A Franciscan’s Gratitude for St. Ignatius
A lot has happened in a year. While I’m not usually accustomed to marking my life in terms of Feast of St. Ignatius to Feast of St. Ignatius (I actually don’t think many Jesuits do that either), I was thinking this morning of the many ways that Ignatius and the Jesuit tradition have played a role in my life over the last year, since I last celebrated this feast day. Here is a personal reflection on how grateful I am for the life and legacy of St. Ignatius in my own experience over the past year.
One of the most significant Ignatian-related events of the past year for me has to do with my decision to enroll in the doctoral program in systematic theology at Boston College. Among the various options available to me, it became clear as I discerned where I would fit in best that BC was the place for me. Since spending a year at BC, I have come to recognize the über-enthusiasm of the students, faculty, administrators, and Jesuit community for the Ignatian tradition that ostensibly grounds this illustrious university’s history and mission.
I began my graduate career at BC on the occasion of the university’s 150th anniversary year (just a few years younger than its Franciscan big-brother, St. Bonaventure University, which celebrated the big 150 in 2008). One of the first major Ignatian-related events I participated in was as a concelebrant for the celebratory Mass at Fenway Park. What an event that was!
My time at BC has confirmed, and the condition for the possibility of full-funding for theology doctoral students with generous stipends illustrates, how committed Jesuit institutions (e.g., BC) are to fostering the Catholic intellectual tradition. It requires sharp advancement and marketing skills to stabilize the financial future of such a huge and important university like BC, and the Jesuits deserve a lot of credit. Their business savvy is, without a doubt, the envy of many religious communities around the world that have not always been as foresighted.
My time at BC has also been nothing short of a joy. I really love the theology department, faculty and fellow classmates. There are many top-notch programs in theology in the United States — a true embarrassment of riches within the academy — yet, talking with colleagues across the country at conferences and in social settings, it has become clear that many departments do not function with the generous, supportive, enthusiastic, and positive environment that the Boston College Theology Department provides. I am grateful for the rich intellectual and theological environment made possible by BC, which ultimately owes its origin to St. Ignatius.
Another significant event this year of an Ignatian sort was the surprise invitation by the editors of America magazine, undoubtedly the most prestigious Catholic weekly periodical in the United States and one of the oldest, to become a columnist. Like the existence of Boston College, America must trace its provenance to St. Ignatius and the founding of his Society of Jesus. (I wonder if Iggy is rolling over in his grave knowing that a Franciscan friar is now a staff columnist at America — ha).
Finally, perhaps the most surprising of all the significant Ignatian-related events in my life this year was one that has impacted the entire church and world. Pope francis. Who would have guessed a year ago that Pope Benedict would have announced his plans to retire as Bishop of Rome and that a former Jesuit Provincial and retired Archbishop from South America would be elected his successor? This has been and continues to be one of the greatest contemporary legacies of St. Ignatius’s influence. A Jesuit striving to live after the example of Francis of Assisi — could there be a more powerful combination?
Happy Feast of St. Ignatius — may what he began centuries ago continue to bring good things to fruition today and in the future!