Nikolaas Sintobin, SJ - European Low
[From “Jesuits 2022 - The Society of Jesus in the world”]
The spiritual reality television show that
has proved a hit in a secular context.
covered head to foot in tattoos: not the usual look for an R.E. teacher. And at
a very young age, he had ended up in a gang. Then, several years ago, he had
watched a Dutch television reality show I had been part of. That series turned
Peter’s life round. Although then well into his 30’s, he resumed his secondary
school studies, since completing them was a requirement for studying...
There was nothing normal about the series. It
was a religious or, to be more accurate, an Ignatian reality television show.
In 2013, after some soul searching, I and two other Jesuits and two women who
are experienced spiritual directors had taken up the challenge of giving the
Spiritual Exercises in an abbey to celebrities from the Low Countries.
Everything proceeded as normal: the retreatants being in silence and isolation
and receiving individual accompaniment. But 30 television professionals were
also present, discreetly filming everything, including the spiritual
accompaniment sessions. The upshot was a fascinating, five-programme series: it
was funny, rather lovely, but, above all, had striking spiritual depth. The
series was broadcast at peak viewing hours on Dutch state television. A second
series followed a year later. Each time, during the weeks of broadcast,
thousands of people took part in an Ignatian retreat offered simultaneously on
the channel’s digital platform.