JOURNEYING WITH YOUTH
By Fr Eka Tanaya SJ, Acting Rector, Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview.
Recently, we had a special guest speaker at our co-curricular assembly. Riverview Alumnus Jordan Hunter, a National Basketball League player with the Sydney Kings, has the ability to dunk both literally and metaphorically.
He shared his story about his time at the College and how it was not always smooth sailing. His commitments and hard work did not always pay off. Sometimes, things were quite challenging and daunting for him. In those times, he was not too sure about his future, but he maintained a sense of gratitude and trust that he could “dunk” one day.
Like Jordan, I too have had my challenging moments. After working in the commercial world for over a decade, I entered the Jesuit novitiate in Sydney. Two years later, I took vows and became a scholastic, a Latin term used in the Jesuit order to describe someone who is preparing for priestly ordination through many years of study and other formation programs.
At first, I was excited to move to Melbourne to start my philosophy studies. However, within the first hour of my first lecture and having been away from classes for so many years after my own secular studies at the Australian National University, I had a panic attack. Among my thoughts were: “What did I do to myself? How am I to survive sitting in classrooms, writing papers, memorising who said what, for at least another six years?”
My heart just sank. It was chaotic, troubled.
We all have our own share of challenging times – perhaps when we are forced out of our respective comfort zones; or when we feel disordered or confronted by unpleasant situations in life, failures and losses; or sometimes, when we have too many options that render us confused or paralysed.
In the Gospel reading for a recent Sunday (John 14:1-12), Jesus is saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Is that even possible? Henri Nouwen, a priest and writer, made a useful distinction between “products” and “fruits.” Our ego often desires to create “products”. We know the metrics, the boxes we have to tick by which successes, growth or beauty are measured. Rightfully, we tend to want to claim the credit when successes happen, or growth occurs, or beauty is presented.
This attitude could potentially give birth to isolation and self-pride. We pat ourselves on the back for having overcome our vulnerabilities and limitations, potentially giving birth to an insatiable hunger for the recognition of self which cannot be easily satisfied. Meanwhile our connection to God produces “fruits”. It may still take a lot of individual effort, time and determination for a success or growth to occur. Yet, we place ourselves as participants in something greater. Success or growth or beauty paradoxically emerge because of our vulnerabilities and limitations, and through our dependence on a loving relationship with God. Our entire being is moved by God, filled with God, and animated by God.
Think of the saints. For example, in humility, St. Ignatius prayed, “Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding.” And he ended the prayer with, “Lord, give me only your love and your grace, and that is enough for me.” It has almost been 500 years since he prayed these words and acted on them. What wonderful fruits the world has enjoyed as a result!
We, as a school community, are the beneficiaries of such wonderful fruits from God. In turn, we too have participated in God’s great success and have helped write the beautiful story of this institution. And we hope that it continues to grow into the future as a fruit that truly lasts.
Unlike our isolated ego, this very relationship, our connection with God, grounds us in gratitude and trust. It is the one that will make a difference in the long run, even if we do not need to claim credit for any of the successes or the growth. We sometimes don’t even know or hear about them. Teachers know this fact. That connection with God is one way, but a certain one, in which we can keep our heart at ease; not letting it be troubled – by letting it rest in a loving relationship with God.
“Lord, give me only your love and your grace, and that is enough for me.”
This article by Fr Eka Tanaya SJ was initially published in a recent edition of ‘Viewpoint’, the online newsletter of Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview.
Feature photo by Anthony Gomez on Unsplash.