Born for greater things

Published on 08 Jul 2019
St Aloysius with a sick man

At the mass for the feast of St Aloysius Gonzaga SJ, Fr Kensy Joseph SJ explained to the students of St Aloysius College, Glasgow, how success in the eyes of God is not about awards, rather about the person we are called to be.

At the start of the year, when we had the Ascensio Scholarum mass, I compared our school to that of one of my favourite fictional schools (not Hogwarts!) I said that our motto, Ad majora natus sum (I am born for greater things) reminded me of the school motto of UA High School from My Hero Academia – “Plus Ultra”. And, over the course of the year I have seen so many of you come up here during the Tuesday assemblies to receive awards for various academic, co-curricular and sporting achievements. So many of you have shown that you are pursuing the magis, the “greater”, the better, the more.

But I have also seen another kind of magis, or “greater”, at work in the school. This is the kind that is seen when many of you go out each week to your Arrupe placements to work with those who are less fortunate. This is the kind of magis that you show when you fundraise for homelessness, or mental health, or disability charities. This is the kind of magis, or “greater”, which will be shown by the pupils going away next week for the Children’s Fund; or later in the summer for the Lourdes trip. It’s not the kind of achievement that can be graded, or given a medal for. But I think it is something St Aloysius Gonzaga would’ve related to.

You can read the biography of St Aloysius on the first page of your booklets; so I won’t go over it. But I want to highlight one thing about him — Aloysius Gonzaga was not a success story. He was born into a very rich and powerful family and could’ve become very powerful himself, as a diplomat or politician or military general. But he didn’t. When his parents finally accepted his wish to become a priest, they offered to use their influence to make him a bishop or abbot. He opted against it and joined the Jesuits — a poor religious order. In fact, he never even got to become a priest at all! He died before that. He became ill treating the plague victims of Rome and died shortly after. By all standard ways of measuring success, St Aloysius Gonzaga was a failure. And yet he’s still considered a great Jesuit and Catholic saint. Why?

For Aloysius, the “greater things” that he was born for were not about achievement, but about character. It’s about the kind of person he became. Look at the qualities described in the Jesuit Pupil Profile: grateful and generous; attentive and discerning; compassionate and loving; faith-filled and hopeful; eloquent and truthful; learned and wise; curious and active; intentional and prophetic. None of them are about what grades you get; or what talents you might or might not have; or whether you can run 100m in under 14 seconds. They’re not about what awards or prizes you get; or how popular you are; or how strong or weak you are. All of them are about who you are as a person.

That’s what Andrew and the other disciple wanted to know about Jesus in today’s Gospel when they asked him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” They weren’t asking for Jesus’ postcode. They wanted to know what he stood for — who he was as a person. And because the disciples followed Jesus, saw what he did, and imitated him in his love of God and love of neighbour — they too, in turn, became children of God. And, as children of God, they understood that who they were as people was more important than what objective achievements they could put on their resumé or CV. That’s what is truly great about St Aloysius Gonzaga.

You were born for greater things. This is how you get there.

Fr Kensy Joseph SJ