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How to be a Jesuit and still follow your dreams

Written by Fr. Robert Murphy SJ

Dreams.  Do you have dreams for your life?  If so, you are in good company.  St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, spent time dreaming about his life.

While he was recovering from being hit with a cannonball at the battle of Pamplona, he would dream about marrying a princess and becoming an official in the government of Spain.  But, he would also dream about being a saint, and following the example of St. Francis of Assisi or St. Dominic, and serving Christ the King and the Catholic Church.  Eventually, he came to understand that his calling was the second dream.

Well, how did he discern this?

He started paying attention to his desires, but not just any of them, specifically his good and holy ones.  He recognized that these desires gave him a long-lasting sense of peace and consolation.  By identifying this, he came to the realization that these were not only his desires for his life, but that they could also be God’s desires for his life.  And realizing this, he could understand that God’s call for his life was to serve the Church and try to be a saint.

Now, the same is true, particularly for those discerning their vocation.  We can have different dreams for our life and at times certain desires can seem to be in conflict with each other.  We dream about having a family but also about living in community.  We desire to have a particular career but also to be a religious.  By spending time in prayer, particularly in the presence of the blessed sacrament, we may find that certain dreams and desires give us more peace and consolation than others.  By recognizing this, we can come to understand our true calling, our vocation.

The true dream…

But it can be hard and so that is why, St. Ignatius encourages us to talk to someone about our dreams and desires like a friend, family member, priest or religious.  With their help, we can identify our deepest desires and recognize our true dream.  For those discerning a call to the priesthood or religious life, having a spiritual director, which is a person trained in helping people hear God’s voice in their prayer, is essential.

How one gets his mission

In the Jesuits, besides having a spiritual director, each Jesuit has a major superior called a Provincial.  His role is to give a Jesuit his mission, his ministry.  In order to do this, the provincial listens to the Jesuit explain his dreams and desires as well as how he feels God is calling him to use his gifts and abilities to minister in the Jesuits and serve the Church.  The provincial reflects on all this and looks at the needs of the various Jesuit ministries and tries to make a match.

Now, fortunately, the Jesuits have a variety of ministries and various ways to serve within them.  This allows each Jesuit a certain amount of freedom to determine his unique way to minister.  Hence, there is a saying that if you can find a job you can probably find a Jesuit doing it.  And how do individual Jesuits and their superiors determine what they should do?  Well, it depends on the gifts he has been given by God and the skills and abilities he has developed over the years.  But ultimately, it begins his good and holy desires.  By identifying these, a man can understand how to be a Jesuit and still follow his dream.  And often enough, he finds that it is actually easier to follow his dreams by being a Jesuit.


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Let's talk about your vocation

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Let's talk about your vocation