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Jake Martin, SJ :
27 article(s)

Jake Martin, SJ, is a comedian and writer. He is a regular contributor to America Magazine and is currently studying theology in Berkeley, California.
December 18th, 2014
Scripture needs to be meaningful for us, and your vision of the Nativity might just need a contemporary twist to bring the Christmas Story to life

Now, if there’s one story that every good Christian knows (and plenty of bad Christians, too), it’s the Christmas Story. (No, not the one with Ralphie and the BB gun. The other one with Jesus and the manger.) We all have pretty set ideas in our minds of what that story looks like, and it frequently involves images we’ve had stuck in there since childhood. You know the ones: the baby Jesus center stage, sleeping peacefully in the perfectly manicured manger, while Mary sits behind him, looking on dutifully with Joseph at her side. The wise men are kneeling in ladder sequence before the infant, while the shepherds are sitting docilely off to the side.
It’s a beautiful tableau, but it’s also pretty, well, dull.…

December 12th, 2014
Holidays with family can be stressful — Here's how to survive

The holidays are fast approaching; don’t wait until it’s too late. No, I’m not talking about shopping. I’m talking about dealing with family and friends (especially family) during what has often been dubbed “the most wonderful time of the year.”
How will you know it’s too late? You’ll know it’s too late when you’re beaned in the middle of the forehead by a brown-and-serve biscuit while guzzling down your third glass of Merlot during Christmas dinner. Believe me, I’ve been there.
The holidays change a lot when you become an adult. Gone are the days of childhood, when Christmas’ sole worth was based entirely on what was under the tree:…

May 28th, 2014

I don’t remember the first time I made someone laugh, but I must have liked it. As a boy growing up in suburban Chicago, I watched David Letterman nightly with a devotion bordering on obsession. Sleep, school and grades were all sacrificed at the altar of Stupid Pet Tricks and Top Ten lists. The world of late night television seemed to be so contrary to the grim, hyper-organized world of school, which dominated my life with its obligations, tasks and duties. Late night was a world of irreverent pranks, loud music and fun conversation. This was a world I wanted to be a part of. Little did I know.
Before becoming a Jesuit, I spent the better part of my 20s as a struggling comedian, and I can tell you right now that a life…

April 14th, 2014
A practical guide for the days between Palm Sunday and the Resurrection

When I returned to the Church in my late twenties, one of the things that became very important to me was fully investing in the liturgical year. As a child, any day at church was just the same as another, and though Christmas and Easter had extra trappings, my adolescent apathy didn’t allow for much conviction or interior renewal. So, when I came back I wanted to learn, appreciate and enjoy all the unique aspects of living life according to the liturgical calendar. And there was no time where that commitment to commitment became as significant as during Holy Week.
Holy Week is the apex of our liturgical year. The entire week is one of continued heightening, building and expanding of our faith in and love for Christ,…

February 25th, 2014

We look at screens. Eyes? Not so much. I’m hardly breaking new ground by critiquing our culture and its propensity for staring at screens, be it as minuscule as the face of the phone in our pockets or as large as the flat screen mounted on our living room wall. We look at screens.
Indeed, many studies have been done, articles written, and news programs aired focusing on the insidious effect technology has had on modern relationships. Technology has isolated us from one another, wrapping us up into cocoons of warm, fuzzy bandwidth, freeing us to present false representations of ourselves that provide barriers to any real connection or intimacy, all from the safety of our solitary rooms.
Spike Jonze’s Her takes…

January 13th, 2014

Then came The Fall, which is what I like to call what happened when I was 26 and my metabolism turned on me like Benedict Arnold — or Judas Iscariot if you prefer to keep things biblical. I didn’t realize it right away; I never weighed myself and I ignored the pleas of the waistlines of my jeans and khakis, while stuffing myself into them until the buttons inevitably popped off in exasperation; at which point I would just curse shoddy workmanship and dig through my closet for yet another pair of pants whose seams I could stretch to their farthest limits.
It was only after my doctor gingerly informed me that I was clinically overweight that I began to consider the idea that I was … well … clinically overweight.…

December 18th, 2013

“We might as well be moving to Russia!” I wailed at my mother as I threw my Han Solo action figure into the packing box with the rest of my toys. The reality was we were moving from the North Side of Chicago to the South Side, but to a 7-year-old whose entire existence had been made up of a few city blocks, there was nothing more terrifying than leaving the comforting northern den of my beloved Cubs, for the thorny lair of the hated White Sox.
My mother had just remarried after my father’s death the year before. Added on to the indignity of leaving the only neighborhood I had ever known — where all my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents resided as well — was the fact that I would be changing…

November 25th, 2013

There is really only one way to make stuffing. I don’t know the recipe. I know there’s a lot of sage in it, and definitely no sausage, and certainly no fruit or nuts. It is the definitive stuffing, because it is my mother’s recipe for stuffing, and I have eaten it every Thanksgiving of my life. So there.
I won’t be able to eat the Thanksgiving stuffing par excellence this year; I’ll have to settle for another, inferior stuffing. It might not have sage in it and, heaven forbid, might actually have sausage or fruit or nuts in it. Also, I won’t be playing bingo after dinner this year, or Scattergories or Balderdash, the way my family does. I thought everyone’s family played games after Thanksgiving dinner?…

August 5th, 2013

I’m sitting in the back seat… again. It’s been a while since I’ve sat back here, looking on over miles and hours at the moving portraits of pine trees, cherry orchards and clear water. I haven’t gone on a vacation with my parents since I was 17, which was a weeks-long trek to Disney World via minivan. I was on the brink of college then and, like any self-respecting adolescent, brimming with impatience and disdain.
Back then my parents seemed almost rooted to their positions in the front of our Dodge Caravan. My dad, firmly secured in the driver’s seat, my mom entrenched at his side, in command of the radio dial to say nothing of our lives. My two sisters losing the unwinnable battle of sitting next to their…

July 3rd, 2013
We celebrate independence with great fervor, but as Christians we’re called to a life of dependence on God

Last Fourth of July, after burning my 16th straight hot dog, I finally asked for help. This was not easy. I’m a thirtysomething male. I should know how to barbecue by now. But desperation — and my mother’s howls that “the potato salad is going to turn if you don’t hurry up with those hot dogs” — forced my plea. Ugh. I hate asking for help. I prefer to take care of things on my own. And after all, isn’t that what Independence Day is all about? Independence?
The thing is, grilling hot dogs isn’t the only thing I need help with. And if I think about it, there are a lot of ways in which I’m not independent. In fact, if I really, really think about it and am honest with myself, there are a lot of things…

November 21st, 2012

The following is an excerpt from What’s So Funny about Faith: A Memoir from the Intersection of Holy and Hilarious by Jake Martin, SJ (Loyola Press 2012).…
Since the age of four, when I would sneak downstairs, way past my bedtime, to the family den hoping to catch a glimpse of NBC’s cutting-edge sketch-comedy show “Saturday Night Live,” I had dreamed of going to New York and becoming a comedian. This was followed by years of classes, shows, and auditions; of waiting tables and answering phones to pay the rent; of going to sleep hungry and watching my friends pass me by while I bided my time in Chicago, hoping to catch that one break that would finally bring me to New York, with all its attached fame and glory.

July 24th, 2012

An old saying goes, in order to experience Easter you must go through Good Friday first. According to The Dark Knight Rises, the third installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman… trilogy, even superheroes aren’t immune to this tenet. The film provides a thorough examination of the themes of sacrifice and resurrection, two of the fundamental principles of the Christian life.
As followers of Jesus, we are continually invited to participate in his sacrifice on Golgotha in multiple ways, while regularly encountering the joy and glory of the resurrection in our daily lives. These two principles — irrevocably linked to one another through the events of those three days in Jerusalem long ago —

February 28th, 2012

“With Pleasure.”
These are the only words spoken by the hero of The Artist — this year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture — in approximately 100 minutes of screen time. These two little words reverberate far more than the wall of sound that fills our lives at any given moment.
What does it say that this year’s most honored film at the Academy Awards celebrates silence? The success of The Artist, Oscar’s other big winner, Hugo (which also picked up five awards), and fellow nominee The Help…, speaks to a need in our culture that goes beyond entertainment. Their public and critical popularity is due in large part to nostalgia. I’m not talking about the kind of cloying,

February 24th, 2012

When a film is nominated for an Oscar — let alone if it wins — it gets a big financial boost. Some movies are made on the premise that their success will come from being recognized at Oscar time. (They’re called “Oscar bait.”) Money aside, an Oscar nomination raises a film’s profile and brings it a new audience, as many people will see a movie simply because it has been nominated. This is certainly the case with The Artist… — it seems unlikely otherwise that millions of Americans would be running to see a silent, black-and-white film starring a francophone.
With this in mind, I present three films that didn’t receive the Oscar boost they richly deserved. These movies

February 23rd, 2012

“Mr. Martin, why would you wanna be a priest when you could be a comedian, and have all that money and be famous?” asks Ricky. (Ricky is one of the freshmen in my sixth period theology class. He likes to cause diversions. He also makes some strong assumptions about my talent.) In my first post I wrote about how the Oscars were my Super Bowl growing up. I was in awe of the movies and everything related to them and I couldn’t wait to grow up, go to Hollywood, and be a part of that glistening world.
Dolores Hart was a part of that world. In the late 50s and early 60s she was an up and coming starlet, sort of the Selena Gomez or Amanda Seyfried of the Eisenhower era. She co-starred alongside the Justin Bieber of her…

February 20th, 2012

My hands coated in synthetic butter, Diet Coke gurgling up through my straw, I thought, “Lord I believe that I am in your presence and you are loving me.” This is the standard opening of St. Ignatius’ prayer of examen and a line I say regularly, if not rotely. I didn’t expect it to pop into my head an hour into watching Hugo… at the local multiplex.
When I decided to enter the Society of Jesus and began to tell friends and family, once the usual pleasantries were exchanged, the interrogation began. Invariably the conversation would turn toward the Spiritual Exercises, that is, the 30 day silent retreat that every first year Jesuit novice is expected to do.
“You mean you can’t talk

February 9th, 2012

Who’s art is better, Gaga or Adele? In a competition of art vs. art, how can you compare such different work? Every year at the Oscars, handfuls of excellent but similarly disparate works are pitted against one another for the biggest prize in show business.
This year’s best actor category is a perfect example. Who gave the better performance, George Clooney or Jean Dujardin? Brad Pitt? Gary Oldman? Or Demian Bichir? When one of these men picks up the golden statuette on Feb 26th does that mean it’s irrefutable that he gave the year’s best performance?
No.
It’s highly likely that one of two men will take home the Oscar: George Clooney or Jean Dujardin. Each has given a remarkable performance…

February 3rd, 2012

Home for the holidays, I told my mother that my students couldn’t believe I was in my thirties. Her response without missing a beat was, “That’s probably because you act so juvenile.” I wish I could say it went uphill from there, but sadly as I was helping to clear the table of turkey, etc., my grandma lamented, “Oh Jake, and you were doing so good! You look like you’ve gained all the weight back.”
In the safe white light of New Years, a colleague’s response to my tales was: “Wow, your family is really harsh.” My family is harsh… sometimes; and sometimes they are ridiculously loving, tender, supportive, manipulative, cowardly and courageous.…

January 30th, 2012

It’s always about Meryl. Much like the painfully awkward song and dance numbers and the deadly dull banter between presenters, Streep has become a sort of informal Oscar tradition since her first nomination for The Deer Hunter in 1978. Streep is iconic, perhaps more so than the woman she portrayed to garner her 17th nomination: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. She is undoubtedly the actress of this or perhaps any generation; whether or not she is the best… actress, however, is another story.
Streep is a genius at mimicry, her ability to replicate the physical mannerisms, vocal tonality and inflections of a particular subject — in this case Thatcher — is extraordinary.

January 27th, 2012

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” is already playing in NYC; it opens today in LA, Chicago, Houston and Phoenix and is rolling out nationwide.

Sometimes Zuzu’s petals are all you have to hold onto. That’s the underlying message of We Need to Talk about Kevin, Lynne Ramsey’s remarkable allegory on the transcendent nature of relationships. At first glance, it would seem that Kevin is yet another installment in the pantheon of post-modern films intent upon assaulting the human desire to give meaning to the world. Indeed, Kevin is a relentless film that gives its audience few opportunities to come up for air from the depths of anguish to which it plummets.

Yet it is in those infrequent instances of relief, conversion and mercy that the film finds its identity and direction. Kevin is a story of hope for a new millennium, an It’s a Wonderful Life in the age of school shootings and planes crashing into buildings — a world-weary world that has been bombarded by nihilistic themes in their narratives for the better part of a century. It is a world where any attempts to offer a message of mercy, conversion and redemption must be done deftly and authentically, because at the end of the day, sometimes the community won’t rally around you and more often than not Mr. Potter carries the day.

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