The mission of any institution is important to its vitality and role in the wider world. Whether in times of crisis or in everyday situations, a deep engagement with the Jesuit mission shapes our actions and underpins our transformative vision of higher education. The mission of our institution also binds us together as we educate global citizens of conscience, competence, and compassion.
This bi-weekly email series serves as an opportunity to connect with and celebrate the mission and tradition that unites our campus and the wider Jesuit network. Every other week we will offer a short reading or other form of content, a few key resources, and a brief reflection video from a member of the Santa Clara community.
DECEMBER 7 | THE ARTS & JESUIT EDUCATION
Emotion, mystery, wonder, and beauty serve an important role in Jesuit education and Ignatian spirituality, both in fostering the conditions for human flourishing and in creating the conditions for the education of the whole person. In the featured essay for this week, Thomas Lucas, SJ brings our attention to the insight of Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins who reminds us, “that beauty, as expressed in art or in the elegance of a quadratic equation or a DNA helix or the sunrise, opens the heart to the deepest levels of our human experience: to ask the profound questions about meaning, value, goodness, dignity, and, ultimately, hope.”
The arts have been critical to Ignatian pedagogy from the very beginning. The Jesuit educational tradition, with its focus on actively engaging with and creating works of art, has consistently held that knowledge is not simply generated through reason alone. Diverse ways of knowing are required in our mission to develop well-rounded and transformative students. The visual and performing arts allow our students to understand new perspectives, grapple with difficult realities, and to move beyond narrow ways of seeing the world.
As Aldo Billingslea argues in today’s video, the arts allow us to relate to the world beyond ourselves from a variety of vantage points and another person's point of view. The shifting perspectives we experience through the arts allows our students to better engage and transform the world.
Our current moment is the perfect time to celebrate, experience, and listen to diverse ways of knowing and understanding the world. Doing so will help broaden our own engagement with reality as it is; with all its difficulty, complexity, and, even in the face of great injustice, its beauty and joy. Active engagement with the arts among students, staff, and faculty is fundamental to our claims to be a Jesuit university. Without the emotions, questions, and new perspectives they generate, we would be incapable of beholding the full mystery, joy, and beauty of our world.
- Two issues of AJCU's Connections magazine focus on how other Jesuit institutions are incorporating the arts into their curriculum
The Artistry of God | Peter Knott, SJ, Thinking Faith
- An essay on the connections between art and Ignatian Spirituality
How the First Jesuits Became Involved in Education | John O’Malley, SJ
- A Historical essay on the early years of Jesuit education, including the role of the arts in the founding values of Jesuit education
NOVEMBER 2 | IGNATIAN DISCERNMENT IN AN ELECTION
As we prepare for tomorrow and the conclusion of the 2020 election season, we thought this was an important time to reflect on discernment in the Ignatian tradition. Grounded in St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises the process of discernment is about paying attention to one’s inner movements and emotions to be drawn closer to feelings of consolation.
As Fr. Andrew Rodriquez discusses in this week’s video, the process of discernment is about finding a greater freedom in our lives. A freedom that allows us to liberate ourselves from attachments and to choose the path that best aligns with a call to kindness, mercy, compassion, and generosity. For Christians, this is a call to align oneself with the example of Jesus’ life and message, but regardless of your spiritual or intellectual tradition it is a call to make choices, big and small, that serve the common good.
When we understand ourselves to be part of something greater than our own individual concerns and attachments, then we can begin to think about the way our choices connect to the wider community. In the reading for this week from Conversations Magazine, Stephanie Ann Y. Puen, examines the importance of looking outside of ourselves. In doing so, one might ask, “Is the community moving toward peace or toward disquiet? And what do these movements reveal about the situation of the community and its urgent needs? Communal discernment thus entails being able to have an honest conversation about how these movements are affecting both individuals and the community, probing their deeper meaning, whether positive or negative.”
Tomorrow’s national election will not be the end of our communal or individual discernment as we deal with our contemporary realities, but it is an important moment for us to reflect on how we make decisions, what values we try to align ourselves with, and what attachments keep us from taking the path that offers us consolation and brings about reconciliation in a broken world.
- Contemplation & Political Action: An Ignatian Guide to Civic Engagement
The Jesuits reflect on our Gospel call to promote the common good in the public square
- Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education's Election 2020 Coverage
- Voting is an Act of Love
Ignatian Solidarity Network
- Election 2020: Jesuit Schools Get Out the Vote
Connections Magazine, Association of Jesuit Colleges & Universities
SEPTEMBER 28 | IGNATIAN SPIRITUALITY & INNOVATION
Buffeted by numerous challenges, injustices, and looming crises we are called to imagine a more just, humane, and sustainable world. To bring about this new world will require leadership across our institution and society, a role each of us can inhabit regardless of our particular title or unit. In living out Santa Clara’s mission of innovation and leadership, the Ignatian tradition offers important opportunities for us to think about what inclusive and transformative leadership looks like.
Whether it is as an individual or an institution, how we orient ourselves in relation to those around us is critical to innovative leadership. As Chris Lowney suggests, we have to see everyday as an opportunity to search for something more and something greater through the lens of our personal mission and values. In the Ignatian tradition, and many others, this mission cannot be in service of personal desires and attachments, but animated by the common good. Lowney’s words mesh with Professor Jennifer Woolley’s call to take the time to exercise our spiritual muscles and to reflect on our values as we seek to be more innovative leaders. Ignatian spirituality offers a number of practices that lead us through this process of discernment that will allow us to act from a firm foundation in a world that is often in flux.
If we individually and communally take the time to reflect upon and define our core values, we will be prepared to lead quickly and decisively when these daily opportunities for leadership emerge. We will be prepared to lead in this moment not in service of a return to “normalcy,” but to an innovative vision of a new more inclusive, fulfilling, and loving world.
- Making Good Decisions
A collection of resources to help leaders make good choices and practices of discernment rooted in Ignatian spirituality
- Ignatian Leadership Resources
Information on communal discernment, leadership-focused Examens, and other useful content from Jesuit Resource
- What is Ignatian Leadership
Additional reading by Sarah Broscombe
JULY 20 | IGNATIAN SPIRITUALITY & MENTAL HEALTH
The pressures of our current moment can often feel overwhelming and debilitating. Through the Ignatian ideal of cura personalis and tools within the Ignatian spiritual tradition, we can respond to these pressures and recognize the importance of mental health and well-being within our mission. For centuries the spiritual practices and ideals developed by St. Ignatius, and continually adapted by Jesuits and non-Jesuits alike, have offered practitioners a path to consolation.
This week Tom Plante, the Augustin Cardinal Bea, SJ University Professor in the Department of Psychology, offers us a short video reflection on the aspects of Ignatian spirituality that can benefit all of us regardless of our faith or spiritual background. This week’s reading examines an effort to integrate well-being and mental health into the curriculum at Georgetown through the Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning. This project is a wonderful example of collaboration between Georgetown faculty and staff to address the well-being of students inspired by the ideal of cura personalis.
In the week ahead, try to create a space to focus on your own well-being. I hope that Ignatian spirituality can enhance that creative process, but no matter which practices speak to you, my wish is that you make time to care for your whole self in mind, body, and spirit. Care for ourselves and those around us is central to our mission, and I hope that the resources and reflections this week inspire us to recognize the importance of deepening those practices that enhance our individual and communal well-being.
JULY 6 | EMBRACING DIFFICULT QUESTIONS: THE CATHOLIC INTELLECTUAL TRADITION
At a moment that calls out for new ways of thinking to ensure the flourishing of all humanity, we can respond by formulating new questions and reexamining prevailing answers to existing questions. In “The Catholic University as a Pluralistic Forum,” the Jesuit theologian (and former Bea Professor of Theology at SCU) Michael Buckely argued that, among other things, the questions given the highest priority and “the spirit that pervades the academic life of interchange” give a university its particular character. For a Jesuit university inspired by the Catholic intellectual tradition, those questions necessarily center on what it means to be fully human and how we create a world where all of humanity is able to flourish in mind, body, and spirit.
This week we are sharing a short video from Boston College featuring Vincent Rougeau, Dean of Boston College Law School, on the Catholic intellectual tradition and the questions it raises in the study of the law and across our own disciplines and areas of expertise. The reading this week also comes to us from Boston College and offers an accessible way to begin an exploration of the Catholic Intellectual tradition in a Jesuit context.
As Fr. Buckley argued, the Catholic intellectual tradition requires us to ask difficult questions, seek answers through a diverse and inclusive range of voices, and to engage in discussion with conviction and a collaborative spirit. A pluralistic forum like Santa Clara will have moments of disagreement, but ultimately that is what makes it a Jesuit, Catholic university. For, despite our disagreement, we are all united and inspired by a mission of unbridled inquiry in the search for a more humane, just, and sustainable world.
JUNE 22 | THE VALUES OF JESUIT EDUCATION
We often hear that Jesuit education is different and that our values call for higher standards and distinctive measures of excellence. While many of us might be familiar with the core terms often used to express this difference (e.g. cura personalis; magis; or contemplatives in action), it is important from time-to-time to return to the meaning and source of these ideals.
This week we are sharing an article from a group of faculty and staff at Regis University who sought to reexamine and reengage the core values of Jesuit education. In examining the roots of Jesuit education, they sought to not just understand them, but also to find ways of faithfully applying them at their institution. As we seek to redefine our work and teaching in order to respond to a global pandemic and our commitment to bring about a more just and humane society, especially as it relates to racial justice, we hope that this article offers a vision of how the centuries of Jesuit education and its values offer us a solid foundation as we move forward.
Juan Velasco, Professor in the Department of English, offers a reflection on the ideal of a community of “contemplatives in action” in the video this week. Of all the values highlighted in the article, the call to reflect and pray to bring fullness to our actions is particularly appropriate for our current moment. We cannot retreat into contemplation alone, nor act without prior discernment, if we wish to see Jesuit education transforming students and the world for another 450 years.
- Do You Speak Ignatian?
A glossary of Ignatian and Jesuit terms
- Conversations On Jesuit Higher Education
A magazine exploring a variety of topics through the lens of Jesuit higher education
- AJCU Resources Page
A range of organizations, publications, and collections of sources relating to Jesuit higher education and Ignatian Spirituality
JUNE 8 | STANDING IN SOLIDARITY & TRANSFORMATIVE ACTION
The values that underpin our mission emerge from a spirituality that challenges us to deconstruct systems of oppression, exploitation, and dehumanization. Many of us, myself included, have failed to fully commit to making the necessary sacrifices to answer this call to transformative action. If we had, we would not still be seeing women and men of color murdered in the street, in their homes, or while simply out on a run.
To decenter whiteness and eradicate the plague of white supremacy, we should heed the call of St. Ignatius of Loyola to cultivate our critical awareness, take responsibility for meaningful transformation, and commit ourselves to action. Our mission calls all of us, and in this moment especially those who benefit from white privilege, to be countercultural and revolutionary in our relationship to the existing reality.
As the theologian Monika Hellwig reminded us, by the criteria of Ignatian spirituality “radical change is not only possible but necessary, not only to be wished for but to be worked for in practical ways, not only to be an option for the remote future but a challenge in our present.”
If all we do in our work and life simply perpetuates the status quo and fails to challenge prevailing norms, then we have failed to meet the basic criteria of our institutional mission.
The reading this week from Fordham professor Bryan Massingale outlines the pervasive, wilful ignorance of the realities of racial injustice, particularly among white Americans, and the ways that our mission can guide our efforts to create meaningful change.
We must stand in solidarity while we actively work to change ourselves and our current reality.
READING SELECTION | JUNE 8
RACIAL JUSTICE RESOURCES:
- Santa Clara Racial Justice Resources
An evolving collection of resources to facilitate learning, taking action, and ways to stand in solidarity from the Santa Clara community
- Ignatian Solidarity Network Racial Justice Resources
A constantly updated collection of Igantian and Catholic resources on racial justice
MAY 18 | CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME
The centrality of the health of our common home to the mission of all Jesuit institutions was reinforced through two recent developments, the publication of Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis in 2015 and Fr. General Arturo Sosa’s announcement of the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) in 2019. As part of the UAPs, caring for our common home is one of the four areas where the Society of Jesus would like for Jesuit institutions to direct their focus for the next decade, and beyond.
Santa Clara adopted its first institutional commitment to sustainability in 2004 and since that time has become a leader within the Jesuit network on issues around sustainability and environmental justice. By actively engaging in the realities of environmental degradation and climate change, especially its impact on marginalized communities, work across the Jesuit network, and here at SCU, is opening opportunities to reconcile humanity with our natural environment.
The reading this week explores:
- the importance of Laudato Si’ and sustainability to Jesuit higher education
- the value of transdisciplinary work to addressing sustainability in higher education
- the ways that sustainability can be integrated with Igantian pedagogy to educate our students to be transformative and resilient global citizens
Katharine Rondthaler, Manager of the Forge Garden, offers a reflection this week on the ways that we are using resources like The Forge Garden to integrate sustainability into our curriculum and to activate our mission across the university.
In the midst of Laudato Si’ Week, we are called to reflect on how we can embrace and activate our mission to care for our common home.
SUSTAINABILITY RESOURCES AT SCU:
MAY 4 | THE EXAMEN
Ignatian spirituality is a rich and deep tradition that offers a myriad of practices not just for Catholics but for everyone, regardless of their background and beliefs. The Examen is a perfect example of the accessibility of the Ignatian tradition: St. Ignatius continues to speak across the centuries to the contemporary world. Calling us to look back through our day, the Examen allows us time to pause and reflect on moments of joy and struggle as we seek to discern what Christians call the movements of the Spirit within us.
In looking for moments of gratitude, in exploring our inner movements, and in seeking to bring the lessons of one day to the next, we are able to ground ourselves in our experiences and feelings so that we may flourish in mind, body, and spirit. The Examen invites us to connect our values with our actions with greater intention. In this period of crisis when it seems as if so much is beyond our control, this moment of prayer and reflection offers respite and an opportunity to more fully live out our mission with each new day.
- Examen Resource Guide - includes multiple topical and daily versions for all people regardless of their religious or spiritual tradition.
APRIL 27 | A MISSION OF RECONCILIATION
The mission of any institution is always important to its vitality and its role in the wider world. In times of crisis a deep engagement with mission becomes essential as it drives members of an institution respond to challenges and make difficult decisions. In our current context of working from home and sheltering in place, it also serves an important role in binding us together in spite of our physical distance.
This new weekly email is meant to serve as an opportunity to connect with and celebrate the mission that unites an opinion rich environment such as ours. Each week will offer a short reading or other content, a few reflection questions, and periodically we will have a brief reflection video from a member of the Santa Clara community.
- What do I contribute to the blessings of our “opinion rich environment” and to building a rich internal culture?
- Where am I likely to react based on mistrust and resentment?
- How do I react with real openness in these situations rather than by “circling the wagons”?
- How do I define reconciliation and its place in the mission of our university?
- How can I direct my work towards reconciliation within our university environment and beyond it?
- What partners, especially new, can I reach out to as I answer this call in the service of reconciliation?