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Diana, Princess Charming

September 22, 2017 — Leave a comment
And when I think upon that night
My eyes are dim with tears.
From William Wordsworth
“Strange fits of passion I have known”
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(The wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Courtesy of Joe Haupt of the Flickr Creative Commons.)
Twenty years after the tragic passing of Diana, Princess of Wales, I reflect on the significance of her life and death with The Jesuit Post. Here’s an excerpt:
For those of us who’ve reflected on these twenty years without Diana, the memories reopen our wounds. Emotions pour forth as we watch videos, gaze at photos, and read her story anew. It’s a distinctly human phenomenon. Her charming giggles have made us smile, her weighty tears have mingled with ours, and her tragic death has put us face-to-face with our own. She opened her heart to us with all of its feelings, and her memory invites us to do the same. May we listen to our hearts and share them with others in imitation of Diana, Princess of Wales, who in our memory rests yet nevermore shall be.
Read the full article here.
Best wishes,
David J.W. Inczauskis, S.J.
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
–Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907-1991)

 

 

Tell me what you read, and I will tell you who you are. America’s brightest high school students are reading atheistic and agnostic authors, and, not surprisingly, they are losing their faith.

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National Geographic notes that the world’s fastest growing religion is “no religion.” This trend is particularly strong in the US.

I think our high school English programs bear a significant part of the blame.

I noticed this problem during my senior year of high school when I took an Advanced Placement English Literature course for college credit. The entire second semester was dedicated to postmodern, existentialist books. We read atheist Hemingway, atheist Camus, atheist Sartre, and agnostic Conrad. I left class feeling depressed and shaken in my faith. If it weren’t for my decision to study religion in college, I probably would have left university an atheistic relativist like most of my peers–thinking that God and morality were figments of the human imagination.

The issue came up again in the education of my younger brother. As he journeyed through high school, he became increasingly secular. Recently, we were talking about ethics. I suggested that morality is not relativistic. I used the example of killing an innocent person. He eventually agreed reluctantly but claimed that not everyone wanted to accept my “dogmas and absolutism.” Of course, he had recently read Hemingway and Conrad. He has been educated to equate morality and religion with illogical “dogma.”

This encounter led me to take a look at the AP English Literature sample reading list. When I ran the numbers, I came out with the statistics above. Atheists, agnostics, and nones constitute a plurality. They are vastly overrepresented.

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I continued perusing the College Board document and stumbled upon a sample selection with questions attached. It was a passage from The Dodson Sisters by the English author George Eliot, an anti-Catholic secularist. The text is laughably–or disturbingly–anti-religious. It reads, “Their religion was of a simple, semi-pagan kind, but there was no heresy in it—if heresy properly means choice.” The ideological commitments are clear. Freedom is reduced to choice, and, for Eliot, choice will inevitably lead a person away from religion. (Naturally, the passage closes with an insulting description of a clergyman.) These irreverent ideas are quietly entering the minds of US youth, and very few are protesting.

I am not suggesting that public high schools should force students to read all Catholic, or at least Christian, authors, but I am in favor of more balance in our English programs. Separation between Church and State does not mean a preference for irreligion; rather, it means our education system should not endorse a single religion or no religion.

The overrepresentation of secularist authors in our classrooms is a tacit endorsement of their ideologies. It’s unconstitutional, and it’s got to change.

Catholic and Christian authors have much to offer, but our schools are silencing their voices. It’s time to speak up and speak out.

Best wishes,
David J.W. Inczauskis, S.J.

“Over the course of my conversations with Jesuit Father Simon Bishop at Oxford, it became clear that his personal relationship with Christ was the sole source of his joy. I wanted what he had.”

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(My vow class shortly after we professed perpetual poverty, chastity, and obedience)

The providence staff asked me to share the story of my call to the Jesuits as part of a series called “A Heart on Fire.”

Here is the link to the article.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and reactions to the piece.

Best wishes in Christ from El Progreso, Honduras,
David Inczauskis, S.J.

 

For my latest piece with The Jesuit Post, I take a look at President Donald Trump’s speech in Poland and its resonance with conservative Catholics in the United States.

Here’s an excerpt:

There are five reasons for [the connection between Trump and conservative Catholics] and each emerges at least once, if not multiple times, in the Polish speech. Primarily, Trump’s discourse points to the core of conservatism, a core that the Catholic Church shares: the necessity of conserving the wisdom of the past. Second, the speech revels in the role of the Church in Poland’s and the broader West’s defeat of totalitarian communism in Europe. Next, Trump shifts his gaze towards “radical Islamic terrorism,” an enemy of both the United States and Catholicism. At the level of theory, the speech hints at St. John Paul II’s teaching of philosophical “personalism,” which contains conclusions that many conservative Catholics and Republicans hold in common. Finally, the President’s pro-life rhetoric energizes Catholics who have been waiting eight years to make national progress on rights for the unborn.

Check out the rest here.

Best wishes,
David J.W. Inczauskis, S.J.

Regarding an ecumenical trip to an evangelical/pentecostal church

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(My vow cross. As Jesuits, we promise to serve under the banner of the cross. We don’t run from the cross; rather, we seek it.)

“So you are sick. You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. You’ve suffered for years with a chronic illness…with headaches, back aches, stomach cramps. You’re in pain. Did God give you these illnesses? Did God give you this pain? Does God want you to suffer? I don’t think so. God is good. God is good all the time.

“There is only one explanation: YOU are the cause of your illness. YOU have sinned. YOU have let the devil in. Look at your conscience. Where have you gone wrong? Ask the Lord for forgiveness, and he will set you free from your suffering. Visit a Christian healer with faith, and you will be clean. God gives health to his children.

“So you are poor. You can’t find a job, or you work two or three jobs but don’t earn enough to support your family. The ends don’t meet. You can’t balance the budget. You cry of starvation in the night. You cry so much that you get dehydrated. You go to the river to get a drink, but the water poisons you. You suffer some more. Did God make you unemployed? Does God want you to starve or to thirst? I don’t think so. God is good. God is good all the time.

“There is only one explanation: YOU are the cause of your poverty. YOU haven’t trusted that God will lift you up from the dung heap. YOU haven’t been paying your dues at church, so the Lord is refusing to bless you. Pray more. Fast more. Give more money to the church, and things will start to change. Job offers will come. You’ll see raises. You’ll be able to buy a new house. You’ll see…”

So preached the pastor at an evangelical/pentecostal church in poor Honduras. The message shook me to the core. It was so vile that it made me want to throw up.

At church during this sermon, a little boy with cerebral palsy sat next to me and was holding my hand. He walked with a heavy limp, and other kids would often make fun of him and push him to the ground. During my visit I tried to show him some special attention because I saw that his peers often neglected or abused him. As I was listening to the pastor, I thought to myself, “And this little boy? What about him? What has he done wrong? Even if he has done wrong–and that is a very strong “even if”–what sort of God would punish him with cerebral palsy? What about congenital problems? What about…?” On and on I thought. It made no sense. I looked at the boy’s face, and I communicated to him with my eyes, “Don’t listen to this nonsense. God loves you. He loves you so much that he came down from heaven to be with you and all who suffer.”

There is no theology of suffering in large sections of the evangelical and pentecostal movements. For them, Christ paid the price. He suffered for us. He died for us. Because of his Passion, we don’t have to suffer anymore. We believe, and God imputes to us an immunity from any sort of poverty or illness. Christ’s death and resurrection unleashed for us the graces of prosperity. Wealth is right in front of our eyes, and we just have to reach out and claim it in the name of Jesus. It is that simple… …for them.

I rarely use strong language, but I’ll go for it here: I denounce this anti-Christian, anti-Catholic, anti-reality, anti-God, anti-all-things-good b***s***. This horrid teaching comes from false preachers, from venomous serpents who view mammon as a sign of God and who view God as a a sign of mammon. It comes from wolves who prey on the simple minds of lost sheep. It comes from pastors who have deceived themselves or who seek to deceive others. It is evil.

What does a Catholic do in the midst of this insanity, especially as it sucks in Catholics by the millions throughout the world? First, we have to denounce. Second, we have to promote the Catholic understanding of the origin, meaning, and end of suffering.

I’ve already denounced, so let’s move on to the Catholic take on suffering. Let me propose two important points to start. (It is impossible to outline the entirety of Catholic thought on suffering in one post.):

  1. Suffering makes us one with Christ: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me,” says the Lord (Luke 9:23). If we are disciples of Jesus, we will experience more suffering than the average person in this life. The Christian is a follower of Christ, and the Christian follows Christ even to the cross. The cross is a symbol of innocent suffering, of senseless pain. In uniting himself to the cross, Jesus shows us that he is in solidarity with the afflicted, with the poor and the sick. There is a “swap” that takes place in Christ (see the beatitudes). Whereas before, the wealthy and healthy had the last word; now, the poor and the sick have the last word. Just as Jesus rose from the dead, showing suffering its ultimate powerlessness, the suffering of this world will be raised up in glory on the Last Day. It is for this reason that Catholics “rejoice” in suffering: we become more like Christ. If we can rejoice in our suffering, it means that we are not attached to the things that pass away: our flesh, our possessions, our pride. If we love God and others in the midst of our suffering, we love with a God-like love.

    1. (Sidepoint–We agree with the pastor above regarding one point: God is not the primary cause of our suffering. The devil, original sin, and human injustice are the active causes of our suffering. God allows suffering, and this reality is a mystery. Some have proposed reasons that help penetrate this mystery, i.e. allowing suffering allows for more human freedom or allowing suffering allows for greater expressions of love, among others.)

  2. Alleviating suffering through justice, charity, and, in some cases, faith: The poor are not poor because they are wicked (as some eastern religions and some evangelicals/pentecostals propose). Rather, the poor are poor because the rich oppress them. The sick are sick because they have no access to healthy food and medical care. The solution, then, is not blind faith but rather a radical rearrangement of our political life that restores equality, justice, and peace for all. In the meantime, Christians and all people of good will are called to serve the poor and the sick through acts of charity. Finally, yes, some people are healed or helped through miraculous means.

Needless to say, this topic is much more expansive than what we could cover here, but the points above offer some initial guidance.

To my Christian brothers and sisters who believe in the prosperity gospel, I ask you to take a second look at the New Testament. Jesus does heal the sick, and I’ve witnessed some miracles throughout my life. However, the reality of the cross and resurrection means more than freedom and prosperity in this life. It is actually an invitation for us to be poor, not rich, to be weak, not strong, to be ill, not healthy. We, the Church, are Christ’s body on earth, and we seek to say with St. Paul, “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings…and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24). Jesus’ suffering redeems, and our suffering in him redeems, too.

Best wishes in Christ,
David Inczauskis, S.J.

“Without fear, we defend your life, my life, and our common home.”

“Defendemos sin miedo tu vida, la mía, y nuestra casa común.”

Not long ago, a small community in rural Honduras declared itself mine-free and hydroelectric-free. Villagers were fed up with “development” projects that ruined the environment, caused devastating illnesses, and cut off their water supply.

However, that democratic decision hasn’t stopped one greedy company from illegally beginning to construct a power plant on the local river. In an act of resistance, the villagers have decided to block the road to the river until the company changes its mind. Today, I went with Radio Progreso, a social justice ministry of the Honduran Jesuits, to visit the protesters and record their story.

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(“We want water for life!”)

After introducing ourselves to everyone present, we sat down with some of the community’s leaders for a recorded conversation about the conflict with the power company. Despite horrible threats, they are firm in their commitment to protect the local water supply.

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(Filming the round table)

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(More filming, now with the beautiful natural backdrop)

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(The encampment that blocks the road)

At the encampment, the protesting villagers eat, sleep, and–above all–block the road. Their presence is constant because they know that the company would take advantage of any blip in their commitment.

Following the recording of the round table discussion, we went down to see the river.

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(The beautiful river the community hopes to protect)

Initially, the power company destroyed this part of the mountain for easier access to the river. The trees are gone, weakening the soil. When the rains come, the soil will flow into the river and make it undrinkable. Apparently, the company considers this destruction a “mistake.” Even if it were a “mistake,” they should not have been there in the first place!

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(The tree-less mountain)

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(The Catholic Church’s solidarity: a Claretian, a Jesuit, and me)

On the left in the picture above, a local Claretian priest has shown support for the community’s cause. He claims that Pope Francis has encouraged the Church to be actively involved in the preservation of our common habitat.

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(The stunning landscape of the community, a landscape that lumber companies are destroying)

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(After the filming, the trip to the river, and some time for fellowship, we went to the local parish to have some coffee.)

You can check out Radio Progreso’s Youtube page for more information about our visit, the protest, and other social justice concerns in Honduras.

Best wishes in Christ,
David J.W. Inczauskis, S.J.

“La Fragua Theatre’s actors haven’t been recruited from academies or universities, but from poor and marginalized neighborhoods.”

“Sus actores los ha reclutado no de academias o universidades, sino de barriadas populares y colonias marginales.”

–Carlos M. Castro

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(A slightly delayed flight from Miami to Honduras)

A flight from Miami to Honduras kicked off my two month visit with the Jesuit community in El Progreso. My goal for the trip is to write an academic article about one of the most innovative cultural phenomena in the country: La Fragua Theatre, a small company seeking to forge a Honduran society conscious of its rich cultural heritage and critical of the systems of power that seek to undermine it.

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(The theatre’s logo, inspired by indigenous art from Copán)

A great example of a person who uses his privilege for good, Fr. Jack Warner, SJ, founded the theatre in 1979 with the desire to use drama as a means of cultural expression at the service of the poor. Many of the company’s actors come from marginalized communities, but they find at La Fragua hope for their personal and communal futures. Much of this hope stems from a restoration of and reengagement with the nation’s Mayan roots.

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(The main stage)

On the main stage here above, the actors gather daily–except Sunday, of course–for musical practice, theatrical exercises, passionate exhortations, and rehearsals. Just a few days ago, one of the theatre’s most experienced performers preached movingly to the rest of the troupe about the example of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran martyr-saint who faced assassination after speaking in favor of a Christ-inspired socioeconomic structure benefitting the poor. The theatre seeks to honor Romero’s legacy by presenting both Christian and secular plays “from below,” that is, with the mind and heart of the oppressed.

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(The Jesuit community’s patio)

The Jesuit community in El Progreso, Honduras, has a rich tradition of solidarity with the poor. In the town Jesuits run schools, radio programs, social justice centers, and parishes that embody our twin mission of instilling faith that does justice. The Jesuits in El Progreso live humbly; despite the constant, infernal heat, the Jesuits’ rooms have no air conditioning or insolation. The meals are simple and reflect the diet of the local population.

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(A sunset view of the soccer field just outside the Jesuit community)

El Progreso’s landscape is picturesque. Mountains surround the burgeoning city. In the afternoon and evening, storm clouds gather and bring a refreshing rain that provides much-needed relief from the heat.

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(The Jesuit chapel at San José Catholic Institute)

The Holy Spirit is the life source of the Jesuits’ tireless work in El Progreso. It is Christ who commissions his apostles to receive the Spirit that fortifies them for the opus dei, the work of God that continues in God’s people today. I pray that the Spirit with continually renew our fruitful mission in Honduras. I also pray that the Spirit will bring me closer to the people of El Progreso during my stay and behind.

Best wishes in Christ,

David J.W. Inczauskis, S.J.