The Pope inspires a student to reflect on his Jesuit education

By Tim Attolino, '17

Tim Attolino, left, poses with a group of Loyola students at the Capitol. (Photo courtesy of Tim Attolino)

Last Thursday, I was blessed with the opportunity to be a witness to His Holiness Pope Francis’ address to Congress. Standing outside on the West Lawn of the United States Capitol Building, I found myself to be overcome with emotion.

This was more than just a speech, this was history.

In the 239-year history of the United States, no other Pope had ever addressed Congress directly from within the walls of the United States Capitol, speaking in gratitude for being granted the invitation to address Congress in, “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” I stood on the Lawn, surrounded by 50,000 other people, wearing a #JesuitEducated Loyola T-shirt.

I found myself beginning to reflect on what it truly means to be Jesuit educated. A Jesuit education is more than just hearing the buzzwords that we all know: AMDG, cura personalis, magis, and men and women for/with others; it is about putting these words and phrases into action. Pope Francis is the perfect embodiment of these ideals, but most importantly, he lives them out on a daily basis, simply by his presence in the world.

As Pope Francis spoke about the impact of four very influential Americans, who, he said, were “able by hard work and self-sacrifice, some at the cost of their lives, to build a better future”: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton, my mind began to wander back to those Jesuit buzzwords: AMDG, cura personalismagis, and men and women for/with others. What do these phrases, originating hundreds of years in the past, mean to a 20- year-old college student? I let my mind wander, and as it usually does, it took me to a word that has defined my Loyola experience thus far: perspective.

AMDG. ad majorem dei gloriam. for the greater glory of God. That’s what we are taught of what it means. But what does it really mean? This is the phrase that puts my entire experience in life in perspective.

No matter what I do in my life, whether trial or triumph, success or failure, rational or irrational decision, everything is done for the greater glory of the Lord above. This keeps me in check. This is what makes my heart beat. This gives me the “sixth sense” so to speak to know when I’m doing something that I should not be doing. This gives me the sense of perspective to know when something truly wrong is taking place in the world.

Pope Francis said of the actions of Abraham Lincoln over 150 years ago, “Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.”

Cura personalis. Care for the whole person. Again, that is what we are taught of what it means. But what does it really mean? Care for the whole person to me is caring about all of a person. A person is not defined simply by successes or failures, positive qualities or flaws; but instead, they are defined by both successes and failures, positive qualities and flaws.

Without embracing our perceived negatives, failures and flaws, there is no way to grow as a human being. Humanity is inherently flawed. Our flaws are what make as whole. In a way, we are not truly human and embracing humanity until we recognize that our flaws are as important as our positives.

As Pope Francis said in his address in reference to Martin Luther King, Jr., “Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best.”

Magis. The more. For a third time, that is what we are taught of what it means. But what does it really mean? To me, magis is not simply doing more; it is about doing what is not always easy. It is easy to do more of one thing or more of another thing, but the meaning may begin to fade over time. However, if one embraces their uniqueness as a human, then the ability to do what is difficult in life will not seem as daunting.

Step out of your comfort zone, stand where you have never stood before, do something you never would have dreamt of doing four years ago. Life is an inherently uncomfortable place. You aren’t truly living, in my opinion, if you are comfortable. There will always be room to grow, room to do more, and room to be more. Be more, not only for yourself, not only for others, but for the common good of the world.

As Pope Francis said about Dorothy Day’s social activism, “This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical… in order to enter into dialogue with all people in our common home.”

Men and women for and with others. This is the central mission of a Jesuit education. This is what we are taught of what it means. But what does it really mean? For me, being a man or woman for and with others is about being present. Be where your feet are, but don’t be afraid to be the one to carry another, to make those footprints a little deeper. Be a man or woman of compassion. Be selfless, but know when to be selfish. There is nothing wrong with taking time for yourself; it truly keeps you sane, trust me from experience.

Of most supreme importance, is to be loving. Be love. Embrace love. Understand that love is not easy. Don’t simply be a man or woman for and with others, but be a loving man or a loving woman for and with others. But know though, that love is something that is inherently difficult. Love cannot be expressed or explained in 140 characters. With love, comes dialogue.

Photo by Jimmy McCarron, '16

As Pope Francis expressed of Thomas Merton, be a person who embodies, “the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace.”

Pope Francis’s address to Congress was an incredibly powerful experience.

It made me proud to be a Catholic.

It made me even more proud to be a student of Loyola University Maryland.

It made me proud to be a citizen of the United States, with hope for a greater future.

But, most importantly, it made me proud to be Jesuit educated. A Jesuit education allows us all to be a vessel of peace in the world, to set the world on fire.

I’d like to close with a quote from Pope Francis, when speaking at Philadelphia City Square. “But those difficulties are overcome with love. Hatred is not capable of doing away with difficulties. A division of hearts cannot overcome difficulty. Only love is able to overcome.”

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1 Comment

  • Posted by Jack Sirotniak | October 11, 2015

    I sense a special vocation…..
    Semper Fi
    Jack S

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