This Jesuit, pointed out to me by my colleague Anna Marie, reminded me of the Jesuits I met at Fordham. Take a look:
In my Fordham days my teachers, Fr. Elbert Rushmore, SJ, Fr. Gerry McCool, SJ, Fr. W. Norris Clarke, SJ and Fr Don Moore, SJ along with Fr Frank Stroud, SJ and Fr. John Mullin, SJ in Campus Ministry all upheld the Jesuit maxim of being a man for others. They challenged my assumptions and had the patience and sensitivity to give me confidence in myself. The lay teachers and diocesan folks at Fordham also embodied a similar mindset.
Fr. Norris Clarke, SJ was a fine teacher of Philosophy. For his class on the human person I got to write an autobiographical paper comparing events in my life with St. Thomas’ thought. It helped me to integrate the person I was becoming with my Catholic self. Looking back on the paper (which I somehow still have) I could see myself being led away from radio and into ministry even then. I remember re-reading the paper when I was considering a career move. This part stuck out:
“I am more than simply a broadcaster or someone who works broadly within the field of broadcasting. I am a human person who is affected by the stories I cover, sports or otherwise and in my work I must remember the human persons who I will cover, talk about on the air and represent in some small way to a larger contingent. God has created me with that sensitivity and I cannot avoid it–for it is who I am. God’s gift to me is that sensitivity and I must embrace it on this great circle of being and return that gift to the Father with all that I am. For if I do not…I fail myself.”
Not bad for a 21 year old.
A few years ago, Fr. Joe Currie, SJ, then director of Campus Ministry at Fordham had me over to the Jesuit residence for lunch. I asked about Fr. Clarke and was told that he was still alive. At that mention, Fr. Clarke, shuffled into the room. He was nearly 93 years old and still was sharp. I was happy to be able to go over and share a word of thanks to him for being my teacher so many years ago.
He was ever the graceful recipient of my own gratitude and asked several questions about my life today and generally made me feel like I was the only person in the room that he wanted to bother with. He epitomized the word “peaceful” to me. An old man and a young man, sharing grace over a lunch line. Who could think of a better scene?
Nearly a month or so later, he was dead. I was so happy to have been able to share just a brief moment with this Jesuit giant.
I think the Jesuits I have been privileged enough to spend time with, young and old, have allowed me to grow introspectively–to see “God in all things” as Ignatius would say, and more importantly, to be able to then say “so what” about seeing God’s grandeur in life’s busyness. What does God’s love for us compel us to do? How are we to live? If we find God hidden in some corner of life, what does God hope for us to find in that encounter?
I wonder what my life would be like without the Jesuits and I fear that it might be sadder, less full, incomplete. God used them to help me find myself and in doing so, they helped me also find God. Through education. through retreat, through ministering to me and enabling me to minister to others, I came to see myself in the light of God’s hope for me to be all that I am–nothing more, but more importantly, nothing less.
And for that, I am truly filled with gratitude.