May 08, 2012

MISSION MATTERS: Care of the Person, Even During Finals

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By Fr. Paul Stark, S.J.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry

Classes have ended ... final projects, papers and exams loom ahead. This bittersweet time of celebrating finishing the hard work of the semester is also a time when we still have deadlines to meet. For some, sleepless nights of study and writing have begun. We all are tempted to move through our lives with dedication to the immediate tasks at hand, forgetting about others, and using what's left of our energy just to survive.

This is also, though, a time we may need most to remind ourselves that our Saint Louis University education is not just about academics. Our class work is important, of course, but it can also be a way we care for ourselves and others. The lessons, no matter our major, are designed not just for our own learning and accomplishment, but more importantly for the service we can provide others, now and in the future.

One of the tag lines which you may have heard at Saint Louis University and other Jesuit institutions is "the care of the whole person" or cura personalis. St.Ignatius used this direction for Jesuit superiors to describe the way they should treat other Jesuits in their care. It has been adopted, in modern times, to include the care of all people around us. This part of Ignatian spirituality is grounded in the concept that God can be, and is, found in all people, and in all facets of every person's life. This is a fundamental challenge for us to respect the other, all of those we are for (as in "men and women for others...").

This care of the whole person is not something we do only when we have the time and not stressed, but also—and perhaps more importantly—when we feel pressured. We have learned in our time at Saint Louis University that this imperative is part of our living the Mission, but also an opportunity to let the Mission live in our lives.

As we meet the gritty reality of the end of our semester, let's remember to look up from our books, computers and the multitude of end-of-the-year busy-ness, and really see the others still around us. Let's resist the temptation to center on ourselves, busy though we may be, but let's call ourselves out, to see in the people we meet, or even those who interrupt our busy-ness, a person who also needs our encouragement, our concern, our cura personalis. Whether students, staff or faculty, these people remind us of some of the practical realities of our Mission, of the vision St. Ignatius gave us, of the opportunities and obligations we have to care for the other, for each other. These are the people in whom we might even find the presence of God in our world, at this time.

As we end the semester, let's have a good end of the semester, not just in the classroom or the library, but in our care of every member of our community, of each other. Cura personalis helps us learn the really important lessons of living for others, and finding God with and in each of us.

May you have much success as you finish this semester and always remember that care of the whole person also means care of yourself. We can't give what we don't have; and we don't have what we haven't received; so care for others, and let others care for you.

Let's learn the real lessons SLU can teach us. May God continue to bless us all.
May we continue to care for each other...

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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