Editor’s note: Brian Spadora lives and writes in New Jersey, where he attends Seton Hall University School of Law. Follow him on Twitter at @brianspadora.
By Brian Spadora, Special to CNN
(CNN) – Like many Catholics my age, I am Catholic in name only. I went to Mass every week as a kid and attended a Jesuit high school and college. My wife and I married in a Catholic church, and both of our children were baptized. But I haven’t been a churchgoer since I became too old for my mother to coerce me into a pew.
I haven’t even made the effort to attend Mass twice a year like “Christmas and Easter Catholics.” For my entire adult life, my Catholic faith has been a sort of cultural vestige, like the Italian, Irish and Slovak ethnic heritage from which I’m generations removed.
Despite this, this month I decided I am returning to the church. This turn of events is not quite as miraculous as the multiplication of loaves and fishes, but it’s pretty surprising. It began, innocently enough, with a half-serious promise to my devout Catholic mother.
When Pope Benedict XVI announced last month that he would step down from the papacy on February 28, I emailed my mother, “If they choose a Jesuit pope, I promise to go to Mass at least once every month.”
My irreligious lifestyle felt safe. There had never been a Jesuit pope, and the oddsmakers didn’t include any Jesuits among their favorites to succeed Pope Benedict. I didn’t give the promise too much thought; it was somewhere between wishful thinking and “when pigs fly.”
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Then, along with the rest of the world, I heard the announcement that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina became Pope Francis, the 266th pope – and the first Jesuit.
I was in the car when I heard the news, and I literally cheered aloud. While I had long ago left the church behind, my regard for the Jesuit order never wavered.
The elevation of a Jesuit to the papacy is enough to do what years of prodding by my own mother couldn’t.
I owe nearly everything I value in my life to Jesuit education. I entered St. Peter’s Preparatory School in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1990 as a rambunctious 14-year-old with authority issues. My four years there upended all my conceptions of religion. St. Peter’s, or “the Prep” as we alums call it, taught me how to be an adult, a friend and a Christian. The Jesuits taught me how to love.
During my junior year, a group of friends and I participated in the school’s retreat program. We spent a weekend with faculty retreat leaders in an old house on the Jersey shore, cooking meals together, laughing and praying. We spoke openly about our joys and our pain, as well. We learned that each of us carried within him a burden that could be lightened only by friendship. Our retreat leaders didn’t need to tell us that relieving the burdens of others was the purpose of Christianity. Instead, they lived that example.
Where my previous religious education had prescribed belief, my Jesuit education encouraged thought. Religion was no longer something that stipulated obedience but a practice that demanded action. The Jesuit leadership of the Prep encouraged us students to be, in the words of former Jesuit Superior General Father Pedro Arrupe, “men for others.”
We were fortunate to attend a school like the Prep, and it wasn’t enough to study hard and get good grades. We had an obligation – to ourselves and to God – to serve one another and our communities. The relationships I made during those years remain the strongest in my life, including with my wife, whom I met when we were 17, while she attended the Prep’s sister school.
This teaching was firmly in line with the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus, as the Jesuits are formally known, in 1540. St. Ignatius had been a Basque soldier, as well as something of a ladies’ man, until his conversion while convalescing after a cannonball shattered his leg. In his writings, most notably in his “Spiritual Exercises,” St. Ignatius espoused a theology based on loving deeds rather than loving thoughts or words. St. Ignatius calls us not merely to worship Christ but to imitate him.
As a teenager, I naturally fell far short of the standard my Jesuit teachers had called me to, and I continue to fall short as an adult.
I grew alienated from the church due to what I perceive to be inflexibility on issues like contraception, homosexuality and the role of women in the church, but I continued to look to the example of service the Jesuits set through institutions like the Jesuit Refugee Service.
In times of crisis, I’ve turned to contemporary Jesuit writers, particularly Father James Martin. Although I left the church, the Jesuits never left me.
I’ve remained close to the Prep and the Jesuits whose instruction was so valuable to me. When my son, William, was baptized in 2008, the ceremony was held in the Prep’s chapel. The school’s president, Father Robert Reiser, once my teacher and now a treasured friend, was the priest. My closest high school friend, Michael Zakhar, was the godfather. My wife, Tara, and I chose William’s first name together, but she allowed me to choose his middle name: Ignatius.
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Now there is no longer the church I left and the Jesuits I embrace but a church led by a Jesuit.
I know the church won’t transform immediately into the type of institution I’d like it to me. It would be unreasonable and selfish for me to expect otherwise.
As a cardinal, Francis expressed conservative views like his opposition to adoptions by homosexuals, a view with which I disagree assiduously. On the other hand, he admonished an audience of Argentinian priests for forgetting the church’s obligations to society’s most vulnerable.
“Jesus teaches us another way,” he said. “Go out. Go out and share your testimony; go out and interact with your brothers; go out and share; go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit.”
Francis seems intent on refocusing the church toward its duties to serve those in need.
So on Good Friday, I’ll be returning to the church with hope that Francis’ example will inspire me - and Catholics in general - as his fellow Jesuits have always inspired me.
I’m keeping my word to my mother and returning to Mass, where I will pray for the strength to follow the example of St. Ignatius, loving others not in word only but in deed.
The opinions expressed are solely those of Brian Spadora.
Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !
Where do morals come from?
By Kelly Murray, CNN
Gravity is not up for debate ! ............E = mc2..........(U–Pb).................two math formulas..........that do not lie or sin !!!..........
BY the way ...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !...............bye bye tinker bell !
Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet
Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before
Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.
The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?
The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species
Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.
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Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young
And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !
From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life
the wrong path is Adam and Eve !
Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought
Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.
No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US
Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.
No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !
Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History
Apr. 23, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7,500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.
Ca-nabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – National Cancer Insti-tute
Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...
Good stuff !
The fact...............the earth is to old for this nonsemse ! Time to EVOLVE !
Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle
Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.
For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !
Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.
Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’
Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
bears his name as the “God particle.”
Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \
Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...
April 7th, 2012
08:32 PM ET
The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth
Make sure to read comments
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NASA: Three planets found are some of best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our solar system.
NASA: Mars could have supported life
Star Dust we are
Holy Hallucinations 35
The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !
Scientists have unearthed the first direct signs of cheesemaking, at a site in Poland that dates back 7,500 years.
BBC. Planet of the Apemen. Battle for Earth 1. Ho-mo Erectus
BACKFILL on E =mc2.....
Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist – Albert Einstein – was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.
“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”
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Cheech & Chong's History of 420
Cheech & Chong's History of 420 from CheechAndChong
All cults...........creationists, ID believers and devil cults.................
The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !.
Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.
Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.
Education works for children
Earth From Space
Detailed satellite images reveal the web of connections that sustain life on Earth. Aired February 13, 2013 on PBS
"Earth From Space" is a groundbreaking two-hour special that reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet. Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth. Viewers witness how dust blown from the Sahara fertilizes the Amazon; how a vast submarine "waterfall" off Antarctica helps drive ocean currents around the world; and how the sun's heating up of the southern Atlantic gives birth to a colossally powerful hurricane. From the microscopic world of water molecules vaporizing over the ocean to the magnetic field that is bigger than Earth itself, the show reveals the astonishing beauty and complexity of our dynamic planet.
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Since the beginning of man's mental development, there has been an insatiable need to know why we are here. Living a good life, giving hope and confidence to the downtrodden, and believing in more than man can comprehend certainly helps to provide hope in each of our lives.
Very well said.
Thanks for your story Brian. May God's will and Christ's teachings be shown through and by each of us everyday. May Pope Francis serve as a contemporary and accessible example of same. Blessings too on William Ignatius!
I enjoyed the article too Brian.
I also enjoyed this:
Thank you for sharing; beautifully written (educational, informative, personal, inspiring and nonjudgmental.
I am still a practicing Catholic, I went through the "I'm out" phase but came back. I loved you article, Pope Francis seems to be a very kind man and maybe things can turn around for our church.
For all of you non-believers posting on this: At no point in his blog did he say that his opinions were right and that yours were wrong. If you don't like articles about religion/God...DON'T READ THEM. I don't post comment about religion on athiest/agnostic blogs. The gist of the story was "be kind to others", i'm pretty sure making fun of someone for what they believe doesn't fall in line with that!.
As a devout Catholic mother with sons, I was drawn to your article. I am sure your promise has brought immense joy to your mother. Kudos for following through! It's a shame some people feel the need to come on here and infect everyone with their negativity. Thank you for sharing your story. And thank God for a Jesuit Pope! :)
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.