We're All Amateurs Here

The invaluable website The Jesuit Post celebrated its first anniversary a couple of weeks ago. “Celebrated” is putting it too strongly. As Brenden Bosse, SJ, wrote, the staff marked the occasion by “basically just keeping on with the work.”  He said they did this “in the typical Jesuit style of not actually celebrating.”

Bosse is right; not making a big fuss does seem to be part of the Jesuit “style.” Jesuits are pretty low-key (at least most of them are). They’re not big on anniversaries, honors, pomp and circumstance. Ignatius disliked grandiosity. The Spiritual Exercises enjoin humility, simplicity, and restraint. Pope Francis has brought these qualities to the papacy, an institution not previously known for them, and I think they can be traced to his Jesuit formation.

Bosse praises amateurism. He quotes Dorothy Day, “there is nothing we can do but love.”  He writes, “I think it is only in love, only in embracing our fundamental amateurism, that we might do as she suggests.”

When I was a Jesuit Volunteer in Belize the best advice I received was to adopt the motto: “Capable, but not qualified.” As in, “Hurricane relief? Sure I’m capable but not qualified.” Or, “Teaching music? Hey, why not”¦ I’m capable”¦ but I’m, ahem, most definitely not qualified.” Obviously there are people whom we need to be well qualified – heart surgeons, engineers, the pilots of my most recent flight – but there is a way in which even these at one point answered to their vocational calls by embracing their amateur passions. Even the most professional of professionals began by acknowledging not their qualifications, but their capabilities. When we do the same, we are freed to attempt an act of love.

I think he’s on to something.


  1. I’ve been wondering for some time why St. Ignatius hasn’t been made a Doctor of the Church. Perhaps this post answers this to some extent, but it seems to me that would recommend the Spiritual Exercises to a lot more people. Do you think Pope Francis might do that?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here