Looking back on my time at Georgetown, I see it as an extended Examen, an exercise in reflection and appreciation of God’s work in my life.
The Examen is a spiritual practice in which Jesuits are called to pray twice daily in order to better detect God’s presence in their lives. By reflecting on even the most mundane encounters of their day, practitioners of the Examen can more clearly recognize the divine within the everyday.
While at Georgetown, Fr. Ryan Maher, S.J., remarked, “that’s exactly what a Georgetown education is meant to do: teach us to listen, amid the noise of our life, for the very music for which the human heart was created.”
What allows Georgetown to be such an integral part of our personal development is its ever-present motivation to cultivate people’s talents and nourish their souls. Both inside and outside the classroom we are called to constantly reflect on the relationship between the world’s needs, our academic passions and even our social experiences.
This university does not simply seek to bestow degrees and publish papers. A Georgetown degree not only recognizes scholastic achievement, but also asks of its recipients to commit their lives to the pursuit of justice and the greater glory of God.
Archbishop Oscar Romero exemplified this mission through his service to the marginalized populations of El Salvador. He was martyred while celebrating Mass in 1980, the culmination of a life committed to a faith that does justice.
Through my study of Latin America and the Jesuits, I have found Romero to be just one example of a martyr who had clearly discerned his vocation and died in the name of both faith and justice. However, I often struggle to understand how such a significant vocation translates to my relatively modest experience as a Georgetown student.
Studying Romero has helped me in this regard. He reminds us that we are all called to “plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development.”
Vocation is a term many Catholics automatically associate with the consecrated life of priests, sisters and brothers. Yet we are all called to a vocation of our own, because a vocation is fundamentally a call from God for us to love and serve Him in our own unique way. Theologian Frederick Buechner describes vocation as “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s great hunger meet.”
The Jesuit charisms at work in education help to humanize all disciplines in order to create a class of students eminently qualified in their fields, and yet simultaneously focused on viewing their studies as part of their larger vocation. I am forever grateful to this university for providing this type of intellectual and spiritual cultivation over these last four years.
Even when I was exposed to perspectives that were initially uncomfortable or challenging, I was constantly referred back to the same values and mission that first attracted me to this school. The most important of these reminders was the call to reject vanity and temper my concerns for acquiring temporal success.
I have recently found myself taking a cue from Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., as I look back at my time at Georgetown by asking myself a few simple questions. What did I fall in love with? What kept me up at night? What broke my heart? God was lovingly present in all of these moments, and I am called to pay attention to that love.
Now I can see that my time at Georgetown has become a four-year Examen. Over the course of my time here, I constantly found myself called to recognize the work of God in my life and in the world.
Georgetown and the Jesuits provide the framework necessary to understand the greater purpose of these four years and our lives in general, so that we may finally be able to understand the divine music that Maher talks about. We have all heard the symphony, but only now can we fully listen.
Yet, after only four short years on the Hilltop, we are expected to take the lessons learned here, walk through the front gates and perhaps return only for occasional celebrations like Homecoming or class reunions. For many, this is a welcome change. But for others, there is much left unsaid and undone as graduation approaches.
It is easy to feel incomplete and depleted as the end of our time at Georgetown draws near, and we are called to pay attention to these emotions. Yet the words of Romero’s prayer once again remind us that our time at Georgetown “may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.”
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam — let us leave Georgetown with the ability to better detect God within our lives, trusting in the experiences of these last four years and with faith in what the future will hold.
Jared Ison is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. This is the final installment of The Round Table, a rotating column by members of the Knights of Columbus.