Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Men for Others?

Yesterday was our Faculty Spirituality day. We went to the beautiful and peaceful Manresa Jesuit Retreat House for a morning of reflection and prayer. For about an hour, we were broken up into small groups, charged to discuss the meaning of "Men for Others" and the characteristics of the Grad-at-Grad that are so easily identified with, but perhaps too often understood within, Jesuit education.

We are, understandably, given over to using ciphers and catchphrases. "Men for Others" or, I've heard, "MFO's" is no exception. Yet, I think it helpful to consider the full context from which "Men for Others" is wrought. In a speech by Father General Pedro Arrupe:


Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others; men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ - for the God-man who lived and died for all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce. 
Arrupe continues:


First, let me ask this question:  Have we Jesuits educated you for justice?  You and I know what many of your Jesuit teachers will answer to that question.  They will answer, in all sincerity and humility:  No, we have not.  If the terms "justice" and "education for justice" carry all the depth of meaning which the Church gives them today, we have not educated you for justice.
What is more, I think you will agree with this self-evaluation, and with the same sincerity and humility acknowledge that you have not been trained for the kind of action for justice and witness to justice which the Church now demands of us.  What does this mean?  It means that we have work ahead of us.  We must help each other to repair this lack in us, and above all make sure that in future the education imparted in Jesuit schools will be equal to the demands of justice in the world. 

 In prideful moments, I have fancied of myself that I have taught my students the radicality of the Gospel. I have referenced Flannery O'Connor's "The Misfit" who saw that Jesus "thrown everything off balance." We have discussed the nature of sin in the world, the consequences of love, and I have spent much time playing with Herbert McCabe's apothegm, "If you do not love, you will not live. If you do love, they will kill you." Yet for all of my bluster, I can't help but wonder if it is all smoke and mirrors, a bourgeois attempt at being a "Christian revolutionary" from the comfortable confines of a classroom in the United States.

Certainly, a good bit of this is brought about by my experiences with Homecoming this weekend and the feedback I've been receiving. How much of the hypocrite do I feel that I try to make students aware of the sinful structures of buying coffee, or fruit, or sneakers and I feed right into that by helping to put on a dance, for adolescents, that was pretty over-the-top. In the shower I was struck by the chilling thought: were there students who could not go, not because of the ticket prices ($20.00 is pretty reasonable) but because all of the excesses associated with Homecoming made it cost prohibitive? Have I "talked counter-culture" but capitulated to the excesses I so often rail against?

By no means is this to be read as an expression of self-loathing or thinking that I did a bad job. Quite to the contrary: I'm rather confident that I did, and that I generally do, do a good job. It's just that I'm wondering if the "Good Job" I'm doing is one evaluated from a position that is inimical to the radical message Father Arrupe preached.

This is something for me to consider. I will meet with the Student Senate Officers in 15 minutes and I think I'll bring this up as something to consider. Perhaps, together, we can work to re-imagine what it might be to embody the Christian justice that, it seems to me, I've been failing to live up to this whole time. Perhaps we might reflect, together, on whether we are living up to the scandalousness of being an authentic "Man for Others" in a world where the pressure is to give lip-service to justice but live only for oneself.


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