Saturday, March 11, 2006

A day in the life.

Yesterday I attended the St. Ignatius Law Alumni Luncheon in the posh digs of the Chicago Athletic Association, a private club on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. An annual event, yesterday's luncheon gathers some of the many St. Ignatius alumni who have gone on to become practicing attorneys and judges in Chicago. As the newest Jesuit at SICP and as a law school graduate to boot, I struck the staff of the development office as a good person to represent the school at the luncheon. Unsurprisingly, the alumni I spoke with at the luncheon all expressed great curiosity regarding my work at the school, my vocation and the mechanics of my formation as a Jesuit. For my part, I enjoyed hearing the attorneys I met at the luncheon speak about how their experience of Jesuit education had positively influenced the course of their personal and professional lives. I also appreciated the opportunity to be of service to SICP by helping provide a Jesuit presence at an event where such a presence was deeply appreciated.

On my way back to school after an enjoyable hour at the luncheon, I ran into someone I didn't expect to see - or, to put it better, I ran into 100,000 people I didn't expect to see. I'd gotten a ride to the luncheon from another Jesuit working in the school; considering the impossibility of finding parking on the Magnificent Mile, we had opted to park several blocks west of Michigan Avenue. Walking back to the car, we came face-to-face with a massive demonstration in favor of immigrants' rights. A predominantly Mexican crowd that the Chicago Tribune estimated (conservatively, I would say) at about 100,000 had descended on the Loop to protest H.R. 4437, a bill recently approved by the U.S. House that threatens stricter enforcement of immigration laws and tougher penalties for those who knowingly assist undocumented immigrants. I knew about the rally ahead of time - and even knew Jesuits who planned to attend - but I was still bowled over by its massive scale. I can't recall ever seeing such a large crowd - the march of demonstrators literally went on as far as the eye could see. The marchers maintained an impresively peaceful tone - I saw no clenched fists and heard no angry shouts, only earnest and serious individuals committed to a justice issue that touches them personally.

My experiences as a guest at the luncheon and a witness to the demonstration reminded of the Jesuit's responsibility to make himself at home in two worlds. This is a topic I've written about before and one worth returning to as I begin to prepare my petition for vows. Promoting justice and acting in solidarity with the marginalized are key elements of the Jesuits' contemporary mission, but they don't represent the totality of our endeavors. Spending time among and working with the economically poor is an important part of the promotion of justice to which we are called. However, this does not mean that Jesuits should work exclusively with the poor and scorn the rich. On the contrary, maintaining relationships with affluent and influential people - including the lawyers and judges I had lunch with yesterday - is as critical to the Society's promotion of justice as direct ministry to the marginalized. Ideally, our relationships with the movers and shakers of the secular world - relationships forged most especially through educational institutions sponsored by the Society - give Jesuits an opportunity to promote a social order more in line with Gospel values. By going through the doors of the rich and powerful, Jesuits have always hoped that the rich might be brought out our door. Though these hopes have been unevenly realized, our obligation to work with people at all levels of society remains strong. It's good to be reminded of this - particularly in situations like the one I found myself in yesterday. AMDG.


At March 12, 2006 11:31 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

"At home in two worlds" -- what an amazing way to express the integration one seeks to find in living out the Gospel!


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