Monday, October 24, 2011

Ignatian discernment, God's fast ball, and the preferential option for the poor.

Dean Brackley, SJ passed away last week (read the comments under the article as well). He was a Jesuit from Fordham who after hearing of the 6 Jesuits being martyred in El Salvador... packed his bags and moved there to help fill the huge void at the UCA left by their deaths. Most people run from danger, others run towards it. Not surprising for a Jesuit though. He will be missed, and not just by those he served at Fordham, in the South Bronx, or in El Salvador. A beautiful remembrance by Genevieve Jordan of the Romero Center Ministries in Camden, NJ - Remembering Dean Brackley, SJ.

On Wednesday I picked up his book called The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola. Great read - and you know it will be when even the introduction kicks your butt.

When I was 'doing' the Exercises I had difficulty with Ignatian Indifference - I still struggle with it, and try, most times unsuccessfully, to get my arms around the principle. This from Fr. Brackley:

"Indifference" means inner freedom. It is the capacity to sense and then embrace what is the best, even when that goes against our inclinations. Indifference is neither stoic impassiveness nor the extinction of desire that some currents of Eastern religious scholars advocate. It means being so passionately and single-minded committed, so completely in love, that we are willing to sacrifice anything, including our lives, for the ultimate goal. It means magnanimous generosity, abandonment into God's hands, availability. It is not so much detachment from things as "detachability." It means being like a good shortstop, ready top move in any direction at the crack of the bat."

If interested here's an article he penned that was reprinted in America Magazine last week.

"After reflecting on these issues for some years, it only gradually dawned on me that I belong to a peculiar tribe. The middle-class cultures of the North are newcomers to world history and have only existed for about 200 years. We're not all bad people, we're just a tiny minority under the common illusion that we are the center of gravity of the universe. The poor can free us from this strange idea."
Meeting the Victim, Loving the Poor

I shared the above with a few friends and it was passed on. The following is from my friend Tim Klarich, and his friend George Limbaugh, who is a local coordinator for the Woodstock Business Conference of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University:


I had the opportunity to meet Fr. Dean when he was a visiting professor at St. Joseph's University; he came to one of our Woodstock Business Group meetings to share his experiences in Central America. He was similar in many ways to Fr. John Deeney, SJ; quiet but a very strong man.

Tim –

Thanks for sharing this. We had the privilege to get to know Dean when he was on sabbatical at SJU a number of years ago, and subsequently visit with him several times on our trips to El Salvador. He was an amazing combination of a brilliant theologian and a humble and dedicated servant of the poor. We had the opportunity to accompany him on a Sunday to the parish where he ministered in a poor community outside the city of San Salvador. And as you know from your travels, the word “poor” has a much different meaning than it does in our world here.

We were overwhelmed with the generosity of spirit that we were embraced with by his congregation, and the amazing faith and piety of these people – even without translating you can feel those kinds of things.

Since you have also made the Exercises, you will be able to appreciate this story that Dean tells. It is about his decision to go to El Salvador after the Jesuits at the UCA there were martyred. He was teaching at Fordham and working in the South Bronx, and deeply committed to both endeavors. As he heard the call for replacements at the university, he had a discernment process to go thru. Given the unique and urgent circumstances, it did not allow the usual deliberate process of Ignatian discernment. As Dean described it, sometimes you get the luxury of deliberate discernment; other times God just throws you a fast ball, and you have to decide to swing or not. Pretty profound, and pretty fortunate for the people of El Salvador that he chose to swing at the “fast ball.”



The University of Scranton presented its annual Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Award for Distinguished Contributions to Ignatian Mission and Ministries to Rev. Dean Brackley, S.J., at a University Assembly in the DeNaples Center on April 29, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Tom for your write -up on dean. His book "The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times has helped me immensely.

    Tony Raj, SJ