The Jesuit Post:
At the Frontier of Faith and Culture
By Paddy Gilger, SJ, and Eric Sundrup, SJ
Young Jesuits in formation and their more “seasoned” brothers have launched a popular new website/blog about “Jesus, politics, and pop culture.” Two of the founding editors (see photo below) explain what all the buzz is about.
Some of our greatest heroes are Jesuit missionaries such as Matteo Ricci and Francis Xavier. They ventured into new frontiers with a zeal born from the Spiritual Exercises and the desire to help souls. The Jesuit Post website is our own modest attempt to emulate our heroes in this digital age. We are diving into the mission territory of the web/social media to reach people, especially young adults in their 20s and 30s, where they are and to spark conversation and community. The Jesuit Post does not “baptize” the culture; rather, it mines, assesses, and reckons with it through an Ignatian lens that tries to see God in all things.
In developing our site, we’ve become increasingly aware of one thing: Jesuit formation works.
While we’ve had our doubts, we know it’s true. Jesuit formation emphasizes that God is active in the world—everywhere, all the time. It also trains us how to see God acting in our world and to talk about it.
Each generation speaks about God in a slightly different language, describes God’s action using slightly different words.
Having grown up on MTV, Google, Facebook, and meat-wearing pop icons, we speak some of today’s language. We’ve also experienced God in things as “secular” as Bob Dylan, the Superbowl, and iPads.
So, in dreaming up The Jesuit Post, we asked: What if we just come out and name it: God is among us, even in the messiness of the moment. Maybe then we can help our beloved Catholic Church—the same one that taught and healed and fed our hearts and those of our ancestors over millennia—connect and converse with our generation.
Forming Our Virtual Community
When we first began discussing the ideas that would eventually become The Jesuit Post, we were studying philosophy together in Chicago—paying our dues in the long course of Jesuit formation—and our conversations would happen more or less like this: one of us (okay, it was Eric) would make the long walk (okay, it was 3 rooms down the hall) to the other’s room (okay, sometimes it was the snack closet).
And, having possessed from childhood the particular talent of being able to avoid the drudgery of useless philosophical abstraction by proposing creative projects, Eric would often Gatling-gun Paddy with ideas. “What can we do to reach out to our peers?!” he would ask. “What about all those other 24-year-olds who, if you believe the hype, are walking away from the Church into the greedy arms of . . . well, what do they even do on Sunday mornings?”
Thank God we weren’t alone in asking these questions. Somewhere in the Bronx our third co-editor, Jim Keane, was already honing his skills as a writer/editor while earning his M.F.A. at Columbia. And, hidden away in a snowy Syracuse novitiate, was our fourth and final co-editor, Sam Sawyer. Despite our distance, we all felt like the Holy Spirit was nudging us along to turn our conversations into actions. Being restless young Jesuits, we didn’t just want to think about it—we wanted to do something. We just didn’t know what.
It took until 2011 for the Spirit’s idea to come to fruition. And, like most things, it came in the most unexpected ways. One of us (okay, Paddy) is a relentless follower of ESPN writer Bill Simmons. In March of last year, he launched an exciting new website called Grantland to take on sports and pop-culture from a fresh perspective. But what struck us most is that Simmons got his site off the ground simply by asking his talented friends to work with him. “This is it,” Paddy thought at the time, “this is what we ought to do as brothers in the Lord—band together and use the web to help the Church reach our peers in their own language.”
And so we got going. The four of us brainstormed and joked and laughed and prayed and planned. Then we called cool and creative people (and to our superiors) and pitched our ideas. And they said yes. A lot of good people said yes.
We are proud to say that The Jesuit Post is live and reaching more people every day. And we are even prouder to say that working with nearly 30 young Jesuits has been exhilarating, partly because none of us is doing this full time (which is half the fun). We’ve taken our interests, the needs of the Church today, a lot of the Holy Spirit’s prodding, added a dash of direction, and ended up with this website.
God willing, our outreach will grow and three years from now a whole new set of young Jesuits will be running The Jesuit Post. As Paddy has said: “This is about making sure that it’s relevant to what young people are going through, not what we imagine they’re going through.”