Sitting in a Washington, D.C., pub, I was enjoying a pint of beer after work with several co-workers when one sitting beside me asked me to describe my philosophy of life-admittedly a surprising but appropriate question to ask over a drink or two. Only a few weeks earlier I began a new job at L'Arche as a development associate. L'Arche is an interfaith community of people with and without intellectual and physical disabilities. Being the new employee on the block, I took a sip, thought for a minute and answered, "Well, I try to live by the following: ‘to find God in all things,' ‘the best is yet to come,' ‘to be a person for others' and to do everything for ‘the greater glory of God.'" My reply drew a third co-worker into the conversation who commented, "You must have a Jesuit background because those sound like very Jesuit phrases." I smiled at this, recalling the previous decade of my life spent in Jesuit education-high school, college, and two years of volunteer service. Over the last ten years, I realize I have been influenced deeply by the Jesuit charism affecting how I approach a situation, a problem or a decision, and even my spirituality.
The man beside me asked, "Isn't this philosophy too optimistic-more of an ‘if I believe the world to be a happy place, I will ignore what is wrong in the world' hopefulness?" After thinking for a moment I responded that I believed it was deeper than a naïve hope or an unrealistic view of the world. These beliefs challenged me to be more, to do more and trust more deeply in something greater than myself.
The Jesuits (officially known as the Society of Jesus) find their inspiration in Ignatian Spirituality, named after the founder Saint Ignatius of Loyola. In his youthful days Ignatius, a Spanish noble, was steeped in the ways of the world: sword fighting and women. During the 1521 French siege of Pamplona he was struck by a cannon ball and severely injured. In the ensuing months of recovery at a Loyola, where the only two books available to read were on the life of the Saints and on the life of Christ, he had a radical conversion experience. As he reflected on his life thus far and contemplated his future Ignatius realized it was his meditations on Christ that brought him lasting peace, not reliving the revels of his early days. These meditations became the beginnings of what became the Spiritual Exercises. From its conception, Ignatius meant for this spirituality to be a tool for ordinary people to employ in their everyday lives. To this end, he wrote a book now called the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, a series of mediations on the life of Christ which I've found very useful, especially during my challenging year of service in post-Katrina New Orleans with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
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David Uhl (2005 Krista Colleague) spent two years with Jesuit Volunteer Corps, in Detroit and in New Orleans. Now pursuing a Masters Degree in nonprofit management at American University, David works as the Development and Outreach Associate for L'Arche in Washington, D.C., an organization that provides lifelong homes to people with intellectual disabilities. In addition to working and studying full time, David finds great joy and renewal as he spends quality time with the L'Arche community.