I was raised Catholic but opted not to be confirmed. In my very Irish family, that was pretty sacrilegious, but I firmly stood by the notion that it would be not only dishonest personally but also a disrespect to the Catholic Church itself to be confirmed in it without upholding its beliefs.
In the following years, I lost much of my belief in the organization of religion as a whole; especially in an institution as large and long-standing as the Catholic Church, I find that the spirituality of a thing can become lost in the fray of politics and ego.
As such, I was the sort of student who came to Fordham with the intent to tolerate but not engage the Jesuit tradition. I didn’t resent it, but I didn’t think it was for me.
It was this perspective that brought me to my observation of last week’s papal conclave with an enormous sense of apathy. I had been so put off by Pope Benedict XVI’s demeanor in the position that I could not possibly conceive of a successor who might excite me.
When I got the tweet from Fordham announcing the appearance of white smoke at the Vatican (yes, that was my news source on the issue), the greatest sentiment I could muster was a lukewarm “meh.”
No one was more surprised than I, then, when, upon finally settling down to read a news report on the matter, I found that there was indeed a new Bishop of Rome in whom I might be able to place my hope for the future.
Yes, Fordham, you got to me. He’s a Jesuit, and I can get behind that.
I don’t know how it happened, but the Jesuit tradition has, in the past two years, wormed its way into my brain and taken hold of my convictions.
In stark contrast to all of my past interactions with the church, I have seen the Jesuits champion time and time again an engagement with (but not necessarily adoption of) the secular world that was unprecedented in my own experience.
Their emphasis on the development, rather than denial, of the individual displays a realism that I very much appreciate. The encouragement to engage in academia, whether secular or religious, is a testament to the freedom that the Jesuit tradition grants its followers to come upon the truth in their own time and fashion.
In my time studying a Jesuit curriculum, I have never once been told that my beliefs are wrong, and it is this welcoming and encouraging spirit of personal growth that has turned me, truly, into a student of Jesuit ideals.
It is with great optimism that I pray and wish the best for Pope Francis as he embarks on the difficult road ahead. Truly, I have the utmost hope that he will do well in his service of the Church and its followers.