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Santa Clara Magazine

Shaping the future: Sidebars

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To illustrate the benefit as well as the danger of technology in education, in his keynote address Fr. Nicolás shared an anecdote from the mid-1990s, when he was serving as Provincial in Japan. “A couple of Jesuit professors from Sophia University told me, 'The Internet is wonderful. You get so much information so quickly and so easily.' And at the same time, each said, 'But I have to confess that now I read less, I think less, and I spend less time discerning what to do.' If professors say this, what can we say of the students?”

“Why don't we meet?”

“I am sure you know cases like I do,” Fr. Nicolás also noted, “of young men who connect through the wireless telephone and make friends that way; they have several friends like that around - they never meet, but they always talk on the phone. Then suddenly, one good day, one of them feels like they are going deep enough and suggests, “Why don't we meet?” At that instant, the other one ends their contact. Because meeting brings problems. Therefore, we keep relationships at the superficial level. This is a very serious flaw in our modern relationships.”

 

Train the imagination

As educators, why should we value the classics? Fr. Nicolás asked. “In one study on education, a reference to Saint Ignatius noted that he supported education with the classics because the classics train the imagination,” he said. “Of course, what was considered a classic in the 16th century might seem a bit unfamiliar to us now. But still the challenge continues. If the classics train the imagination, we need them. Maybe our question today is: Where do we look for the classics? Is it still Greece and Rome? Or can we look at China, Japan, India? Can we look at the classics of the indigenous communities in different parts of the world - Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere? What we need is to open the whole range of the human mind. That's what the classics did for us in the past, and this is something that we have to continue asking.”

Believe in something

“A professor of philosophy in the United States told me,” Fr. Nicolás said, “that among his students he prefers to have a convinced Communist, a convinced atheist, or a convinced Muslim rather than those who have no convictions, for whom everything is the same - because they cannot learn philosophy. They have nothing to protect, nothing to engage into discussion, nothing to put them on a situation of learning. Everything is equally irrelevant.”

 

Spirituality and transformation

In reflecting on different understandings of spirituality, Fr. Nicolás noted, “It's interesting to see that in the whole of what we call 'Oriental spirituality,' the Middle East, spirituality is all transformation. It's divinization and something that is not reduced to the religious, but to the whole community. That's why they say sometimes, without understanding fully the Latin church, that they don't have religious and they don't need them, because the spirituality of the Gospel is for everyone. They are right in that. The thing is, we could sit down and talk a little more about other aspects…”

 

What is missing in our leadership?

One of the presenters in Mexico City was Chris Lowney, author of Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World. In assessing some of the challenges facing the Society, Fr. Nicolás shared a story from the Philippines when he and Lowney both delivered talks in Manila. “After Lowney's brilliant presentation of how good we are in leadership,” Fr. Nicolás said, “a Jesuit asked: 'Can you tell us also something about what is missing in our leadership?' Lowney very kindly went around the question. But the Jesuit insisted, 'Tell us what is missing, because we need to know that also, not only what is good.' “Lowney said, 'Well, since you ask, what is missing sometimes in Jesuit leadership are two things. One is a sense of urgency. And second is the ability and the willingness to go through evaluations and measure those evaluations.'

“A confirmation of that,” Fr. Nicolás said, “is that I receive many proposals for projects in Rome, and very seldom do they come with a budget. Jesuits are very good at thinking. They want to do things. They are very generous. But the challenge is to be realistic and to be able to follow up our work with some form of measurement - which is not mechanical measuring. It's always human and often spiritual fruits that we have to measure.

“Whether our students are being transformed - this also has to be evaluated. How do they perform later? Not only if they keep praising the Jesuits, but do they collaborate when we get involved with faith and justice? Do they collaborate when some of the issues in which we are involved bring conflict with the government, when this might bring some weakening in the profits they make in the companies?”