Because today is the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits), and as Juli explained, we all met at a Jesuit school, I’m going to talk about the Jesuit tradition in my family.
Both of my grandfather’s attended Jesuit schools, (Maternal Fordham, Paternal Loyola Baltimore), four out of my nine aunts and uncles (and two of their spouses) also attended a Jesuit school, and of course I did, as well as my younger sister and one of my cousins (so far…there’s still a lot of them, I have a really big family.)
As a result of this, certain Jesuit ideals just kind of crept in to the way that my entire family thinks about faith, but specifically became a big part of the way my mother taught my brother, my sister and myself about being a Catholic.
The big one was education. I come from a family that pretty much holds education as the third most important life necessity, after food and shelter. And because of that, I was encouraged to read and learn as much as possible. When I was curious about other faiths, other belief structures, my mom wanted me to read about them, to learn, and question. When I got to college and started to learn about Ignatian ideals, I learned that this was a big Jesuit thing.
One of the big things that the Jesuits taught us was that the only way to grow in your faith is to learn about it and question it. When I was about nineteen, I had a conversation with my mother about how I was considering leaving the Church. I knew I would still crave spirituality and some kind of structure, so I was thinking about becoming an Episcopalian. This way, I could keep the bones of the faith that I love, without some of the things that (still) drive me a little nutty about the Catholic Church, mainly, the exclusion of women from the ordained clergy and the dismissal of homosexuals. My mother’s answer was actually pretty cool (my mom also knows me really well…)
“If that’s really what you believe your heart is calling you to do, then you should do it,” she said simply, “but don’t do it quickly or rashly. Really do the reading, learn about The Episcopal Church.” This is the most Ignatian answer to this issue I have ever heard.
I did do the reading. And while there are still aspects of the Episcopal structure that I prefer (namely, their stance on women and gay people…but also the communal nature of their governing body.) I realized I didn’t want to give up the devotion to the Blessed Mother that’s always been a huge part of my faith experience, or the ties to the community and family that had always been a part of my life.
I feel like that story would have turned out very differently if my family didn’t have a Jesuit mindset. It probably would have ended in a fight or the parent dismissing the thought outright.
The best way to grow in faith is to more deeply understand that faith. That’s the Ignatian legacy that I’ve always depended on.