A New Perspective on Jesuit Values

Today marks one week since I returned from Rome. Besides the jet lag, there were a few little adjustments that I’ve had to make over the past days that surprised me a bit: I said “scusi” instead of “excuse me” to people I ran into on the street my first couple days back, and I almost paid for my dinner in euro coins.

More importantly though, returning to the U.S. after my two weeks abroad helped me realize that I would have loved to study abroad for longer. Because of some issues with my requirements, I would not have been able to spend a whole semester studying abroad, so this summer program was a great opportunity to fit in studying abroad. I just wish I had had more time to explore Rome outside of our class site visits.

We did get to visit a number of churches throughout the course of the class. The painting pictured above is the ceiling of the church of Sant’ Ignazio Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (aka the Jesuits). The ceiling, painted in baroque style, makes use of the Renaissance technique of perspective to create the illusion that the lifelike figures, including St. Ignatius and his companions, are emerging from the ceiling and are suspended in the air. It’s an extraordinary effect, and it was also used to create the church’s famous dome.

Visiting this church was a great chance to reflect on St. Ignatius’ life and the roots of the Jesuit values that we frequently talk about at Georgetown. Jesuit values aren’t just obscure Latin phrases or catchy marketing slogans about how Georgetown (or any other Jesuit institution) is unique. Rather, they are aspirational guidelines on how we should strive to live: being in right relationship with God and with the larger world and pursuing the greater good. Though these aren’t limited to Catholics, they do stem from Ignatius’ study of the lives of the saints, his prayer rituals, and his desire to serve God and the Catholic Church. If we want our Jesuit values to motivate our lives in a profound way, we should remember that they provide us with the wisdom on how to live for more than ourselves.


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