Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Non-Christian Jesuit Education

Instead of writing about the more conventional version of travel (physical) this week I’m writing about my spiritual traveling I have done through my life and how it intertwines with Kolvenbach’s Santa Clara speech about the service of faith and promotion of justice. As a child I was raised Roman Catholic; my ancestors from the south of India had been converted centuries ago by Portuguese missionaries. My family and I went to Church every Sunday, I attended Sunday school for an hour every week after mass, and my family even prayed more or less every night before bed. I was very comfortable in my faith that there was a God who sent down his son to save us from Hell. However, as I got older, the more I questioned this comfortable belief and the more I began to see it as absurd. It was an age of questioning, and it is something my Dad and I went through together. We started investigating other religions, Buddhism most successfully, and the journey from religion to religion made us discover our spiritual distance form Roman Catholicism. It seemed as though we had been performing these rituals out of guilt from family or what we had been taught to fear, and we were not getting the spiritual uplift that so many get from their religion.

Since then, we have left the Roman Catholic church in most way (my mother still makes us go for Christmas and Easter, and we are willing to go through the ritual to make her happy for the holidays), but that does not mean we have lost our spirituality. If anything, the two of us have found a much deeper connection to the world and other people just at the level of humanity, and not necessarily as brother and sisters under one Father. I suppose what I have cultivated resembles a Humanist approach that focuses simply on the optimism for the future of humanity and the belief that there can and must be progress. My ideals can actually be fairly accurately related to Kolvenbach’s statement that the “composition of our tiem and place embraces six billion people with their faces young and old, some being born and others dying, some white and many brown and yellow and black. Each one a unique individual, they all aspire to live life…and to make tomorrow better” (Kolvenbach 32).

This connection to service and “faith” (in a more liberal sense), relates to the development of “‘the whole person’ intellectually and professionally, psychologically, morally, and spiritually” (Kolvenbach 34). While I think that my own faith can cultivate this kind of depth in education and learning, it is something that I think that most universities fail to recognize the more multi-faceted approach and global perspective that is needed to create the “educated solidarity” is severely lacking in tertiary education (Kolvenbach 34). Unlike many Jesuit institutions that strive to humble their students and show them that service is a way to positively influence both their faith and their education, other higher institutions tend to have a more close-minded approach to education as an endeavor more sought for fame or fortune. That, I believe, is an aspect of the faith-infused educational system that is much more of a success than the secular organization; as a non-religious person and Loyola, even though I may not feel the call to work in the name of God or to serve my “brothers and sisters”, it does work as a way to constantly remind and reinforce my own beliefs and inspire me to serve as well. While the other and I work for different reasons, it does essentially boil down to the importance of a human connection and the ability to empathize with those who are struggling. This type of travel, spiritual, emotional, and sometimes physical, adds a deeper dimension to any person who undertakes it. Some people do not even need to have a faith to do service, but perhaps in taking on such an emotionally trying task, it will help them find it.

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