he fears it might be so, then for him, Ignatian spirituality, which for Ignatius was utterly God-centred, may well be in danger of losing its authenticity.
Jesuit Bishop Alan McGuckian says that Northern Ireland must continue to be recognised as a ‘special case’, in this post-Brexit era. He says the Good Friday Agreement is what allows the Britishness of Northern Ireland citizens, and the Irishness of  Northern Ireland citizens, to be acknowledged and respected. Writing in an opinion piece published in The  Mail on Sunday, 14 October, 2018, the Bishop of Raphoe, Co. Donegal, he said, “Northern Ireland remains a special case and it must have special status to reflect that fact. It should remain a part of the United Kingdom and it must also retain all of the special relationships with the rest of Ireland that the Good Friday Agreement mandates.” Bishop McGuckian  also drew parallels between the two female British Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher and Teresa May. Many years ago Mrs Thatcher, in an effort to placate the Unionist population, once proclaimed that Northern Ireland was “As British as Finchley,” a typical English town and Thatcher’s parliamentary constituency.  “The claim drew smiles even then”, notes the Bishop, ” because… it simply is not so.”  This is because the statement completely ignores the fact that half of Northern Ireland (unlike Finchly) is made up of Nationalists,  and for them, “Northern Ireland is as Irish as Connemara though it is not Irish in the same way as Connemara is.” Eventually, Mrs Thatcher signed the Anglo-Irish agreement. It paved the way for her successors to sign up to the Good Friday Agreement, which has yielded many years of peace in the country. Today, Prime Minister Teresa May often refers to the “integrity of the United Kingdom” when referring to Irish border and its fate post-Brexit, the Bishop notes. This may be of comfort to pro-Brexit Unionsits like the DUP , “but Mrs May must remember that when Margaret Thatcher made her peace with the truth about Northern Ireland, British AND Irish, she did it in the face of fierce opposition from the DUP. Their opposition was rooted in a rigid reading of the claim that ‘Northern Ireland is as British as Finchley’ and it needed to be faced down then.”  In essence, Bishop McGUckian says the claim needs to be faced down today as well, if we are to protect the “precious peace” on this island and uphold the principles of the Good Friday Agreement, an internationally binding treaty. Northern Ireland should indeed remain part of the UK he argues, “and it must also retain all of the special relationships with the rest of Ireland that the Good Friday Agreement mandates. That Agreement called for ‘parity of esteem’ for the two national identities, recognising the right of all citizens to be considered as Irish or British or, indeed, both.”. This being the case, Bishop McGuckian believes, “The ‘backstop’ proposal – that there must be a common regulatory area on the island of Ireland in order to safeguard North-South cooperation and the all-island economy – is essential if the gains from the Good Friday Agreement are not to be thrown aside.”
Ireland was the chosen destination this year for an induction tour for the eight Jesuit novices currently doing their novitiate (the first two years of Jesuit formation) in Birmingham. The purpose of the novitiate is to help the novices discern more deeply their vocation to the Society of Jesus. They do so through a variety of means and experiences appropriate to this initial stage of formation. Their trips to Ireland are part of this process. The novices pictured at Emo Court with Fr Kevin O’Rourke are from left to right: Paul Prior (Ireland); Paolo Beltrame (Itlay); John Bosco Noronha (Britian); Thiranjala Weerasinghe (Sri Lanka); Ian Jackson (Britian); Desmond Gibney (Ireland); Matthew Tumulty (Ireland) and  Dunstan Rodrigues (Britian, front, kneeling). A highlight of their excursion was to help out at the National Ploughing Championships. For the last four years the Jesuits in Ireland have had a stand there, offering a blessing with the cross of recently beatified Irish Jesuit Fr John Sullivan. Fr Kevin O’Rourke SJ is assistant novice master in Birmingham. He has also worked each year at the ploughing and was looking forward to having the novices lend a helping hand with the blessing and handing out of leaflets. But it would seem the Lord had other plans. Irish novice Desmond Gibney gave us this report of the novices’ September trip to Ireland. New novices in old novitiate! Mid-September marked my second trip back to Ireland since joining the Jesuit Novitiate in Birmingham on 15 August 2018. The first trip coincided with the World Meeting of Families and the visit of Pope Francis, and an account of that trip has featured in a blog post written by one of my fellow-novices. The novitiate in Birmingham serves the Jesuit Provinces of Ireland, Britain and the Low Countries, and each year the novices and novice master undertake a tour of one of the three Provinces. This year, Ireland was the destination, and the centrepiece of the trip by eight novices led by our Novice Master Fr Simon Bishop SJ, was to attend the National Ploughing Championships at Screggan in county Offaly. It took some explaining to make sure that all eight novices (drawn from Britain, Italy, Sri Lanka as well as Ireland) understood the significance of this event. It is in fact one of the largest outdoor annual events in Europe, but simply called “the Ploughing” by everyone in Ireland! Part of our work at the Ploughing was to pray with those asking for help through the intercession of Blessed John Sullivan SJ, and that seemed like it would be an easy task for me, as I have previously written about my family’s devotion to the crucifix of Blessed John Sullivan. Our busy schedule between Sunday 16 September and Thursday 20 September included visits to the Jesuit communities in Belfast and Portadown. We also had an opportunity to talk about our vocations and decision making to fifth year students in Belvedere College, facilitated by faith development directors Padraig Swan and Eoghan Keogh. Enjoyable too was a visit to the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal at their convent in Drogheda. There were a number of special moments during the five days, including three different tours of Belfast guided by members of the Jesuit community there. We were also given an explanation of the background to the iconic photograph of an open-air concelebrated Mass for Garvaghy Road residents in July 1997. But for me, the highlight of our tour of the Irish Province was the Sunday evening Gospel Mass in St Francis Xavier Church on Gardiner Street in Dublin’s inner city. The Gardiner Street Gospel Mass is now in its 19th year, and is a contemporary but reverent celebration of the Sunday liturgy. After reading the Gospel (Mark 8: 27-35), where Jesus asks His disciples “Who do you say I am?”, and St Peter replies “You are the Christ”, the celebrant Fr Jake Martin SJ observed that while St Peter certainly had a ‘way with words’, his actions sometimes let him down! That provided an opportunity for Fr Jake to invite the congregation firstly to reflect and then write down on pieces of paper provided, who Jesus is for them personally. I found it to be a very moving experience when most people present came up in ones and twos to place their pieces of paper in a basket at the front altar, and later in the Mass when a selection of these anonymised reflections were read out by one of the lay members of the Gospel Mass liturgy team. By this stage you might be wondering how we got on at the Ploughing. Unfortunately, Storm Ali put paid to our plans to attend the Ploughing on Wednesday. The organisers deemed it too risky to open for the day and many thousands of disappointed visitors had to return home as the stewards began the onerous task of cleaning up the damage inflicted by the storm. But we did get to see Mary Berry of ‘Great British Bake-Off’ fame who was staying in the hotel where we had supper! She was another casualty of the cancellation having been invited over to meet her many fans at the event. We rounded off our day in county Offaly with a visit to the former Jesuit novitiate at Emo Court, where the guided tour enabled us to count our blessings for our regime in the Birmingham novitiate, compared to that faced by novices in Emo for forty years in the middle of the twentieth century! Desmond Gibney SJ Jesuit novice from the Irish Province Manresa House, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Pope Francis had a private meeting with over 60 Irish Jesuits, including the Irish Provincial Leonard Moloney at the Papal Nunciature in Dublin on 25 August 2018. He greeted them warmly and responded to questions from a number of them. Fr Moloney began by asking Pope Francis if there was anything the Irish Jesuits could help him with in line with their Fourth Vow – special obedience to the pontiff. The Pope responded by asking them directly to help to address clerical sexual abuse, with the healing process and with the reparative work that needs to be done. Brendan McManus SJ, who was the photographer for the meeting, was deeply affected. “It was an amazing day to be a Jesuit priest in Ireland and to meet the Pope”, he said. “He took time out from his busy schedule to meet briefly with the Irish Jesuits, and I was the Jesuit photographer. It made me sit up and ask myself: how can I help uncover abuse and also reach out to the victims for healing? In fact, when Brendan had the opportunity to ask a question, he raised the question of abuse once again. Speaking in Spanish, he asked Pope Francis, “How are you and the Church going to handle this clerical sex abuse scandal, because the impact which the handling of the abuse is having is killing us?” The Pope responded by reiterating his commitment to eradicating it entirely. He spoke passionately about the Jesuits helping him in the work of addressing clerical sex abuse and clearly spelled out the dangers of abuse of power. John Callanan SJ asked how the Pope managed to keep his serenity. He replied that keeping a sense of humour is very important, and alluded to former Superior General of the Jesuits Fr Peter Hans Kolvenbach as an example of someone who was well known for his jovial and optimistic spirits. Other questions came from Michael Bingham and from Michael O’Sullivan. And when the Pope spoke emphatically about avoiding sterility and attracting new vocations, novice Matthew Tumulty got a special mention. More broadly, according to Brendan, the Pope urged the Jesuits “to be faithful in prayer and to ‘keep ourselves in consolation’, a Jesuit phrase meaning to be connected to the Spirit and to be compassion in the world”. Reflecting on the whole experience, Brendan said: “On a personal level, it was overwhelming to be with the Pope; it was very emotional and heart-warming.” Jesuit Scholastic Niall Leahy also gave his overall impression of the meeting. “Given the circumstances of his visit, our meeting with the Holy Father inevitably made us painfully aware of some of the dark realities within the life of the church. But we were also consoled to witness how a mere man can courageously face these realities and carry the cross. For me this was a paschal moment.”