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Fostering good character pays dividends

Guest Column

By Robert Z. Apostol

Jesuit institutions of higher learning have made their presence felt all over the United States. Jesuits marked the feast of their Spanish founder, Ignatiuis Loyola, on July 31, and it may be propitious for us to ponder on the contributions that prominent universities such as Georgetown in the nation’s capital and Fordham in New York City.

We would be remiss not to recognize the midwestern Jesuit universities that have continued to make their impact on various professional spheres, notably medicine and law. Some of the better known universities in the Midwest are Loyola University Chicago, Creighton University, St. Louis University and Marquette University.

Before proceeding with the tremendous Jesuit influence in higher education, it may be expedient to race the genesis of Ignatius Loyola and his affinity with learning. Born in the castle of Loyola, near the town of Azpetia in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa, he was christened Inigo Lopez de Recalde. Some years later he served as a page to the court of Ferdinand and Isabella, during which he received the training of a Spanish nobleman.

Wounded during a war with France, he read books avidly, some of which transformed his life. At this time he took the name Ignatius Loyola, and spent a year of reflection in Manresa. Subsequently, he studied in the universities of Barcelona, Alcala, Salamanca and finally the University of Paris. In 1934 he joined a group of seven men who formed the Society of Jesus, of which he was elected its first general.

During this period he dedicated himself to the writing of the order’s constitution and the well-known magnum opus called the “Spiritual Exercises.” In his contemplatio ad amorem (reflection on love) St. Ignatius underscores the need for demonstrating gratitude, of which the following citation may adequately express.

Consider that “the grace that I seek” to possess for life is “an interior knowledge of the many things and great benefits which I have received.” Now that is a personal feeling that surely deserves the testimony of a life of altruism that may show the human community a genuine appreciation for their developed talents.

In the area of the healing arts, numerous women and men whose rigorous studies in areas such as biology were catapulted to the professions of nursing and medicine where their services are separately needed by people with varying and desperate ailments.

In fact, physicians join a courageous group called “Doctors without Borders,” that dispatch these brave healers to distant countries where the sick and the dying may need their services. This is a challenge that gives health professionals the opportunity to demonstrate their mettle in a manner in which their vocation requires.

There are likewise many occasions for attorneys to show compassion to those who find themselves oppressed by legal problems. Some of these may be victims of people who wield power in the political society. It is important to note that there are some attorneys who actually render services pro bono (no recompense is expected).

Business transactions normally require a quid pro quo agreement. However, some traders occasionally, out of compassion or otherwise, may reduce the price of their commodities, which may benefit economic growth.

Teachers manifest this eminent giving quality. Youngsters in grammar school are often recipients of the caring disposition shown by teachers who may have been edified by their instructors in the early grades. As a Latin adage suggests, Nemo dat quod non habet (No one can give what he does not have!).

Can such magnanimity be characterized a purely altruistic act? Not quite. When a person demonstrates a generous disposition out of gratitude for the great benefits he may have received, his actions are a token of gratitude for everything that the human community contributed to foster his mettle and good character.

Dr. Apostol served on the faculties of Loyola University of Chicago and Creighton University. He likewise traveled extensively to more than fifty countries, in some of which he worked and studied.