Tag Archives: Jesuits

Fr Allen P. Novotny, SJ RIP

Allen P Novotny SJ.jpegAt this moment, family, friends, and Jesuits are gathering for the Mass of Christian Burial for the Reverend Father Allen P. Novotny, SJ, 58, President of Gonzaga College High School, Washington, DC. I mention this because I had the privilege of living with Allen for a year and liked him very much. I’ve been saddened since hearing the news on October 27th that Allen died earlier that day from a mutual friend. I was unable to make the funeral Mass but have not ceased praying for Allen’s peace and God’s mercy upon Allen and the rest of us. Eternal rest, dear friend.

A fitting video tribute to Father Allen
Gonzaga’s The Aquilian paid this tribute to Father Allen.

The lost Caravaggio, The Martyrdom of St Lawrence, found with the Jesuits

OR.jpgThe art world is abuzz due to an article in L’Osservatore Romano on Sunday stating that a “lost Caravaggio” may now be found.

The as yet unauthenticated painting, “The Martyrdom of St Lawrence,” owned by the Society of Jesus, is thought to be a Caravaggio because it has the hallmarks of a Caravaggio, including dramatic lighting effects, the L’Osservatore Romano said. “Certainly it’s a stylistically impeccable, beautiful painting,” the article stated in its Sunday edition. “One can’t but be reminded of works like the Conversion of St Paul, the Martyrdom of St Matthew and Judith and Holofernes.”

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is the acknowledged pioneer of the Baroque painting technique of contrasting light and dark known in Italian as “chiaroscuro.” It is estimated that about 80 of the painter’s works are extant. He was born in Milan and trained there under Titian. Many are also aware of the artist’s wild lifestyle and the alleged murder he committed of a man in a brawl and then fled Rome. Moreover, Caravaggio’s mysterious death in 1610 has long intrigued scholars. Among the theories of his disappearance are that he was killed on a deserted Tuscan beach or collapsed there due to an illness. Italian anthropologists announced last month they had found the famous artist’s mortal remains. The artist’s club is observing the 400th anniversary of the artist’s death.

Leave it to the Jesuits to have at least two Caravaggio’s!

The death of Jesuit psychoanalyst, Fr William W. Meissner

William Meissner.jpgI haven’t seen him in nearly 7 years, but I was very sad to hear of the death of Jesuit Father William W. Meissner, 79, the other day. A New York Province Jesuit priest who was trained as a psychiatrist at Harvard, Bill was a great man in my mind with lots of quirks, probably too many to speak of. Bill was the sort of man who didn’t suffer fools gladly; he was one of those Jesuits who worked very hard and play well but didn’t do pastoral work. His life as a priest is was dedicated to the ministry of research and teaching. All the same, I loved being on vacation with Bill and I remember fondly our many serious conversations. When I studied in Boston in the early 1990s he gave a series of lectures on the psychology of Saint Ignatius of Loyola which I attended and found incomprehensible; the lectures eventually became a book, Ignatius of Loyola: The Psychology of a Saint, you may have seen it. I have to admit that psychoanalyzing a dead saint is a bit weird –with or without a couch– but fascinating nonetheless because we got a glimpse into the heart and mind of terrific saint.

Here’s one of Bill’s obit.
May Bill Meissner’s memory be eternal.

Bernardo de Hoyos beatified

Today, in Valladolid, Spain, Father Bernardo de Hoyos (1711-1735) was beatified. I previously mentioned Father de Hoyos on this blog. Here is a précis of Father Adolfo Nicolás’ letter to the Jesuits. The full text of the letter can be read here Bernard de Hoyos letter.pdf

Bernardo de Hoyos beatification poster.jpg

“He is considered the first apostle of the Sacred Heart in Spain. To recapture who he was and what he contributed, I offer some biographical information that should be understood in the religious and cultural context of the 18th century.” Thus begins Nicolás’ for this occasion. More than a century ago, in 1895, the cause for Father De Hoyos was introduced; due to many ecclesiastical vicissitudes and the political history of Spain, it was repeatedly postponed. Father Nicolás, in his letter, traces the major events in the very short life of the newly beatified who died on the 29th of November 1735 at the age of 24. Near to the time of his death, de Hoyos was ordained a priest and in Tertianship.

“His reputation for holiness,” the letter continues. “spread immediately after his death.  However, because of the difficult situation in which the Society found itself opposed by the Jansenists, the cause for beatification was not introduced at that time.  Later the suppression of the Society would leave many projects unfinished. When the Society was restored in 1814 by Pope Pius VII, a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart emerged in the whole Church. In accord with the religious sensibilities of the time, the reborn Society dedicated itself to the spread and propagation of this devotion with significant results.” The letter outlines the steps of this recovery of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, beginning with Jesuits’ General Congregation 31st  in 1965, through the generalate of Father Pedro Arrupe and then with generalate of Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach.

Then Father Nicolás goes on: “Bernardo de Hoyos’s passion for the Heart of Jesus faithfully corresponds to the devotion that Saint Ignatius felt for Jesus poor and humble, before whom he asks that our affections be moved in order to accompany Him in each step of His life: As companions with him on mission, his way is our way (GC35, D.2, nº 14), so that in what we do in the world there must always be a transparency to God (GC35, D. 2, nº 10). On the occasion of this beatification, I invite the whole Society, together with our collaborators, to renew our personal love of Jesus Christ and to open ourselves to the grace of identifying ourselves with Him, so that in Nadal’s words, we might understand with His understanding; will with His will; remember with His memory; and that our entire being, living, and doing be not centered in us, but in Christ (MHSI vol 90. p.122; GC35, D. 2, nº14), as the  cornerstone of the particular vocation to which each of us has been called.”

Father Nicolás concludes his letter: “May the Father who has hidden these things from the wise and the learned and has revealed them to the childlike (Mt 11, 25) through the intercession of Blessed Bernardo de Hoyos, grant the Society the grace of accomplishing its mission of being in the Church a loving response to Him who was pierced by the pain and the aggressive injustice of a world in need of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
May Blessed Bernardo de Hoyos show us the way to the Heart of Jesus!

Matteo Ricci on tract for sainthood?

Fr Matteo RicciThis is old news by now, but the Agenzia Fides reported back in late January that the cause for canonization for Father Matteo Ricci is again active. Ricci always held a special place in my imagination partly because he was (and continues to be) maligned by ideologues. I noted Ricci’s 400th anniversary on this blog back in May.

The sainthood cause for 16th-century Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci was reopened on January 24, following Mass at the Cathedral of San Giuliano in the diocese of Diocese of Macerata-Tolentino-Recanati-Cingoli-Treia, where he was born.

The process of beatification originally launched in 1984 when he was named a Servant of God. Bishop Claudio Giuliodori of Macerata said that although the cause stalled soon after it was opened, “these 25 years have not passed in vain because the Lord has given us clear signs of a deeper understanding of the prophetic intuitions of Father Matteo Ricci.”

Father Matteo Ricci was born in 1552 in the Marche town of Macerata. He entered the Society of Jesus and was missioned by his superiors to study mathematics and astronomy before leaving for the Far East at the age of 26.

Ricci’s itinerary included four years in Goa (west coast of India) before traveling to China. On mainland China he settled in Zhao Qing in the southernmost Guangdong Province; he was proficient in studying Chinese. During his time there he produced his global “Great Map of Ten Thousand Countries,” which revolutionized the Chinese understanding of the rest of the world. A copy of the map is on display at the United States Library of Congress.

In 1589 Father Ricci moved to Zhao Zhou and began sharing European mathematical discoveries with Chinese scholars. He became known as “Li Madou” and was renowned for his extraordinary memory and knowledge of astronomy. He eventually became a member of the court of Ming Emperor Wanli.

In 1601 he was allowed into the Forbidden City of Beijing, where he worked until his death in 1610.

Ricci’s postulator (the person promoting the inquiry for the sainthood) is Jesuit Father Anthony Witwer, who is coordinating and supervising a historical commission that has been established to collect all the writings and documents attributed to Father Ricci, along with those that reference him in publication. The commission’s work will conclude with a critical study on the writings of Matteo Ricci along with a judgment as to the authenticity and value of documents on him.

In a message to the Diocese of Macerata inaugurating commemorations of the 400th anniversary of Father Ricci’s death in Beijing in 1610, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that Father Ricci was “gifted with profound faith and extraordinary cultural and academic genius.” He “dedicated long years of his life to weaving a profound dialogue between West and East, at the same time working incisively to root the Gospel in the culture of the great people of China. Even today, his example remains as a model of fruitful encounter between European and Chinese civilization. In considering his intense academic and spiritual activity, we cannot but remain favorably impressed by the innovative and unusual skill with which he, with full respect, approached Chinese cultural and spiritual traditions. It was, in fact, this approach that characterized his mission, which aimed to seek possible harmony between the noble and millennial Chinese civilization and the novelty of Christianity, which is for all societies a ferment of liberation and of true renewal from within, because the Gospel, universal message of salvation, is destined for all men and women whatever the cultural and religious context to which they belong.”

The Pope continued, “What made his apostolate original and, we could say, prophetic, was the profound sympathy he nourished for the Chinese, for their cultures and religious traditions.” Ricci was likewise “a model of dialogue and respect for the beliefs of others and made friendship the style of his apostolate during his twenty-eight years in China.”

History shows us that Ricci remained faithful to this style of evangelization to the end of his life. He made the gospel accessible to people, especially the intellectual classes by “using a scientific methodology and a pastoral strategy based, on the one hand, on respect for the wholesome customs of the place, which Chinese neophytes did not have to abandon when they embraced the Christian faith and, on the other, on his awareness that the Revelation could enhance and complete” those customs. As the Fathers of the Church did in the time of the encounter between the Gospel and Greco-Roman culture, the author of the “Treatise on Friendship” undertook his “farsighted work of inculturation of Christianity in China by seeking constant understanding with the wise men of that country.”

The concluded his anniversary remarks by saying that we, “Following his example, may our own communities, which accommodate people from different cultures and religions, grow in a spirit of acceptance and of reciprocal respect.”

Anthony E. Clark’s article “Weaving a Profound Dialogue between West and East”: On Matteo Ricci, S.J., for Ignatius Insight is helpful for a much broader perspective. Plus, Scranton University hosts a blog entry on Father Ricci that shows a bit his depth of character that you may find interesting.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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