Text for Francis' Meeting With Students of Jesuit Schools

«To educate is not a profession but an attitude, a way of being»

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Here is a translation of the text that Francis had prepared for his meeting today with students from Jesuit schools. Instead of delivering this text, he chose instead to make the meeting into an informal q-and-a session with the students, and requested that this text be provided for publication. A transcription and translation of the q-and-a session is forthcoming.

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Dear Boys and Girls, Dear Young People!

I am happy to receive you with your families, educators and friends of the great family of the Italian and Albanian Jesuit Schools. I give you all my affectionate greeting: welcome! I feel truly “en famille” with you all. And the coincidence of our meeting with the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a reason for particular joy. 

I would like to tell you, first of all, something that refers to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, our founder. In the autumn of 1537, going to Rome with a group of his first companions, he wondered: If they ask us who we are, what will we answer? The answer came spontaneously: “We’ll say we are the ‘Society of Jesus!’” (Fontes Narrativi Societatis Iesu, vol. 1, pp. 320-322). An exacting name, to indicate a very close relationship of friendship, of total affection for Jesus, in whose footsteps they wished to follow. Why did I recount this event to you? Because Saint Ignatius and his companions had understood that Jesus taught them how to live well, how to live a life that has profound meaning, that gives enthusiasm, joy and hope. They understood that Jesus is a great teacher of life and a model of life, and that he did not only teach them, but also invited them to follow him on this path. 

Dear young people, if I now asked you the question: Why do you go to school, what would you answer me? There would probably be many answers according to the sensibility of each one. However, I think that it all could be summarized by saying that school is one of the educational environments in which one grows to learn to live, to become adult and mature men and women, capable of walking, of following the path of life. How does school help you to grow? It helps you not only in developing your intelligence, but it helps for an integral formation of all the components of your personality. 

Following what Saint Ignatius teaches, the principal element in school is to learn to be magnanimous. Magnanimity: this virtue of the great and the small (Non coerceri maximo contineri minimo, divinum est), which makes us always look at the horizon. What does it mean to be magnanimous? It means to have a big heart, to have greatness of mind, it means to have great ideals, the desire to do great things to respond to what God asks of us and, precisely because of this, to do well the things of each day, all daily actions, commitments, meetings with persons. To do the little things of every day with a great heart open to God and to others. Hence it is important to take care of the human formation aimed at magnanimity. School does not only widen your intellectual but also your human dimension. And I think that in a particular way Jesuit schools are careful to develop the human virtues: loyalty, respect, fidelity, commitment. 

I would like to pause on two fundamental values: liberty and service. First of all, be free persons! What do I mean? Perhaps it is thought that liberty is to do whatever one wishes, or venture into limit-experiences to try intoxication and overcome boredom. This isn’t liberty! Liberty means to be able to reflect on what we do, to know how to appreciate what is good and what is bad, behavior that makes one grow means to choose always the good. We are free for the good. And in this fear not to go against the current, even if it isn’t easy! To be free to always choose the good is demanding, but it will make you persons who have a backbone, who are able to face life; persons with courage and patience (parresia and ypomone). The second word is service. In your school you take part in various activities that habituate you not to shut yourselves in on yourselves or in your small world, but to be open to others, especially to the poorest and neediest, to work to improve the world in which we live. Be men and women with others and for others, real champions in the service of others. 

To be magnanimous with interior liberty and a spirit of service, spiritual formation is necessary. Dear children, dear youths, love Jesus Christ ever more! Our life is an answer to his call and you will be happy and will build your life well if you are able to respond to this call. Sense the presence of the Lord in your life. He is close to every one of you as companion, as friend, who knows how to help and understand you, who encourages you in difficult moments and never abandons you. In prayer, in dialogue with Him, in the reading of the Bible, you will discover that He is really close. And also learn to read the signs of God in your life. He always speaks to us, also through the events of our time and of our everyday existence. It is up to us to listen to him. 

I don’t wish to be too long, but I would like to address a specific word also to the educators: to the Jesuits, to the teachers, to the workers of your schools and to parents. Do not be discouraged in face of the difficulties that the educational challenge presents! To educate is not a profession but an attitude, a way of being. To educate it is necessary to come out of oneself and to be in the midst of young people, to support them in the stages of their growth, put yourselves by their side. Give them hope, optimism for their journey in the world. Teach them to see the beauty and goodness of creation and of man, who always has the imprint of the Creator. But above all be witnesses with your life of what you communicate. An educator – Jesuit, teacher, worker, parent – transmits knowledge, values with his words, but will be incisive for children if he accompanies his words with his witness, with his coherence of life. Without coherence it’s not possible to educate! You are all educators; there are no delegates in this field. Hence collaboration in the school can and must be the catalyzer, the place of encounter and convergence of the entire educational community with the sole objective of forming, of helping to grow as mature, simple, competent and honest persons, who are able to love with fidelity, who are able to live life as response to the vocation of God, and their future profession as service to society. To the Jesuits I would like to say that it is important to nourish their commitment in the educational field. Schools are a precious instrument to give a contribution to the journey of the Church and of the entire society. Hence, the educational field is not limited to the conventional school. Encourage yourselves to seek new non-conventional ways of educating according to “the needs of places, of times and of persons.”

Finally, a greeting to all former students present, to representatives of the Italian schools of the Faith and Joy network, which I know well because of the great work it does in South America, especially among the poorest classes. And a particular greeting to the delegation of the Albanian College of Scutari, which after long years of repression of religious institutions, since 1994 has taken up again its activity, receiving and educating Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim children and also some students born in agnostic family contexts. Thus the school becomes a place of dialogue and serene confrontation, to promote attitudes of respect, listening, friendship and a spirit of collaboration. 

Dear friends, I thank you all for this meeting. I entrust you to the maternal intercession of Mary and I accompany you with my blessing: may the Lord be always close to you, lift you from your falls and push you to grow and make ever loftier choices “with great spirit and liberality,” with magnanimity. Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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