Loyola University Chicago

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One Foot Raised

President Rooney offered closing remarks to graduates and their friends and families at Commencement Ceremonies May 7-11 2019.

Almost 500 years ago, St. Ignatius of Loyola and his colleagues made a pledge to each other. They vowed to study, work and pray together. They also pledged to propagate a faith that melded spirituality with deep inquiry. When they founded the Society of Jesus, they did so in a spirit of intellectual and cultural openness that fundamentally shifted Christianity and Western culture. 

They did not promote a blind, unquestioning faith. Rather, they practiced a method that opened the depth of the soul and mind to art and to science, to reason and to rhetoric. Through inquiry, observation, debate and discourse, they looked for God--God in all things.  They created a system of education that integrated research and study, contemplation and conversation with active engagement in the society and culture around them. For Ignatius, education was the most effective and dynamic way to bring good to others.

The Jesuits cast aside the boundaries of the monastery and engaged with the whole world.

This external focus is what distinguishes the Jesuits from religious orders before them. In paintings and statues, St. Ignatius is often depicted in mid-stride, in motion. He has one foot planted firmly on the ground, and one foot moving purposely forward. His head is level, his gaze fixed ahead--into the future, into the world

St. Ignatius himself described the ideal leader as living with "one foot raised," moving always into new knowledge and understanding, into new lands and news cultures, ready to step forward and respond to human need and suffering in the world. 

It is an apt metaphor for graduation day and one worth contemplating further. The raised foot and sense of motion clearly draws our attention, but the stationary foot, the one that is grounded and stable, reminds us that forward progress must also emanate from a firm foundation. In the forward momentum of our mission, to the frontiers where others have not gone, we should always have one foot grounded in learning, in faith, in reason and in our values.

You are going forward today being challenged to add to the knowledge shared by those who have taught you how to engage with the world: your teachers, your families, your friends, your mentors, your supporters. Your Jesuit education and the gifts shared by others, provide you with the stable foundation ensuring your movement, your momentum is ever forward. Your Jesuit education will serve you well, and I am confident in this…

Wherever you go from here, you will serve others in important ways.

You will help communities heal, innovate, succeed, and thrive.

You will understand how to lead both in doing well and doing good.

Let us not forget how Ignatius looks forward with the sharp-eyed gaze of discernment. With one foot raised, you embrace the implicit challenge to consider not just a career, but also a vocation. You look deeper, serve others with love and respect and find your balance between tradition and adaptation, utilizing these time-tested approaches in the quest for new solutions. Your educational foundation and discerning eyes enable you to adjust your steps to the terrain of the world and the landscape of the future.

With one foot raised in motion, you move into a world that needs you and your gifts more than ever.  Our collective hope and expectations are that you may face the future with clarity and courage akin to that of Ignatius and those who have come before.  Living with one foot raised and leaning forward, may you internalize the wisdom and experience of the ages even as you step into your moment. Remain open to new perspectives and seek new knowledge. Engage respectfully but directly with those who may not share your ideas and ideals. Be resolute in your goal to embrace and harness innovation and action for greater good in the world.  Vow to make a difference.