[Blueboard] Homily - Anticipated Mass in honor of St. Ignatius

sdelrosario at aps.ateneo.edu sdelrosario at aps.ateneo.edu
Tue Aug 4 09:21:38 PHT 2009

Below was the homily of Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ, Dean Emeritus of
the Ateneo Law School, at the Anticipated Mass in honor of St.
Ignatius of Loyola on July 30, 2009, 6:05PM, at the Chapel of St.
Thomas More, Ateneo Professional Schools.

We hope this will help us reflect on how we live out our Ignatian
Spirituality. Thank you.

Homily on the Feast of St.  Ignatius
Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J.

As we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius with this Mass, I thought
that I might begin by asking what relevance St. Ignatius has for a Law
School.  I ask this question because, when St. Ignatius first wrote
the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, which is the fundamental
law of the Jesuit Order, he said that Jesuits should stay away from
running Law schools because they are far from the goals of the Jesuit
Order.  And, he also said that if Jesuit schools must teach law, it
should not be taught by Jesuits.  Which could leave me jobless.

St. Ignatius, however, soon enough realized the value of law schools.
Thus, even before he died, law was being taught in some Jesuit
schools, but not yet by Jesuits. But his successors were wiser still
and now Jesuits teach law and there are many number of Jesuit law
schools, an outstanding example being the one in Rockwell! But then we
must ask: What makes a Law School Jesuit?

We say sometimes that Jesuit schools are distinguished by academic
excellence and that therefore what distinguishes Jesuit law schools is
academic excellence.  But there is nothing originally or exclusively
Jesuit about academic excellence.  The academic excellence of Jesuit
schools comes from the Ratio Studiorum, which is the bible of Jesuit
education.  But the Ratio Studiorum is not original.  It is
characterized by borrowing. Eloquentia, for instance, has been
borrowed from the Roman rhetorician Quintilian.  The method of our
schools we borrowed from the medieval University of Paris.  And when
we want to put up an excellent law school, what do we do? We borrow
from Harvard.  Thus, academic excellence is not the distinguishing
mark because it also belongs to other schools.  What then should make
Jesuit schools Jesuit?

There are two words in the phrase "Jesuit school", the noun "school"
and the adjective "Jesuit."  Both the noun and the adjective are
important.  When we are serious about the noun "school," then we get
academic excellence.  But that is just half of the phrase. There is
also the adjective "Jesuit."  What does the adjective add to the
enterprise when we are faithful to it.  What it should add is what I
would call "Ignatian spirituality."

By  "spirituality" I do not mean external piety such as novenas,
lighted candles and pilgrimages. By spirituality I mean how one
relates with God, how one relates with men and women, and how one
relates with wealth and power.  In this sense, everyone has a
spirituality.  And the question is whether in your spirituality you
aim for excellence in much the same way that you aim for academic

In your relationship with God, do you consider him as the be all and
end all of your life.  Or, as Our Lord says, do you love him with all
your mind, and all your heart, and all your soul?

In your relationship with people, do you distinguish between privileged and
underprivileged, between fraternity brother or sorority sister on the
one hand and all so called barbarians. Jesus said you should love your
neighbor as yourself, even barbarians, and even members of other

How do you relate with wealth and power now?  And how will you relate
with wealth and power in the future?  A career in law throws a person
into a world of wealth and power. Look at our graduates who now occupy
positions of power in the private and public sectors. How does
Ignatian spirituality ask you to relate with wealth and with power?

Ignatian spirituality is optimistic.  It tells you that wealth and
power are good.  You do not despise them. But Ignatian spirituality is
deeply aware that wealth and power are gifts of a loving God and are
given for a purpose - ad majorem Dei gloriam. This is where we get
what we often hear - women and men for others.

Wealth and power are two-edged swords.  They can uplift or they can
crush, they can serve or they can enslave.  Ignatian spirituality
tells us that we must always choose that for which wealth and power
have been given by a loving God - to uplift, to serve, to liberate.
This is excellence in spirituality. Ignatian spirituality is a
spirituality of choice.

I guess I can sum it up by asking what all these should mean for a
student or a product of a Jesuit law school.   It should, of course,
mean excellence in the law, But it should also mean realizing that
lawyering is not just a means of livelihood but a vocation. The word
vocation can sometimes scare us because it is closely linked with
being a monk or a nun which for obvious reasons is not for all.  But
having a vocation is larger than monkhood or sisterhood.  It simply
means that you are created for a purpose and that you are called to
fulfill that purpose.  And for us the purpose is excellence in legal
service and excellence in being men and women for God and for others.

Today we pray to St. Ignatius to help us fulfill the vocation to which
we have been called.  We have the ideal; let us make it a reality.

Campus Ministry Office

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