Thanksgiving and St. Ignatius

By  Fr. Peter Schineller, S.J.,

Is there any saint who might be linked closely to Thanksgiving Day? Surely all saints expressed gratitude to God for God’s grace, love, and saving power in their lives. But one saint comes to my mind when I think of gratitude and ingratitude, namely St. Ignatius Loyola. Why him?

Here is what he once wrote about ingratitude:

It seems to me in the light of the Divine Goodness, although others may think differently, that ingratitude is the most abominable of sins and that it should be detested in the sight of our Creator and Lord by all of His creatures who are capable of enjoying His divine and everlasting glory.  For it is a forgetting of the gracious benefits, and blessings received. As such it is the cause, beginning, and origin of all sins and misfortunes. On the contrary, the grateful acknowledgment of blessings and gifts received is loved and esteemed not only on earth but in heaven.

-Ignatius Loyola in Letters, No. 55. The Letters of St. Ignatius of Loyola, translated by William J. Young, S.J., Chicago, 1959

To express this more positively, Hugo Rahner, a scholar of the life of St. Ignatius, speaks of  the almost “helpless gratitude” or “imperishable gratitude” of  the saint.  Countless letters of Ignatius direct that Masses and prayers be offered in gratitude to friends and benefactors of the Society of Jesus.

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Two references to the Spiritual Exercises that highlight gratitude can be noted. In the twice daily examination of conscience, “the first point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the favors received” (Exercises # 23).  And  in the Contemplation to Attain  the Love of God, at the end of the Exercises, the grace we pray for is “to ask for an intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty” (233).

Indeed, Pedro Ribadeneira, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius, wrote that “Among all the virtues that our Father (Ignatius) possessed was one by which he was especially distinguished: the virtue of gratitude. In that he was simply wonderful.”

So as we celebrate the annual feast of Thanksgiving, we might take Ignatius as one patron for this feast.

Patron Saints of Cooking

FF_SAINTS-ELIZABETH-250Thanksgiving is an opportunity to gather with family and friends to remember all that there is to be thankful for. It is also an opportunity to break bread over a home cooked meal. Unfortunately, sometimes the execution of said home cooked meal can be rather difficult. Between overcooked turkey, soggy stuffing, stale rolls and third degree burns it can feel like more trouble than it’s worth.

Fortunately, Loyola Press has assembled a list of saints with culinary patronages with enough holy men and women to help you get through any dinner disasters. There’s Saint Elizabeth of Hungary the patron of bakers, Saint Lawrence the patron of cooks and Saint Drogo the patron saint of coffee.

Also in a worst case scenario there’s always Saint Jude, patron of lost causes.

Answering God’s Call: Father Gilbert Sunghera, SJ

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This is the final entry in the national Jesuit Conference’s vocation series “Answering God’s Call.” This fourth profile features Fr. Gilbert Sunghera, SJ, whose vocation as a Jesuit allows him to pursue his passions for architecture and social justice.

 Visit Jesuit.org for more information.

There’s an old saying that if you’ve met one Jesuit, you’ve met one Jesuit. Get to know a few Jesuits and you’ll realize it’s true. Men called to the Society of Jesus are diverse — in their backgrounds, areas of study, expertise and ministries.

During November’s Jesuit Vocations Month, we’ll introduce you to a new U.S. Jesuit each week. Each has heard and answered the call to serve God — whether as a physician, educator, architect or expert on ancient religions. They are all serving God as Jesuits.

“Everyone has a vocation and God’s call can be realized in many ways,” said Jesuit Father Thomas H. Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference. “A Jesuit vocation is for those who have been called to serve the Church and the world wherever the needs are greatest. While November is Jesuit Vocations Month, we pray every day that God continues to bless the Society of Jesus with men seeking a life in service, grounded in love of Jesus Christ and of others.”

This week, meet Jesuit Father Gilbert Sunghera, whose vocation as a Jesuit allows him to pursue his passions for architecture and social justice.

As a young boy growing up in the 1970s in Huntington Beach, Calif., Jesuit Father Gilbert Sunghera didn’t spend much time looking at buildings.  When you’re a kid and the Pacific Coast is your playground, you focus on sunsets and summer days.  All that changed, however, when Fr. Sunghera was in college at the University of California, Irvine, where he discovered architecture, the first of two great passions that would define his life.

As an undergraduate student in environmental psychology, Fr. Sunghera examined how people respond to the built environment.  Among the questions:  How do buildings affect happiness and productivity and, conversely, do they contribute to depression and isolation?  His studies were animating and after a part-time stint in the campus architect’s office, Fr. Sunghera knew he wanted to be an architect, specializing in the psychological implications of design.  After graduation, Fr. Sunghera headed to the University of Wisconsin for a three-year graduate program and a thesis project on homelessness and architecture.

Although Fr. Sunghera, the son of Indian immigrants, had been raised Catholic, he had never met a Jesuit before attending Milwaukee’s Gesu Parish, where he first came to know and love the Society of Jesus.  A vocation, however, was not immediately on his radar, and he moved back to California to work for several different architectural firms, where he discovered a love for working with nonprofit clients.

Despite the challenges of his work, Fr. Sunghera still felt something was missing.  As he began to consider a vocation to the priesthood, he started meeting with a spiritual director at Dolores Mission, the Jesuit parish in East Los Angeles.  Convinced that God had called him to the Society of Jesus, Fr. Sunghera entered the Jesuits in 1991.

After the novitiate, Fr. Sunghera’s Jesuit formation took him to St. Louis for philosophy studies, where he volunteered at a local housing project.  Project residents were about to take over management of a multi-million dollar renovation so he trained the future leadership team — some of whom didn’t have high school diplomas — to read blueprints.  Along with a fellow Jesuit scholastic, Fr. Sunghera aided the residents with a forensic review of the renovation budget. “It was wonderful as a Jesuit to go in there and train this group and empower them with knowledge,” he recalled.

The next several years included assignments in Los Angeles at Loyola High School, in Detroit with a nonprofit architectural firm and then in Berkeley, Calif., for theology studies.  Each step of the way, Fr. Sunghera never gave up his “day job”.  His architecture expertise proved invaluable when he was asked to consult with the California Province Jesuits to help convert a single-story infirmary into a gleaming new province office and, later, to spearhead the renovation of a historic parish in Oakland, Calif.

“I entered the Jesuits with the presumption that I would never go back to architecture,” Fr. Sunghera said.  “My feeling was, ‘I know architecture is my love and career, and it gave me the freedom to say, I’m open now to wherever God leads me, and I don’t know where I will be led.’ ”

Following ordination and an assignment as the liturgy director at Most Holy Trinity parish in San Jose, Calif., Fr. Sunghera completed a post-professional degree in sacred theology at Yale University and then returned to Detroit in 2005 as an assistant professor in architecture at the University of Detroit Mercy.  There, he started an architectural consulting practice focused on contemporary liturgical space, which now counts upward of 50 clients.

Fairfield Jesuit CommunityOne of his most noteworthy collaborations was the new Jesuit residence at Fairfield University in Connecticut, a project that received several professional awards including a 2012 American Institute of Architects’ National Housing Award.  Working with the Fairfield Jesuits, Fr. Sunghera helped define goals for the project, addressed questions regarding siting the home in a grove of 100-year-old beech trees and, ultimately, identified an architectural firm that could articulate a simple, spiritual and ecological vision.

As the University of Detroit Mercy’s Architecture School celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Fr. Sunghera is more committed than ever to helping his students become engaged with their adopted hometown “as Detroit reimagines itself and its iconic place in the American landscape.” In the course he teaches on Religion in the Public Square, Fr. Sunghera considers the shifting understanding of how religion is used to frame a changing urban experience, the perfect intersection of his dual passions for architecture and social justice.

“What drew me to the Jesuits is not necessarily what has kept me in the Jesuits,” said Fr. Sunghera.  “My interest was propelled by social justice issues, and the Jesuits were always on the forefront of that.  What kept me in the Jesuits was the ability to be flexible and not be afraid about how God works with people.  Whatever way you define yourself, you are always a work in progress with God.  When I work with my students, they are still trying to define who they are, and so am I, and God is in the midst of that.”

Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit www.jesuits.org/become for more information.

Week 4 of Prayer for International Day of Vocations Promotion for the Society of Jesus

November 5th marked the Feast of All Saints and Blessed of the Society of Jesus and doubly served as the International Day of Vocations Promotion for the Society of Jesus, dedicated originally by Fr. Kolvenbach (29th Superior General).

Throughout the month of November we ask Jesuits and their colleagues around the world to pray for those discerning a vocation. During this period of hope, we will be sharing weekly readings and prayers. We invite you to join us in praying for the future of the Society of Jesus.

To go over the first week of prayer click here.

To go over the second week of prayer click here.

To go over the third week of prayer click here.

Click here to learn more about vocation and formation.

Week Four: Formed Jesuits

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This week, please pray for formed Jesuits, those who have finished the various stages of formation and now find themselves entirely dedicated to the Society’s mission. The witness of a radical self-offering by the Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, SJ, will serve as a model of inspiration. Continue reading

“Even though we struggle, we still keep our heads up.”

“Even though we struggle, we still keep our heads up.”stignatius bronx

Those were the inspiring words Xavier Cruz, 14, told a New York Times reporter a few weeks ago, describing life in Hunts Point as an eighth-grade student at St. Ignatius School, the Jesuit-sponsored middle school in the Bronx.

During this time of Thanksgiving, students like Xavier – and the many others that attend Jesuit schools across the country – have lots to be grateful for.

Friends who make their schools not your ordinary place to attend class.

Teachers who inspire them.

Coaches who push them farther.

Donors who support the Jesuits, our schools, social ministries and apostolates and make all this possible.

This thanksgiving, Xavier, his mother and brother are also grateful for something very special – a new laptop computer that will help him with his studies, donated by Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York.

Read more about Xavier Cruz, as featured in the Times article, “Plans for College, Made More Likely with a Laptop,” here.

Inspired by the founding vision of Nativity Mission Center on the Lower East Side, St. Ignatius School serves low-income middle school students in the South Bronx and provides mentor experience for over 200 graduates now in high school, bound for college. For more information, click here.

A Vocations Reflection

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Fr. Charles A. Frederico, SJ, director of vocations for the Maryland, New England and New York provinces has written a reflection for Xavier High School’s website. “All of us have a responsibility to live, to celebrate, and to proclaim as the scriptures attest,” Fr. Frederico writes. “Whether we help at the local soup kitchen, tutor at an inner-city school, visit the elderly or hospitalized or enter into permanent commitment of religious life or marriage, whatever we can do to make the gospel come alive in our world, responds to God’s summons!  Because, God summoned our hearts before our birth!”

Click here to read the full reflection.