In November of last year, my All Things Ignatian class had the opportunity to create a prayer that commemorated the Salvadoran martyrs.
It was both an assignment and an opportunity. We were not just writing a prayer that would be turned in and forgotten; this prayer was to be delivered at a luncheon whose attendants included Father Jon Sobrino, SJ – a man who personally knew and loved these incredible people we were learning about.
We worked in partners and each delved into the life of one of the 8 martyrs. My partner and I chose Celina Ramos. She was the youngest of the martyrs, a girl not far from my own age, who had her life ripped away from her.
I can’t explain why I had tears in my eyes as we stood together as a class and honored the memories of these martyrs. All I know is that as we looked with hope towards the future, and pledged to live justly and passionately as these people did, I felt filled with that inexplicable fire and passion which is so vital to my experience as a Catholic and a deep lover of Ignatian spirituality. I felt that I was doing something that mattered – that I was sharing the story of a girl who felt like she could have been my friend. A girl who was kind, and in love with a boy, and in love with learning, and who died. And I was choosing to honor her by pouring my heart into everything she couldn’t.
I share this story because it embodies everything that Catholic Studies is to me.
It is refreshingly academic. Instead of just reading from a textbook, this assignment challenged me to research and also contemplate. I was not just spitting out facts, but rather taking the time to let myself feel and understand the significance of the lives of these people.
It is full of deeply passionate people. My All Things Ignatian class was an incredibly special group of people, many whom are my closest friends today. Working on this project with them was a chance to see each person’s unique talents shine.
It is communal. I have never felt more comfortable in and yet challenged by a class. We didn’t always agree, but that was an intensely good thing – it allowed us to have purposeful dialogue that helped me to discern where I stand on many aspects of my faith.
And, lastly, it is experiential. We aren’t just sitting in the classroom. Yes, it is an academic program, and it is full of learning, but all kinds of it. We learn the theory and the great ideas and then go out into the world and put them into action.
All Things Ignatian, and particularly this project, made me fall in love with the Catholic Studies minor and its growing and beautiful community. It made me want to become more involved in things such as the John Courtney Murray Forum and other events on campus. But most importantly, it put me on a path to discerning and committing to my faith.
All Things Ignatian helped me begin to understand the words of Pedro Arrupe: “Fall in love, stay in love, and that will decide everything.”