St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, experienced God as teaching him as a unique individual. Therefore, in Jesuit education the teacher comes to know each individual student. She listens to each person and tries to tailor their education to their unique needs. Ultimately, she helps them to assume personal initiative and responsibility for their own education.
It also means that Jesuit universities educate not just the intellect, but the “whole person,” including the affective, the spiritual, and the physical as well. For this reason, Student Affairs, Campus Ministry, and the Recreational Life Center are integral parts of your education at Saint Peter’s University.
How, concretely, can the values expressed in cura personalis become values that you live each day? How can you be mindful and nurturing to the individual person who stands next to you as you read this?
Magis (Latin for “more” or “better”)
St. Ignatius was wildly in love with God and he understood that love is shown better in actions than just words. Out of his deep love, he was constantly asking himself what more he could do to show his love in service. How could he improve what he was doing to best return love to God? So, most fundamentally, magis, challenges us to consider how we ought best respond to God’s love in concrete action.
Magis is a call to excellence in all we do in every aspect of our lives, but it is not a goad to guilty compulsion. It IS a response to our experience of being loved into existence. Isn’t the giver of THAT gift worthy of the best in us?
Finding God in All Things
This phrase sums up Ignatian spirituality. God is present everywhere, and can be “found” in any and all of the creatures which God has made. For St. Ignatius, to know the world better, is to know God better.
This is why Jesuit education embraces all intellectual disciplines, and is humanistic. Truth is found not just in the sciences, but in literature, history, art, economics, dance, music, philosophy, and theology. Because these things deepen our humanity, we participate more fully in the divine who embraced our humanity to its fullest.
This is the challenge to your education: there is no contradiction between human knowledge and faith; if there seems to be from time to time, it’s a matter of your failure to understand and is a call to greater research and prayer.
Discernment is the process of making choices between competing alternatives that seem good, from within the context of faith. For St. Ignatius the process involves prayer, reflection, and openness to the advice of others. While the rational consideration of pros and cons is important, special attention is paid to the movements of one’s feeling, emotions, and fundamental desires; do they lead toward God or away from God? For Ignatius, a prerequisite for good discernment is freedom from attachment to all things, except, of course, God.
To what are you attached? Consider all the “things” that shape your current or desired lifestyle. But consider also how attached you are to the “real world” your imagination constructs, or to your imagined “self”—your ideas, your worldview, your ambitions and dreams for your future. How do these “attachments” cloud your judgment as you try to make the right choice in important issues of your life?
Men and Women for Others
For Jesuit education, the prime educational objective must be to form men-and women- for others… people who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors (whom God also created and loves); people convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for human beings is a farce…
|What is difficult is to be good in an evil world, where the egoism of others and the egoism built into the institutions of society attack us…. Evil is overcome only by good, egoism by generosity. It is thus that we must sow justice in our world, substituting love for self-interest as the driving force of society.
(Rev. Pedro Arrupe, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, in a 1973 speech to Jesuit Alumni in Europe)
Jesuit Education gives you the tools, and your faith challenges you to extend cura personalis (care of the individual) to the least of your neighbors and to see them as your brothers and sisters in need of the talents and skills your Saint Peter’s education has nurtured in you. In solidarity with them, your love of God is shown in your actions for justice.
Who are the least of your neighbors? How do the subjects you are studying equip you to act on their behalf for justice?
The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice
In 1975, Jesuits from around the world met in solemn assembly to assess their present state and to sketch plans for the future. Following the lead of a recent international assembly (“synod”) of Catholic bishops, they came to see that the hallmark of any ministry deserving of the name Jesuit would be its “service of faith” of which the “promotion of justice” is an absolute requirement.
In other words, Jesuit education should be noteworthy for the way it helps students-and for that matter, faculty, staff, and administrators–to move, in freedom, toward a mature and intellectually adult faith. This includes enabling them to develop a disciplined sensitivity toward the suffering of our world and a will to act for the transformation of unjust social structures which cause that suffering.
The enormous challenge, to which none of us are entirely equal, nevertheless falls on all of us, not just on members of theology and philosophy departments, campus ministry and spiritual development.