Dear Friends,

We are happy to bring you this new issue of INI, dated January – March 2022. Being the first issue in the new year, this makes us think of the just-born 2022.

The entire world had a single prayer for 2022. After two extremely painful years of unprecedented hardships brought by the pandemic, many had looked forward to to a Covid-free year. But the new variant, the highly contagious Omicron, is forcing many governments to bring back the old restrictions and rules. In the U.S. and several European countries people have had to cancel their travel-plans and stay home.

The ray of hope in this gloomy scenario is the assertion of some scientists and doctors that the new variant of Omicron is highly contagious but a milder version of the deadly virus. That means it will infect many more people, but will not cause much damage or deaths as earlier variants like the Delta did. This will lead to herd immunity and make the pandemic endemic. This means that the virus is here to stay, but it will lie low most of the time and resurface periodically.

May this prediction come true very soon this year!

This issue of INI brings you articles that will bring you hope and joy, clarity and focus, enlightenment and encouragement.

The first feature is a heartwarming interview with one of the best astronomers in the world today – Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, Director, Vatican Observatory. I felt deeply moved when I read some of his responses. Read carefully what he has to say on how he became interested in astronomy, what took him to Kenya, why he became a Jesuit, what made him choose to be a Jesuit brother and not a Jesuit priest, how his knowledge of the heavens affects his faith, what he does as the Director of the Vatican Observatory etc. Once you get to know his views you are sure to gaze at the stars with more awe and delight than ever before.

The second in our menu this time is an article by the well-known Indian Zen Master, Fr Ama Samy, SJ. In fact, he is the only Indian officially approved as a Zen master, who is authorized to teach zen. A voracious reader and an excellent writer, he keeps writing and teaching. When the lockdown forced him to cancel his annual zen programmes in Europe, he sat down and wrote six books in these two years! The article here is excerpted from one of these books, titled, Zen – One Way to Nirvana. The article explains what we need to do to know the truth and reality.

The third article, by Fr. Konrad Noronha, SJ, Professor, De Nobili College, Pune, is on another virus that is making an increasing number of young priests and seminarians sick – addiction to pornography. A young, perceptive friend in Australia, shocked by what she learnt while trying to help married couples, asked if INI could come up with an article on this highly addictive and extremely dangerous problem. The retreats I have guided for priests recently reveal that this menace is a serious problem for our young priests and seminarians.  Let us hope that this article would help our youth and those who deal with them.

Contributing to our regular ‘Experience’ column this time is a veteran, tireless Jesuit missionary, Amalraj Chinnapan, SJ, who now works in Myanmar. Two years ago, quite unexpectedly he fell seriously ill. Most doctors gave up hope and he was anointed twice. But the four women who cared for him, one of whom was a Buddhist nun, fellow Jesuits who did whatever they could, hundreds of Myanmar Catholics, starting from his friend, Cardinal Charles Bo, who stormed the heavens with their tearful prayers and the doctors who refused to give up managed to work a miracle that finally saved him. Read his moving, poignant article to learn about an intriguing vision he had repeatedly during those days when he was in a coma and how he has come to understand it.

All those who want to know the ONE thing we need in order to find a happy, successful life should read Fr. Francis P. Xavier’s ‘Book’ column. A scientist, an educationist and an avid reader, Fr. Francis this time skillfully summarizes the main points offered by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan in their book, The ONE Thing.

In my ‘Film’ column this time I have shared the screen version of the real life disaster that happened in Aberfan, Wales, as shown in Episode 3 of the third season of the much-acclaimed Netflix drama series, The Crown. Last year Netflix won seven Emmy awards for this brilliantly written series on the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Read my column to find out how the very last scene of the film reveals what exactly moves the stoic Queen to tears.           

We start a new column, called ‘Youth Junction’ in this issue – meant for young Jesuits and Jesuit associates all over the world. Those who write for this column could be also Jesuit volunteers, young professors or teachers in our institutions and surely our students. The opening batsman is Fr. Emmanuel Akilan, SJ and he writes about the challenges the Church faces to becoming a synodal Church.

So have a great time. Please be sure your feedback and suggestions are always welcome.

– M.A. Joe Antony, SJ