Wednesday, February 11, 2009

St. Ignatius and Contemporary Iconography: Educated and Blessed with Companions at the University of Paris

Panel 3 of 5: Educated at the University of Paris
"Ignatius pursues an education so he can help others and serve God."

Ignatius had a deep desire to aid souls.  Yet, he realized that in order to be effective in his ministry, he had to obtain a good education.  Thus, he traveled to Paris in pursuit of higher learning (even studying with children to strengthen his lack of fundamentals). It is during this time that Ignatius meets the "first companions", the ones who will later join him in establishing the Jesuit Order--Blessed Peter Faber and St. Francis Xavier.   

It is clear that Ignatius' desire for learning inspired the role that Jesuits would play in educating others. Bittau acknowledges this relationship with the past by melding Ignatius and companions with present day students in their graduation garbs.  Most of the students are directed towards Ignatius, but notice that Ignatius is pointing directly upwards towards the "IHS".  We look to Ignatius who inspired Jesuit education, but Ignatius points at his own inspiration--Christ.  

Many who attend Jesuit institutions, particularly Jesuit high schools, would be familiar with the phrase "AMDG" - for the greater glory of God. Ignatius believed that through this education that he would obtain, he would have greater ability to magnify God's work here on earth.  

I think it's quite a conscientious move on Bittau's part to depict the students in their graduation robes.  Not only does it represent success in obtaining one's education, it also points towards the future. It marks the transitional phase in which we enter into the world, bringing our newly formed gifts and talents to others.  

Specifically as a Jesuit in formation in the phase of first studies, I find that reflecting on this icon puts my philosophical studies in a bit of perspective. This time of studies is meant to make me a better Jesuit down the line. It is not education for education's sake and for one's personal benefit--it is education for ministry. 

How has your own education shaped and formed you? Have you been able to bring those unique gifts and talents into ministry? For those Jesuit educated, how has Jesuit education influenced the way you see the world today?

"The contemporary mission of the Society of Jesus is the service of faith and the promotion of that justice of the Gospel that is the embodiment of God's love and saving mercy."
             ~General Congregation

"We should recall that mediocrity has no place in Ignatius' world view; he demands leaders in service to others in building the Kingdom of God in the market place of business and ideas, of service, of law and justice, of economics, theology, and all areas of human life.  He urges us to work for the greater glory of God because the world desperately needs men and women of competence and conscience who generously give of themselves for others."
             ~Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J. (former General of the Society of Jesus)


Mike SJ said...

I have enjoyed reading these daily. Thanks for your ministry of the Word through these blogs. Hopefully, I will see you in NYC next month.

Ryan Rallanka, SJ said...

I look forward to your visit!