The following is a reflection published in the SLUH Magazine by Dan Finucane '06, teacher and minister who is joining the Jesuits this summer.
Once a semester, I get together with a mentor and friend who is a Franciscan friar and we have an evening of conversation over dinner. I remember one particular evening a couple years ago, when we were talking about vocation. I was beginning to consider the Jesuits more seriously, but still had some reservations. My friend said something that I have not forgotten since:
"When I was younger, I watched my brothers get married to wonderful women, have kids and live these full, beautiful lives. I was quite envious. But over the past few years, as I have grown older, I have come to truly appreciate the freedom I have... to visit my fellow friars in Southeast Asia or Germany or Africa; to respond with generosity to God's call, wherever or to whomever, it might lead. I feel so free! It is incredible! Now, I wouldn't change my choice to be a friar at all."
I remember thinking: "Yes! That is what I want! That kind of freedom." It wasn't freedom from responsibility or commitment. It was exactly the opposite. His commitment to be a friar had led him to greater freedom, greater generosity of heart, and joy. The question became: "how do I get there?"
For me, I have discovered, through my discernment of the Jesuits, that growing in freedom follows from growing in attentiveness to my interior life and by choosing to place my relationship with God at the center of my life. The end of Fr. David Fleming's contemporary reading of the First Principle and Foundation puts it well: "Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God's deepening life in me." This has framed everything for me: What in my experience deepens God's life in me? To put it another way: what are my deepest, most authentic desires? And then, what is preventing me from more freely responding to this invitation with generosity?
When I began to consider these questions for myself, I discovered desires: to be sent out on mission into the world to announce the Gospel; to live in community with others; to live simply and conscientiously; to deepen my relationship with Jesus; to be like so many Jesuits I know who are deeply spiritual and Christ-like people. These were not abstract ideas. Rather, I discovered these desires in the midst of my experience: my education and formation at three Jesuit institutions over ten years (SLUH, SLU, and BC), living and working in community in Zambia, and working at St. Louis U. High as a teacher and minister. Naming these desires, with the help of companions along the way and prayer, pointed toward the Jesuits as a way of saying yes to deepening God's life in me.
Finally, I discovered that it was fear—of giving up family and kids, of making the wrong decision, of loneliness and isolation, of the unknown—that had been preventing me from responding to the call to consider the Jesuits, before that dinner with my friend. Yet when I saw his joy, I knew then that I wanted to trust God and choose to be led. I haven't regretted it since.