Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

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Ignatian Pedagogy

Ignatian Inspiration
By Fr. Patrick Ryan, S.J.
Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society

Four key phrases in Latin have been used to characterize the tradition of Jesuit education, phrases that should inspire every method we employ to better our teaching:

Omnia ad majorem Dei gloriam
(AMDG: "Everything for the greater glory of God.”)

We mortal human beings cannot make God greater; all we can do is work to burnish the image and likeness of God in the human person (Genesis 1:27). Irenaeus, a second-century Christian theologian, once wrote that "the glory of God is the human being fully alive.” Education in the Jesuit tradition is not the formation of narrow ideologues but the development of graduates committed to the shared quest for the truth in every field of human endeavor and the expansion of the horizons of both teacher and student in the process, contributing to making them fully alive.

Cura personalis
("Personal concern")

In keeping with the theme that "the glory of God is the human being fully alive," teachers in the Jesuit tradition must realize that each student is unique. Education in the Jesuit tradition aims to elicit in all students, no matter what their talents as individuals, full development as human beings. "Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:/ Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves—goes itself: myself it speaks and spells, / Crying What I do is me: for that I came." (Hopkins)

Eloquentia perfecta
("Accomplished ability to communicate")

The ability to communicate what has been learned lies at the heart of the Jesuit educational tradition. Communication — the art of rhetoric in its largest sense — involves more than understanding the contents of a syllabus, and it also goes well beyond mere grandiloquence or showmanship. Education in the Jesuit tradition prepares the student to participate intelligently, morally and effectively in the public square, always heeding the advice of Hamlet to the players: "Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue." (Shakespeare, Hamlet)

Taken out of context this Latin adverb (meaning "more") can sound like a license for hyperactivity. But the context in which Ignatius Loyola uses the adverb, in a brief summary of a believer’s basic life-orientation, "The Principle and Foundation" (Spiritual Exercises, # 23), suggests that "we should desire and choose only that which helps us more towards the end for which we are created." Ignatius urged on all his disciples "in all things to love and serve," to direct their lives to become (in Bonhoeffer’s words used by Pedro Arrupe) "men and women for others." Such an orientation urges all of us to live out our lives as men and women who are conscientious, compassionate and committed "to seek a newer world" (Tennyson, Ulysses), to be agents of transformation for good now and in the future.

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