By Michael Mohr, SJ
Michael Mohr, SJ is a Jesuit scholastic teaching English and Theology at SLUH as part of his regency. He is from Baton Rouge, LA.
There is no telling where one might wind up in his or her life, and this has proven especially true in the Jesuits. I entered the Society of Jesus in 2013 after teaching high school in Mississippi for three years. Five years later, I find myself back in the classroom at one of the most well-regarded schools in the province. I was intimidated by its excellent reputation and 200-year tradition. Could I really ever fit in here? Will they accept me? These fears are common for anyone joining a new community.
Despite such fears, however, I have found here a spirit of generosity and the warmest of welcomes. I have been met with an eagerness of hospitality, and I could not be happier with this assignment. The desire to share community with others is one of the most powerful movements in our souls, and it is only deepened through God’s abundant grace. Such grace reveals that the truest sense of feeling connected to others, or solidarity, arises from our participation with the Trinity. This academic year’s theme of solidarity captures my own experience of such welcome, of feeling truly connected to this community, and it spurs me on to live and act in this same spirit.
Two summers ago I was sent to Vietnam to teach English for nine weeks. Navigating the language and local culture posed more obstacles than I expected, and at times it was hard not to focus on my own limitations. The invitation of community I experienced, however, ultimately transcended language barriers. Community came in the form of warm smiles, sharing delicious food, and humble laughter. These gestures of hospitality and care showed me that many of the barriers we think exist are illusions. The true way of connecting with others is found in our dispositions of care for the other person. Solidarity, then, cultivates in us a disposition to be connected and invites us to extend those bonds of connection to those in need of community.
Saint Paul says we all make up the body of Christ. Living our life oriented to that truth creates in us the disposition to welcome and serve all those we meet. I have found this so far at SLUH, and it is a tradition that goes back generations. And even with all of this history, there is still room for newcomers like myself to contribute to what the SLUH community has always sought: the greater glory of God.
Solidarity speaks to the unity of the Christian community. We long to be united to Christ, who desires to be the center of our lives. This has not only been the mission at SLUH but the mission of Christianity from its founding. Just as the Gospels reveal the mission of Jesus as completely other-oriented, so, too, do we find ourselves concerned with the other, moved to serve, to welcome, to love. Solidarity invites us to see Christ in others and be Christ for each person we meet, for it is through Jesus that solidarity finds its authenticity.
Grace builds upon nature, and we must see and celebrate that welcoming spirit already in our community and work to extend it to all we meet. In our pursuit to be united to Christ, we find ourselves moved by love to expand the community of Christ. May we dedicate this year to naming, celebrating and cooperating with the Spirit to continue fostering an authentic sense of solidarity in the SLUH community.
Published in SLUH Magazine (Fall 2018)