Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Service and Knowledge in the Jesuit Tradition

It's been a year since I was first awed by how closely the Jesuit ideals correlated with my own. The richness of actually learning for the pursuit of truth and knowledge and the ability to humble one's self through service defined the very core reason why being at a Jesuit university was so important to me. In a way, the connection between serving others and pursuing excellence in obtaining knowledge has been fulfilled. Through every step, I am unable to escape the connections I continually find between what I learn in the classroom and what I can give to others.

This past semester, I had the opportunity of doing service-learning at the Don Miller House, which is quite a forward approach towards connecting knowledge and service. The intrinsic nature of service is that the opportunity one is put in to always gives back ten-fold in ways that are much different from what one gives. In a way, this relates to what Fr. Linnane mentioned today about how learning in the Jesuit tradition prepares a person to become more open to different cultures and different people through the way it conditions a student to seek truth and God in all things. Without the ability to see beyond the social constrictions that surround a person living with AIDS, I would not have been ability to see the opportunity as one in which I could grow. My service last semester would have been overshadowed by fear and stigma, rather than lending the ability to learn from these people living with AIDS, nor could I have connected it what I was learning.

Service, in its true nature, is a humbling act. Yet, at the same time, it is a heroic act, one quite like that which Kahu took in the book The Whale Rider. Although her act of ushering the great whale back into the ocean was one that was monumental, she completed the task with such humility as to not put herself above the other Maori people, but to rescue the roots of the Maori culture. Her act would have not had the same significance if Kahu was not humble in her heroism. If she would have come back from rescuing the whales in a way that put her own ego above that of the Maori tribe, the connection that was made between tradition and the new era would not have completely solidified. Kahu's humble nature was crucial to the transfer of tradition from old to new and irrational to rational.

The journey from irrational to rational in service also needs to have a humbling component. Before obtaining truth through service, there is no possible way to understand or rationalize the meaning of service before it has been completed. Neither is it possible to achieve the goal of searching for truth and God in service by being overly proud. Not having a humble attribute would put up a barrier in between the knowledge one would receive from service and one's self and prevent the goals of the Jesuit identity to take root within a person.

The interaction between serving others and seeking truth requires a certain ability to accept the many ways in which a person can achieve knowledge for the benefit of others. It's interesting how something so internal, such as knowledge, could be used as a powerful tool to help others who have been overlooked or underprivileged. However, the interaction between giving one's self up to others is what the Jesuit tradition is all about.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, “For the greater glory of God,” means that a person has to lend their whole self to God through relationships will all people.

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