I think I might be a Jesuit

Someone told me in order to have a “successful” blog you have to write every few days, on a regular basis, otherwise people won’t read it.  That’s probably good advice but I have found I only write when I have something to say–and that’s not every few days.  So forgive me for being silent from time to time, but my inclination is to remain silent if there is nothing of significance to say.

This approach reminds me of a story about Albert Einstein:

Albert Einstein was invited to speak at a banquet held in his honor at Swarthmore College. Hundreds of people from all over the country crowded an auditorium to hear what he had to say. When it came time for him to speak, the greatest physicist walked to the lectern, solemnly looked around, and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am very sorry, but I have nothing to say.” Then he sat down. The audience was in shock. A few seconds later, Einstein got up, walked back to the podium, and spoke again. “In case I have something to say, I will come back and say it.” Six months later he wired the president of the college with the message: “Now I have something to say.” Another dinner was held, and Einstein made his speech.

If this approach is good enough for Einstein, it’s good enough for me.

But now I have something to say and it’s this:  I think I might be a Jesuit.  Not literally, of course, since I am not even a Catholic.  But I have been reading a wonderful book by Father James Martin called The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything  and I find myself in frequent agreement with what Father Martin writes.


The Jesuits were founded by Ignatius of Loyola, a very interesting man with a very practical bent to his spirituality.  He wanted the Jesuits to be “contemplatives in action”.  In other words, spiritual but engaged in the world.  Father Martin’s book explains, in laymen’s language, the origin of the Jesuits and Ignatius’ approach (and thus the Jesuit’s approach) to life.  Written in a thoughtful, humorous and self effacing style, it’s a book worth reading.

One example of Ignatius’ and Father Martin’s good advice is found in the chapter entitled “What Should I Do?” about seeking God’s will in our decisions.  Father Martin writes:  Ignatius of Loyola suggests you “imagine a person whom I have never seen or known” and imagine what advice you would give to this person regarding the same decision you are facing.  This can help free you from excessive focus on yourself”

This is the same approach I have long used when I’m faced with a decision or dilemma.  I imagine a client coming to me for advice and I ask myself “What would you tell your client?”  This approach helps me be more objective and, hopefully, make wiser decisions.  See!  I was following Jesuit teaching and I didn’t even know it!

Toward the end of the chapter Father Martin writes these wise words about decision making:

Every state of life, every decision, includes some pain that must be accepted if you are to enter fully into those decisions and into new life. “All symphonies remain unfinished”, said Karl Rahner.  There is no perfect decision, perfect outcome, or perfect life.  Embracing imperfection helps us relax into reality.  When we accept that all choices are conditional, limited and imperfect, our lives become, paradoxically, more satisfying, joyful and peaceful.  All this points us to the unconditional, unlimited and perfect One to whom we say yes:  God.  All our decisions should be focused on this reality.  “Our only desire and our one choice”, said Ignatius, “should be this:  I want and choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.”

That’s a worthy and noble goal.  It is my goal, although I strive after it imperfectly.  But that’s part of the imperfection of life acknowledged by Ignatius and the Jesuits.  Success then, in life, is the faithful, albeit imperfect, pursuit of worthy goals.  And there is none more worthy than wanting and choosing what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.

I think that’s worth writing about.  And living.

Deo Gratias

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