In the new Martin Scorsese movie, Silence, actor Andrew Garfield plays a 17th-century Jesuit priest and missionary who travels to Japan. Once there, he and fellow Christians face unimaginable persecution.
The Jesuits are members of a Roman Catholic religious society called the Society of Jesus founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
To prepare for the role, Garfield regularly met with priests, studied Christian writings and embraced Catholic spiritual exercises. He recently told the Catholic publication America magazine, that they had a profound impact on him. When asked to reflect on the experience, he said:
What was really easy was falling in love with this person, was falling in love with Jesus Christ. That was the most surprising thing … That was the most remarkable thing—falling in love, and how easy it was to fall in love with Jesus.
Garfield said that preparing for the film—which even involved losing a large amount of weight—was life-changing. He lost 40 pounds, prayed every day, practiced celibacy and sacrificed in the service of what he believed God could call one into. In studying the Jesuit tradition, Garfield learned a little more about what it means to live a life beyond service to only yourself.
We figured that if some of these Jesuit practices can help Garfield—until recently a self-proclaimed atheist—then they can help us, too. Here are six practices from the Jesuit tradition that we could all learn a little from:
The value of magis literally translates into the word “more.” This value challenges every individual to strive for excellence in their life and choose a greater story, like perhaps one that stretches into eternity and joins God in the redemption of all things.
Women and Men for and With Others
Being engaged in community is a core value of the Jesuit tradition urging that all men and women should share gifts generously, pursue justice, and show concern for the poor and marginalized. Jesuits believe all people all have a responsibility to make the world a better place for one another and a responsibility to care for one another’s humanity by helping it flourish.
This value translates to care for the individual person. Caring for the individual person and respecting each person—and all of God’s creations—is central to Jesuit tradition. They don’t believe in imposing their values on others but instead seek to make every person feel like the child of God that they are, which is to say loved and embraced.
Unity of Heart, Mind and Soul
God created our mind, heart and soul to exist in cohesion with one another. Developing the whole person and integrating all aspects of our lives into an unwavering expression of character and heart is central to Jesuit pursuit.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
The Jesuit tradition believes all striving should be sought “For the Greater Glory of God.” Everything is done to God’s glory in our personal lives, in our careers, in our world. Pride and our own selfishness or ambition are set aside. Choices become a lot simpler when filtered through whether they will bring God glory or only please ourselves.
Forming and Educating Agents of Change
Finally, the Jesuit tradition believes in teaching behaviors that reflect critical thought and responsible action on moral and ethical issues. Instead of shying away from using intellect or growing in their understanding, they apply critical thought to every pursuit, as it works together to illuminate God’s revelation and perspective of the world and culture around them.