Inspiration and Meaning: Pope Francis and Jesuit Education

Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., Vice President for Mission and Ministry at Georgetown University, inspired colleagues, friends, and alumni of Jesuit institutions at the Loyola Club of Washington’s winter luncheon on January 28, 2016 with his talk, “The Meaning of Pope Francis for Jesuit Education.”

Fr. O’Brien suggested that Pope Francis has three things to say to us that will help inspire and inform Jesuit education today: magnanimity, discernment. and solidarity.

Quoting Pope Francis, O’Brien said “Magnanimity means having a great heart, having greatness of mind; it means having great ideals, the wish to do great things to respond to what God asks of us.” O’Brien then expanded on this notion, saying, “Jesuit education is about a gratitude-fueled magnanimity, tempered by a humility that takes the gospel seriously: we stretch and we risk failure, because God does not ask us to be successful… only faithful.”

Father O'Brien delivers his speech; photo courtesy of  The Jesuit Collaborative

Father O’Brien delivers his speech; photo courtesy of The Jesuit Collaborative.

Discernment is critical for living magnanimously, for “discernment helps us make choices and life decisions so that what we do flows from the deepest sense of who we are,” O’Brien said. What are the great things that God asks of us? How will we know which path to choose? Pope Francis urges discernment through depth of reflection. Noticing what we put at the center of our lives – the Spirit of God, or something else, such as our own agendas or ideologies – is central to discernment and will help us make choices rooted in authentic freedom. As O’Brien put it, “discernment looks outside – to see God’s activity, but also dares to look inside, to sort through all the glorious muddle of our lives… to go deep, dig deep, sift through all the sand and find the nugget of gold that defines who I am.” In this way, O’Brien offered, a Jesuit education “helps students choose from the deepest sense of who they are what will make them most happy.”

Living magnanimously and discerning what God asks of each of us are connected to solidarity – the notion that we are all God’s children and have a responsibility for one another. Pope Francis has much to say about solidarity in “Laudato Si” and “The Joy of the Gospel,” including his urgent call to care for the poor, the marginalized, and all of creation. All those seated at this particular luncheon were awe-struck and inspired as Fr. O’Brien recalled that Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk: 6:37).

The Loyola Club gathers Jesuit-educated alumni and friends each year for fellowship and inspiration. All certainly were inspired this day by Fr. O’Brien’s encouragement to live magnanimously and humbly for the greater glory of God.

Written by Michelle Siemietkowski, Director for Graduate and Undergraduate Student Formation at Georgetown University’s Office of Mission and Ministry

Video of Rev. O’Brien’s talk can be found here.

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