Christian Sexual Ethics (THEO 313)

Jennifer Beste, Ph.D.
Mentor: Lisa Close-Jacob, Ph.D. (Biology)

Jennifer Beste, Ph.D.Course Description

This course introduces students to the method and fundamentals of Christian ethics and explores the moral visions, principles and teachings of the Christian tradition as they relate to sexuality. By the end of the course, students are expected to discern and articulate their own Christian sexual ethic.

Mission-Driven Component:

Since I teach theological ethics courses, my objective is to incorporate Jesuit values into my teaching. I seek to develop further their abilities to:

1. reason critically and think creatively
2. communicate effectively
3. integrate knowledge with experience toward wisdom, insight, and understanding
4. promote justice and be morally sensitive to the needs of the most marginalized and poor in society
5. appreciate human diversity and inclusiveness
6. seek to find the presence of God in all things.

After reading and reflection about the Ignatian vision and values, I integrated two new components to my sexual ethics course this spring.

First, I emphasized the relationship between the Jesuit value of social justice and specific sexual ethics issues. We began the course by analyzing the concept of justice and how it relates to sexual ethics. Students read about Foucault and how his insights help us analyze issues of justice involved in sexual ethics, such as the historical construction of black sexuality by dominant whites from slavery to the present, the portrayal and treatment of women and children in society, and Christian church's stance towards gay and lesbian persons.

Second, I am challenging students to reflect more explicitly and deeply on their moral character and become more critical of their individual gendered and sexual identity. A new assignment I have designed challenges them to analyze how their gendered identity has been constructed by religious and cultural gender norms. Students will write about how they conform to gender characteristics of masculinity or femininity. They will address the following questions: Are there any gender characteristics that they have internalized that 1) may actually be harmful to themselves and their ability to be a whole person, 2) may hinder their capacity to sustain intimate, healthy relationships, and 3) may cause them to treat others unjustly? Students who identify and struggle with harmful gender characteristics will discern ways to change and resist gender norms. Such analysis of gender will be crucial when addressing issues of justice between men and women addressed later in the course.

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The Four Weeks of the Spiritual Exercises in THEO 111


Karen B. Enriquez, Ph.D.
Mentor: Chris Anderson, Ph.D. (History)

Course Description  Karen B. Enriquez, Ph.D.

Theo 111 is the introductory course in theology that all students are required to take. In this course, students are introduced to theology as a mutually critical dialogue between human experience and religions. Moreover, as part of the Ethics/Religion and Society (E/RS) focus of Xavier's core curriculum, this course asks students to engage in critical, theological reflection on ethical and/or religious questions of social significance, using human experience and religious traditions as resources to address these issues.

Mission-Driven Components

As I started reading the materials on key principles in Ignatian Spirituality, I was especially inspired by the readings from Pedro Arrupe, S.J. on a "faith that does justice" and Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. on the challenge of interreligious dialogue and the importance of diversity. 1 I realized that many of the themes that I had been teaching could easily be understood within the framework of these key issues identified by the past Superior-Generals of the Jesuits grounded in Ignatian principles. For this reason, I started to re-structure my syllabus around the Four Weeks of the Spiritual Exercises, focusing on some key principle for each of the weeks and reflecting more specifically about how those principles could be applied today in terms of contemporary issues relevant to our students and to the world.

For Week 1: Exploration of what it means to be human and to be a "loved sinner."
For this section, the focus was to understand:
1. The unconditional love of God and the goodness of being human: We explored aspects of being human including our sexuality and intimate relationships and how all these are good, and are all ways by which we are able to "find God in all things"
2. In light of (1), we questioned those who are considered "sinners" and outside the love of God due to their gender or sexuality, and explored new responses that more closely remind us of the love of God and the goodness of all.

For Week 2: The Contemplation of Christ and the Call to Discipleship
For this section, I tried to introduce Ignatian contemplation, by looking more deeply into image of Jesus encountered through the Gospel of Mark. I asked the students to pay attention to Jesus' emotions, his words and how these reflect his self-understanding and his understanding of his mission. We also tried to compose the scenes by looking at the various characters (crowds, disciples, authorities) to see how they reacted to Jesus and what titles they used to try and understand him. Moreover, I tried to emphasis the "Call" and "the double invitation to be with Christ and to work for a world of justice, love, and peace." 2

For Week 3: The Contemplation on Jesus' Death and Innocent Suffering Today
For this section, inspired by Jesuits such as Roger Haight and Jon Sobrino, we looked at the dynamics of the death of Christ, and used it to contemplate the continued innocent suffering and death of people today, allowing ourselves to feel sorrow and begin to develop compassion and solidarity for them, even as we contemplate and feel sorrow for the suffering and death of Christ.
One student made this important link when, having researched the topic of sex trafficking, he wrote the following reflection:

Sex trafficking is a prime example of innocent suffering caused by others that we talked about in class in relation to the death of Jesus. It points clearly to the great evil in existence in the world today and the evil tendencies of the human heart. I feel like many victims of sex trafficking can relate to the suffering of Christ. The feeling of abandonment, rejection, and pain that they experience are all things that we see Jesus experience on the cross.

For Week 4: Exploration of Solidarity and a Faith that Does Justice
In this second half of the course, I focused on the understanding of the contemplation to attain love as the unity of love of God and the love of neighbor. In light of this, we explored the various ways of understanding the concepts of justice and solidarity today by looking at:
1. The complexity of the multiple forms of injustice or oppression, both local and global. In this way, we deepened our understanding of what makes us human including our social/economic status, gender, race, religion, etc.
2. In light of (1), we broadened our understanding of solidarity to include these various forms of oppression and the realization that as Arrupe argued, "to be just, it is not enough to refrain from injustice," and that we need to be "agents of change in society; not merely resisting but actively undertaking to reform unjust structures and arrangements" (Men and Women for Others). This is the kind of work that humanizes us in a world that has dehumanized many.
3. They also read on the examples of others who have led this life of solidarity and justice such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa and Jon Sobrino.
4. They were asked to reflect upon the world today by writing their own "composition" of our time and place. The instructions were as follows:

The "Composition" is an important tool within the Spiritual Exercises. It is used to prepare the retreatant to enter more deeply into the meditation by using the imagination to "compose" the physical place where that which one wants to contemplate on is taking place. The reading from Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. is an example of this "Composition" by trying to describe the complexity of the world we live in today with very specific details and events. Similar to the "Composition" by Fr. Kolvenbach, reflect upon your time and place. What are the issues today? What are the pressures and values in today's world? Where are the conflicts and difficulties? Where can progress or hope be found? You may use your visit to the Freedom Center and the research on slavery and discussions on poverty to help inform your "composition" and/or you may also use your own experiences, information learned from other classes, conversations with friends, family, etc. in order to help you imagine and describe and "compose" the world you live in today.

5. Following on the call of General Congregation #34, the last section of the course, focused on the importance of dialogue and solidarity with other religious traditions. In this last section, we explore the similarities and differences of Buddhism and Christianity and how dialogue can lead not just to a deeper understanding of each other and one's own faith, but also to collaboration in working toward ending suffering in our world today.

Impact on Future Classes and Research

Inspired by Fr. Kolvenbach who wrote that "solidarity is learned through "contact" rather than through "concepts," 3 I am planning to include a service-learning component to my Theo 111 class next Fall. For this reason, I applied to be part of the Eigel Center's Community Engaged Faculty Curricular Development Program, which for next year focuses on addressing poverty in Cincinnati. I've also decided to strengthen the spirituality component of my Theo 111 to demonstrate the ways that spiritual practices can lead one to become more aware of oneself and the realities of the world, and as resources in one's fight for justice. I h have received a Wheeler Grant that will enable me to work on incorporating spiritual practices in my course this coming summer and Fall.

In terms of my research focused on Buddhist-Christian dialogue, the immersion into Ignatian Spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises has made me more aware of the dynamic of conversion and the importance of spiritual texts and practices that make such conversion possible. In light of this, I have started exploring comparative texts of conversion in the Buddhist and Christian traditions in order to trace these resonances. One particular comparison will be on the Spiritual Exercises and Shantideva's The Way of the Bodhisattva. I will be presenting the first fruits of this comparison at a panel at the American Academy of Religion, and I am hoping to continue such comparisons for the future.

References


1See Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., "The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education" and "The Service of Faith in a Religiously Pluralistic World: The Challenge for Jesuit Higher Education" in A Jesuit Education Reader: Contemporary Writings on the Jesuit Mission in Education, Principles, the Issue of Catholic Identity, Practical Applications of the Ignatian Way and More, edited by George W. Traub, S.J., (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2008) 144-176.
2James Martin, S.J. My Life with the Saints (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2006) 92.
3Kolvenbach, A Jesuit Education Reader, 155.

 

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Theological Foundations (THEO 111)
Christian Doctrine Today (The 290)

Edward Hahnenberg, Ph.D.
Mentor: Ed Cueva, Ph.D. (Classics)

THE ROLE OF EXPERIENCE and MODELS OF MINISTRY

THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS (THEO 111)

Course Description (Spring 2005)

This course introduces students to theology as an academic discipline by exploring the various ways individuals and communities articulate their experience of the divine. Working primarily from a Christian perspective-in dialogue with other views-we will study four related areas: (1) the Hebrew Bible, (2) selected world religions, (3) the Christian understanding of Jesus, and (4) the relationship of theology to current social and ethical issues.

Mission-Driven Components

The Ignatian Mentoring Program enhanced my ability to articulate the relationship of the Jesuit tradition to two components of my THEO 111 course:

1) Human Experience as the Starting Point for Theology
I introduced a new reading at the beginning of the course: William A. Barry, S.J., "Grounded in God: The Principle and Foundation," chapter two of Finding God in All Things: A Companion to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (Ave Maria Press, 1991). My THEO 111 course begins with reflection on human experience as a starting point for theological reflection, understood as "faith seeking understanding." This new reading offers specific descriptions of "peak" or "limit" experiences that I used to begin discussion on the human encounter with the sacred. The reading allowed the opportunity to relate this reflection on human experience to Ignatius' own methodology in the Spiritual Exercises, providing an introduction to the discipline of theology within the context of a Jesuit University.

2) Experience-Based Learning
In collaboration with Peace and Justice Programs, I encourage students to engage in a service learning project and write a paper that brings Theology into dialogue with a contemporary social or ethical issue. This project serves the E/RS focus of the course and invites reflection on the call of Jesuit education to serve the promotion of social justice.

CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE TODAY (THEO 290)

Course Description (Spring 2005)

Ecclesiology is the theological study of the church in an effort to understand its nature and mission. This seminar explores the developments in Roman Catholic ecclesiology that have taken place over the past half century. The themes treated represent those movements that flowed into and out of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965): the renewal of biblical studies, the liturgical movement, ecumenism, questions of authority, changes in ministry, and the church's presence in the world. This survey of recent Catholic thought will also offer the opportunity to reflect on common Christian origins and the diverse ecclesiologies of other Christian traditions.

Mission-Driven Component

This course includes a component on structures of ministry within the Roman Catholic Church. In treating this topic historically, I included an essay by John O'Malley, S.J.: "One Priesthood: Two Traditions" (in A Concert of Charisms: Ordained Ministry and Religious Life, ed. Paul Hennessy). In this essay, O'Malley critiques the tendency of contemporary Catholic theology to assume a patristic, parochial model as paradigmatic for all priestly ministry. His historical research reveals that the rise of religious order priests-such as the Franciscans, the Dominicans, and, especially, the Jesuits-presents an alternative, complementary model. This model is focused more on mission than on pastoral (in the sense of parish-based) care. O'Malley's presentation of early Jesuit ministry (particularly in his book The First Jesuits) has been helpful to me and will continue to influence the way in which I teach about structures of ministry in the Catholic Church.

IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH

In addition to the direct revision of the courses described above, the IMP has had an impact on my current and future research in the following ways:

1. Memory in the Thought of Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J.
Studying the Spiritual Exercises as part of IMP deepened my appreciation for the role of memory in the work of the American Jesuit liturgical theologian Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J. The Exercises played an important role in Kilmartin's understanding of how worshippers relate to Christ during liturgy. My essay: "The Ministerial Priesthood and Liturgical Anamnesis in the Thought of Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J." will appear in the June 2005 issue of Theological Studies.

2. Priesthood and Ministry
O'Malley's recognition of a historical diversity of models of priesthood has begun to shape my own research on lay ministry in the Roman Catholic Church. I will explore the connections between ordained and lay ministry in two papers this summer (an address to the National Association for Lay Ministry and a presentation at a Boston College conference on the Priesthood in the 21st Century).

3. Vocation
IMP has fed my interest in the theology of call, election, and vocation. I hope to explore Ignatian discernment as one historical model within a larger future project on the theology of vocation.

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Intellectual Conversion as Liberation

Martin Madar, PhD
Mentor: Thomas E. Strunk, PhD (Classics)

Project Description
The Ignatian Mentoring Program provided me with an opportunity to approach my Theological Foundations course (TF) in a broader way than I had before. Guided by Tom Strunk, a colleague the Department of Classics and Modern Languages, I read widely from A Jesuit Education Reader. From the readings and from my conversations with Tom I deepened my understanding of the principles of Ignatian pedagogy and found the inspiration for what I wanted to do for the program.

As a key building block of Xavier Core Curriculum, the goal of TF is to introduce students to theology as a mutually critical correlation of religious tradition and culture, and assist them in negotiating their world. During the Spring 2015 semester, I conducted my TF course with an enlarged perspective on one component of Ignatian pedagogy, namely, on reflection. Reflection is already a significant element of TF, since teaching students theological reflection is one goal of the course. I broadened the role of reflection in the course by focusing on learning as such, not only on learning theology. Concentrating on learning and its transformative function, and inspired by Pedro Arrupe, S.J. and Ken Bain, I introduced the students to and we explored the topic of "Intellectual Conversion as Liberation." I invited them to pursue intellectual conversion (IC) and to make a commitment to deep learning.

During the course of the semester, I designated five class meetings to specifically address the topic of IC. At the first meeting, I presented the concept to the students and invited them to reflect on it and apply it to their entire academic and non-academic life during the semester. For the subsequent meetings, I invited guest speakers who shared their stories about journeying with intellectual conversion and engaged the students in a conversation. For each of these class meetings the students read a chapter from What the Best College Students Do, and after class they reflected on their experiences with IC by submitting a short journal entry.

IC and genuine learning transform one's conception of reality, which may be experienced as liberation from what was in some way inadequate, naïve, or even false, to what is more real.

Intellectual Conversion: What Is It?
• IC is the effort to reach cognitive integrity in one's intellectual positions.
• IC starts with a realization that we cannot run away from asking questions, because it is only by raising and answering questions that we arrive at truth.
• IC transforms one's cognitional life so that questions regarding meaning and truth are pursued for their own sake, and not for utilitarian and narrowly pragmatic purposes.
• Conversion entails a movement from something to something. IC effects a shift in the criterion of truth . . . from regarding knowledge along the analogy of taking a really good look at what is already out there now to regarding knowledge as a matter of raising and answering questions.
• "IC involves taking responsibility for the truth or falsity of one's beliefs by examining and testing them in the light of perspectives and frames of reference differing from one's own. In so doing, a person opens to ongoing clarification, revision, and transformation."
• An initial IC often simply involves the realization that other frames of reference exist, have validity, and make necessary claims on one's attention. Ongoing intellectual conversion delivers individuals into a world of genuine systematic inquiry.
• "People who are actively engaged in an ongoing process of intellectual conversion exhibit a love of truth that transcends any particular belief they might hold. The love of truth inspires curiosity, nurtures intellectual flexibility, and encourages people to explore unfamiliar ideas or areas of knowledge outside their normal fields of expertise, opening them to unexpected surprises. In response, people become willing to change not only their thinking but also their actions. Truth itself becomes the ultimate goal."

How Can IC Be Identified?
By asking questions like these:

• Have I taken responsibility for my own rational judgments? Have I moved beyond conventional wisdom, or do I take most things for granted?
• Do I tend to or want to see things in "black and white"? How am I at dealing with the "gray"?
• Do I deal well with diversity of opinion, even when it is in an area of great concern for me?
• Do I consider other points of view before making a judgment? Do I generally know what the other points of view are? Do I want to know what they are?

Excerpts from Students' Journal Entries
While watching the documentary I Am in class, I came across my own intellectual conversion, and I hope that it is more than just a phase. It certainly feels more than a phase, it feels like an awakening in my life, like someone stood in the path I was walking in, and pointed in another direction for me to follow. My entire life and goals for college were based on one priority, making money, and then secondarily I would pursue my hobbies and interests. While watching the documentary, I really began to think to myself if that is all worth it and really the right path for me, and I have come to the conclusion that it is not.
I am currently a business student, specifically finance and entrepreneurship. I chose these because, while in high school, I started my own business making websites and made a decent amount of money. Everyone around me thought that I was a prodigy, likely to be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. I was praised by my family, girlfriend, friends, and school administrators. I won "Most Likely to be a Billionaire" and "Best Dressed" out of a class of 650 due to this simple thing. But I realized that it truly wasn't fulfilling to me. Maybe I was good at it, but it seemed too simple to me, regardless of how much people paid me or told me I was a prodigy.
I fell in love with literature, it seems like it was a random day, but I just started to fall in love with literature. I read every book I could get my hands on (still do) and I wrote as often as I could. I studied movies and acquired a taste for intelligence and depth. I accepted that I was not as smart as people thought that I was, and I was not as smart as I would like to think that I am. I am just another human being trying to figure out the meaning to life. I was content with this.
This year, I have battled my parents and tried as hard as I can to convince them I want to be an English Professor, and nothing else. I want to be an author on the side, but that's in my free time. Professors make good money (which helps my parents' side a bit) and the job would be extremely fulfilling to me. They still want me to get a business degree, but I want to get my PhD in English, so I am looking to double major. I don't care how hard it's going to be to double major, I don't care if I have to take out loans for graduate school, because it all seems worth it to me. I don't care if people think I'm a "bum" or am making a wrong decision with getting an English degree, because it makes me happy. It makes me fulfilled. It makes me happier than any sum of money I could work behind a cubicle for. I find that this is the strongest intellectual conversation I have ever had, and most likely ever will. I feel as if I'm in The Matrix and just took the red pill.
***
I think the most memorable intellectual conversion I've had occurred in my English class. It
wasn't a one-time conversion, though. It was a process that started at the beginning of the semester, and now, I've realized that I've changed a lot. I can sometimes be stubborn in my beliefs about certain things. In my English class, every student had to give a presentation on a controversial issue. The topic that intrigued me the most was that of women in the military. I had always thought that it was more of a man's position, but the presenter brought up points that I had never thought about that made me realize that the military does need women. It was a humbling experience to accept the fact that I had had a narrow view. I was more willing to accept what I had not acknowledged before. After that presentation, I was more open to hearing opinions contradictory to my own and seeing where I could grow intellectually and spiritually.
***
In recent weeks, I have decided that I wanted to grow in a particular area of my interest because of my commitment to truth. I am very interested in current events, and feel that global news is important because it affects everyone. Due to my busy schedule, I am unable to watch the news in the morning like I used to, and don't often have time to read newspapers. In recent weeks, I decided to make a more dedicated effort to allow time to educate myself on what is happening in my country and the world. I experienced intellectual conversion as liberation through this example by wanting to change how I spend my time. I have made a conscious decision to take part in intellectual conversion as liberation by addressing something I viewed as an issue, changing my behavior and the way in which I think, and allowing myself to be liberated by the new knowledge I am experiencing.
***
My experience with intellectual conversion has been quite significant this past month. Culminating in the class on truth during the discussion on truth, I came to the eye-opening conclusion of how choosing to go forward with my search for truth in life doesn't jive with others' ideas of what a truth search should be. I understand the conflict between acceptance and approval and truth. This past week I had my advising appointment in which I had to unofficially declare my minor. I chose biology, which I one of the hardest minors to pair with my Occupational Therapy major. My advisor, parents, and others in my major showed extreme skepticism, when I revealed my choice. However, I chose my minor because I wanted to learn more about the human body and take more dissection classes because it really interests me. Gaining more knowledge on the subject opens my eyes to why humans do things certain ways and why life around us is the way it is. It is my search for understanding in life. Reflecting on this experience showed me that it is hard to go against the societal want to be accepted and approved of, but if you want truth badly enough you will try.
***
Through the speaker in class on March 23rd, I have found myself questioning and reflecting on the lifestyle of integrating two faiths. I had recently began reflecting on different religions during the chapter from Faith, Religion, and Theology, regarding how multiple different religions can exist as well as the conversation between Jesus and Buda. The two chapters sparked my curiosity but ultimately made different religions and cultures clear to me. Specifically, the concept stressing that dialogues between religions is key to understanding ones faith and truth. Affirming my thoughts and reigniting my curiosity, the professor during class chronologically went through her life and explained how she got to her position with her faith. Her life events were interesting but ultimately the union of Buddhism and Catholicism generated my interest.
The standpoint from the professor as well as the position the book Faith, Religion, and Theology hold brought a new topic to my religious life and has ultimately inspired me to seek other reference points. These reference points have opened my mind to uniting different religion practices. Because of these two perspectives, I want to know the standpoints of other people who have tried to accommodate different religion practices. So far, in my life, I have practiced simple mediation; however, not to the extent of Buddhism thus inspiring me to learn more about the religion.
***
My biggest intellectual conversion has occurred in my philosophy class in the last couple weeks, which would make sense because one of the points of studying philosophy is to get to the truth of matters pertaining to reality and existence. One of the core concepts we focus on is what justice is and what is the best way for one to live life. We started out in the course reading Plato's Republic. Even though I never thought about what I held to be "true justice," and though we didn't read the whole book, it was hard to argue with the points that Socrates made. I still don't know what justice is, and I don't know if anyone will ever know for sure, but when in conversation with others, Socrates refutes their definitions of justice making me see how little I know about justice and how much I actually want to know about what it is.
I just finished reading part of Hobbes' Leviathan in my philosophy class. I believe that in order to find what I think is the truth of justice, it is important to look at multiple philosophers' beliefs of justice and how they compare to each other and what I hold to be true. I want to grow in this area of defining justice because I want to know the truth. It is a liberating feeling knowing that I am reading books hundreds, and in Plato's case, thousands of years old in pursuit of that which those philosopher were also trying to find the truth.
***

[1] George W. Traub, ed., A Jesuit Education Reader (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2008).

[2] I am referring to Arrupe's 1973 address "Men and Women for Others" given to the Tenth International Congress of Jesuit Alumni of Europe held in Valencia (Spain), in which he said that a call to conversion is the most specific mark in Christian education. See http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/men-for-others.html

[3] Dr. Thomas Strunk (Classics), Dr. Carol Winkelmann (English), Dr. Jamie Leslie (Nursing, College of Mount St. Joseph, Cincinnati), and Charlie Rosebrough (Xavier HAB student).

[4] Ken Bain, What the Best College Students Do (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012).

[5] Robert Doran, "What does Bernard Lonergan Mean by 'Conversion,'?" in Essays in Systematic Theology: An E-book, no. 40, p. 5, accessed January 13, 2015, http://www.lonerganresource.com/book?1

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 8

[8] Ibid., 8, 19.

[9] John J. Markey, Moses in Pharaoh's House: A Liberation Spirituality for North America (Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2014), 88.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 89.

[12] Ibid.

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The Meaning of Magis: what Magis Adds to the FYS Theme, the Greater Good

Marcus Mescher

Marcus Mescher
Mentor: Timothy Brownlee

See a published scholarly version of this paper here and a popular version, Learning and Living Magis.

Introduction

Since its inaugural semester in fall 2015, CORE 100 (the First Year Seminar at Xavier University) has afforded faculty the opportunity to connect an area of interest to the common theme, the "Greater Good." But what does the Greater Good mean? Some might use language of authentic or integral human flourishing. Others might think of this term in light of the principle of the "common good" in Catholic social teaching. The website [1] that outlines course goals for faculty states, "The Jesuit tradition of Magis invites us to work in a spirit of generous excellence-to consider the greater good in all that we do, including our academic work. Faculty from across the university are encouraged to interpret this theme from their disciplinary and personal perspectives" and suggests that faculty encourage students to attend a campus event, read texts, or adopt a project that explores the "Greater Good." While it is fitting for faculty to explore and adopt the "Greater Good" in their own way, if we do not share a common understanding of the meaning of this phrase, we risk reducing it to platitudinous lip service. This would betray the Jesuit identity and mission that animate the work we do, especially as it relates to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual/religious formation of first year students.

This project aims to provide faculty and students with material to enhance their sense of the meaning of the "Greater Good" by considering this phrase through the lens of the Jesuit value, Magis. After an exposition of key content, this essay demonstrates connections between Magis to five core virtues: love, mercy, justice, solidarity, and hope. Ultimately, the goal of this project is to encourage members of the Xavier community to integrate Magis into one's life through habits of contemplation, imagination, and vocation discernment.

Taking a closer look at Magis is important in our socio-cultural context for a variety of reasons. Rising political partisanship undermines the conditions necessary to facilitate challenging conversations across differences. Widespread moral relativism allows individuals to determine what is right or good for themselves, independent of social or religious norms. Students often invoke the mantra, "I do me, you do you," which suggests radical tolerance and non-judgmentalism. Although tolerance is an essential ingredient for a vibrant and inclusive society, it is woefully insufficient for the demands of justice. Merely tolerating the existence of others does nothing to take responsibility for those who suffer from injustice. "Live and let live" just as easily becomes "live and let die." If we are unable to communicate our core values and discuss the moral norms that generate agreement and accountability, we come close to what philosopher John Dewey describes as the "eclipse of the public." [2] In short, Magis provides the raison d'être for Xavier University as a Jesuit institution, the horizon for what it means to belong and contribute to this community. We can disagree about some of the implications and applications of Magis, but we should come to consensus that Magis sparks and shapes our "mode of proceeding," whether we are faculty, staff, or students.

 

 

What does Magis Mean?

Magis is a Latin adverb that means "more" or "to a greater degree." In his thorough exegesis of the word as it appears in the history of the Jesuit documentary heritage, Fr. Barton Geger S.J. suggests the best translation of Magis is "the more universal good." [3] This definition can be traced all the way back to the founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius (1491-1556) advised the early members of the Society of Jesus to discern how their choices could be guided toward what is most conducive to the "greater service of God and the universal good." [4] In this way, Magis is inseparable from the unofficial motto of the Jesuits, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (often abbreviated as A.M.D.G.), which means "for the Greater Glory of God." [5] Geger explains that the "glory of God" refers to "God's truth, beauty, wisdom, and power becoming evident to human beings." [6] Truth, beauty, and wisdom not only bring us closer to God; they also make us more fully human. For this reason, it might also help to recall Saint Irenaeus of Lyon's claim that the "glory of God is the human person fully alive." [7] In this way, A.M.D.G. or Magis imply a call to work for the fullness of life for all, the conditions that allow individuals and communities to flourish, a vision rooted in human dignity, human rights, and responsibilities to the common good of all.

Geger sorts through numerous references to Magis in the Jesuit tradition to demonstrate that it cannot be reduced to a concept of excellence or generosity. Instead, Magis is rooted in "interior freedom" that authorizes each individual-in the sanctity of one's own conscience [8]-to reflect and discern what the "Greater Good" uniquely means and requires. The task, then, is to determine the greater good, "the more universal good," or "that which makes the widest impact." [9] Here the word "greater" means making a well-informed decision that opts for the greater of at least two goods. The hardest decisions in life are not between a good option and a bad option, but when we are forced to choose between two (or more) good opportunities. In this regard, Ignatius encourages us to choose what will produce the greater good between the available options. We should pursue what will promote greater dignity, freedom, and responsibility for ourselves and others (or, what will prevent or alleviate the suffering of others). Decisions to pursue Magis must be informed by careful reflection (paying attention to one's life-for example, noticing what brings peace and purpose or anxiety and confusion-in order to glean wisdom from one's experiences) and discernment (tuning into one's thoughts and feelings, deepest desires and core needs, in order to make prudent decisions for the present and future). [10]

Magis may be personal, but it is not private. It is totally incongruent with egoism or moral relativism. Egoism is interested only in what is good for me; moral relativism allows each person to decide what is good for him or herself. While this may sound attractive at first, we can quickly recognize the shortcomings of these ethical positions. When it comes to egoism, if I am only interested in my own good, then I never have to be concerned about or responsible for anyone else (indeed, I should never have to make a sacrifice for another human being). Such egoism would make me a terrible friend, partner, or parent. And moral relativism is problematic because if everyone gets to decide what is right, true, good, and just, then morality becomes a free-for-all. That means there would be no way to agree whether it's morally acceptable to lie, cheat, steal, or kill. Moral norms-shared standards of the good-are necessary to foster agreement and accountability. Using extreme examples (like rape or genocide) might make it easier to identify moral norms (e.g., free consent, do no harm, etc.), but daily life is usually less clear-cut and thus requires careful ethical analysis in order to discern what will best promote human flourishing so that it is always both personal and communal. (CORE 100 prepares students for subsequent courses in Xavier University's E/RS Focus program, engaging every student in learning and living reflectively and responsibly for this purpose. [11])

To understand the implications of Magis, it is first necessary to establish two basic moral norms: the inherent dignity of the human person and the common good of all. This means that human dignity is innate and intrinsic, not earned or lost. Because human beings are inherently social beings, the good of the person is inescapably linked to just relationships and the building up of a community oriented toward justice. The human dignity of each person and the shared good of the entire human family provide the horizon for thinking about justice. Our task is to identify, analyze, and apply the beliefs and values, practices and relationships, systems and structures that ensure everyone has adequate access to the rights and duties necessary for the fullness of life. [12] Geger proposes that Jesuit education, when ordered to Magis, "has the potential to transform [one's] whole society" if we fully embrace its meaning. [13] This underscores the essential bond between Jesuit education and the promotion of justice in the world. [14]

The Heart of Jesuit Education

Jesuit university students should be familiar with the Jesuit commitment to form "women and men for others" as described in Fr. Pedro Arrupe S.J.'s 1973 address in Valencia, Spain. [15] Arrupe's successor, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J., went further in a speech at Santa Clara University in 2000, explaining that the essential task of Jesuit education is the "service of faith and promotion of justice." [16] In addition to these classic texts, two other passages help illustrate the core objectives of Jesuit education in the world today. The first is by Fr. Ignacio Ellacuría S.J., who was murdered while president of the University of Central America in San Salvador on November 16, 1989. Ellacuría insisted that the university must foster knowledge as well as "transform and enlighten the society in which it lives." This means that the university must engage its historical reality in the struggle for justice:

In a world where injustice reigns, a university that fights for justice must necessarily be persecuted ... What does a university do, immersed in this reality? Transform it? Yes. Do everything possible so that liberty is victorious over oppression, justice over injustice, love over hate? Yes. Without this overall commitment we would not be a university, and even less so would we be a Catholic university. [17]

 

According to Ellacuría, the Jesuit university exists to help make students become more aware of reality so that they take responsibility for transforming it. In other words, each and every Jesuit university student should see their education as an opportunity to learn more about how justice is central to their education and personal development. In 1997, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J. directly addressed students to express this vision for student formation. He proclaimed,

You are called by the Society of Jesus to be men and women who reflect upon the reality of this world around you with all its ambiguities, opportunities, and challenges, to discern what is really happening in your life and in the lives of others, to find God there and to discover where God is calling you, to employ criteria for significant choices that reflect godly values rather than narrow, exclusive self-interest, to make decisions in the light of what is truly for the greater glory of God and the service of those in need, and then to act accordingly. [18]

 

These passages from Ellacuría and Kolvenbach remind us of the core objectives of Jesuit education today. Although Jesuits have been educating since 1548, this tradition remains a dynamic process that adapts to the state of the world and the needs of its people. The Jesuit value of Cura Personalis (meaning "care for the whole person") instills a commitment to personal and communal formation that is attentive and responsive to the unique gifts and interests of each individual. Every one of us is invited to join a process of reflection and discernment to gain a sense of how our life can contribute to the more universal good. This requires magnanimity or "greatness of spirit," that readies us to "think big" and tackle sizable problems, address and resolve conflict, and embrace our responsibilities to the "common good." [19] In a world that prioritizes self-interest and personal achievement, Magis re-orients our vision to the shared good of all, where the logic of interdependence reminds us that the good of each person is inherently linked to the good of the entire community. [20] This includes human as well as nonhuman creatures; Pope Francis (also a Jesuit priest) stated in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si' that the earth and its inhabitants, the environment and its climate are all part of a "common good, belonging to all and meant for all." Francis encourages us to see the common good as "the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment." Since the earth and its ecosystem represent our only home (which we share with all), then protecting nonhuman creation is inextricably linked to our duties to our human brothers and sisters (as well as to God, the Creator of all that exists). If we render earth uninhabitable, we will destroy life for every member of creation. Pope Francis continues,

Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development ... the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues. Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good. In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters. This option entails recognizing the implications of the universal destination of the world's goods ... it demands before all else an appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor in the light of our deepest convictions as believers. We need only look around us to see that, today, this option is in fact an ethical imperative essential for effectively attaining the common good. The notion of the common good also extends to future generations. The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity. Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us. [21]

 

Pope Francis helps us to recognize the interdependence between human dignity, rights, and responsibilities to the human family (present and future) plus nonhuman creatures and the environment. Magis reflects Mother Teresa's insight: "If we do not have peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." Magis requires fostering inclusive belonging since the "Greater Good" is impossible if the good of certain individuals-no matter how lowly in status or limited in number-is sacrificed to the good of the whole. The "Greater Good" is incompatible with a utilitarian philosophy of "the greatest good for the greatest number" or a cost-benefit-analysis that boosts profits for some at the expense of others because these ideologies justify the sacrifice or exclusion of a few for the sake of the many, violating innate human dignity and our shared interdependence in the common good (when one suffers, all suffer).

For these reasons, Magis cannot be reduced to vague concepts like excellence or generosity; it represents a vision of the "Greater Good" that is "powerfully counter-cultural," especially in a world marked by so much despair, division, and injustice. [22] Pope Francis describes Magis as "the fire, the fervor of action, that rouses us from slumber." It is what drives us "to leave an imprint or mark in history, especially in the lives of the smallest." [23] In addition to pursuing truth, beauty, and wisdom, Magis inspires a cultural critique that unveils whatever dehumanizes or disempowers; it prevents us from becoming complacent with an unjust status quo. Because God is the Creator of everything that exists, the God of Life and Love, then Magis (understood as "the Greater Glory of God") is realized when we commit ourselves to the promotion of life and love. The heart of Jesuit education is to take up this work, bringing each and all closer to the fullness of life.

A Vision of the Good Life

The Christian tradition, which builds from the Jewish law and prophets and also shares much in common with the teachings of Islam, offers a relevant vision of the good life, that which advances the flourishing of all creation. In philosophy and theology, the road to flourishing is marked by specific virtues, or good attitudes and habits that form the kind of moral character that promote personal and communal flourishing. [24] To illustrate practical connections between the Jesuit value of Magis and specific dispositions and actions, I propose five key virtues as pathways to explore the possibilities of living toward the "Greater Good." By exploring love, mercy, justice, solidarity, and hope in the next section of this essay, I hope these virtues will help faculty and students discover points of entry into Magis across all disciplines. While love, mercy, justice, solidarity, and hope carry secular significance, all three Abrahamic religions highlight these five virtues as defining characteristics of fidelity to God. Of course, the ultimate goal is not just to learn about these virtues, but to explore possibilities to practice and integrate them into one's life.

Love: In English, the word "love" is like the kitchen junk drawer: it's a catchall to express a variety of preferences and desires. It's hard to know what we mean by the word "love" when we use it to talk about food or clothing, music or movies, places or people. Do you love your friends and family the same way you love an inanimate object? The Jewish understanding of love is rooted in a sense of loyalty (to God, others, and oneself). In Christian Scripture, the author of the First Letter of John states clearly that God is agape, which conveys "self-giving love" (1 John 4:8). Although God is beyond our total comprehension (or else God would not be God), the least wrong way to talk about the mystery we call "God" is self-giving love. It is actually better to think of God as being than a being, or not as "love" but as "lov ing." Calling to mind the Trinity, we might think of God as the love that is shared between persons. In this way, the Trinity is not two men and a bird which represent God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, but a co-equal communion of love that is offered, received, and returned. This is a far cry from what most people envision when they read or hear the word God (typically an old, white man with a long beard, something like Zeus, Santa Claus, or Dumbledore).

More to the point, the Christian tradition asserts that we are saved less by what we believe than by how well we love (cf. Luke 10:25-37, Matthew 25:31-46). The greatest commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself," placing the stress on loving the other person, and even more, inviting you to imagine the other person as related to yourself (in kinship with you). [25] Importantly, the Christian tradition holds that no person-not even enemies-is exempt from our obligation to love. Saint John of the Cross summarizes this clearly: "love is the measure by which we shall be judged." But what is love? Thomas Aquinas defines the virtue of love (in Latin, caritas, which is where we get the English word "charity") as willing the good of another person. [26] This means that love is not just a feeling, but a choice and action. Even more, love entails an investment of the self, a commitment to act to ensure the good of the other person. It is worth repeating that love is owed to each and to all. In fact, Dorothy Day once claimed, "I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least." This is a sobering test of how well we love one another, which, as the Gospel of John attests, is how we love and honor God (John 13:34).

Mercy: Mercy is another tricky word in English. It usually conveys a sense of loving-kindness. But this falls well short of the rich and diverse meaning of the word as it appears in Scripture. The words for mercy in the Bible- hesed in Hebrew and eleos in Greek-appear nearly 300 times to express who God is and what God wants. Hesed is the first word used to describe God in the Hebrew Scriptures (Exodus 34:6-7). It refers to God's unconditional and unlimited love that is always faithful and never fails, a love marked by tenderness and overabundance (Joshua 2:12; 1 Samuel 20:14-17; Isaiah 54:8-10). Hesed reflects God's goodness that endures for a "thousand generations" (Exodus 20:6) and unlimited forgiveness of sin (Numbers 14:18-19; Micah 7:19) within a web of relationships as part of God's covenant with God's people (Leviticus 19:2, 18-18; Deuteronomy 15:4, 7; Psalm 13:6). Hesed highlights the gratuitous love of God that embraces and saves all creation, including nonhuman creatures (Psalm 25:6, 33:5, 111:4, 136:1, 145:9). Hesed defines faithfulness (Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:8) and characterizes those who love God (Ruth 1:8, 2:20, 3:10). The Hebrew Scriptures make clear that hesed is inseparable from justice, judgment, piety, compassion, and salvation (Psalm 72:1-4, 82:3, 140:13).

Eleos appears in the Christian Scriptures dozens of times to fortify the witness of the Hebrew Scriptures that mercy describes God's own being (Luke 6:36; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 2:4) and how God treats God's people (Luke 1:58; 1 Peter 2:10). Jesus' teaching and healing ministry is framed in terms of mercy: it is what he teaches (Matthew 5:7) and practices (Mark 5:19). It is the way to love one's neighbor and inherit eternal life (Luke 10:25-42), the standard for unlimited forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35), and what makes faithfulness possible (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:1). It is the core of God's desire for God's people (Matthew 9:13, 12:7, 23:23). Even when the word isn't used, it is evident that mercy is the fulcrum of several key gospel stories, whether the father's forgiveness of his prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), Jesus' forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), or what separates the sheep from the goats in the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). Mercy is an expression of wisdom (James 3:17) and the reason for hope (1 Peter 1:3). In the end, mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13) and is the expression of God's justice (Psalm 51:11-16; Matthew 9:13).

In his book, The Name of God Is Mercy, Pope Francis writes,

the centrality of mercy, which for me is Jesus' most important message, has slowly evolved over the years in my work as a priest [and] as a consequence of my experience as a confessor ... [mercy] means opening one's heart to wretchedness ... mercy is the divine attitude which embraces, it is God's giving himself to us, accepting us, and bowing to forgive ... we can say that mercy is God's identity card. [27]

 

Pope Francis explains that he understands God's character and purpose through the lens of the gerund "mercifying:" doing mercy. [28] God is known through mercifying and God expects mercifying from and for all creation. Perhaps the best word to express the meaning of mercy is tenderness. Pope Francis has called on people all over the world to join a "revolution of tenderness" to combat ignorance, indifference, and inaction. [29] In his 2017 TED Talk, Pope Francis insists that tenderness is not weakness but fortitude. [30] Tenderness creates the conditions for us to recognize that we are loved, lovable, and capable of loving others since we belong to each other. Fr. Greg Boyle S.J. drives home this point:

We are at our healthiest when we are most situated in awe, and at our least healthy when we engage in judgment. Judgment creates the distance that moves us away from each other. Judgment keeps us in the competitive game and is always self-aggrandizing. Standing at the margins with the broken reminds us not of our own superiority but of our own brokenness. Awe is the great leveler. The embrace of our own suffering helps us to land on a spiritual intimacy with ourselves and others. For if we don't welcome our wounds, we will be tempted to despise the wounded. [31]

 

Boyle later adds, "only the soul that ventilates the world with tenderness has any chance of changing the world." [32] If our lives radiate tenderness, we will be in the world who God is. [33]

Justice: In common parlance, the word "justice" usually conjures images of a courtroom or "law and order." But Scripture understands justice as "fidelity to the demands of a relationship." [34] Jesus is the visible manifestation of God's justice, which he demonstrates throughout his teaching and healing ministry. Jesus draws near and touches the unclean (considered unworthy or even cursed by God in Jesus' day), he heals those labeled as sinners (the social outcasts), and he breaks bread-an intimate action that violated the purity code of contemporary society-with people of other religions as well as his fiercest critics (like the Pharisees, who continually test and try to trap him) and even agents of the oppressive Roman Empire (like tax collectors). Jesus' teaching and healing ministry aimed to restore dignity and foster a more inclusive and egalitarian community, providing the standard for social justice for Christian individuals and groups today.

Justice is what we owe God and one another; it is the precondition for full and free relationships, personal and communal flourishing. Typically, justice can be understood in a variety of lenses: contributive (what individuals owe society or the common good), distributive (the fair allocation of goods and services to avoid unjust inequalities between persons and groups), commutative (right-relationships between persons and the proper exchange of goods/service), retributive (penalty for an offense, either as punishment or as a deterrent), and restorative (compensation to victims, healing wounds, and working to restore the offender to right-relationship in the community [35]).

For those who call themselves Christian, justice is not an optional add-on to one's moral responsibility. In 1971, a worldwide gathering of bishops declared that "Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel, or, in other words, of the church's mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation." [36] Too often, Christians narrow their focus on personal piety or acts of optional service. Kindness is always a welcome gesture, but feeding hungry people does nothing to solve their inability to consistently secure nutrition, just as offering a warm blanket to someone experiencing homelessness falls quite short of providing affordable housing. If we take seriously that God desires life in abundance for every member of creation, then we have to tackle what triggers injustice and overcome any force that limits or endangers life.

The work of justice means addressing these root causes, as this parable illustrates: one day, a woman was walking in the woods when she heard someone crying out for help. She rushed through the trees to find a man drowning in a river, and pulled him out. The next day, she was near the same forest and heard another person shouting for help. When the woman reached the river, she saved another person who was drowning. The same thing happened the next day - and so on. Service is saving the people who are drowning; justice is going upstream to find out why people are falling into the river in the first place and then fixing that problem. As Cornel West puts it, "justice is what love looks like in public." [37]

In other words, justice addresses the dignity and rights of the human person on the individual, social, and institutional levels. It considers the systems and structures that give some people more benefits or advantages than others, and then tries to make up for unjust inequalities. In the Christian tradition, justice means taking the side of the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalized. These are people who have been rendered socially insignificant, non-persons, or even fated to a pre-mature death. This is what Catholic social teaching means in calling for the "preferential option for the poor," a term coined by Fr. Pedro Arrupe S.J. in a letter to his Jesuit brothers in May 1968. [38] It claims that justice is measured by the welfare of the neediest members of society; to deliver justice is to prioritize the needs of these most vulnerable. Archbishop Desmond Tutu adds that justice prohibits neutrality, for "if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." [39] Both Arrupe and Tutu highlight God's preference for the least, the last, and the lowly starting with the Hebrew slaves in Egypt (Exodus 22:20-26) and continuing through the Last Judgment scene in Matthew's gospel (Matthew 25:31-46). Rabbi Jonathan Sacks observes that in the Hebrew Scriptures, the command to "love your neighbor" is repeated twice whereas the command to love the stranger, the widow, and the orphan (those without any status or protection) is repeated at least thirty-six times. [40] Our task is to draw near those considered least, last, and lowly. For if we do not know people who are marginalized and excluded, if we do not care about them as people, if we do not make their cause our own, then we will be blind, deaf, mute, and numb when it comes to the demands of justice.

Solidarity: Although this word is often used to imply unity or strength in numbers, in Christian ethics, solidarity actually refers to inclusive social bonds that overcome differences. Solidarity stands in contrast to the tribalism that divides us into lifestyle enclaves of people who do (or do not) look like us, think like us, and act like us. Sociologists like Robert Putnam have observed a rise in segregation by race and class, which means that we have less exposure to people who are different from us. A study from Public Religion Research Institute found that 75% of white Americans don't have a single black friend and that two-thirds of African Americans don't have a single white friend. [41] How can we build empathy and understanding across the color line when we don't know anyone-to say nothing about caring for anyone-who comes from a different ethnic or racial background?

The word for "solidarity" does not appear in the Bible, but the word has strong roots in the Christian tradition when viewed through the lens of kinship: all people stand as equals in the eyes of God since we are siblings bound together by our shared source and destiny. Living in a time of rising racial discrimination and unrest, it is worth noting that race itself is a social construct; there is only one race (the human race) but we live in a society that confers unearned privilege and power to people who are white, while denying equal access to resources and social participation to people of color. [42] Solidarity requires that we combat anti-black racism and white supremacy just as we would any form of discrimination or exclusion, whether based on sex or gender, sexual orientation or class, religion or political party, age or ability. No one should be considered "less than" for any reason.

Solidarity combines love, mercy, and justice to build a culture of inclusive belonging. Boyle describes this beautifully when he writes,

Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away. [43]

 

If we take the challenges of solidarity seriously, that means overcoming a fear of intimacy, being judged, or left out. It requires a more universal sense of loyalty and a commitment to mutuality that fosters reciprocity as equal partners. Solidarity is only possible when we replace anxiety with awe and trade judgment for vulnerability. Solidarity is about celebrating what connects us as humans; it welcomes both our strengths and our weaknesses. Boyle proposes that the measure of our solidarity "lies less in our service of those on the margins, and more in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them. It speaks of a kinship so mutually rich that even the dividing line of service provider/service recipient is erased. We are sent to the margins NOT to make a difference but so that the folks on the margins will make us different." [44] Solidarity is fundamentally about inclusive belonging, manifest through shared respect and responsibility, leaving out no one. [45]

Hope: Hope is trust that God will deliver on God's promises; it welcomes the future and embraces opportunities for growth and change. As a virtue, hope is the midpoint between two extremes: excessive expectation that is presumptuous and deficient trust that leads to despair. It avoids the temptation to be fatalistic (for better or worse), urging us onwards to realize our potential. Hope is fundamentally a conviction of what is possible, whereas hopelessness is being mired in the impossible. [46] In Christianity, Jesus' Resurrection is the greatest reason for hope (1 Peter 3:15): God conquers sin and death. Easter foreshadows our destiny and that of all creation.

Hope keeps us from panicking or becoming passive. It also softens the pain of suffering; Fr. William Lynch S.J. suggests that "If we expect something in the future, if we have hope, we actually suffer less. The present moment is less preoccupying ... [hope] is the great gift of being able, in an emergency, to act as our last, best, and deepest inward resource." At the same time, Lynch adds, exercising hope also gives credence to the "sense that there is help on the outside of us" which is important because "in our national culture, there is a deep repression of the need for help." [47] Hope connects us to the community, reminding us that we are never forced to face our problems alone and that we will not be abandoned in our time of need.

In a world marked by doubt and division, hope not only encourages us to trust that things can get better, it actually provides the potency to act in order to realize that vision. Hope builds resilience, fosters creativity, cultivates openness to growth, and makes new relationships possible. [48] Hope is not confined to wishing and waiting; it means living into the vision of the future you most deeply desire for yourself and the world. Fr. Daniel Berrigan S.J. insisted, "If you want to be hopeful, you have to do hopeful things." Living with hope is not a choice made once and for all, but an ongoing intention that has to be embraced over and again. William James wrote, "The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives." [49] Hope gets us out of bed in the morning and gives us reason to keep fighting, even in the face of daunting odds. Hope reminds us that we are in this together; the philosopher Gabriel Marcel reminds us "there can be no hope which does not constitute itself through a we and for a we." [50] In other words, hope is communal and is most fully realized in collaboration among friends.

Taken together, these five virtues provide a framework for "the good life." Love, mercy, justice, solidarity, and hope help us better understand who God is and what God wants. This is crucial for understanding Magis through the lens of "the Greater Glory of God" (A.M.D.G.): if our attitudes, actions, relationships, and institutions are characterized by love, mercy, justice, solidarity, and hope, then we are living for the "Greater Good." This also helps us grow closer to God. In the words of Greg Boyle, Magis "refers to an affection for God," a "devotion" that takes the shape of a "pervasive familiarity and union with God, a desire to want what God wants." [51] Put differently, we grow closer to the "Greater Good" when we desire what God desires: the fullness of life for all, the common good that results from practicing love, mercy, justice, solidarity, and hope.

Appropriating the Greater Good

To this point, our discussion has focused on what Magis means, why it matters, and how it provides a vision for human flourishing. The five virtues of love, mercy, justice, solidarity, and hope provide concrete attitudes and actions that can help us draw closer to Magis. Unless and until Magis is appropriated by individuals and communities, it will remain just another concept to read, write, or talk about. At this point, the key question becomes: how do I integrate Magis into my life so that I can orient myself to the "Greater Good"? Contemplation, imagination, and vocation discernment offer three tools to incorporate Magis into the personal habits and social fabric of life at Xavier University.

Contemplation is, as Fr. Walter Burghardt S.J. describes, "taking a long loving look at the real." [52] This means immersing oneself in reality, not to analyze it or argue about it, but to experience it, to recognize our unity with all that exists. [53] To see with eyes of love is to see the goodness in us and around us; to see with eyes of love is to see as God sees. This also means practicing the Jesuit value of "seeking God in all things," recognizing that everything exists within the reality we call God, which means that "every place and all created things" can reflect the "presence and activity of God." [54] If this is true, then recognizing the nearness of God relies on our being awake to that reality. Contemplation is attentiveness, using one's entire being to experience what is real. Taking a long look means not rushing the process, savoring the goodness in us and around us. It generates wonder and awe; contemplation means being filled with gratitude instead of disappointment in oneself or comparison with others. [55] Through contemplation, delighting in creation leads to love for all that exists, even when it is not always pleasant. In the face of sin or injustice, contemplation produces compassion, an expression of love for the one who suffers and a desire to ease their burden. Ultimately, contemplation orients us to commune with one another. [56]

In our busy world, it is not easy to make time for contemplation. Some might not even know where to start. Burghardt suggests a few habits to facilitate contemplation. This includes withdrawing from the routine of daily life, even for a short while, to interrupt the banality of our schedule and point of view. He calls this mini-retreat a "desert experience," where we can find peace and perspective, in order to press the reset button on our lives. Burghardt also suggests "festivity" and "play," which foster a sense of appreciation, affirmation, and renewal. Taking time for levity helps us lighten up and let go of our preoccupations and never-ending to-do lists that add to our mental load. This gives us a chance to enjoy life, not just progress through it, or be mired in anxiety or stress. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel insists, "Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement ... get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed." [57] Festivity and play remind us to celebrate life. And Burghardt offers another suggestion for incorporating contemplation: making friends with people who practice this way of living. Sometimes this means reading the work of folks like Rabbi Heschel or the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, mystics who summon us to gaze at and experience the world with love, aiming for communion with all that exists. Poetry often opens a new mode of perception, and literature in general can stretch our vantage point to see the world with new eyes. [58] Friends offer support-as well as accountability-so that we can integrate contemplation into our way of life. Burghardt insists that contemplation "is not a luxury" but "the mark of a Christian" and a person who loves. [59]

What does contemplation look like at college? It might be easy to take a "long loving look at the real" when spending time in prayer or worship, or when gazing at colorful leaves on trees, a fresh snowfall, cheerful spring flowers, or a stunning sunset. But what would it take to practice contemplation while walking to class, sitting in the Caf, or returning to your room and encountering your roommate? Contemplation starts with slowing down, being still, and embracing quiet. It includes consciously unplugging from electronics, especially when we consider the impact of social media on our mental and emotional health. [60] It involves looking around with eyes of love, wonder, and awe. Thomas Merton offers an illustration of his own mystical experience, which dawned on him one day in March 1958:

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness ... This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud ... I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. [61]

 

Saint Ignatius encourages us to be "Contemplatives in Action," people who integrate being, seeing, and loving. When we allow ourselves to be (and resist the urge to busy ourselves with doing), when we see others with eyes of love (instead of guilt or shame, comparison or judgment), we can love more freely and fully, especially keeping in mind that God loves us unconditionally and endlessly. The task, then, is to be someone who is simultaneously reflective and active, willing to grow ever deeper in love. It takes time to incorporate a new habit into our lives. We have to fight through the "honeymoon phase" of the initial excitement, stay faithful to the commitment over time, and eventually it will become like second nature. [62]

A second tool is imagination. For some, imagination implies fantasy or illusion. But imagination is not escapism; it is a "vehicle for liberation." [63] Imagination is the fruit of our deepest desires: it is the combination of our wishing and willing, illuminating our hope for ourselves and the world. [64] Imagination, like hope discussed previously, transcends the present moment in a creative act for a new future without disdaining or rejecting the world as it is. In the face of sin, suffering, and injustice, the imagination is an act of resistance to evil and resilience to promote the good. We cast our eyes into the future so that we are not preoccupied with the past or confined to the present. We act in hopeful trust generated by confidence in God, others, and our own self. To be a Christian is "literally to imagine things with God." [65] Pope Francis adds, "Whoever has imagination does not become rigid, has a sense of humor, always enjoys the sweetness of mercy and inner freedom." [66] Imagination allows us to explore, to open up the world to new possibilities, and to become more agile and flexible.

Invoking a line from the poet Emily Dickinson, "The possible's slow fuse is lit by the imagination," Fr. Michael Paul Gallagher S.J. contends that the imagination is the ability "to glimpse and grasp possibilities ... a gradually explosive power of new perception" that is more holistic than rationality alone. Imagination has become a "key battleground for meaning, values, and in particular for religious faith" due in part to the fact that it "is where the quality of our lives is shaped and where we shape our vision of everything. Imagination is the location both of our crisis and of our potential healing. It is crucial for the quality of our seeing, because it can save us from superficiality and torpor and awaken us to larger hopes and possibilities." [67] Put simply, the more we stretch our imagination, the more we grow.

What does engaging the imagination look like at college? It begins with tuning into our deepest desires, to imagine what could be, instead of being confined by what is or worrying about what should be. Nothing happens in history without it first happening in our imagination. J.K. Rowling claims, "It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default." Fear of failure can be like a self-imposed straightjacket, keeping us from experiencing life. It prevents us from making use of our talents, interests, and opportunities. Exercising the imagination implies a willingness to fail, to learn from our mistakes, and to go outside our comfort zone. Imagination broadens our horizons, and invites us to see ourselves as discoverers. This finds traction when we sign up for a new club or activity, when we study abroad, or take a class that sounds interesting but isn't required for graduation. Imagination leads us to enlarge our friend group to be more diverse and inclusive, expanding the circle of whom we follow and what we read on social media. All of our experiences and relationships add to our identity; imagination helps us to realize what more we can be and do.

This brings us to the third tool, vocation discernment. Vocatio in Latin means "calling." Discerning your vocation has more to do with your purpose in life than with your occupation. If you do not yet have a clear sense of the meaning or purpose of your life, your Jesuit education at Xavier should help you discern what makes you tick, what you most want for your future, and who you desire to become. Fr. Michael Himes, a professor at Boston College, frames vocation-discernment as seeking to "[d]iscover what it is that you most really and deeply want when you are most really and truly you." [68] If it's not already evident what you really and deeply want when you are most really and truly you, Himes proposes three "nearly infallible" questions to consider: What brings you joy? What do you love learning about? What does the world need from you? [69] Your vocation is your overlapping answer to what you find most fulfilling, what areas of growth you especially enjoy, and what problem you can help solve. If it is not clear what brings you joy, what you love learning about, or a problem you can address, it might help to journal about what you've enjoyed doing, learning, and tried to fix. It could also be useful to speak with a friend or mentor who can reflect back to you when you seem to be most fully alive, free to be yourself, or simply engrossed in an idea, question, or activity.

Mark Manson suggests thinking about this another way: What pain are you willing to sustain? [70] If we only enjoy something because it comes easily or is the path of least resistance, then we just mold our life to outcomes, rather than living intentionally in order to reach a more challenging, higher goal. Manson opines, "our struggles determine our successes." It's not easy to always tell the truth or to be dependable, patient, and forgiving. Nevertheless, if we want to be the kind of person who has integrity, who is trustworthy, loyal, and compassionate, then we have to be willing to struggle to make those habits of our character. If we want to be the kind of person who achieves this or accomplishes that, then we have to be willing to struggle to see ourselves cross the finish line. [71] If this sounds like resilience or grit, they may be linked. But it's not just about willpower; it's also about love for ourselves (valuing our deepest desires), being supported by friends and family (who empower us and hold us accountable), and feeling gratitude (reminding us of all the resources on which we can rely). [72] For Saint Ignatius, the Christian life is a movement from paying attention to our many gifts (reverence) to gratitude for all the ways God has blessed us (praise), to feeling empowered to respond generously (service) with others because of the blessings we have received. [73] Taking our vocation seriously is the result of feeling grateful for what we have received and affirming the good we have to offer the world. The more grateful and generous we can be, the more we contribute to the "Greater Good."

Conclusion

Magis not only serves as the reason why Xavier University exists, but can help spark and shape why you are here and the meaning you make from your experiences in and outside the classroom. The "Greater Good" serves as the moral norm to foster agreement and accountability as we live into the vision of who we are, who we strive to become, and the kind of society we hope to build-one marked by love, mercy, justice, solidarity, and hope-in order to promote the flourishing of all creation. This is the gift of our Jesuit education and the task that we have to carry out during our time together at Xavier University. Together. For Others. A.M.D.G.

* * * * *

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. What does Magis add to your sense of the FYS theme, the "Greater Good?" Why does it matter that you're a part of this Jesuit university community? How do you want to be formed while at Xavier? What do you hope to contribute to this community - and beyond?
  2. How does this discussion of love, mercy, justice, solidarity, and hope compare to your vision of "the good life"? What do these specific virtues invite you to ponder, question, and imagine possible? What would it take to incorporate these five values into your life, especially to "become more aware of reality in order to take responsibility for transforming it"?
  3. How could you incorporate contemplation into your everyday routine? What would you hope to see, think, and feel? What change could practicing contemplation make possible in you and around you?
  4. Henry David Thoreau wrote, "This world is but a canvas to our imagination." What could your life be like if you felt more free to be authentic, vulnerable, compassionate, courageous, and generous? Using your imagination to paint the canvas of the world, how will your time at Xavier spark and shape the kind of future you want to create, the kind of society you want to help build, and the kind of person you hope to become?
  5. How does Magis provide a lens for you to consider your vocation? How might this fit with your interests in particular areas of study, or potential occupations? Given the aim of Jesuit education to form "women and men for and with others" who "live a faith that does justice," how might you commit your life to addressing ethical issues? How could you invite others to join your efforts to make a difference in the world?

* * * * *


 

[1] John Dewey, The Public and its Problems. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1927. Dewey argues that "Till the Great Society is converted into a Great Community, the Public will remain in eclipse. Communication can alone create a great community. Our Babel is not one of tongues but of the signs and symbols without which shared experience is impossible" (142).

[2] Barton Geger S.J., "What Magis Really Means and Why It Matters" Jesuit Higher Education 1:2 (2012), 16-31.

[3] Geger, 19.

[4] Geger, 18. Geger later adds that Magis "is the distinguishing characteristic of the Jesuit way of proceeding, the special emphasis or charism that Jesuits and colleagues bring to the Church and the world at large" (20).

[5] Geger, 22.

[6] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 34, Section 7. In other words, as we become more fully human, we become more divine. This is relevant because a liberal arts education (i.e., our approach to education at Xavier University, which combines an interdisciplinary approach to and integration of truth, beauty, and wisdom) is viewed through the lens of humanization: the goal is to help students become more freely and fully alive through critical thinking, social analysis, theological reflection, ethical evaluation, and taking responsibility for personal development as well as the socio-ecological common good.

[7] In the Catholic tradition, an individual has a special obligation to inform and obey one's conscience. The conscience is the "Vicar of Christ" and the "sanctuary" to hear the voice of God ( Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1776-1778). This reflects the dignity of every human person, who is equipped and empowered by God to discern what is right, true, good, and just.

[8] Geger explains that the "widest impact" can take various shapes: serving the greatest need, long-term influence, where the most people will be reached, and where conditions are optimal (Geger, 18-19).

[9] The goal of discernment is to pay attention to one's life to become more aware of what is leading a person toward or away from God (or, if you prefer, toward or away from the process of humanization). For a more robust treatment of discernment and some practical exercises, see: Tim Muldoon, The Ignatian Workout: Daily Spiritual Exercises for a Healthy Faith. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2004 (especially pages 18-22).

[10] To learn more about this program, visit: https://www.xavier.edu/ers/ERS-Focus.cfm.

[11] The classic definition of justice was popularized by the Roman orator Cicero, which means treating "each person according to their due." This idea of justice insists that each person be treated as a subject (an end) rather than an object (or a means to another end). It also reminds us that justice has to be appropriate to each person, which is in tension with the idea that justice should be "blind." Moral norms help us create the standards that can be shared in most cases, while allowing for exceptions based on unique abilities and needs.

[13] Geger, 19.

[14] As Geger writes, "Jesuit dedication to social justice is a clear manifestation of the magis in action" (24).

[17] Fr. Ignacio Ellacuría S.J., "The Task of the Christian University," Commencement Address at Santa Clara University, June 12, 1982. Available here: https://www.scu.edu/ic/programs/ignatian-tradition-offerings/stories/ignacio-ellacuria-sjs-june-1982-commencement-address-santa-clara-university.html.

[18] As cited by Rockhurst University and available here: https://ww2.rockhurst.edu/about/jesuit-mission.

[19] Geger, 26.

[20] In Catholic social teaching, each person is inherently sacred and social, which is the basis for the "common good," the rights and duties to participate in human society in the pursuit of security, stability, peace, and justice. For example, in the 1965 document released at the end of Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, the church teaches that "Every day human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result the common good, that is, the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment, today takes on an increasingly universal complexion and consequently involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family" (no. 26).

[22] Geger, 27.

[23] Pope Francis, "Address to the 36 th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus" (24 October 2016), available: https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/october/documents/papa-francesco_20161024_visita-compagnia-gesu.html.

[24] In The Republic, Plato identifies four cardinal virtues: temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice (see Book 4, paragraphs 427e and 435b). In the Christian tradition, these cardinal virtues (affirmed by Ambrose and Augustine) complement three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love (as Saint Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 13). Sometimes it is helpful to think of a virtue as a mean between two extremes; for example, the virtue of courage represents the proper midpoint between excessive (and perhaps foolish) brazen action and deficient, cowardly inaction.

[25] The "Golden Rule" states that you should treat others as you would want to be treated. Some suggest a revision (the so-called "Platinum Rule," which does not presume to know what others want): treat others as they would want to be treated. Wendell Berry offers a third option, stressing our interdependence: treat those who are downstream as you would want those who are upstream to treat you.

[26] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, question 26, article 4.

[27] Pope Francis, The Name of God Is Mercy tr. Oonagh Stransky (New York: Random House, 2016), 8-9.

[28] Ibid., 12.

[30] Pope Francis, "Why the Only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone" TED (April 2017), available: https://www.ted.com/talks/pope_francis_why_the_only_future_worth_building_includes_everyone/transcript?language=en.

[31] Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017), 54.

[32] Boyle, 204.

[33] Boyle reflects, "If we long to be in the world who God is, then, somehow, our compassion has to find its way to vastness." See Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (New York: Free Press, 2010) 66.

[34] John Donahue S.J., "Biblical Perspectives on Justice" in The Faith that Does Justice: Examining the Christian Sources for Social Change ed. John C. Haughey S.J. (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1977), 69 (emphasis removed). Donahue describes Jesus as "the sacrament of God's justice in the world" (Ibid., 88).

[35] A prime example of restorative justice is making reparations for the descendants of slaves. See Ta-Nehisi Coates' compelling essay, "The Case for Reparations" The Atlantic (June 2014), available: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/.

[36] 1971 Synod of Bishops, "Justice in the World," available: https://www1.villanova.edu/content/dam/villanova/mission/JusticeIntheWorld1971.pdf.

[37] Cornel West, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud (New York: SmileyBooks, 2009), 232.

[38] Alfred T. Hennelly (ed.) Liberation Theology: A Documentary History (Maryknoll, Orbis, 1990), 77-83.

[39] As quoted in Robert McAfee Brown, Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1984), 19.

[40] Jonathan Sacks, To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility (New York: Schocken, 2005), 103.

[41] Christopher Ingraham, "Three quarters of whites don't have any non-white friends" The Washington Post (25 August 2014), available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/08/25/three-quarters-of-whites-dont-have-any-non-white-friends/?utm_term=.363861d4d407.

[42] For a more detailed discussion, see: Dahleen Glanton, "Yes, white 'privilege' is still the problem" Chicago Tribune (29 March 2018), available: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/glanton/ct-met-white-privilege-dahleen-glanton-20180328-story.html. See also: Meghan Clark, "For white Christians, non-racism is not enough" America (16 August 2017), available: https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/08/16/white-christians-non-racism-not-enough; George Yancy, "The ugly truth of being a black professor in America" The Chronicle of Higher Education (29 April 2018), available: https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Ugly-Truth-of-Being-a/243234.

[43] Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, 190.

[44] Boyle, Barking to the Choir, 165.

[45] At Xavier, we say "All for One and One for All." If this were to apply to all persons-not just members of the Xavier community-this would strike close to the core meaning of solidarity.

[46] William F. Lynch S.J., Images of Hope: Imagination as Healer of the Hopeless (University of Notre Dame Press, 1974), 32.

[47] Ibid., 37, 40, 42.

[48] For other examples of the impact of hope, see Scott Barry Kaufman, "5 ways hope improves your success" Fulfillment Daily (2 October 2014), available: http://www.fulfillmentdaily.com/5-ways-hope-improves-success/?utm_content=buffer933ba.

[49] As quoted by Greg Boyle in Barking to the Choir, 85.

[50] Gabriel Marcel, "The Encounter with Evil," in Tragic Wisdom and Beyond tr. Peter McCormick and Stephen Jolin (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973), 143.

[51] Boyle, Barking to the Choir, 16.

[52] Walter Burghardt, S.J., "Contemplation: A Long Loving Look at the Real" Church (1989), 89-98.

[53] To illustrate our connection with everything in the cosmos, I use a Time magazine interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Tyson reflects on the "the most astounding fact" he's learned in his career as an astrophysicist. He reports that the atoms that comprise life on earth (including our bodies) are traceable to the stars in the sky. He adds, "when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up-many people feel small because they're small and the universe is big-but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There's a level of connectivity." A compelling video of this reflection is available at: https://youtu.be/9D05ej8u-gU.

[54] Geger, 26.

[55] Contemplation interrupts the cycle of "compare and despair" which makes it too easy to feel "less than" in comparison with others. Theodore Roosevelt is credited with the insight, "comparison is the thief of joy" in Kenneth Cooper, Nels Gustafson, and Joseph Salah, Becoming a Great School (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013), ix.

[56] Mindfulness is a related practice. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh defines mindfulness as "the practice of being fully present and alive" in a way that unites the body and mind. He continues, it "is the energy that helps us to know what is going on in the present moment." Mindfulness is awareness without judgment. And, just as contemplation aims for communion, so mindfulness leads to a sense of "inter-being," the recognition of the unity of all that exists. For more on this topic, see Thich Nhat Hanh, Love in Action (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1993) or Living Buddha, Living Christ (New York: Riverhead Books, 1995), among numerous other titles.

[57] See "Radical Amazement" in Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2017), 58-59.

[58] See, for example, the poetry of Mary Oliver (especially poems like "The Summer Day," "The Swan," "Morning Poem," "Wild Geese," or "Song of the Builders"), the work of writers like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Zora Neale Hurston, Flannery O'Connor, Annie Dillard, Alice Walker, Marilynne Robinson, or Toni Morrison.

[59] Burghardt, 94-98.

[60] Donna Freitas traces the exhausting effects of appearing happy, popular, and successful on social media, which backfires by leaving people feeling depressed, anxious, and isolated. See The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost. Oxford University Press, 2017.

[61] Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. Abbey of Gethsemani, 1965.

[62] Jason Selk, "Habit-Formation: The 21 Day Myth" Forbes (15 April 2013), available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonselk/2013/04/15/habit-formation-the-21-day-myth/#1f1fef1bdebc.

[63] Johann Baptist Metz, Faith in History and Society: Toward a Practical Fundamental Theology tr. J. Matthew Ashley (New York: Herder and Herder, 2007), 177-178.

[64] William Lynch, Images of Hope, 32.

[65] William Lynch S.J., Christ and Prometheus: A New Image of the Secular (University of Notre Dame, 1970), 23.

[66] Pope Francis, "Discourse to the Community of La Civiltà Cattolica" La Civiltà Cattolica (9 February 2017), available: https://www.laciviltacattolica.it/articolo/discourse-of-the-holy-father-francis-to-the-community-of-la-civilta-cattolica/.

[67] Michael Paul Gallagher S.J., "Culture and Imagination as Battlegrounds" Shaping the Future: Networking Jesuit Higher Education for a Globalizing World Conference in Mexico City (21-25 April 2010), 3, 7.

[68] Michael Himes, Doing the Truth in Love: Conversations about God, Relationships, and Service (New York: Paulist Press, 1995), 56.

[69] Ibid., 57-58.

[70] Mark Manson, "The Most Important Question of Your Life" (6 November 2013), available: https://markmanson.net/question.

[71] Thomas Edison tried thousands of different prototypes before completing his light bulb. When asked about how he felt, having failed so many times, he replied: "I never failed once. I succeeded in proving those other ways will not work."

[72] Grit is more about gratitude, compassion, and pride than self-control according to David DeSteno in his article, "We're teaching grit the wrong way," The Chronicle of Higher Education (18 March 2018), available: https://www.chronicle.com/article/We-re-Teaching-Grit-the/242854/.

[73] Saint Ignatius believed that ingratitude is the root of all sin and the antidote to feeling ungrateful is savoring the goodness in and around us. We remain in right-relationship with God, others, and ourselves when we are filled with gratitude and inspired to be generous after taking a "long, loving look at the real."

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Theological Foundations (THEO 111)
Jesuit Theology and Spirituality (THEO 236)


Chris Pramuk, Ph.D.
Mentor: Ginger McKenzie, Ph.D.

I. Using Music and Poetry to Teach the Whole Person  Chris Pramuk, Ph.D.
Theological Foundations (THEO 111)
Course Description (Fall 2008/Spring 2009)


This course introduces students to the academic study of theology by reflecting on the mysteries of human life and the divine dimension of reality. We approach the subject through many lenses: historical and critical analyses, sacred scripture, literature, and science; through art, poetry, film, and music; and inevitably, through the lens of our own experiences, questions, and personal histories as human beings. By exploring religious faith and theological questioning as a universal dimension of human life on the planet, this class provides a foundation for a deeper personal engagement with Catholicism and global religious traditions in general.

Mission-Driven Components

The Ignatian Mentoring Program has reinforced my desire as a teacher to engage the whole person of students through the use of poetry and music. As St. Ignatius wrote in the Spiritual Exercises: "It is profitable to use the imagination and to apply the five senses to [these contemplations], just as if I were there. Then, reflecting upon myself, I will draw some profit from this." Through frequent exploration of music and poetry in the classroom, I aim to help students "get inside" the experiences of others in a holistic way, "just as if [they] were there." That is, to get beyond the "literal" surface of things and immerse oneself in the depth (or mystical) dimension of reality, history, sacred texts, etc., thus giving them tools for exploring the transcendent dimension (and questions) of their own lives.

Bill Huebsch expresses a very "catholic" (universal) truth when he writes: "Human beings stand constantly at the very edge of mystery. . . . The language of the poet is not ordinary, common language to us. It is a language that seems to come from the other side." By exploring the life and poetry of Abraham Joshua Heschel, Thich Nhat Hanh, and many others, as well as the poetic landscape of the Bible, students are invited to place themselves "at the edge of mystery," and to dwell there a while, even (or especially) when doing so opens up the most difficult and elusive questions: Is God real? Where is God when people are suffering? For what can I hope for in this life and the next? Where are my desires leading me? Does God (or Jesus) have anything to do with my sexuality? And so on. By opening up hidden realms of experience and imagination, music and poetry are uniquely positioned to help young adults get inside and wrestle with such questions.

II. Protest Music in an Ignatian Context
Jesuit Theology and Spirituality (THEO 236)
Course description (Fall 2008/Spring 2009)


The seminar seeks to understand the historical, theological, and imaginative roots of Jesuit (or Ignatian) spirituality as expressed in the Autobiography and Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Building on this foundation, students explore how aspects of this spirituality come to fruition in the lives and thought of four influential Jesuits of the 20th century: Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner, Pedro Arrupe, and Anthony De Mello, as well as in a range of related Jesuit and non-Jesuit thinkers.

The seminar prepares students to articulate their own vision of a "spirituality for the 21st century," and to consider how Jesuit theology and spirituality might contribute essentially to that vision.

Mission-Driven Component and Research Fruits

Beyond the clear connections between this course and the Jesuit mission and identity of Xavier University, teaching this seminar has opened my eyes to the theological underpinnings of Ignatian spirituality. In particular, studying the Spiritual Exercises in great depth has helped me understand the intrinsically theological link between the "service of faith" and the "promotion of justice," as articulated by GC 32 and carried forward by Pedro Arrupe. Ignatian spirituality trains us to "see" the world "from below," as it were, as Jesus saw the world, with particular attention to the poor and suffering. As Johann Metz puts it, Ignatian spirituality cultivates a "mysticism of open eyes," a spirituality that "sees more and not less. It is a mysticism that especially makes visible all invisible and inconvenient suffering, and--convenient or not--pays attention to it and takes responsibility for it, for the sake of a God who is a friend to human beings."

Again, one way I have sought to cultivate this kind of "seeing" in the classroom is through music, and in particular, through the venerable tradition of "protest music." With much encouragement from my IMP mentor, Dr. Ginger Mckenzie, I shared examples of protest music with students in the seminar, and together we explored certain "resonances" with Ignatian spirituality, not least the impulse to firmly resist injustice and dehumanization in all its forms. One of the theological or mystical keys to this particularly Christian "way of seeing," we discerned, is a living grasp of the "incarnation" of God in all things, and consummately, in the drama of human life. Another is the willingness to enter into communion with Jesus not only in the drama of his life, but also in his death on the cross, as Ignatius invites us to do in the First Week of the Exercises. In an analogous way, protest music draws us into the experience of "the crucified peoples" of history, and confronts us with the question of complicity and responsibility: "What are you going to do about it?"

Conclusion

This "experimenting" with protest music in an Ignatian context has been tremendously thought-provoking, both for myself and, I believe, my students. It culminated in the writing of a full-length essay on the subject , which I have submitted for consideration to a volume on Justice in Jesuit Education being published by Fordham University Press

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Ageless Insights for Distracted Minds and Bodies:
Teaching the Ignatian Habits of Reflective Discernment for Future Busy Professionals Through Online Environments

Kristine Suna-Koro, PhDKristine Suna-Koro, PhD
Mentor: Carol L. Winkelmann, PhD (English)

Acknowledgments
I extend my appreciation to IMP and gratitude to my mentor Dr. Winkelmann for her terrific support during this project. This project is dedicated in honor of my dear colleague and friend Dr. Jennifer Beste, 2010 Conway Fellowship Recipient.

Project description
It is an open secret that in the present culture of ruthless efficiency a premium it put on our productivity and accelerated performance. Technological revolution has been a mixed blessing: we have ample tools to be connected and interact with one another even across the globe twenty-four hours a day, every day. Multi-tasking is increasingly perceived as a non-negotiable demand for our high-tech minds and careers. Technological developments have taught us to constantly multitask. What is particularly important in academic settings is the virtually required ability to learn in distracting environments. The skills of gathering large amounts of information from electronic media are rapidly developing. Certain tasks can be performed much faster using our ubiquitous technology. And yet, on the other hand, in this context distraction emerges as the pivotal nemesis of self-knowledge, genuinely productive learning as well as reflective analytical skills alongside thoughtful action and decision-making capabilities.

As Fran Grace summarizes, "The highly touted goal of 'critical thinking' is not actually possible without probing into the nature of one's own inner workings. Critical thinking without contemplative inner quality is like a blindfolded archer shooting arrows." 1

My inquiry focused on finding, appropriating, and designing effective and user-friendly pedagogical tools to help shape and advance such personal and professional habits as cultivation of attentive observation skills on intellectual, emotional, ethical and agential levels. These skills, in turn, can facilitate richer and more personalized processes of acquiring complex types of knowledge and applying it in various professional settings with a finer sense of self-awareness (including self-limitations), professional expertise and integrity.

Application
Experimental use of select digitally enhanced and online-sourced discernment practice modules is fitting for courses such as THEO 111 Theological Foundations and THEO 404/632 Religion, Ethics, and Professional Practice/Ethics in Ministry. With proper customization of content, these discernment practices can be applied in various classroom settings, physical and online, across many disciplines in humanities as well as natural and social sciences.

Challenge
Despite the rapid advance of multitasking abilities, the emergence of corresponding dis-abilities warrants serious attention. Research and pedagogical observations suggest that, paradoxically, multitasking and constant distraction can impede learning, especially when it comes to the comprehension, analysis and advancement of complex ideas. It can also greatly increase the probability of mistakes. There are several major areas of concern:

  • Dis-ability to sustain attention stability over longer periods of time
  • Dis-ability to effectively deal with distractions
  • Dis-ability to sustain complex arguments in written and oral forms
  • Dis-ability to achieve or sustain mental clarity to effectively complete complex assignments

In light of these widespread observations about the impact of media culture on how we reason, learn and relate several new categories have recently gained attention. For example, "CPA"--Continuous Partial Attention describes electronic media-based activities while simultaneously engaging in a conversation. Terms such as "Surfer's Voice" and "Absent Presence" describe situations when a person is engaged in human interaction while also browsing the web, text-messaging, posting on social networks and, perhaps, making their favorite pasta simultaneously.

As a result, most students doing their reading assignments, and research projects and papers can be expected to encounter continuous and, by now habitual, distractions. Often the outcome is an emphatically diminished ability to focus and concentrate in class and while working on their assignments. Academic performance suffers. Personal frustration increases. Here the question is: what practices could help to interrupt and assuage the tiresome routines of distraction? What practices can cultivate emotional and social intelligence alongside intellectual clarity and body-awareness?

Findings and Strategies
My inquiry led me into two directions. First, I explored various initiatives under the auspices of the emerging discipline of Contemplative Studies. Contemplative pedagogies incorporate various mindfulness and discernment practices from religious and non-religious sources in college teaching. Among the published results, attesting to the fruitful effects of such approaches across a spectrum of disciplines, is, for example, the recent collection of essays Meditation and the Classroom: Contemplative Pedagogy for Religious Studies (Judith Simmer-Brown and Fran Grace, eds.; Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2011).

Second, I explored Ignatian insights about the process of wholistic reflection and decision-making to discern the "movements" of the soul that could be combined with the developing body of research from Contemplative Studies. My specific goal was to find and appropriate already existing resources in online environments that would use digital media according to the principle of "like cures like"--to benefit from the best that technology can offer to remedy what technology has made problematic.

My conclusion is that a helpful resource with considerable potential for future expansion is available in the form of "3 Minute Retreats" from Loyola Press: www.loyolapress.com
In the present form, Loyola Press offers a free audio-visual resource directly from their website. Among the scores of currently available "retreats" I identified over a dozen modules that are appropriate in Xavier classrooms taking into consideration the interreligiously diverse student body. The selected "retreat" modules provide a guided, interactive, step-by-step, audio-visual practice that can be employed in classroom to develop and nurture attentive intellectual vitality by addressing the following components:

  • body awareness by focusing attention on breath and posture
  • simple techniques of mindfulness built around particular subjects such as diversity; mutual respect; burnout; gratitude etc.
  • the identified retreats did not advance a particular sectarian agenda and so can serve as a sufficiently inclusive tool in classrooms at Xavier

These modules can be used in class via live streaming yet there are other options as well. After communication with Mr. Ray Ives, Marketing Communications manager at Loyola Press, he created a customized DVD with select theme-specific and goal-specific "retreat" modules that can be played on any PC even if broadband connection is unavailable. I acknowledge with gratitude his enthusiastic and creative collaboration!

The "like cures like" approach suggests a fruitful fit: it can integrate contemplative pedagogy and its plethora of mindfulness techniques, Ignatian spiritual heritage on discernment and cutting edge digital technology. Among the potential benefits are the following:

  • Online-based and media-sourced discernment modules can be useful for both in-class and entirely online courses
  • Students can engage in these practices individually and collectively
  • The instructor can practice together with their students instead of being the sole leader; this approach can be used even by instructors who would not, for a number of reasons, feel competent and comfortable leading and designing such practices alone
  • Absentees can practice the same module as the students who are present in class
  • Brevity: 3-5 minutes format providing a step-by-step guided structure
  • Flexibility: a common theme or a variety of themes and approaches depending on the course objectives; flexible length and placement in the course of a single class or the whole semester
  • Online access and customizable format (such as DVD) for backup if high speed connection for streaming is unavailable

Desired Outcomes
The outcomes of are broad and not discipline-specific to benefit diverse personal and professional aspirations. Regular practice has the potential to be positively habit-forming in the following areas:

  • Ability to be mindful of one's body
  • Ability to sustain attention better and longer
  • Ability to listen to others openly and actively with a robust sense of presence
  • Ability to acknowledge and reflect on one's own background, life-experience, emotions and desires
  • Development of precision in one's perceptual and observational skills
  • Ability to analyze new information efficiently and clearly
  • Development of precision in thinking and responding to others
  • Ability to recognize healthy personal strengths and limits

Further Efforts
Using insights from contemplative pedagogies and considering the characteristics of Xavier's academic community, there is a clear need to substantially expand the diversity dimension of the online "retreats" that Loyola Press currently offers. Such an expansion is certainly possible. Ignatian practices of discernment are mobile, flexible and time-tested and thus particularly fitting to be appropriated to better resonate with the cultural, racial, gender, and ethnic diversity at a contemporary university such as Xavier. Particular attention must be directed toward respectful recognition of not just Roman Catholic spiritual tradition but also other Christian traditions across the Protestant and non-denominational spectrum as well as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hindu traditions, Spiritual-but-not-Religious, and atheist perspectives. All of these are represented among Xavier student body and faculty. Hence they deserve to be considered with sensitive respect so that our classrooms are genuinely safe and welcoming environments that foster learning for all our undergraduate, graduate, and professional program students.

1 Fran Grace, "Meditation in the Classroom: What Do Students Say They Learn?" in Meditation and the Classroom: Contemplative Pedagogy from Religious Studies (Judith Simmer-Brown and Fran Grace, eds.; Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2011):239.

Resources
Select examples:

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Ecumenical Examen as a Tool for Ecological Conversion

Christine Thomas, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible

Mentor: Lisa Ottum, Ph.D. (English)

A Theological Response to the Environmental Crisis:

The context of my work in the Ignatian Mentoring Program was the vision of the Theology Department for a renewed THEO 111: Theological Foundations course. Through a collaborative process of discernment and discussion in 2019, the Department articulated 7 student learning outcomes for THEO 111.  Among these were the one which is the focus of my project: that students be able to formulate a theologically informed response to the environmental crisis.  We collectively agreed that a primary text for this work would be Pope Francis’ encyclical On Care for Our Common Home: Laudato Si’.

Pope Francis powerfully frames the challenge facing us both as human beings on this planet and as educators in responding to the environmental crisis:

“Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.” [1]

This shift in awareness and action constitutes in Pope Francis’ words an “ecological conversion” which requires “the recognition of our errors, sins, faults and failures, and leads to heartfelt repentance and desire to change.” [2]   As I reflected on ways in which students might grasp the stakes and dynamics of such a transformation, the Ignatian practice of the Examen presented itself as an effective tool.  Indeed, the Society of Jesus has created an Examen, “Reconciling God, Creation, and Humanity,” as a tool “to heed Pope Francis’ call in Laudato Si’ to care for creation and to reconcile our relationship with God, creation and one another as expressed in the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.” [3]

The pedagogical challenge as I conceived it was how to adapt such an Examen for use with students coming from a variety of faith backgrounds, including those with no religious affiliation, so that each student could engage in a meaningful and authentic manner with the exercise. Theological Foundations is a required course which draws from the entire first-year class and the students in my two courses reflected this diversity.  How would I formulate the language of the Examen in a way that was invitational? How would I give students enough familiarity with the practice itself so that they could apply it to the context of their relationship with human and non-human creation? 

Formulating an Ecumenical Examen:

In order to give my students the context they needed to understand the Examen as a spiritual practice and to develop an awareness of how such a practice might contribute to the promotion of justice, I introduced the Examen in my first course module on Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit values.  I worked closely with my colleague Gillian Ahlgren to formulate the Examen in invitational language, reimagining what it meant to engage in the five steps of gratitude, review, sorrow, forgiveness, and grace.  Together we produced a series of reflection questions through which I guided the students in an in-class exercise.  Students were asked to reflect and write down their reflections in response to the following prompts:

  1. As you think about yesterday, focus on a moment where you felt restored, at peace, joyful, content, or affirmed. Remember and reenter that moment with gratitude.
  2. Now go back through the flow of the day, what moments do you notice? Where would you have wanted to spend more time?
  3. Is there anything about the flow of the day that you don’t like? A moment when you did something you regret or something was done that hurt you? A moment in which you felt limited, disabled, or in need of help?
  4. Imagine what that situation might look like with greater compassion or wisdom.
  5. Now as we come back to this present moment, allow yourself to reenter this space with more kindness and gratitude.

Students were invited to share their response to the experience with each other in pairs.  I then turned the focus of their paired discussion to how this practice of self-examination and reflection might shape our relationships in community.

As students reported back from their paired discussions and we moved to group reflection, we noted that attentiveness to individual experiences of gratitude and regret causes us to pay attention to our relationships with others.  This leads us to develop awareness for the way we interact, what is broken and needs healing within and around us.  I suggested to the students that these person–to–person relationships are the basis for any social change.  Through compassion and empathy for individuals we widen out to the larger community of which we are a part, developing a spirit of solidarity in which we share the cares and concerns of those who are more distant from us.  As we seek healing and reconciliation for ourselves, we begin to seek it for the community as a whole.  Mindfulness of our actions on an individual level enhances mindfulness of our part in the way society functions.

Formulating an Ecological Examen for a Remote Learning Environment:

I planned to return to this understanding of the Examen as a tool for personal reflection towards solidarity and the work of social and ecological justice as the culmination of the course module on the environmental crisis and of our work with Laudato Si’.  Just before we began this module, Xavier shifted to remote instruction in response to the spread of Covid-19.  I had to reassess and restructure my teaching for this new environment while being sensitive to the needs and challenges of a group of students who were now located in diverse time zones and home contexts from the west coast to the east coast of the United States to overseas in Botswana.  Through intensive work with Amy Gardner in Instructional Design, I determined that the most sensitive approach would be to focus on designing asynchronous work to be complemented by a limited number of targeted synchronous class sessions.  I created multilevel assignments which required students to engage with close reading questions on selected passages from Laudato Si’ and then to compose discussion posts which analyzed, synthesized, and reflected on their close reading.  I was impressed by the sophistication of many of the students’ work and the insights my two classes as whole generated from interacting with their colleagues’ posts.

The question I faced in this new context was whether I could guide the students through an Ecological Examen over Zoom as successfully and meaningfully as we had done together in the classroom at the start of the semester.  My mentor Lisa Ottum encouraged and supported me in taking this on and offered guidance on using PowerPoint and Canvas to enhance the synchronous experience.  She reflected with me on my reformulation of the Society of Jesus’ Examen, “Reconciling God, Creation, and Humanity,” for use in this context.

As the first module in our new remote learning context, this culminating work with the Examen was the first opportunity students had to engage with each other synchronously.  In the spirit of Cura Personalis, I dedicated the first half of the class to allowing each student to share how they were adapting to their new environment, what had been most challenging and what had been sustaining them as they were all under stay-at-home orders.  I called on the students in order of their online discussion groups so that they could have a stronger sense of the lives of the people they were engaging remotely.  The students were open with each other and their shared experiences grounded us for the reflection which followed. 

Using PowerPoint with text and images, I then guided them through the following five steps of the Ecological Examen I had reformulated.

  1. Think back to a time when you felt joy, wonder, or gratitude for something in the natural world. What was compelling to you about this experience? Why did you feel this way?
  2. Where do you see splendor or beauty in the natural and human environment? Where do you see suffering and environmental injustice?
  3. How do your life choices impact the natural and human environment?
  4. What troubles you about your engagement with the natural and human environment? What do you regret or wish you could change about your impact on the environment?
  5. In what ways might you change your ways of engaging with the environment? How might you contribute to the protection and flourishing of the natural and human environment?

After sharing our reflections as a group, in the spirit of the final step of transformation, we shifted to considering the inspiring work of youth activists for ecological justice, including Greta Thunberg and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, one of the plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States.

Student Reflections

Students wrote their responses to the experience in an ungraded reflective writing assignment on Canvas.  I was gratified to find that the experience of engaging in the Ecological Examen as a class had meaning to them, even in the context of the mediation of the online platform.  The following is a selection of their reflections.

  “For me the most meaningful thing about being able to take part in the Ecological Examen online is that we were still able to take a silent moment to reflect on these issues even though everyone is social distancing at the moment. I think that throughout the reflection I kept thinking about how important it is to keep these thoughts of wanting to help climate change even when we are allowed to go back into the world again. As well as how changing habits today and making sure to vote people in whose views reflect yours when voting season comes back is just as important.”

 “Being able to engage with the class and hear how everyone is doing was a nice change of pace. The examen made me reflect on how grateful I am for my first year at Xavier. I am so grateful for the people I have met and the opportunities I had. I'm already counting down the days until we are back on campus. I see beauty in traveling and exploring the world. I see it at the ocean and in the mountains. I see beauty in the people I meet and in my family. There's so much beauty in the world and at a time like this we really have to look to find things to keep us happy. As a college student we are the future and we are in charge of making decisions that affect us and our future generations. I think we have to remember that even if we live in a place where we don't see an environmental crisis we need to realize its everywhere and our everyday choices effect the environment. I can limit my use of single use plastic and limit my pollution by carpooling or biking/walking. Little choices like this can make a large difference in the long run. Overall, I really enjoyed the exercise and it was great getting to see our class is healthy.”

“I think engaging in the Ecological Examen on a class online made it more meaningful than if I were to do it myself. I think if I were to have done it by myself, I would have found myself just reading it rather than reading then reflecting. While doing the exercise, a common insight I had was that if everyone changed just a little aspect of their lives, it could make such a difference in the world and what was once destroyed or polluted, could become beautiful again.”

 “The Ecological Examen afforded me a self-reflective view of my actions against the environment I had never really concentrated on before. I couldn't stop thinking about every time I bought a disposable plastic bottle from the vending machines in my dorm. I do end up recycling them, but it’s better to have never used them in the first place. The last slide also made me reflect on the impersonal actions I could take to work towards alleviating climate change. Social change and public demonstration will always be more effective than personal changes to my lifestyle, so I considered getting more involved and searching for groups taking action against environmental deterioration in my communities.”

“I really liked the first part of the Ecological Examen where it made me think of a time when I felt joy, wonder, or gratitude in the natural world. The first instance that came to mind was when my roommate and I went to a state park  a couple miles out of Cincinnati. The other instance was when I went walking in a park back home with another friend over Spring Break. I think both of these times brought so much joy to me because I was with people I loved so much. It is definitely hard being back home, but remembering times like these make up for the lost time. Like we discussed during our zoom class, I find it confusing as to what impact I can make on the environment. Can my small actions actually make a difference? This is something that I will continue to keep in mind. It is definitely hard having an optimistic outlook on our world today with everything going on, but I need to remember that my small actions can affect others.”

 “I think because of what we as a world are going through right now made it easier for me to find gratefulness in the nature around me. Since I am not allowed to leave the house and go anywhere non-essential, being able to go outside and enjoy the sunshine is so helpful. . . . So, being able to escape the crazy and scary world we are living through via nature has really been amazing. Also I love looking out my window and seeing so many families walking together and spending time together. I feel like as a society through this hardship we have been able to really come together even when separated. Furthermore, I think it was easier for me to focus on the positive aspects of the Examen right now considering there is so much negativity surrounding us. I found myself putting more thought into what nature has to offer us right now.”

 “It was actually really comforting being able to think about something else going on in the world besides the coronavirus. I was able to think about some positive aspects within the world, including reflecting on nature which was really calming for me. I think all of us are really overwhelmed with everything going on in the world today, so it was nice being able to be with my classmates while going over the examen. I also think it is really important to take some time to stop whatever we are doing within our lives and think about nature and how it has impacted our lives.”

 “I think the most meaningful thing about experiencing the ecological examen online is that I knew that everyone was experiencing something similar to me. Even if we didn't have the same views on the state of the ecological crisis in our world, I knew that they felt the effects of the turmoil to our environment, especially right now. Though most of my thoughts were negative about the nature of our environment, especially after the recent videos and readings we did, it was easier to calm down and find hope by reflecting on the things that I value most about the environment that I am in.” 

Acknowledgements:

I am profoundly grateful to my mentor, Lisa Ottum of the English Department, and to my colleagues in the Theology Department, Marcus Mescher, Gillian Ahlgren, and John Sniegocki, who have supported me in this work.  Their guidance in everything from Ignatian spiritual practice and pedagogy, to critical analysis of the ecological crisis, to effective use of remote teaching technology has been invaluable.  Lisa Ottum has been especially generous with her time, wisdom, and friendship as we went from meeting in person throughout the year to continuing to meet over Zoom through the stay-at-home order.  Her mentoring has sustained me professionally and personally through the challenges that the pandemic has posed to all of us

[1] Pope Francis,  Laudato Si', paragraph 202 . Available at:   http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.

[2] Laudato Si', paragraph 218.

[3] http://www.ecologicalexamen.org

 

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