A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Today is the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits: a lover and a fighter who gave up his sword and dedicated his life to serving God at the margins of society. It is also one year to the day since the launch of Project SJ, a growing collection of conversations with Jesuits and their friends and allies.
It has been quite a year. I have spoken to – among others – two Archbishops, a Vatican astronomer, an LGBTQ rights advocate, a campaigner against homelessness, a former Communard, and a chaplain at San Quentin prison. And all, Jesuit or not, have told me wonderful stories of things that are far beyond my experience and indeed my imagination.
So it seemed fitting to celebrate this day with a fine bit of bonus material: a speech given by Br Guy Consolmagno, planetary scientist, Jesuit and head of the Vatican Observatory foundation, to the students of St Aloysius’ College in Glasgow. You can see the full version on the site – but this part is one of my personal favourites.
I didn’t like it [at Boston College]. I didn’t fit in. So I figured, ok, there’s no problem so big you can’t run away from it. Time to bail out. Join the Jesuits, like I was thinking of doing anyway.
I found a Jesuit and asked him where to sign up, and he asked me a very peculiar question: “Have you prayed about this, son?” (I hate it when they call me “son”.) Well, I figured it was part of the routine. Why not? I went back to my room, sat on the floor, looked at the ceiling, and said, “OK, God, I’m supposed to ask if you want me to be a Jesuit, but I know you’re desperate for priests and I’m desperate to get out of here…”
Silence. Nothing came from the ceiling. And I was feeling very foolish.
While I was sitting there, waiting for something to happen, a funny question occurred to me. What does a priest do for a living? You know, when they show up at their desk on a Monday morning—I assume priests must have desks—what’s on those desks? Papers, I guess. Papers about what? About people. People with problems. People just like the idiots in my dorm whom I was trying to get away from. What a terrible job!
So… either there was no God, in which case it would be stupid to be a priest; or there was a God, and he had just told me it would be stupid for me to be a priest.
To find out how Br Guy went on to become, well, Br Guy, you can read the rest of the speech here. Happy Iggy Day!