Ignatian Spirituality and Jesuit Higher Education
Seeking God in All Things
At the beginning of his religious conversion, Ignatius discovered that God worked with him through his deepest desires. As his faith grew, he recognized that God worked in all that was good in the world around him.
Ignatian spirituality and, therefore, Jesuit education, is shaped by an attitude that the reality of God can be seen and felt everywhere – in every relationship, situation and experience of one’s life. This guiding principle challenges students, faculty and staff to recognize that everything good in the world can be celebrated as the locus of God’s loving activity.
Care of the Person
During his conversion, Ignatius experienced God not as distant and removed, but as a teacher personally involved in his life, directly educating him in the way of prayer.
“Cura Personalis,” a Latin phrase that translates as “Care of the Person,” suggests that each student at The University of Scranton will receive individualized attention to the particular needs and circumstances of the current moment.
Caring for the person means knowing the student beyond what a transcript can reveal. It means that faculty and administrators strive to know students personally – their backgrounds and life histories, their strengths and limitations, their struggles and hopes.
Service of Faith and The Promotion of Justice
Dedication to service, a concern for the common good, and a commitment to promoting justice have always been implicit in the Jesuits’ works and world view. In recent decades, Jesuits and their colleagues have made more explicit these dimensions of their shared ministries. At a worldwide meeting in 1975, Jesuit leaders posed the question, “What is it to be a companion of Jesus today?”
Their answer echoes on our campus, shaping our priorities in teaching, research and institutional initiatives: To be a companion of Jesus today “is to engage, under the standard of the Cross, in the crucial struggle of our time: the struggle for faith and that struggle for justice which it includes.”4 This assertion continues to reinvigorate Jesuits and those with whom they labor so that all people might participate in the promise of Christ, who came that we “may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Contemplation In Action: Learning That is Both Active and Reflective
Ignatius believed that as we come to understand the world and develop a truer vision of it, we will be led to act in new ways. He understood the integral connection between knowing and acting, and hoped that Jesuits and graduates of Jesuit schools would be “contemplatives in action.”
Jesuit schools try to foster this “way of proceeding” by giving students an appreciation of their own agency. Ignatian pedagogy not only requires students to read, take notes, and write papers and exams, it also motivates them to think and learn on their own.
Such active learning empowers students and instills in them a confident sense of their own ability to change the world – to engage it and work fruitfully in the struggle to make it more just and gentle. Ignatius often closed his letters with words intended to challenge and inspire, fitting words for every Scranton student: “Go forth and set the world on fire.”
Ignatius also believed that the deeper truth of the world is best discovered when we engage in serious and sustained reflection on our reality. He encouraged prayerful consideration and frequent examination of conscience. In the words of T.S. Eliot, he did not want us to “have the experience but miss the meaning.”
It was during his forced convalescence that Ignatius first found time to reflect on his life’s meaning, an experience that changed him dramatically. No one forces Scranton students to reflect, but opportunities to do so are plentiful. Retreat programs at Chapman Lake, for example, are available for students of every faith tradition and those of none, and generations of Scranton students have benefited greatly from them.
On retreats, students can consider what really matters to them, their deepest convivtions and hopes, and who they want to be. Ignatius Loyola is “the patron saint of retreats,” and Scranton students live out the heart of his spiritual legacy in their lives and work.
3, 4 Pedro de Ribadeneira, Monumenta pædagogica Societatis Jesu, 2nd ed. rev., 1:475.