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Jesuit Education

Two insights are central to understanding Jesuit Education:  The first is ‘cura personalis’ (care for the person); the second is that God, the creator, who knows all knowable and loves all lovable, is to be found in all things and so any search for either truth or love is a search for God, and any every experience of truth and love is an experience of God.

For Ignatius Loyola, the relationship between the educator and the student is akin to the relationship between the retreat director and the one undertaking the retreat during the Spiritual Exercises.  

(The Spiritual Exercises is the thirty day, silent, retreat undertaken by every Jesuit twice during his training.  It consists of a series of meditations and contemplations and forms the bedrock of Jesuit Spirituality.)

In Jesuit Education, therefore, the young person is at the centre of the operation; the educator is an enabler rather than an instructor.  The educator’s job is:

Jesuit Education achieves its ends by encouraging:

Jesuit Education places critical thinking at the heart of the educational project, encouraging a rigorous approach to the evaluation and clear expression of ideas and values.

For Ignatius, and therefore for Jesuit Education, ‘God is to be found in all things’. There is nothing in creation, and no area of human endeavour, in which God is not present or where God cannot be discovered.  All search for truth, whether in the arts, sciences, or humanities, whether personal, communal, or universal, is a search for God; art, science, language, sport, drama, philosophy, theology, spirituality, indeed any human pursuit, can lead, and all at some time will lead, to God.

The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises is to assist the one doing the retreat to experience, accept, and respond to God.  God is Love; to experience, accept, and respond to God is to experience, accept, and respond to love.  Love, therefore, is at the heart of Jesuit Education, and at the heart of the Jesuit educational institution.  It is in context of love, care, and respect, that the project is undertaken; a person of love, care, and respect, is its fruit, what is often spoken of as a person of Competence, Confidence, and Compassion, or ‘a man/woman/person for others’.

In the Exercises Ignatius tells us that ‘Love manifests itself in deeds rather than in words’ and that ‘the lover gives and shares with the beloved something of that which he has or is able to give’. The measure of the success of a Jesuit education is to be found in the living out of these two phrases.  Jesuit education is about the fullest and most holistic development of the individual, but its context is the desire that that individual will then respond to the needs of his or her world by placing him or herself at the service of others, and in doing so, cooperate with God’s ongoing creation of our world.

Jesuit alumni having a good effect on European Union

Four Jesuit alumni are having a startlingly good effect on the European Union. Mario Monti has made such an impact as Italy’s Prime Minister that he is compared to Cincinnatus, saviour of ancient Rome. This is partly due to his support by Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, and Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council.

Meanwhile Mariano Rajoy feels strong enough as Prime Minister of Spain to defy the gnomes of Brussels on the issue of budget deficit. We could hardly imagine a stronger endorsement of Jesuit education than we are witnessing. For all their regional differences, Jesuit schools can still produce what Quintillian, their inspiration, defined as
vir bonus dicendi peritus: good people who can communicate well.

It all began with a pragmatic decision: in 1548 the citizens of Messina in Italy begged the local Jesuits to extend their teaching beyond the Jesuit trainees to include the other sons of the city. Ignatius shrewdly sent some of his brightest to staff a new school.

The enterprise never looked back; Jesuit schools multiplied. They were free schools, sponsored either by rich patrons or by a municipality; so they provided a unique setting where the sons of plumbers sat with the offspring of dukes. Within fifty years they had systematised the programme into the Ratio Studiorum. Again for pragmatic reasons this has been adapted to circumstances of time and place, but not before we had won a treasured blessing from Francis Bacon in The Advancement of Learning: "For education, consult the schools of the Jesuits. Nothing hitherto in practice surpasses this."

They may be drastically different from the Messina college, especially in the proportion of Jesuits on the staffs, but their ethos is still profoundly influential in the public life of Europe.

Irish Jesuit News: Volume 1, Issue 5  

Full article under heading  'Jesuitica'   here.