Jesuit retreat center high on the bluffs of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, MO.  Since 1922, thousands of people from around the world make annual three-day silent, guided retreats here to relax, reconnect with God and strengthen their spirituality.  A true gem in the Midwest!  Call 314-416-6400 or 1-800-643-1003.  Email reservations@whretreat.org  7400 Christopher Rd.  St. Louis, MO 63129

Both men's and women's retreats are offered as well as recovery retreats.

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Weekend Reflections for 10/19/18

Weekend Reflections from White House 
Servant Leadership: Jesus, paradoxical power and us.
1) In Sunday’s passage from the Gospel of Mark, we find Jesus, and his disciples, at a critical turning point dealing with power. The question is, is Jesus fully human, with all of our temptations, including those to power, temptations to oppressive domination over others? Jesus was tempted about the kind of leadership he was called to: Coercion? What am I going to get out of this? Calculation? (you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours!). Or does Jesus follow the way of Servant leadership that enters fully into the sufferings of our world and through this self emptying liberates it? 
2) The disciples in today’s gospel face the same challenge of servant leadership; perhaps they represent us. We, too, are tempted in the same way whenever we might be in a position of authority or power over others: relationships with teachers, children, employees, friends, spouses, elderly, the poor, "the least" in our world. 
3) Servant leadership challenges us individually, but also is a social challenge to our nation and church. How do we participate? How do we lead? Is service, especially service of the least, our goal? Or is it simply selfish calculation, or even worse, coercion and manipulation of others to get our way at any price?
4) The paradox is between power and weakness. How can Jesus lead, how can we be Christian leaders, if our primary strength is our self-emptying kenosis, our weakness? How? Only through Christian discipleship, following Jesus, our pioneer servant leader who climbs into our skins, emptying himself, and walks around in solidarity with us at our side in the journey of life.

-Fr. Ted Arroyo, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 10/5/18

Sunday’s bible readings are quite challenging. The Pharisees are challenging Jesus once again, this time about marriage and divorce. They probably aren’t really that interested in the specifics, but are trying once again to trap Jesus, which they eventually did in the sense that they were very much involved in what happened in the first holy week. 

So what about our own attitudes toward Jesus, marriage, and family life? Might there be something of the Pharisee in each one of us, when what God is calling us to is to be ministers of reconciliation in any way possible? Seeking reconciliation with God, with other human beings (maybe even Pharisees!) and with the beauty of God’s creation is celebrated in the first reading from Genesis.

Especially through the gift of the Spiritual Exercises we experience at White House, we can once again can ask “What about us? What about our relationships?” How are we called here and now to growth in relationships, and also to reject our temptations to be judgmental Pharisees?  Retreats such as those we offer at White House provide opportunities for growth in the kind of reconciliation only God can accomplish, through growth in quiet, non-reactive listening, faith-filled communication, and yes, the reconciling forgiveness essential for living out relationships through the grace of God. 

-Fr. Ted Arroyo, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 9/28/18


Are You Jealous for My Sake?


As I reflect on this Sunday’s readings, both the first one and the gospel, I recall a series of events from my past.

Over 50 years ago when the liturgical renewal initiated by Vatican II began, its effects were very much evidenced in a Sunday afternoon liturgy at St. Louis University.  This Eucharist was originally conducted in the community chapel of the Servite Fathers, who had a large number of their members studying at the university.  For their Sunday Masses anyone was welcomed to attend. This liturgy became increasingly more popular.  


At that time I was a young graduate student at the University and I recall hearing a few people complaining about the Mass. I was surprised to find out that their main complaint seemed to be that the liturgy was not under the auspices of the Jesuits but that of the Servites. In hindsight I believe that real reasons were a combination of jealousy and also of ignorance of what was taking place at this liturgy.

Nevertheless the Mass’s popularity continued to grow so much so that a larger location for the celebration had to be found.   Ironically the new location was a large chapel at the St. Louis University College Church, whose pastor had graciously acquiesced to its use by this group.  Within a short period the mass became well known as the 5:00 p.m. student liturgy at St. Louis University.

This reminds me how the spirit of evil in our world will always do whatever it can to obfuscate and hinder good works from taking hold or taking place, no matter what source from which they come or originate. I remember a wise theologian saying at this time that it was not important who conducts the work or under whose auspices it occurs, but rather that the good work take place, that it be accomplished.


Jim Blumeyer,S.J.

Weekend Reflections for 9/21/18

Serving with Christ

Imagine yourself being with Jesus’ disciples when he speaks of his death at the hands of his own religious leaders and then of his being raised from the dead. It would have been mind-boggling and confusing. Somewhat Like Peter you might be tempted to say “quit talking like that – – you’re scaring us, confusing us, change the topic, talk about something else.

How easy it was for them to switch the topic to themselves and to consider their own self-importance and their position or rank in Jesus’ kingdom.

So Jesus let them have their way and instead zeros in on their vain ambitions.  He dramatically demonstrates what is at the heart of being his disciple, of serving with him in building up the kingdom of God.

We know that he will bring up again the issue of his death and rising; in fact, I suspect he raised it many more times.

But it is at the Last Supper as he washes their feet that he gives his no holds barred explanation of what it means to serve and minister with him (John 13, 12 – 17) : “Do you understand what I’ve done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and rightly so for that is what I am. Now that I your Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” For I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

May we more and more strive to make that lesson the motif of our discipleship.

-Fr. Jim Blumeyer, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 9/14/18

Who do you say I am?

In our faith life I’m inclined to believe that each of us will be asked at one time or another the question that Jesus poses to his disciples in this Sunday’s Gospel : who do you say I am. In the second reading from St. James’ epistle there is a challenging second question presented: how do the actions of my life or my behavior conformed to my response to Jesus’ question. Another way of putting this, are my faith life and my actions consistent? If Christ is for me God’s anointed my Savior who spent his life so that I might be free from the sins and evil in it and around it, then how well does my behavior conformed to Jesus teachings, to his example?

Jesus does not make it any easier for Peter and the disciples, as well as for you and me in warnings us that his enemies, those who reject this teaching and manner of life will fully reject him by having him nailed to the cross. Moreover for all who endeavored to be faithful followers, they too will have their own cross (or crosses) to bear. The power of the forces of evil in our world will do everything they can to impede our stop our faithful following of Christ. Little wonder that Peter did not want the cross for Jesus.

In the mystery of our redemption Jesus stops the seemingly unstoppable flow and transmission of evil by having it nailed to the cross with his broken body and poured out blood. We are told that hate begets hate and that evil begets evil. Jesus does not let this happen. Instead he forgives those responsible for his death, he forgives those who deserted him and Peter who denied knowing him. Thus he nails evil and hatred to his cross.

His Father’s response is that Jesus Christ is now our risen Lord!

Jim Blumeyer, S.J.



Weekend Reflections for 9/7/18

Lord, I Believe in You, Help my Disbelief

Notice how Jesus responds to people who bring someone to him for healing. In this Sunday’s Gospel we see this with the cure of the death/mute man.  Some other examples are the four men who lower their crippled friend down through the roof of a house in order to get him in front of Jesus for his attention and care; there is the cure of the Roman centurion’s servant; there is Jesus’ somewhat reluctant cure of a non-Jew, the Syrophoenician girl.  In each instance Jesus is moved by the manifest and earnest faith of the afflicted person’s petitioners.

What does this say or teach to us? Jesus obviously wants us to show our love and concern for those who are need of healing and relief.  Moreover Jesus has told us to ask in order to receive, to seek in order to find, to knock so that the door will be open for us. But we also know that Jesus does not always respond as we would like or are asking. In these instances, as in so much of our faith life and in our understanding of God’s ways, we are asked to have faith and trust in God’s way and plan.

What often helps me in accepting and understanding God’s ways is a comment  made by a Jesuit brother in a Christmas homily. It was on Luke’s gospel describing the birth of Christ in the manger. My friend simply said that if you truly believe that this newborn babe is the son of God then everything else (regarding  the truths of our faith) is a piece of cake.

God calls us to be caring and concerned for one another, as God has been for us in Jesus. God wants us to rejoice that Christ is our Lord and our brother.   I do believe that Jesus began his human life as a baby wrapped in swaddling close and that manger.  Lord help me to make that leap of faith to be so trusting and believing in the other mysteries of my life with and in you.

Weekend Reflections for 8/24/18

The Gift of Faith

In Sunday’s first reading Joshua has taken Moses’ place as commander and led the Hebrews into the Promised Land. They are no longer wandering nomads; they will settle down and become farmers. Joshua asks them who their god will be, the gods of the land they have now occupied or the God of their fathers who led them out of slavery. In answer they cite their experience of God’s intervention in their lives, His mighty power and loving protection. They choose the God of their fathers whom they have experienced and with whom they have a loving relationship.

The Gospel from John concludes Jesus’ teaching on the Bread of Life. Many who heard him were shocked and disgusted at the thought of eating Jesus’ flesh and they make a decision to look elsewhere for the messiah. They go back to what they knew and were doing before they heard of Jesus. They choose to ignore how he fed so many of them and healed so many others. A saddened Jesus turns to his apostles and asks if they want to leave also. “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.’”

How has my experience confirmed my faith? Have I experienced God’s presence in my daily life, in my spouse, children and friends? In the poor, the sick and needy? How has God intervened in my life? Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Fr. Ralph Huse, S.J.





Sept. 17-20, Sept. 20-23, Sept. 24-27



November 12-15



August 31- Sept. 2

Weekend Reflections for 8/17/18

Our Ultimate Friend

One of the great fears most of us suffer from is the fear of loneliness, alienation and isolation from others, feeling that we are cut off and don’t belong, abandoned.  Maybe that’s why our cellphones have become so important to so many of us or why we spend so much time on facebook and other forms of social media. Maybe that’s why some of us remain in relationships that have become toxic, manipulative and destructive. We can’t bear to feel rejected and alone.

 In Sunday’s gospel from John we have the third section of Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist. His Jewish audience is shocked and scandalized at Jesus’ words; it sounds like cannibalism to them. They don’t yet understand the signs of bread and wine as flesh and blood. Then he concludes with the great promise, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” A Catholic who partakes of the Eucharist can never be alone, never be rejected or abandoned. The Lord is constantly living within us, loving us just as we are and supporting us in all we do. He Is our best and ultimate friend.

Fr. Ralph Huse, S.J.

Weekend Reflections for 8/10/18

Food for the Journey

In Sunday’s first reading from the first Book of Kings we hear about the prophet Elijah. He has been banned from the kingdom by Queen Jezebel and is running for his life to escape her power. He’s exhausted and starving and God provides food and drink to strengthen him to continue on. His goal is Mt. Horeb, the mountain of God, his protector.

Our lives, too, can be understood and experienced as a journey to meet our God. We move through time and space one day and one place at a time, each day one more stepping stone toward our goal to see God face-to-face. In the second reading St. Paul encourages us “to be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us.” It takes time, one lifetime, and trial and error to learn how to be loving women and men. In the Gospel Jesus states that he himself is our food and drink, our nourishment and strength to keep moving forward toward our goal.

When we receive the Lord in the Eucharistic food and drink, we pray to recognize

‘the living bread that comes down from heaven for the life of the world.”

Fr. Ralph Huse, S.J.

Weekend Reflections for 7/27/18

"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?" 

These words of the Gospel this Sunday reflect our own position within the world today. We are very much like the young person with so little to offer. How can one feed a multitude with five barley loaves, the size of pancakes, and two small pickled fish? Not going to happen. Unless you have God Almighty working with you. Which we do. 

The hostilities and untruths of our world, veering towards various forms of secular hedonism, can seem overwhelming. They are, without Christ. 

But Jesus reminds us that in him all things are possible. When we offer our little, he breaks it (which typically is not a pleasant experience for us) gives thanks, and asks us to distribute that little we have. And wonder of wonders, our divided culture begins to heal through that act of distribution. 

Healing indeed begins with each individual. Are you and I willing to be that person? If so, gather together your barley loaves (your talents) and turn them over to Jesus. Then be bold and prodigal in spreading them around. You and I are no doubt the keys to healing in this culture. Without us (while counting on Jesus for the multiplier effect) it will never happen.

Then stand back and be amazed, with the young lad in the Gospel, at how much God has drawn from so little.

-Fr. Anthony Wieck, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 7/20/18

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

These words of Jesus in the Gospel this Sunday could be a good motto for White House Retreat. We do need to get away and be by ourselves with Jesus every so often. In this particular case, the disciples are excitedly sharing with Jesus stories of their deliverance and healing experiences, which we reflected on last week. 

Indeed, it is good to go away and be with our Lord on occasion, just to share the many joys of our lives: being alive, seeing fruit grow in our loved ones, allowing ourselves to be a vehicle of grace for others, allowing others to be a vehicle of grace for us. There is much to share and celebrate. Jesus loves it when we do so! 

He invites us to get away occasionally and to savor those beautiful realities and share how grateful we are with him, and also with fellow disciples along the way. This can be not only an annual occurrence, as during our annual retreat, but a daily one, taking time out to praise the Lord. Let's find some time to do that today.

-Fr. Anthony Wieck, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 7/13/18

  It is common parlance today to speak of the 12 apostles as simple bumbling fools. They didn't seem to know which end was up.  And yet this Sunday's Gospel speaks of a deeper truth: "The Twelve drove out many demons,, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them."

That's a far cry from the work of 12 bumbling fools.  What gives?  

     The key is given in the rest of the Gospel. They are to have absolute reliance on Jesus. When they travel from town to town, preaching the word, they're not to have food with them, or even money. They are to depend upon the gracious designs of Divine Providence working through the people there who hopefully will accept him. They are totally dependent upon the Lord. That is where you and I are at our best. When we don't have a storehouse of goods or talents to rely on, even a sense of our own faith. All is received as daily gift, our daily bread. The Apostles were in fact gentle giants, able to use their simplicity to God's glory by depending upon the one and only.

-Fr. Anthony Wieck, SJ




Weekend Reflections for 7/7/18

"They took offense at him."  This reaction of the people of Nazareth upon Jesus's homecoming is somewhat shocking.  Perhaps there is in this Gospel scene a veiled warning against envy for you and me.  

The people just can't believe that the hometown boy has made good, to the point where he is even curing people of their illnesses. It is almost as if they don't want to see Jesus excel, but be kept in his place, perhaps behind all his elders.  I remember having this fear when I first returned to my hometown in Oregon after being ordained. Thankfully the people there were much more humble and appreciative.

Envy is the temptation whereby we don't recognize our own giftedness and instead get caught up in the gifts of another person, perhaps wishing we had those gifts ourselves, or perhaps denying that the person's gifts are real.  C.S. Lewis says we can get quite proficient at seeing ourselves above others because we are cutting them off at the legs all the time. 

May this Sunday's Gospel give us the courage to address any root of envy lying within us and instead replace it with the virtue of affirmation, affirming others' gifts.  Our security should always be found in God and his radical love of us, not in how we compare to one another. 


-Fr. Anthony Wieck, S.J.

Weekend Reflections for 6/29/18

The Gospel of this Sunday focuses on healing touch, as experienced by the hemorrhaging woman and a young girl who had died.  What are we to make of this?  We learn that there are two kinds of touch.  There is the touch of those who connect with Jesus simply by being in the Church, bumping up against holy objects and holy persons regularly.  These are those of the crowd bumping up against Jesus as he goes along his way.  It is good that they do so. 

But there is another kind of touch, one that reaches to the deepest recesses of Jesus, for it is the touch of desperation, of faith experienced on our knees, the touch of the hemorrhaging woman.  When Jesus is touched like this, he experiences the merciful graces flow immediately from his heart, and he loves that feeling!  It is an deeply inspired touch on our part, clearly motivated by the Holy Spirit and not by holy routine.

How, then, do you and I approach the sacraments?  Do we take them partly for granted as does the crowd, bumping up against them regularly but without profound effect in our lives because we are not plaintive enough in our need?  Or do we come to Confession and Eucharist with a deep desire in our soul, a holy longing for remedy?   The choice is ours.  The one most touched will be Jesus.

-Fr. Anthony Wieck, SJ

Weekend Reflections for 6/22/18

John the Baptist and His Role in the Ministry of Jesus

It is interesting to me how the life of John the Baptist prepares the way and groundwork for Jesus' ministry. In Luke's gospel even before the conception and birth of Jesus we hear first about the conception and birth of John. The Baptist's whole life is presented as a preparation for the beginning of Jesus' ministry.

When Jesus finally leaves Nazareth to begin his task for the kingdom of God, he first goes to John and there at the Jordan receives his baptism. Moreover scripture scholars now tell us that after the baptism it appears that Jesus initially joined with John's disciples in their work with and for John. So John was for Jesus not only a herald of his coming but for a period of time served as his mentor in proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom of God.

The Gospels (Matthew 11,3, Luke 7, 19) tell us that when Jesus finally began his public ministry on his own John had some doubts as to whether or not Jesus was the anointed one. So he sends two of his own disciples to ask about this. Jesus responds that his works of healing and his preaching provide the answer John is seeking. Then, after John's disciples leave to return to John, Jesus proclaims to his followers his profound estimation of John's accomplishments and his role as a prophet. And according to Mark's gospel (1, 12) it is only then after John's arrest that Jesus fully begins his public preaching and ministry.

I believe that each of us has had, are even still has, our mentors, our guides in the development and practice of our faith. You might say they are our visible Guardian Angels. We owe them a great debt of gratitude and we thank our Lord for bringing them into our lives.

-Jim Blumeyer, S.J.



Weekend Reflections for June 15, 2018

For to Me to Live Is Christ, and to Die Is Gain

St. Paul’s Perspective on Dying

Once while I was visiting a dying Jesuit colleague he somewhat hesitantly shared with me that he was in fact looking forward to his death, being with Christ. I say hesitantly because of his concern that I might be dismayed, perhaps even scandalize by such a statement.  I was his religious superior at that time and I knew him fairly well. I was aware that he was very unhappy with many things going on in our world and in the Church.   Being with the Lord would be for him a welcomed conclusion and ending for all of this.  I simply and gently let him know that I knew where he was coming from and that his desire was quite appropriate.

A similar conversation took place recently with a retreatant.  He asked whether or not it was all right to want and desire death. This person was quite ill and suffering considerably. His family was taking good care of him, and he believed that his death would be more of a relief for them than anything else.  I assured him that in my opinion his desire for death seemed quite appropriate.

St. Paul addresses this matter in the second reading for this Sunday (II Corinthians 5, 6-10)  He tells the Corinthians of his desire to  move  on to new life with Christ.   His preference is to be with the Lord, but if he can do more for the kingdom by continuing his present work, then so be it. We find a similar sentiment in some of his other letters. In his letter to the Philippians(1, 21-24) he says:   ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain….My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.’

Our faith in our risen Lord has (or can) freed us from terror of dying and opened for us the wonderful desire and hope to move on and be with him and with all our loved ones.

Weekend Reflections for June 8, 2018

Reflection For the Body of Christ

On June 3 we celebrated the feast of the Body of Christ (Corpus Christi). This is a delayed reflection on that feast day.

The Corpus Christi celebration grew out of the reaction of the people of God and the Church to an erroneous teaching that had its origins in the 13th century. This false teaching denied the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and instead said that the consecrated host was only a symbol of Jesus’ presence. This teaching was soon condemned by the church,  but reaction to it planted the seeds for the development over the centuries of many modern-day Eucharistic practices, such as processions of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, 40 hours devotion, perpetual adoration.

Absent these practices one might wonder how the Christians in the first 1200 years of Christianity perceived and incorporated the Eucharist into of their faith life.

There was little or no question in the minds of the early Christians concerning the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic.  But they also took very seriously how Christ was present to them. Through baptism they had become temples of the Holy Spirit.  So St. Paul (I Corinthians 12, 27) would not hesitate to refer to the Christian believers as the body of Christ.  The early Christians were also very conscious of Jesus desire to be the food and drink, that is, the nourishment for the believers’ (our) faith journey.

St. Augustine’s awareness of Christ presence to each Christian and they’re being the body of Christ led him to preach:

So if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the apostle telling the faithful, “You, though, are the body of Christ and its members” (1 Cor. 12:27). So if it is you that are the body of Christ and its members, it is the mystery meaning you that has been placed on the Lord’s table; what you receive is the mystery that means you. It is to what you are that you reply Amen, and by so replying you express your assent. What you hear, you see, is The body of Christ, and you answer, Amen. So be a member of the body of Christ, in order to make that Amen true.

Seeing themselves as the body of Christ, how did the early church understand the Eucharist. As the quote from Augustine above indicates the Eucharist was the sign signifying that they were in fact the body of Christ. It was for this reason that in the early church they  would sometimes refer to the sacramental Eucharist as the mystical body of Christ.

The feast of Corpus Christi celebrates the incredible gift of himself Christ has bestowed on us. In doing this he has enabled us to be his presence in our world today.   In the words of the Benediction hymn, Tantum Ergo, composed by St. Thomas, we sing and pray “Humbly let us voice our homage for so great a sacrament.” And may we ever more appreciate Christs great gift of himself to us.

Jim Blumeyer, S.J.

Weekend Reflections for 6/1/18

Reconciling with Creation

Ecology and White House’s Jesuit Mission

As Jesuits continue our ongoing mission planning, in the last 25 years three Jesuit General Congregations (34, 35 & 36) have stressed heightened concern about environmental issues and our mission. Citing Pope Francis, the most recent of these general congregations (GC36) calls us to integrate a mission of “reconciliation with creation” as “Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice” especially as ecological concerns impact the poor.

In this final reflection for May, we gather together here some Jesuit resources for moving along our reflection and integration of reconciliation with creation into our White House ministry of the Spiritual Exercises.

Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si follows Catholic Social Thought’s basic pattern of “See, Judge and Act” in treating environmental issues with a foundation in St. Francis of Assisi’s creation-centered spirituality.


The International Jesuit Ecology Project provides an innovative online textbook Healing Earth with chapters on Biodiversity, Natural Resources, Energy, Water, Food, and Global Climate Change by over 30 international scholars .

Loyola University Chicago’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability sponsors annual conferences whose papers and presentations are available on their website.

Georgetown University’s Climate Center seeks to advance effective climate and energy policies in the United States and serves as a resource to state and local communities that are working to cut carbon pollution and prepare for climate change. Their website provides a State Energy Analysis Tool : and an Adaptation Clearing House to help communities adapt to climate change. Their Environmental Law Policy Program provides expertise in fields of environmental, natural resources, land use, energy, and food law.

Saint Louis University’s 2018 Climate Summit gathers together expert presentations on climate change by experts in climate science, ecology, sustainable development, and related disciplines.

The Ignatian Solidarity Network provides multiple resources for prayer, analysis and action in response to Laudato Si .

As you know from your White House experiences, St. Ignatius concludes his Spiritual Exercises with a creation-centered contemplation on the love of God [230-237] providing a contemplative resource to help us grow in our “Reconciliation with Creation” and grow in the grace of finding God in all things.

Weekend Reflections for 5/25/18

Reconciliation through dialogue with our human neighbors in this world.

Continuing our theme of reconciliation as a priority in all Jesuit ministries, we consider a fundamental characteristic of the Ignatian ministry of reconciliation with other human beings: the priority of dialogue over debate. Recall Ignatius’ directions to the Jesuits summoned as theological consultors at the Council of Trent, that they engage in dialogue rather than debate, as well as Ignatius’ “Presupposition” to the Spiritual Exercises [22] “…Every good Christian adopts a more positive acceptance of someone’s statement rather than a rejection of it out of hand. And so a favorable interpretation…should always be given to the other’s statement, and confusions should be cleared up with Christian understanding.”[i]

We might examine ourselves this week on how we are called to the ministry of dialogue rather than debate at home, at work, in community, in society at large[ii] as part of the fruits of our ongoing involvement in Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises at White House Jesuit Retreat.

Dialogue vs. Debate

  • Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together toward common understanding.
    • Debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong.
  • In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal.
    • In debate, winning is the goal.
  • In dialogue, one listens to the other side(s) in order to understand, find meaning and find agreement.
    • In debate, one listens to the other side in order to find flaws and to counter its arguments.
  • Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participants point of view.
    • Debate affirms a participant's own point of view.
  • Dialogue reveals assumptions for re-evaluation.
    • Debate defends assumptions as truth.
  • Dialogue causes introspection on ones own position.
    • Debate causes critique of the other position.
  • Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions.
    • Debate defends one's own positions as the best solution and excludes other solutions.
  • Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.
    • Debate creates a close-minded attitude, a determination to be right.
  • In dialogue, one submits ones best thinking, knowing that other people's reflections will help improve it rather than destroy it.
    • In debate, one submits one's best thinking and defends it against challenge to show that it is right.
  • Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one's beliefs.
    • Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one's beliefs.
  • In dialogue, one searches for basic agreements.
    • In debate, one searches for glaring differences.
  • In dialogue one searches for strengths in the other positions.
    • In debate one searches for flaws and weaknesses in the other position.
  • Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seeks to not alienate or offend.
    • Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing on feelings or relationship and often belittles or deprecates the other person.
  • Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and that together they can put them into a workable solution.
    • Debate assumes that there is a right answer and that someone has it.
  • Dialogue remains open-ended.
    • Debate implies a conclusion.[iii]

-Fr. Ted Arroyo, S.J.

[i] David L. Fleming, S. J., “Draw Me Into Your Friendship: The Spiritual Exercises: a Literal Translation & a Contemporary Reading” p. 23

[ii] The Jesuits’ GC36 settled on these 3 priorities for Reconciliation within Humanity:

People on the move


Fundamentalism that leads to violence

[iii] Adapted from a paper prepared by Shelley Berman, which was based on discussions of the Dialogue Group of the Boston Chapter of Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR).