Editor’s note: Throughout July, we’re hosting 31 Days with St. Ignatius, a month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality. In addition to the calendar of Ignatian articles found here, posts on dotMagis this month will explore the theme of “people for others.” This month marks the 50th anniversary of Fr. Pedro Arrupe’s famous address in which he challenged Jesuit school alumni to form what we now embrace as “people for others.”
Keycard in hand, I stood in the entryway of Loyola Hall, the dorm that I would call home for the next four years. In this space, there were no orientation leaders or greeters. It was just me and a bulletin board with five words in big block letters: “How, then, shall we live?”
Little did I know, on that hot August day, that these five words would change my life.
Those block letters nagged at me through the blur of long orientation days. I wondered when we would learn the answer to the question. It was a mystery, and I wanted to know the answer.
I would soon come to learn that not only was I not going to be told the answer anytime soon, but that there was even more to the question.
In 1973, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, delivered a speech that would mark a pivotal moment in Jesuit education:
Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-for-others; men who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ—for the God-man who lived and died for all the world; men who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for men is a farce. (“Men for Others,” 1973, 1)
Arrupe went so far as to say that “only by being a man-for-others does one become fully human,” (20) reminding his audience that Christ, in giving his life for the salvation of the world, was the ultimate “Man-for-others.”
This 1973 speech housed the rest of the question that confronted me on my first day at college: How, then, shall we live as men and women for others?
There was no simple answer to that question on that August day or on this day over three decades later, because it is a more than a question; it is a guiding principle. Once endowed with it, every choice is balanced against it. It permeates every aspect of life, becoming engrained in every move and decision.
How does this question manifest itself in my life today? How do I live as a woman for others?
I recognize my place in creation. God created me out of unfathomable love for me, and I continue to exist due to this radical outflow of love. Likewise, every person on this planet is created by and sustained by God’s love. Recognizing that we are all created and sustained by the same Divine Love reveals our kinship as one human family. The earth and all of creation are also sustained by this Divine Love. All is gift.
I seek to live a faith that does justice. I work to build the Kingdom on earth here and now. I seek to build a world where the dignity of each person is respected. I cannot look the other way when I see my brothers or sisters oppressed. I cannot live in a bubble, content and satisfied with my own successes and belongings, blissfully unaware of the plight of my brothers and sisters. When I observe injustice, I must seek justice.
I go to the margins. When I see the suffering “other”—the unhoused, the exploited, the refugee, the ill, or the forgotten—I seek to act as Christ did. I draw near and stand in solidarity with my neighbors in Christ.
I discern how to use my gifts generously. Using the particular gifts God gave me, I prayerfully discern how I can be an agent of change in a suffering world. I may offer a healing word or meet the physical needs of the materially poor. I may speak up in solidarity. I may work to change societal structures that oppress.
I also discern economically. If I am considering a purchase, I ask how it was produced. Were those who produced it treated fairly and paid just wages? Were their working conditions humane? I consider the planet’s resources as well. Were they used wisely? I weigh all of these things before I act.
I seek companions for the journey. To fortify me on this life’s journey, I seek the companionship of others who bear the legacy of being men and women for others. I find them in many places, including Christian Life Communities, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, the Jesuit Refugee Service, and the Ignatian Volunteer Corps.
I am gentle with myself. Arrupe reminded Jesuit alumni that being people for others is not an easy call. In answering this call to be a woman for others, if I realize, at any moment, that I could have done better, I am gentle with myself. I reject perfectionism. I recognize that I’m not God, so I’m not perfect! I simply ask God to be with me as I seek to do better next time.
It is a great gift to be invited to be men and women for others. How are you being called to be a man or woman for others?
Photo by Julia M. Cameron on Pexels.
Enjoy today’s featured article in 31 Days with St. Ignatius, What St. Ignatius No Longer Saw by Vinita Hampton Wright. Even if you haven’t been following along all month, join in these last days of celebration with #31DayswithIgnatius!