St. Ignatius of Loyola celebrated his first Mass at the Church of St. Mary Major in the Chapel of the Manger on Christmas morning, 1538. Just as we think of Advent and Christmas as times of preparation and new beginnings, respectively, St. Ignatius embarked on a life of “helping souls” as a priest at a fitting time. Of course, he went on to establish the Society of Jesus and transform the way we think about and carry out our spirituality.

During this Advent, let us reflect on how we as faithful followers of Jesus Christ are preparing ourselves for a life in service of those in need. How can we begin to utilize our own gifts and talents to better serve the Lord? What is the best way for us to begin to carry out the “magis,” or strive to do more and continually improve, on a daily basis?

Signs of our students at SLUH preparing for lives as leaders in the community are omnipresent, both inside and outside the classroom. Our Senior Project provides one of the most poignant examples of how our young men are beginning to integrate the ideals of “men for others” into their daily routine. Since the program began with the Class of 1971, each senior student dedicates the entire month of January in service to those in the community. Some even travel abroad for their Senior Project.

It is interesting to note that our Community Service Project (CSP) has been exceedingly successful in preparing our students for Senior Project. Each year more than 400 students participate in this voluntary co-curricular activity, which, by the way, is our most popular club and benefits dozens of service sites in the metropolitan area. It is refreshing to see how our students are striving to carry out the “magis” through CSP.

This dynamic cycle of continually preparing for a life in service of Jesus Christ illustrates our mission in action at SLUH. Similarly, it is reflective of the spirit of Advent and how simple, yet vital is the act of preparation.

Advent is indeed a time to prepare for gift-giving and festive gatherings. More importantly, it is a time for reflection on how we are preparing our own gifts for the betterment of others. As we make available our gifts of love, generosity and support for those in need, new beginnings of love, peace and joy will take shape, just as St. Ignatius broke bread on Christmas in 1538.

I wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy Christmas season.

God Bless,

Alan Carruthers