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Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Spiritual Exercises and the virtual world

- virtual Mont St.Michael

At NCR: Pope's interviewer tells Vatican congress to reevaluate spiritual quest ...

Changes in technology have fundamentally altered the human quest for spirituality and require Catholics to reevaluate how they approach society, a Jesuit known for interviewing Pope Francis told an international communications conference Tuesday ....

Spadaro ended his talk by comparing the Internet to the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, one of the founders of the Jesuit order. Traditionally given as a 30-day spiritual retreat, the exercises focus on having the retreat maker imagine themselves inside a Gospel story — hearing, feeling, and touching all that is present in the story.

The exercises, Spadaro said, have a "sense of virtual reality." "It is the same dynamic of a video game," he said. "See yourself inside the scene contemplating Jesus, Mary, Joseph and yourself acting. This is very interesting.” ...

Speaking of my freakishly good memory for strange things, this article reminded me of my 2007 post about Fr. Spadaro and the virtual realm of Second Life, as well as a Tablet article by John McDade SJ on the effect virtual experiences can have on us. Here's what I wrote then ....

For those familiar with the missionary history of the Society of Jesus ... from Francis Xavier's mission to the Far East, to Emilio Sandoz's mission to the alien planet of Rakhat (The Sparrow) ... it will come as no great surprise that the Jesuits are thinking of missioning to the virtual world of Second Life..

The Jesuits, for 500 years in the front line of Catholic evangelisation, have decided that Second Life, the online virtual world, can be fertile territory for spreading the Gospel. In an article in their official organ, "Civilita’ Cattolica," they suggest that just as they once penetrated the jungles of Africa or distant China, today they should be present in Second Life.

Father Antonio Spadaro, the literary critic of "Civilta’ Cattolica" and an expert on new technologies, writes: "This virtual Second Life is becoming populated with churches, mosques, temples, cathedrals. synagogues, places of prayer of all kinds. And behind an avatar there is a man or a woman, perhaps searching for God and faith, perhaps with very strong spiritual needs." .....

The magazine’s deputy-editor, Father Michele Simone, confirmed that the article reflects current thinking among the Society of Jesus. "Today we have more than 200 missionaries in China," said Father Simone. "I don’t see there is anything so astounding if we have a few avatars in Second Life. The article presents Second Life to our readers, then points out its positive and negative aspects, the potential dangers. We therefore came to the conclusion that it would not be a mistake for Jesuits to be present as well, to help people not to fall into pseudo-religious traps," he said .....
- Gospel 2.0: Jesuits move into Second Life, Financial Times

The 13 page article in Civilta’ Cattolica is mostly devoted to a description of how Second Life works and the implications of living in a virtual world .....

"The best way to understand (the Second Life phenomenon) is to enter into it, (and) live inside it to recognize its potential and dangers," ..... Because one's real identity is confidential, one's virtual appearance can be completely open and honest, "but on the other hand one can also get caught up in a spontaneity that knows no limits or discretion," ..... in creating or being part of such a lifelike, imaginary world, one might become alienated from the real world and begin to identify oneself according to one's self-created myth ..... - CNS

I wrote something about Second life back in January - Second Life and St. Ignatius - quoting a Tablet article by John McDade SJ, Mine is the Kingdom, on Second Life and its possible dangers. I thought then, and still do, that Ignatian spirituality and a virtual environment can be a good fit. The Jesuits are always on the cutting edge technologically, but even more, the Spiritual Exercises make serious use of a virtual world ... that of the imagination.


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