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,” those “who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors.”
I had the oddest call from an old college friend. He had been a philosophy major, and back in the day we would spend hours discussing the deep questions, spirituality, and what we felt called to do with our lives. At the time we hadn’t been introduced to Ignatian spirituality or discernment, but as most college students, we were pretty sure we were going to change the world and had all the answers. Fast forward 20+ years. My old friend regaled me with stories of the grand tiki bar in his backyard, home remodeling, and great trips. What wasn’t said was any focus on others beyond the family, any worldly issues stirring his soul, or any way of living that reflected those higher philosophies we had spent so many nights discussing.
In 1973, Pedro Arrupe, SJ, then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, articulated the need for the Society to educate people for others. Rooted firmly in the Two Standards meditation of the Spiritual Exercises is the ongoing discernment to participate in the way of justice, moving toward God, or to participate in the way of oppression, moving toward the spirit not of God. Whether a daily decision of how to spend time and money or a vocational decision of how to spend the majority of our lives, these decisions become spiritual discernments when we recognize they are shaping us to be people for others or to place our own security and worldly desires first. Obviously, no one discerns perfectly, all the time. But the more I am surrounded by people for others, the more I am inspired to move in that direction myself.
What does it look like to be men and women for others?
Well, there are Ruth and Tim, who have been married more than 50 years and started a nonprofit in their retirement years to refurbish old computers and ship them to Uganda. They build relationships with immigrants, even welcoming one into their home and continuing to support his family in Africa.
There is Andy, who spends his day as a public health department director working to overcome inequity in our public health programs in the community.
There is Andrea, a small business owner ensuring her employees are fairly compensated and affirmed.
There is Tom, who started a lunch program for malnourished children in the Dominican Republic and ensured they got the health care they needed.
There is Pam, the mother of four, who spends her days building relationships with and among refugee women, helping them adapt to life in the U.S.
There is Jean, a respiratory therapist, who spends her days calmly and reassuringly intubating patients and helping treat the most challenging breathing disorders.
These people for others are all around me. Any of them could have chosen to do something else with his time or her resources and to seek the riches, honor, and pride that lure many people, but instead they orient their gifts toward serving others, challenging unjust systems, and building relationships across the chasms of our humanity.
Being people for others is not just doing charity work or giving money to those in need. It is an orientation of seeking to be in relationship and solidarity with the most marginalized and hurting in our sphere of influence. Arrupe noted three characteristics of people for others (“Men for Others,” 1973):
- A commitment to live simply, living in stark contrast to the myth of consumerism.
- A determination not to benefit from unjust profits or products.
- A “resolve to be agents of change in society,” (19) actively challenging unjust structures.
No one can do it all, and that is where discernment and community come in. Daily I can ask how I can be a person for others, given my capacities, resources, and sphere of influence. Rather than be overwhelmed by all the work needed to be done, I find myself filled with the consolation of relationship with others who share my values and expanded horizons from walking with the marginalized.
Who are the people for others who shape you?
Today in 31 Days with St. Ignatius, watch Fr. Joseph Tetlow, SJ, talk about the graces people can expect as they pray with The Principle and Foundation. Then use the hashtag #31DayswithIgnatius on your favorite social media channels to share what you love about Ignatian spirituality.