This week the folks over at Loyola Press have been facilitating a #FindIggy campaign to lead up to the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. For those new to Jesuit history the quick and dirty version of St. Ignatius’ life is that he was a Spanish solider who liked to drink and gamble, usually in the company of pretty women. After being injured in war, he found God and then created the Jesuit order of Catholic priests. (Fun fact: The current Pope is a Jesuit!) To learn more about this kick-ass saint in much more detail, click here.
The Jesuits have since gone on to found thousands of schools and universities, with 28 thriving Jesuit institutions of higher ed. in the U.S. alone. I currently work at one and worked at another Jesuit school for four years prior to this job. To say I am a Jesuit nerd is an understatement, so when I stumbled upon Loyola Press’ #FindIggy campaign, I was stoked.
The purpose of the #FindIggy campaign is to allow folks to find Ignatius, and God, through a variety of lenses. They asked us to tag our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts with #FindIggy and prizes would be given out. I ended up winning a book, temporary tattoo and St. Ignatius bobblehead, but my spoils of Twitter posts are not the purpose of this post.
The theme of Friday’s posts were directed to when you #FindIggy during decision-making. A hallmark of Ignatian education is the process of discernment, so I had a great example all ready to go. I tweeted “I #FindIggy when making judicial hearing decisions for college students. How can I help form them into men and women for and with others?” I sent it into the world and was surprised when I quickly got a response from someone who follows me. I have since asked him if I could reference our exchange as I thought it was a great example of Ignatius in action.
Dr. Gardiner Tucker, an education consultant, responded to my tweet by saying “One thing that might help is to define the terms man and woman including all gender identities 🙂 so know what guiding towards.” I read the tweet while walking back from a meeting and was literally stopped in my tracks. I was offended. I was self-righteous. I was indignant. If you are familiar with Ignatian education, the phrase “men and women for and with others” is a recognizable tenet and is something that is stressed at most Jesuit universities, so I felt like he was insulting a good friend.
Then I took a moment and realized that maybe he had a point. Maybe this awesome phrase that asks our students to not just do service in our community to help the marginalized, but also to humble themselves and truly be with those who are being marginalized wasn’t as inclusive as it could be. Maybe Dr. Tucker had a point. And maybe I should take this as a moment of my own reflection and discernment.
One of St. Ignatius’ great accomplishments was setting up a format of spiritual discernment where a spiritual counselor has meetings and conversations to help lead a person closer to God and closer to their own truth. St. Ignatius stressed that each person should “presume the good” in the other. Presume the best intentions. Presume they are doing their best work. Presume they aren’t being confrontational.
This important reminder washed over me as I deleted my smart-ass tweet and instead responded to Dr. Gardiner with “The perils of a character limit combined with a centuries old Ignatian phrase strike again!” I hoped to acknowledge the limitations of the phrase, while still perhaps giving Dr. Gardiner some context as to the history of where it came from. He responded over Twitter with a kind apology, but then the unexpected happened. He e-mailed me! With Dr. Gardiner’s permission, here is the text of that e-mail:
Hi Marci – thanks for your kind response to my lack of tweet etiquette! I had to look up Ignatius and see his depth of spirituality – I wonder what he would say about character limits.
Your tweet about helping men and women form reminds me of a conversation I had with one of our psychotherapists at the University of Colorado when I was Director of Residence Life there. I asked her what makes a fully functioning human being. Through our discussion we created a model for resident development. Fascinating topic that certainly comes to light during conduct hearings.
May the blessings be.
Wow. Not only did he take time out of his very busy life to e-mail me some more context, but also was gracious enough to do some research on St. Ignatius himself, particularly about cura personalis or “care of the whole person.” I took a moment, send up a prayer of thanks to God or the Creator or whomever it is who runs this place for bringing not only a voice of dissention, but also a moment of reflection into my day. I was feeling very proud of myself and Ignatius swooped right in to make #FindIggy not only a fun, but also meaningful experience.
I ended up responding to Dr. Gardiner and stated that St. Ignatius would probably be chagrined at Twitter’s character limits, but joyful that this new method of communication brought together two strangers who were both able to teach the other something about “presuming the good” when entering into relationship with others.