It seemed to me there was no engagement with the present moment in all this. No time to take it in. No space for wonderment. No quiet reflection. No opportunity for appreciation. No sense of the gift. At the end of it all, just a digital device of some sort back home, and “megabytes of me”. The self. Frozen in a reality that was unembraced, unexplored, unsavoured. Just me, myself and I.
When our Jesuit schools first began, mid-1500s, the style we adopted was Renaissance humanism. Education of the whole human person – head, heart and hands. It included faith-formation, of course, and values. But unlike the existing schools of the time, it was never just about intellectual formation and career preparation to secure a good place for me in the world. It had a focus on what the student would later contribute to the common good of the society he would soon enter.
In that book, Cicero went on to say that our role in life was the pursuit of justice and right order in society – even if that cost one’s life. Even if that cost one’s life, he said! No half-measures here. Cicero argued that we should learn and then live out self-sacrifice, courage and large-heartedness. He wrote that we ought to pursue “great deeds and ones useful in the highest degree to the common good.” And these were, he said, to be deeds “fraught with danger both to life itself and to many other goods that make life worth living”. That’s a big call. And Cicero lived out what he preached. He himself was killed for speaking out against the self-serving Roman leadership of his day. That is what inspired your fellow Jesuit students four hundred and seventy years ago.
Cicero, in fact, shares Gospel values. Grounded in the value of the human person. An inherent human dignity which stems from each person being loved by God. And when that worth is challenged or cheapened, we respond. Great as it is here, we are not at Aloys for ourselves alone.
So at the beginning of a new year, maybe ask yourself two questions. What is the sort of person I want to become? And What is the thumbprint I want to leave in time on the world for others?
Rector of St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point