Friday, March 19, 2010

Principle #5: Introductions

Principle #5: Introduce the Society

It is easy to forget that Jesus' invitation to the disciples wasn't a "Hey, you, get over here!" It was, rather, an invitation to "Come and See."

Without a doubt, Jesuits are most often associated with the classroom. In my own experience, while the first stirring of interest in the Jesuits came from watching my Jesuit teachers, the affirmation of my desire came through getting to know Jesuits personally. Father Fiore, SJ, was so gracious and hospitable during my time at Canisius that he still serves as a role-model of the type of warm, funny, and gregarious Jesuit that I aspire to be.

Over my three years at Fordham, I had many "spiritual conversations" with students and colleagues over pitchers of beer and glasses of wine. But I never wanted to be merely a drinking buddy; rather, I knew that I could build a sense of camaraderie with others and that as I got to know them and they came to know me, they'd soon see what it was in life that I loved: the Jesus Christ who has called me into his Company. My mindset was, and is, as follows: if a young person can trust me, can trust that I am being honest and open and real, then my faith and, by extension, the Society of Jesus will be more credible. This opens up exciting possibilities: with each new encounter and relationship, I am a missionary who must win the trust of others - sometimes by bearing gifts - in order to find the opening into which I might share the Good News. I go, so to speak, in their door to lead them out of mine.

I don't suspect every Jesuit, or religious, has the same style. So some practical steps might be: extend a welcome to a young person to come and visit your community. Invite him over for liturgy and dinner; or, if able, invite him to a vow ceremony or an ordination. When we discern, we are trying to find out what God most deeply desires for us and it is helpful if we can show that we, as religious, want to encourage that discernment by putting ourselves out there to be true companions.

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