In preparation for the Ignatian Family Teach-In, the largest gathering of Jesuit institutions in the country, which will be held on Georgetown’s campus this weekend,
other Georgetown students and I have been contemplating the words of Jesuits and Catholics who call for a “faith that does justice.” At the conference, we will discuss social justice issues and how we can use our faith and education to inform our actions and change unjust systems.
Yesterday, we were asked to reflect over the following prayer, which became one of my favorites after I encountered it during the end of my senior year of high school.“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” -Pedro Arrupe, S.J.
This prayer makes clear that God is a part of our deepest desires, and that by pursuing what we love, we are also pursuing God. That pursuit can manifest itself in the smallest daily tasks or in a life-long personal mission; either way, when we are passionate about something, we are further engaging in our relationship with God. God provides us with particular gifts and interests, and through them, draws us to closer relationship with Him and His people on earth.
The prayer also speaks of the power of our passions and the practicality of following and embracing them. When our passions find us, we shape our life around them, making our lives more constructive and worthwhile. We are going to be more excited about our day-to-day lives, and get more accomplished, if we act in accordance with our passions. Ignoring our passions—despite how lofty our goals may be—is counterproductive. We can get more done, even when the job is difficult, when we enjoy it.
Above I said that “our passions find us,” not that “we find our passions.” There is a clear distinction between these two statements, and my mom helped me realize that. We can’t seek out passion about something; it simply appears (quickly or gradually) in our life, and there comes a time when we can no longer go on in our daily lives without relating everything back to that one thing that strikes our attention and excites us. The ways in which we become passionate about these things are not really in our control; we may not even be proud of the ways that our passion was fostered within us. But God reaches us in whatever way He can, working even through our sins and shortcomings. While these ways our passion was conveyed to us are clearly important—they have shaped us into who we are—they do not have to dictate how we move forward. What is important is that our passion has found us at all; the methods are secondary. It is now our job to embrace this passion, no matter how we received it, and use it to promote good in the world.
I’ll end by speaking a bit about another piece of writing Fr. Pedro Arrupe, who
penned this prayer. He also delivered the famous “Men and Women for Others” address, which reinforced what Jesuit education is all about—learning in order to act. Learning is not something we do for ourselves, but something for God and for our fellow human beings, and we have a responsibility use our education to challenge and remedy the unjust systems that plague our society. Whether at the Teach-In this weekend, in college-life, or in other arenas of education, we must remember that our learning is not the end; it is rather an important means.
This is the message of Arrupe: It must be our goal in life to find the place where our responsibility to serve and our passion converge. Then we can begin to play our part in fostering the Kingdom.
Questions for reflection: What is your passion? How did it find you? How to you plan to put your education into action?