I am recognizing – in a humble, genuinely profound way – that I am simply not cut out for this type of life. In a way, my academic journey has provided me with conflict, but also with resolution. The conflict was around my place in the Society of Jesus. I’m still finding out what being a Jesuit brother is all about. I’ve included the picture of Saint Brother André in this blog because he has been without a doubt a great inspiration for my vocation. I felt that he was a man who was able to liveholiness in the simplest, and most down to earth way that I wanted to emulate. Of course, since then, I’ve learned that we have our own “holy doorman” in the Society of Jesus, (I’ve already blogged about him: St Alfonso Rodriguez) but part of me is still more attached to the image of this simple, but deeply holy man from my hometown of Montreal.
As a 21st century Jesuit, there are certain expectations I need to fulfil. I need to be somewhat formed in theology in order to be a better guide to those who will come to me with questions about the faith. I recognize that. However, I also recognize that I don’t have the desire to cultivate the intellectual gifts that most of my brothers have (notice that I’m not saying I don’t have the gifts, nor that I don’t ever intend to use them. I just have no desire to develop them. I feel the Lord is calling me to something different. Or maybe I’m just feeling too old for this!).
This sometimes puts me in a strange position in the eyes of lay people, who expect all Jesuits to be big intellectuals or to have an amazing work ethic that gives them the potential to do much good in this world. I fall a little short of that in both departments. Not that I’m a lazy slob, but nor am I the hard working scholar that many Jesuits are called to be. A recent conversation I had with two of my classmates put this into perspective as they were admiring the Jesuit scholastics who they considered to be overachievers. Upon saying that, they glanced at me. Before I could say “That’s not me, and I’m more or less cool with that!”, one girl said “You’re not like that though”, and the other continued, “Yeah … you’re more like us”.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Through no big effort of my own, I’ve answered some of the questions that have been closest to my heart since this vocation of mine began: “How can we as religious not be so disconnected from the people? How can we live out cura personalis (an Ignatian phrase meaning ‘care of the entire person’)? How can we answer the call to become men for others, but at the same time, live a vocation that is so distinct and separate from what anyone else is doing, without letting it isolate us from others?” Those questions are still close to my heart, but I’m learning that the answers lie within me. And it does surprise me sometimes. Even though I’m not overflowing with wisdom or with scholarly insight, people still come to me. Maybe that’s the whole point. They don’t come for answers or for big truths. They recognize in me a person who loves to listen and cares deeply. I should be content with this role for the rest of my life. Still, I know God expects more of me.
I know this, because despite my frustration with academics this year, as I’ve stated at the beginning, my soul has become alive with the wonderful documents I’ve been reading, and I long to know more. I want to understand better, to go deeper. Maybe then, my vocation lies “neither here nor there”. Maybe it’s an invitation to embrace both the caring, and the knowledge. In the end, your will be done Lord. Not mine.