In the Footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola By John Mark

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Of the many things Jesuit schools are, or aspire to be, a central tenet is to follow in the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the charismatic leader and animator for a group of like-minded men who together formed the Society of Jesus. This desire naturally encompasses the notion of being on pilgrimage, both as individuals who comprise the school community and institutionally. The obvious allusion here is that St. Ignatius called himself, “the pilgrim” throughout his autobiography. However, far richer and more provocative is the understanding of the characteristics that come with being a pilgrim: humbleness in understanding that we are all human and thus constantly struggling corporately and individually to “get it right”; a restlessness that naturally occurs in the search to know God; and joyfulness, that depth of understanding and feeling that shifts our focus from ourselves to others and directs us to a sacrificial love that from a Christian perspective, is embodied in Christ.

What does this all mean? Everyday here at BC High, if we look deeply enough at who we are and how we’re engaged, there are stories among us that reveal our humility, our restlessness, and our joy. It is in these experiences and desires that our pilgrimage is played out, that like Ignatius we are compelled to go out and find God in each other and in all that we are capable of.

For example, today, 50 plus members of our community left on retreat after school. Over four days, the adults on retreat will forgo teaching their discipline and family time at home; the students will sacrifice valuable time in class, sports or arts practice, clubs which connect them to friends and meaning in their lives. All this to seek a metanoia, a turning of their hearts to God. To bring all the “stuff” of their lives out in the open, to sift through the beauty and the chaos, to see God at work in and through them, and to redirect their paths and pilgrimages so that their lives are oriented towards something greater that themselves and their base desires – that of God. The school is so committed to this exercise that adults are encouraged to take this time away, that students are excused from all they have committed to, and that the school covers the significant financial costs of putting up this large group at a wonderful retreat house on Cape Cod. The fact that this even occurs is an incredible thing and to know that this particular retreat is number 72, is outstanding. That so many times this same sacrifice has been made and now thousands of members of this community have sought to know themselves and God in new ways is truly remarkable.

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