Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Fundamentals of the Jesuits

In "Landmarking", Lucas chronicles the history of the Jesuits as they strive to exemplify Ignatius Loyola's "creative and practical attunement to his changing world" by erecting their headquarters in the hearts of urban communities. The point of this location was, make no mistake, most deliberate on Loyola's part, "they placed the emerging Society of Jesus intentionally in the psychological center of Catholic Christendom, within the sacred circle at the heart of the human city"(23). This strategy enabled the Jesuits to face the problems that plague cities head-on, and with an understanding that only experiencing them on a daily basis can bring, an idea that we have discussed in class illuminated by Calvino's "Invisible Cities" and Achebe's "No Longer At Ease".
The mission of the Jesuits is nothing short of noble and revolutionary. In the face of various advesaries, Ignatius Loyola dared to push the envelope and stress involvement in the community as an integral part to, as Kalvenbach states in “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education", "the service of faith and the promotion of justice"(25), the motto of the Jesuits. The "daring" part about this mission is the social norm that such an act went against at that time. Several church leaders opposed such hands-on action as they perceived it to be degrading to the sanctity of the church when leaders for God directly associate with the people of the city.
One particularly striking depicition of the degredation that often befalls a city also happens to be the location of The Bowery, a Jesuit headquarters in New York City's Lower East Side. Lucas notes the changes over time in this archetypal immigrant neighborhood, as well as the characteristics that have constantly remained, like "the immensely high risks that immigrant children must navigate just growing up there"(18). Loyola and his Jesuits encounter the same difficulties in attempting to assimilate to a community as an outsider as these children do. As this year marks "the Year of the City" here at Loyola, I think that the fact that Loyola students, and as an institution as a whole, has seemed to isolate itself from the surrounding urban community of Baltimore, strayed away from the very mission of its founder. It is certainly true that as outsiders rather than natives to the city, approaching the community can seem daunting at first, but to avoid that contact all together seems to me a rejection of the very fundamentals of the teachings of the Jesuits.