Many students at Gonzaga University are drawn to GU because of the Jesuit values and mission statement. This was true for me initially, but I have found it difficult to live out these values in my daily life while away from GU and those with a similar mindset.
Whether on campus or not this semester, whether very familiar with the Jesuits or not, anyone can apply the teachings of the Jesuits to help you live your life to the fullest and help others achieve this as well. These ideals are there for you, wherever you are in life.
I spoke with three Jesuits for a different article and wanted to share some of their wisdom that I believe to be applicable to not only this story, but to life as a whole right now.
Fr. Timothy Clancy, S.J., is a philosophy professor at GU and was first inspired to become a Jesuit after reading the works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit philosopher. Clancy studies and teaches the Intersection of Religion and Technology and Religion’s Adaptation.
“One of the things that I focus on is that everybody’s religious, even though a lot of people don’t think of their religion as a religion,” Clancy said. “Religion is about reconnecting to what you hold sacred. In other words, what gives your life meaning and purpose? What do you think is most meaningful that makes life worth living?”
For some, this is attending Mass or other church services. For others, this may be hiking or painting or social justice. Whatever this is for you, it should help you direct your life where you wish it to go. I am passionate about writing, so I read novels and interact with other forms of storytelling.
“It’s good to [reflect over life] with other people because they can give you support and encouragement,” Clancy said. “It’s hard to be spiritual on your own. You need someone to connect with. You don’t want to figure it out all by yourself. It’s good to learn from others. Human beings have been thinking about the meaning of life for thousands of years. You don’t have to start over. You can learn from other people.”
Learning from the Jesuits as an undergraduate student at GU inspired Fr. Tom Lamanna, S.J., the pastor at St. Aloysius Parish, to become a Jesuit. He reflects on many of issues our nation currently grapples with, and how we can begin to act with kindness.
“We keep tripping over and forgetting that we are all creatures that are loved by God,” Lamanna said. “And we’re supposed to follow that love. We’re supposed to mimic that love.”
After finding spiritual meaning in our own lives, we can then begin to apply this to how we interact with others, with humility and knowledge of a common dignity.
Reflection and discernment are important elements of a Jesuit’s life. Lamanna models this as he remembers closing the parish in early March due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It was a moment of discernment. I remember looking at the church, a spring day, with that clear blue sky, it was beautiful. And [feeling] this deep sense of this isn’t permanent. And God is bigger than all. And just to try to remember that there is a coming out of the tunnel that will happen eventually. Something that’s easy to forget,” Lamanna said.
Fr. Bryan Pham, S.J., a law professor and the School of Law chaplain, also tries to live his life through Jesuit values. He decided in his sophomore year of high school to become a Jesuit after reading in the newspaper about Jesuits martyred after protesting the corrupt government in El Salvador.
“I was reading this and I thought, you know, we have one life to live, right?” Pham said. “What a great way to live your life, to actually believe in something that you’re willing to die for. Now, I wasn’t wanting to die, and I didn’t want to die, obviously. But to live authentically like that is to say, it’s all or nothing.”
Jesuits are often sent to difficult cultural or physical locations to evangelize and educate. Even with their training and focus, Jesuits can struggle. And perhaps we may never be called to die for the Jesuit values, but centering our life around these ideals helps us overcome difficulties.
“The prayer of the Jesuits is always about where is God in this? Am I following God,” Pham said. “Because the name ‘the Jesuit Society of Jesus,’ is called companions of Jesus. When you’re a companion to someone, you accompany them, you follow them, and for us, wherever Jesus is, that’s where we go. And it may not be comfortable, but it requires a complete commitment. Now, do I live my commitment 100% all the time? Probably not. But at least it’s something that I strive for.”
Take these messages how you will, instantly altering an aspect of your life or ruminating on them for years. The lives and words of these three Jesuits are an invitation for you, to start or continue a journey.
“Coming to Gonzaga is an opportunity for you to learn about what you hold sacred, whatever it is, doesn’t have to be Catholicism,” Clancy said. “It’s an opportunity for you to think and reflect over what matters in your life. We’re not just giving people surveys of education. We’re trying to form people… So, take advantage of Gonzaga to go deep and explore who you are and what you’re called to do in your life and how you can contribute to make this a better world.”