This year, four Seattle University Jesuits are celebrating significant anniversaries: Pat O'Leary, S.J., chaplain for faculty and staff, is marking 50 years as an ordained priest; Pat Howell, S.J., rector, and Stephen Sundborg, S.J., president, are celebrating their 50th anniversaries as Jesuits; and Dave Anderson, S.J., chaplain for alumni, is marking his 25th anniversary of entering the Jesuits. The four Jubilarians were celebrated during a special Mass on Sept. 25 in the Chapel of St. Ignatius. Father Howell delivered the following homily.
Our readings today are from the Feast of St Ignatius.
Deuteronomy 30:15-20: “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. Choose life."
Ephesians 1:3-10: "Blessed be God…who has blessed us in Christ…as he chose us in him. . .to be holy and without blemish before him.”
John 1:35-39: “Rabbi, where do you live?” “Come and see.”
Come and See. Every follower of Christ, every disciple, every Jesuit asks this question of Jesus –often in a hesitant, anxious, and uncertain way: “Where do you live?” And years ago we received the gentle response: “Come and See.”
Come and see where I live. Come and see and enter into the great enterprise that God has set before us—to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner—to instruct children, to offer hope to the alienated, and to welcome and reconciliation to those who are confused and angry.
In 1961 Steve Sundborg and I entered the Jesuits at Sheridan, Ore. Steve came from Georgetown Prep after growing up in Alaska and aspiring to be a dog-sled priest. I came from North Dakota after graduating from Gonzaga University, and that same year Pat O’Leary was ordained a priest after 13 years of preparation, including a stint of re-founding, along with others, Loyola High School in Missoula. Dave Anderson, not yet born in 1961, arrived at the novitiate 25 years later from South Dakota at the age of 22 after also graduating from Gonzaga. By then–1986—the Church, the Society of Jesus, and indeed civil society in the United States was a very different place indeed.
|Fathers Pat Howell, Dave Anderson, Pat O'Leary and Steve Sundborg are pictured here, following the Sept. 25 Mass to celebrate their jubilee anniversaries.|
Every generation of Christians responds to the challenging, gentle invitation: Come and See. Take a risk. Throw in your lot with God. See what happens. I can guarantee you God’s dream for you will exceed anything you ever envisioned.
Our second reading from Ephesians lay at the heart of the Second Vatican Council from 1962-1965 –become the Body of Christ holy and without blemish. And the Council set the agenda for the Jesuits for the next 50 years.
Vatican II laid out this wonderful, new, invigorating vision. The Council welcomed the world and the richness and culture of every people. It inaugurated revolutionary changes by embracing modern biblical exegesis, by welcoming the best in liturgical theology. It opened its heart to democracy, religious liberty, freedom of conscience, and ecumenical dialogue.
It’s astounding what happened in those few short years. Archbishop Hunthausen once told me, he arrived in Rome, freshly ordained as a bishop. “I couldn’t have had a better preparation as a bishop—sitting on the steps of a church after dinner—talking with some of the best theologians in the world. It was a great tutorial.”
Those of us growing up as Jesuits in the middle of this revolution in the Church were filled with hope and expectation. Through the next 40 years we Jesuits explored, deepened and activated this fresh Gospel vision. At the heart of it was an empowering of the laity in their own vocation. As Cardinal Newman once said, “The clergy would look pretty silly without the laity.”
What great partnerships we have formed—together!
Jesuits were very conscious that we were not “holy and without blemish.” That’s who Christ was, that’s the Body of Christ, the People of God on a journey, rather we were “sinners, yet called to be companions of Jesus, as Ignatius was.” (“Jesuits Today,” Decree Two, GC 32, 1975)
In 1975 we activated Vatican II in a very concrete, controversial way: “The mission of the Society of Jesus today is the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement. For reconciliation with God demands the reconciliation of people with one another.”(“Our Mission Today,” Decree Four, GC 32)
The commitment to social justice rocked the universities, and there was much resistance, even among Jesuits and among some of our wealthier friends. But now it’s a given. Every student at Seattle U knows that “the faith that does justice” is at the heart of our Jesuit mission.
All these themes would take a lifetime to explore. But each of us Jubilarians has tried to live out this vision with fidelity and joy—because we are men of the Church and this vision lies at the heart of our calling. Come and see! Wow! Who would have thought all this would unfold—explode really.
And finally, our first reading from Deuteronomy: “Today I set before you life and prosperity, death and doom, choose life.”
Choose life! Every day we have choices to make. Little choices that make all the difference. Ignatius knew from his own experience how crucial these choices were.
Each of the four of us at a rather young age made a choice to enter the Society of Jesus. Rather remarkable. I ponder that—how did I make such a great choice, such a risk, such a commitment at age 21? And what a wonderful life it has been. Just look at these Jesuits and the others gathered in this chapel. Can you imagine a better group with which to share your life and holy aspirations? Not bad for an 18- or 21- or 22-year-old.
I have a grammar of discernment—between the good and the bad, between life and death, if you will. If you focus on the good, it gets better and becomes best. If you focus on the bad, it doesn’t get better. It gets worse and worser. It’s a grammar of discernment. Which side of the chasm do you stand on?
Dag Hammarskjold in his little book Markings had a prayer for the end of each day: “Thanks for all that has been. Yes for all that is coming.” And the prayer at the end of the day of the easy-going Pope John the XXIII also comes to mind: “All right, God, It’s your Church. I’m going to bed.” It’s a prayer of gratitude. It’s a prayer of freedom. It’s a way of life. Joyful people live out of a sense of gratitude.
Pope Benedict recently told our Father General Adolfo Nicolás that the Jesuits had two things to offer the Church which no one else could do: your spirituality and your intellectual tradition.
So whether you’re chaplain for faculty and staff, president of the university, chaplain for alumni and sports teams, or rector of the Jesuit community—we each strive to intellectually working out the best possible avenues and then offering our spirituality of discernment for a deeper life with Christ. It is a robust spirituality. It does not retreat to the security of fundamentalism, which has all the answers. Rather it embraces the mystery of God. It discovers God in all things. All is for the greater glory of God.
And, finally, I know I speak for Steve and Dave and Pat as well--none of us would be here without you: our families, our friends, and colleagues in ministry.You make it all possible and your support and your own faithfulness to your vocation encourages all of us –and gives us great hope.
“Thanks for all that has been. Yes for all that is to come.”