ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA
St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, was born in 1491, as the last child of a large Basque family of Spain. The name Loyola came from the ancestral castle that was the family heritage of St.Ignatius. According to the traditions of his family, Ignatius was trained to arms and to the etiquette of court life. He enlisted himself in the border wars with France and was badly wounded in the battle. As he lay convalescing at Loyola, he read the Gospel narratives and the lives of saints and was inspired to follow Christ by giving up all worldly ambitions and trappings of power and embracing a life of poverty, sacrifice and service after the example of his saintly mentors. He began this new life at the age of 31. He spent a year of severe penance and intense prayer in a solitary cave on the banks of the river Cardoner near the town Manresa.
He recorded his experiences in a book called “The Spiritual Exercises”, which became the soul and centre, the rule and character of every Jesuit who came after. Reflecting on the crisis in the Church of his time, he felt that the need of the hour was for learned and holy priests, free of greed and ambition and ready to serve the poor and to give a witness to the love of Christ for men. To achieve this objective, he set himself in right earnest to study from grammar school to college and university in the various Spanish centers of learning and finally took his Master’s Degree from the Sorbonne University, Paris. At the same time, he won over a group of brilliant and like-minded university men (one of whom was St.Francis Xavier), molded them by the Spiritual Exercises and welded them into a religious fraternity which became the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, as they popularly came to be known in the course of time.
The Society of Jesus is a world wide organization of religious men, numbering about 24000 spread all over the world, of whom over 3000 are working in the 14 provinces of India. In Andhra Pradesh alone there are about 160 Jesuits working in Schools and Colleges, youth services, social work centers, in parishes, in mission out-reach programmes and in any and every form of ministry of the Church.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF JESUIT EDUCATION
- Is world-affirming. It assists in the total formation of each individual within the human community. It includes a religious dimension that permeates the entire education; it is an apostolic instrument that promotes dialogue between faith and culture. *
- Insists on individual care and concern for each person. It emphasizes activity on the part of the student and encourages life long openness to growth.
- Is value-oriented. It encourages a realistic knowledge, love and acceptance of the self.
- Proposes Christ as the model of human life. It provides adequate personal care and concern for others. It celebrates faith in personal and community prayer, worship and service.
Is a preparation for active life-commitment. It serves the faith that does justice, seeks to form “men and women for others” and manifests a particular concern for the poor.
- Is an apostolic instrument in the Church as it serves human society. It prepares students for active participation in the church and for the service of others.
- Pursues excellence in its work of formation and witnesses to that excellence.
- Stresses Lay Jesuit collaboration and relies on a spirit of community among administrators, teachers, parents, alumni and benefactors in an atmosphere that promotes community.
– Adopts means and methods in order to achieve its purposes most effectively with a common vision and common goals. It assists in providing the professional training and on-going formation that is needed especially for administrators and teachers.
Education remains a preferential work of the Society of Jesus. As in the past-ever since the 16th century – Jesuit schools can be very effective in educating men and women for a just and human world “If they will be true to their particular Jesuit heritage” (2). This document “can be a standard against which we measure ourselves”. (Fr.Kolvenbach).
IGNATIAN VISION AND JESUIT EDUCATION
The spiritual vision of Ignatius evolved from this reflection on his own life experiences (170, 173, 174, 178, 181, 182), and is variously recorded in his innumerable writings, especially the “Spiritual Exercises”. (175-176) The following nine statements attempt to summarize the main elements of that vision. Each is followed by certain characteristics which even now determine Jesuit education.
For Ignatius, and for Jesuits who have Him as their spiritual guide, God is the origin and the goal of all creation. In fact, through faith, He can be discovered in all natural and human events, and especially in the lived experience of each individual person. 921)
Hence, JESUIT EDUCATION aims at Integral Development of both individual students and of the world at large:-
- It understands creation as God’s work, a help to lead man to that ultimate reality, hence worthy of study and contemplation and endless exploration. (23-24)
- It promotes the all-round development of the student so that he becomes a mature and balanced person and an active member of the human community. (25-33)
- The student is particularly helped to establish a personal relationship with God and to develop values able to resist Godlessness and debasing materialism.(34-36) Thus he is prepared for life – not just for exams – both here and hereafter.(37)
- Given the close relationship between God and His Creation, Jesuit Education seeks to bring a dialogue and synthesis between religious Faith and Culture, between Faith and Science, each clarifying and perfecting the other. (38-39)
II. God and Man
Each man and woman is loved by God and is called to actualize him/herself fully in his/her uniqueness in full freedom. (40).
Hence JESUIT EDUCATION aims at Growth in Uniqueness of every person by insisting on:-
- Individual attention being paid to every student, (42-44)
- His active participation in the process of learning, (45)
- And keen desire to go on learning (and growing) all through life.(46-48)
III. Struggle Against Evil
Self-realization is made impossible by one’s evil desires and the evil in the world. Aided and strengthened by God’s love, one has to acquire self-knowledge and knowledge of the obstructing forces in the world and struggle against those obstacles to freedom, while developing capacities necessary for its exercise.(49)
Hence JESUIT EDUCATION, in order to foster Growth in Goodness lays stress on:-
- Character formation, that is, on acquiring for oneself a proper value system, with the ability to make sound moral judgments. (51-53)
- A realistic knowledge, acceptance and love of self (54- 56)
- And an equally realistic knowledge of the world with its goodness as well as obstacles to growth in integrity and a commitment to bring about a needed change in it (57-58)
IV. Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ holds central place in the lives of Jesuits, as it did in that of Ignatius. In their vision, Jesus is the perfect model for human life because of his total surrender to God’s love in the service of others. He is alive in our midst as some one to be known, loved and followed. (59)
Hence JESUIT EDUCATION while promoting Growth in Spiritual Life:-
1 Offers to one and all the example of Jesus Christ, as model of human life; and to Christians in particular as a personal friend who gained forgiveness and true freedom for us through his death and resurrection, (True “Christian” is one who imitates Christ in his goodness and service). (61-62)
- Animates through individual guidance ( Cura personalis”) the spiritual growth of every one with means that are proper to his respective creed and culture (63-66) and especially—
- Offers a progressive initiation to prayer and worship , both individual and in common. (67-70)
V. Love and Service
Service of others is the only genuine expression of the love and service of God to which every one is invited. Ignatius who said :love is shown in deeds”, wants that principles learnt and knowledge acquired be put into practice in real life situation. (71)
Hence JESUIT EDUCATION aims at Commitment to Life of Serive.
- It assists in the training of men and women who will put their beliefs and attitudes into practice throughout their lives;(73)
- It encourages Faith that expresses itself in works of justice and peace in building a more human world and a community of love; (74-76)
- It helps students to realize that their God given talents are also for the benefit of the larger human society;(82- 83)and
4 It shows a particular concern for the poor and the marginalized, who are generally oppressed and exploited in today’s world.(85) The poor from the context of Jesuit education.(88)
Service in and through the community of Believers in Christ (i.e. the “Church” under the leadership of Holy Father the Pope) was for Ignatius the foundation of his Society. He was convinced that one needs to have the support of and loyalty to one’s faith community in one’s service to the world at large.(91)
Hence JESUIT EDUCATION while helping to establish a human family united in Faith and Love
1. Collaborates with the Catholic Community and its leaders in building a new and just society
1. Trains Catholic students to be active members of their Community (101 -103) while encouraging all to be active as members of the local community and of their respective religion.(99)
“Magis” (the more!) was a favorite Ignation motto. His :constant concern was “for the greater service of God” A.M.D.G) That concern he instilled into his first companions who went through all sorts hardships as they served God ind their neighbor.(105)
Hence JESUIT EDUCATION insists on the Pursuit »f Excellence.
1. It insists first of all, on human excellence, and within that context on excellence in all areas of school life so that the fullest possible development of every dimen-sion of the person is realized (107) and men and women are trained to be leaders in service. (40)
2. It provides a “climate” which will promote excellence ongoing evaluation and adaptation, the example of teachers and administrators, collaboration with other schools, etc. (113-115)
VII. Friends in the Lord
Ignatius soon realized the importance of working in part nership with like minded people in the service of God. Hi called his early companions “friends in the Lord”, (178) am later established Jesuit Communities.(116)
Hence JESUIT EDUCATION is carried out In Partner ship with every sector of the educational community, I strives for—
- An intelligent Jesuit-lay collaboration, both assumin- appropriate responsibilities^ 18-119)
- A community spirit among the various constituents, (ec Management and staff, the Jesuit community, student and parents, former students and benefactors) base on shared vision, goals and efforts. Each of these sectoi has a specific contribution to make to the entire educational process.(122-136)
- A structure in which there is sharing of information. advice and decision-making responsibility.(137-142)
Ignatius and his companions made decision on the bas of an ongoing process of individual and common “discernment” which he has described in various places. Past a happy state in this world – John Locke 18
decisions were evaluated in the context of prayerful reflection 0n their results and adaptations made in a constant search for excellence.(143). Hence JESUIT EDUCATION in response to the ever changing needs of times, places and peoples insists on
Ongoing Evaluation and Adaptation.
1 School policies, structures, methods and all other elements of its environment are subjected to regular evaluation and necessary adaptation.(145-147)
- Sharing of ideas, experiences and even personnel among Jesuit schools form them into a network, a Jesuit “system” of schools. (148-151)
- Continuing education and personal, professional and spiritual development of teachers and administrators enable them to evaluate and to adopt educational processes whenever necessary. (152-153)
SOME PEDAGOGICAL PRINCIPLES
- The teacher assists in the growth process. He does not manipulate it. (155)
- The student plays an active role in his education. (156)
- Everything in the school is conductive to the type of education we intend to give. (157)
- Educational process is dependent on personal relations and good rapport among the various sectors of school communities. (158)
- Prior reading of the course material to be covered and its frequent and careful repetition facilitate learning. (160)
- Jesuit education insists on inter-disciplinary approach.(161)
- Habits of reflection on life’s experiences are characteristic of Jesuit pedagogy. (162)
- Depth in learning, rather than quantity of course material. “Non multa, sed multum!” (163)
A description of the characteristic of Jesuit education can never be perfect and can never be final. But a growing understanding of the heritage of our schools, the Ignatian vision applied to education, can be the impetus to renewed dedication to this work, and renewed willingness to undertake those tasks which will make ti ever more effective. (168)