Editorial Note: This post is a part of our saint devotion series, in which one of our staff or faculty members explores their relationship with a particular saint.
Back when I was in high school in Cincinnati, I loved asking philosophical and theological questions. The environment at St. Xavier, the Catholic, Jesuit high school I attended prompted many of those questions. And no one received more of those questions than my sophomore year religion teacher, Mr. Yeazell.
Even amidst the barrage of my questions, Mr. Yeazell took me seriously. I struggled to know how I could really ‘hear’ the voice of God and respond to his will for me. Mr. Yeazell was gentle, mostly responding to my questions not with answers, but with more questions. Maybe, he would often chuckle, I should try to look in some different places if I wasn’t finding what I was looking for.
Although I wasn’t quite aware of it at the time, Mr. Yeazell helped to direct me toward a different horizon, one that expanded my own conception of God. What if, he mentioned to me, I tried to hear and notice God from inside the space where these fundamental questions arose, from my desires, gifts, and motivations?
This was a familiar question to me, especially since I had become familiar with St. Ignatius and Ignatian spirituality ever since the beginning of my freshman year at St. X. I remembered that Ignatius (many years before) had affirmed that the journey toward knowing God’s will should take seriously one’s own questions, desires, and gifts, but also the very real needs of the world. Returning to Ignatius’ method was a comfort for me, since it highlighted that God had already planted the seeds in my mind and heart that, with attention, could reveal who he was calling me to be.
It was here that I saw St. Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity (a prayer I had conveniently learned in my first week of freshman year) in a new light:
Lord, teach me to be generous,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that I am doing your will.
In Christ, we see the perfection and power of openness and obedience to the Father’s will. And God, in his generosity, has endowed us with the gifts and talents that, if we are open too, will allow us to give, fight, toil, and labor for the sanctification of the world. Ignatius’ prayer (and his whole spirituality) takes seriously our own potential to participate in this generous and salvific mission.
It is with this truth that I seek to better accompany the many high school students and emerging adults that I have the great pleasure of working with through the McGrath Institute’s Notre Dame Vision and Echo Programs. Faced with a cacophony of counter-narratives, they wrestle, like all of us, with the demands of a world that obscures God’s generosity. They struggle to trust a Church whose ministers have misused the gifts they have been given. It is becoming increasingly difficult to hear not only God’s great desires for them, but the joy that can come from responding to his call.
Like Mr. Yeazell taught me so long ago, though, part of my essential work is creating safe spaces to ask important questions, to ponder just who God is calling us to be. At the end of the day, I hope to walk with others to help cultivate Ignatian hope, to inspire others to think critically about the world’s needs and how they might respond with a generous ‘yes,’ whatever their ultimate profession or vocation might be.
May we all pray for the grace to be more generous and open in our own lives, so that we may help make this world more an image of God’s Kingdom.
St. Ignatius, pray for us!
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