Once a Presbyterian, always a Jesuit

Well I must say, after reading in the newspaper about the new president of Loyola Marymount University here in Los Angeles, I’m almost ready to become a Jesuit. (“He’s cut from a different cloth,” Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2012, page 1)

Loyola Marymount is a Catholic University with a strong Jesuit tradition, and yet David Burcham is the first president who is not a priest, not a Jesuit, not even a Catholic, “yet it has fallen to him to redefine the meaning of a Jesuit education as the university enters its second century.” And Mr. Burcham has apparently found much in that tradition that he, as a devout Presbyterian can support.

Truth be told, when he articulates that tradition, he articulates many of the things that have become a part of our world view here at the Catch. Try this: “Jesuit and Marymount traditions of intellectual analysis, moral reflection and civic action are an antidote to superficiality. We train young people to think deeply about the critical issues as they cultivate wisdom, accountability and fair-mindedness.”

Or how about this? “For many, a Jesuit education is difficult to define. It’s known for its rigor and inherent curiosity, embracing seeming contradictions: people of God and people of science, believer and skeptic…  ‘We’re not afraid of meeting the world,’ said Father Kevin Burke, dean of the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University. ‘Ours is a philosophy of seeing God in the world.'”

Hello…

And then there’s this: “Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, a curriculum change will mandate classes focused on the service of faith and the promotion of justice – two key tenets of Jesuit theology.”

And this: “Many [of the students] come from families that earn less in a year than the school’s tuition and fees. LMU also is among the most ethnically diverse regional universities in the nation. The Jesuits, [Burcham said] ‘are always about standing in solidarity with the poor and underrepresented, and I think that is reflected in the student body.'” I would add that that is also represented in the body of Christ in the world, and always has been.

Please don’t write me and tell me bad things about Catholics. I could write bad things about Baptists, Methodists and right wing Christians, too. Our job is to affirm truth wherever we find it, and I found, at least in the way this man and his colleagues define Jesuit tradition, much that I can affirm, indeed champion as a believer.

I have noticed something as I travel and speak in many different theological and philosophical circles. I’ve been told by Lutherans that I would make a good Lutheran. Reformists have told me that I would make a good reformer. Anabaptists have told me that I would make a good Anabaptist (and I’m not even sure exactly what an Anabaptist is). Yes, and I have been told by Catholics that I would make a good Catholic. Yet I am not conscious of trying to make any of these connections. I am only aware of speaking the truth as I am coming to understand it. So what this tells me is that truth resides in many, if not most Christian traditions. Our job is not to find out what is wrong with everybody we disagree with, but what is right.

According to this article, many are saying that Loyola Marymount has actually become more Catholic and more Jesuit since this Presbyterian took over. Does that mean he is giving up his Presbyterianism to become a Catholic? No. It means he has found much in the Jesuit tradition that he can sink his teeth into as a believer. We would all do well to do the same thing in whatever tradition we find ourselves.

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:24)

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39 Responses to Once a Presbyterian, always a Jesuit

  1. Kevin Michael says:

    I have often thought we spend too much time bashing the beliefs (or religion if you prefer) of others without taking the time to get to know them and just exactly what it is they believe and practice.

    Didn’t receive the catch by email today for some reason, and noticed it has been missing the buttons for posting it on facebook and other sites. Hope you get that fixed soon as I like to share it with my friends on facebook, and it has started many a conversation with several of them which has drawn us closer.

  2. Carol Freed says:

    Our job, indeed, is to find what is right with anyone and everyone! This culture beats everyone down and we need to keep lifting people up to Jesus, the true hope and peace we crave. As those who have accepted the gift of salvation through Jesus, we also become brothers and sisters in Christ, not in a denomination. How great is the love of God the father that we can be called his children. We are family, and family should provide a place of safety in the world’s chaos, like the calm place in the center of a hurricane.

  3. Great article, John. Thanks!

    I read an article yesterday that seemed to imply that the Catholic Church had declared war on the Obama administration, since they have declared war on the Catholic Church by requiring their institutions to provide abortions, contraceptives and other health care items that the Catholic Church does not believe in to their employees. One Church leader declared that open persecution of Christians by the Federal Government was coming. My Presbyterian pastor has been saying that for years. The Catholic Church, who has always been at the forefront of social issues, may very well be at the forefront of the coming persecution. So we should be praying for our Catholic brothers and sisters, who on many issues seem to have more spiritual guts than their Protestant brethren.

    • Brian Claricoates says:

      Thanks for this post. This issue is very upsetting to many Catholics. I don’t think the Catholic Church would go along with these regulations which means that Catholic schools, hospitals, and other Catholic organizations would have to shut down. I also think the Obama administration will rescind these regulations because chaos would ensue if the Catholic institutions were to shut down (think of the public school system trying to absorb all the students from Catholic schools).

      I’m a former Presbyterian and have a deep love and respect for all Protestant people and denominations. Thanks for your prayers!!!

  4. KaT H. says:

    John, I read your articles on a daily basis. I appreciate you even more for NOT participating in Catholic-bashing! You see, I am Catholic. Some may NOT consider me to be “Christian.” However, I can feel “at home” in any church. I have attended services in the Jehovah Witness religion, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, the list goes on. Thank you for your articles. I really appreciate this one!!!

  5. Brian Claricoates says:

    I grew up Presbyterian and became a Catholic as I prepared to marry my Catholic fiancee’. I loved your post today. We focus on our differences so much that we tear each other apart, kind of like the Republicans are doing right now in this caustic primary season.

    I have always thought that all Christians should study Mark 9:38-40 and hopefully, much of the divisiveness would go away.

    38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
    39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

    Thanks for your ministry, John.

  6. Monica says:

    John,

    Since the word Catholic means universal, I think that would be a good description of you. You always inspire me to look beyond religious doctrines and beliefs, and ask myself how God would look at a situation or person.

  7. Mark Seguin says:

    Dear brother John, I almost stood up and shouted Amen after reading this: “Our job is not to find out what is wrong with everybody we disagree with, but what is right.”

    Also today’s Catch reminded me of what a great fellow brother of mine in the Lord, that jus happens to call himself a Mormon, or Later Day Saint, which to me doesn’t or shouldn’t matter what label anyone care’s to put on themselves, what I’m truely interested in where is your heart for other people and we should be able to praise our God together about His love, grace and kindness He has shown us and to help each other out along the way in this journey, plus let’s have some fun together too – that never hurts..! Anyway what this gentleman would say when we often discussed different belief systems is he would quote: and sure enough now my mind went blank, it is a verse out of first John, where it says, anyone that confesses Jesus is Lord, is your brother and the Catholic Church surely does claim that! So it shouldn’t matter the other person doctrine and why waste time disagreeing about many things, lets get on living… 🙂

  8. Kathy Willis says:

    So what this tells me is that truth resides in many, if not most Christian traditions. Our job is not to find out what is wrong with everybody we disagree with, but what is right.

    Well said, and I might add that there is an element of truth in ALL belief systems. This is why I continue to search – I am looking for truth. This is a powerful Catch John..

    • jwfisch says:

      I know you are. Keep on!

    • Ralph Gaily says:

      Kathy…. He said, “The road to Life is narrow, and few are they that find it….”….. and, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life….no man comes to the Father but by Me”. This has always been a difficult word from Jesus down through the ages, and has caused many to turn away from Him, but….. either He spoke the truth, or lied to us, or He was crazy, in making such wild claims of Himself. Each person must make up their own mind on this. Either reject Him, or embrace Him fully like a little child trusts. Only then will you know the Truth….. as you begin a lifetime of realizing how wonderful it is to have placed your eternal destiny in the hands of Jesus Christ, and to be one of His own….. by faith …..for it is by faith in this only begotten Son of God that The Father counts us righteous in His own eyes….. and that is the only kind of righteousness which counts in the end! ….,r

  9. Priscilla F. says:

    To emphasize your point today, John, recently in our community a former Protestant minister was ordained a Catholic priest. He made history becoming the first married man to be ordained a priest by the Catholic Diocese of Rochester. His ordination had to be approved all the way at the top – in the Vatican. He has been married for 29 years and has six kids! His story has been recognized as an extraordinary one of god’s call and his faithful response to that call over many years.
    He is a former protestant minister, who worked in Congregational, Reformed, and Presbyterian churches. He converted to Catholicism in 1998, and a few years later approached the diocese about entering the priesthood.

  10. Lois Taylor says:

    Once again, John, you have said it well. The truth that brings us all together is the truth of Jesus. Nothing more….nothing less. Thanks!

  11. Peter Leenheer says:

    In the 17th chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus prays for unity of all his followers as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one. Satan has suckered us for centuries to let our doctrinal differences or some other opinion divide us. It is satan who has lured us to turn on each other in our differences, thank you for pointing out how we are united. We all know that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

    • Mark Seguin says:

      like to add an Amen to Peter’s comments… also say, for me and me alone, it’s not just satan, it as a lot to do w/ my pride and self – esteem, or actually the lack of it, simply because if I am truley loving myself and being confiedent in my beliefs then I find it sooooo much easier to let others have theirs…

  12. Tom C. says:

    Kudos to you John. I am a self-described “Evangelical Catholic”. However, that is a label and all I know is that Christ is my savior. I have stayed with the Catholic Church for the same love that I have for my parents. Both of which, the Catholic Church and my parents are not perfect but they did something right in that they influenced me to love our Lord. My “Christian” friends have a lot of negative views and opintions on Catholics that I continuously defend. So thanks for the insight. PS…both of my sons have attended a Jesuit high school and one of them attends a Jesuti college. I could not be happier with their education on all levels. You have nicely outlined the Jesuit education.

  13. John Schaefer says:

    LOL…I KNEW there was a reason why I like the Catch….your just a plain ol’ Christain..that time before we got all tangled up in ourselves…the kind that remembers that Jesus said to Peter, “You Follow Me!”

  14. Jolene Erickson says:

    Right on John!

    • Sherri Bartlett says:

      Jolene,
      I agree and I’m thankful that 2 coworkers, a Lutheran and a non church goer, can have a fellowship that extends beyond religious boundaries. Thanks John F. for giving all of us this space and reminding us of our need to be inclusive of everyone. Thanks Jolene for your endless patience!

  15. Ralph Gaily says:

    After reading all these comments about accepting each other in all the various differences that we adhere to regarding our understanding of God, all in the name of “unity”, I say, “Read your Bible, read it carefully, and make up your own mind about what is the “Good News” proclaimed in it. All religions, and all faiths, and all thoughts, ideas, and feelings, cannot all be legitimate and worthy of trust. Your eternal destiny is at stake! If you are mistaken regarding this most important of all decisions, you risk your life! He said to some very religious people who expected to be accepted by Him, ” I never knew you.” Read it carefully, and make sure you are not deceived…… make sure where you place your Faith! …..,please! The Scriptures are very clear in warning us that there will be powerful deception in the last days, keeping us from coming to the Truth and being saved from our sins. Make sure that the “jesus” you think you know is actually the Jesus of the Bible, and not some counterfeit person, or group, or organization, or belief system, or ANYTHING else that seeks to take His place. …… study, and “show yourselves approved”. ….,r

    • jwfisch says:

      Ralph, you make it sound as if it is totally up to us to “get it right.” It’s a heart issue. “I never knew you” doesn’t mean, “Too bad, you had the wrong theology there,” it means “your heart was never in it.” No one’s going to not make heaven because their theology wasn’t right.

      • Mark S. says:

        I’d like personally & deeply thank you, John 4 your reply to Ralph Gaily, i wanted to write some thing to his comments, yet felt it was better 4 me to leave it alone. i like your reply and believe i do understand it’s a heart issuse – not sooo much a theology one, plus I sent this to a good friend of mine, that we used to have some heated debates about the Catholic Church and its faith – he’s a good Catholic and I am a coverted one, to born – again Christianity, yet I have become much more open minded and do not to feel this need to have everyone believe as i do in order to think / believe their going to Heaven, plus I now more fully understand God as never given my the priviledge or right to say who’s is going to Heaven and who is not – I’m jus sooo glad He’s given me His Son to live in that grace & love! Also from this well written article by you, my friend is a lot more opened to joining us on the telephone Bible studies… 🙂

  16. Ralph Gaily says:

    John… Does that mean there is no danger of “not making heaven” for a seeker of the Truth to join up and sit at the feet of teachers of the WatchTower, and Mormonism, and romanism, and a hundred other false “churches” that are spewing out heresy and al manner of deception?!! These wolves “have their heart in it”…. the “it” being their false teachings. Have you never spoken with those on your front porch and read their pamphlets and books? Do you see no problem with them canvassing your neighborhoods with their “theology that wasn’t right”? Discernment is what I am concerned with on this issue, and I’m having my doubts about the “work” you are spreading before your students. They look up to you and Marti as teachers of the Word, and have put confidence in what you are encouraging them towards. “I never knew you” means exactly what it says! You are playing fast and loose with one of Jesus’ most serious proclamations! Every “religious” person who ever wanted to “get his theology right”, ought to shake in their boots at the contemplation of this very pointed word. It all comes down to this in the end…… this “knowing Him”. If it is left up to “a heart issue”, which oftentimes involves an over amount of emotions and imaginings, there is much room for being deceived. People pray to Mary as a “co-redeemer” (!!), and a “co-mediator” between God and man…. is their theology here a problem in your eyes? …and to be sure, “their heart is in it” when they pray to her. Maybe you fear losing some people on your list if you upset their applecart too much. Maybe that’s part of what He meant when He said he “brought a sword”. I’m 65 years old, and I’ve read my Bible much. This “new way” of interpreting God’s Word these days concerns me, and I will speak out. Ralph Gaily

    • Mark S. says:

      I could be wrong, I often admit I can be and sure I’ll be again in the future, yet I do get a pretty good feeling that our friend Ralph G., is mainly expounding the thought, it’s my way, or the highway, yet it is easy to let God be a bit bigger then that…

      • Ralph Gaily says:

        Mark…. it’s not “my way or the highway”….. it is ” I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me”. That includes Mary and any other false mediator between God and man. She never claimed to be what the catholic church has made her out to be in the past hundred years or so. No where will you read of Paul, or any of the others in authority, write of lifting her up to the high pedestal that Rome has positioned her on. Surely you would read in the Epistles to the Churches of this high position she has if it was so. But it is not the case if you search the Scriptures! You must choose between the Bible, and the doctrines and traditions of man. Ralph Gaily, former catholic

    • jwfisch says:

      Ralph, if a person was truly seeking God and all he had available was the Catholic Church, do you think he could find Him?

      • Ralph Gaily says:

        No. He would be lost in all the confusion Rome promotes. But, if all he had available in his search was the Holy Bible….. yes. It took Martin Luther a long time to sort through all the confusion….. but he did it with his Bible! …..against tremendous pressure from Rome to deny what he discovered within it’s pages that had set him free!!! …… “The just shall live by faith”. Do you believe Martin found an important truth, John? …. An extremely important truth, that lit a fire in people’s hearts and souls that were also hungry for God like Martin was, but were kept in bondage by their self-righteous religious leaders who were more concerned with maintaining their positions over people and among themselves, than in the feeding of God’s flock?! “The just shall live by faith”!! He finally discovered the secret of apprehending the Gospel…. by faith! Rome gnashed their teeth when he proclaimed it! But thanks be to God he spoke out…. and every true believer should be grateful for his love of the Truth against the strong opposition he faced. He reminds me of Stephan in his speech before they rocked him. Maybe you should have a little study with your people sometime about this, John. They seem to disagree on this a bit. Ralph Gaily

      • Brian Claricoates says:

        And so it continues. Who is throwing the stones now?

        I will try to succinctly explain how I view the various Christian denominations. Every one has their own set of beliefs, traditions, and tenets. I would hope that all are based on the Bible (which, by the way, became the Bible in great part due to the Catholic Church). I like to represent these beliefs, traditions, and tenets by drawing a box. I believe that the boxes for the various denominations (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical) intersect almost completely. In other words,they all share most of the same beliefs, traditions, and tenets, certainly the most crucial ones. But there are small places where they don’t intersect. And that is what all the fighting is about. I believe that God is bigger than any box we can try to put him in so I don’t say that my box (my tradition) is the only way. I think that God shakes his head at our divisiveness and fighting. We are certainly less effective in bringing Christianity to nonbelievers.

        I began my initial comment by quoting Jesus from Mark 9. Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” How do you reconcile your comments with what Jesus said?

  17. Brian Claricoates says:

    When you say “People pray to Mary as a co-redeemer,” you are referring to Catholics and we do NOT pray to Mary as a co-redeemer. Sadly, most Christian faiths that are not Catholic have not really given Mary a place of honor. She was the one woman in all of time who was chosen to be the Mother of God. Don’t you suppose we should honor her above all people other than Jesus? Don’t you suppose Jesus shows his mother honor and respect?

    And as for many of the things you said, don’t forget that you will be judged by the same measue that you use to judge others. You might want to think about that when you’re speaking out. Why don’t you focus on your own sinfulness and let God be God – he can certainly do the judging without our help.

  18. Mark S. says:

    My friend Brian Claricoates, good point: “… don’t forget that you will be judged by the same measue that you use to judge others.” Maybe Raplh G., and i don’t think we all are trying to ‘hang up on you,’ yet maybe to trying to let yourself see a few things from another way, or angle . Also you may want to do a little thinking about: James 4: 10-12 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” And Zechariah 7:9
    “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and copmasions every man to his brother. So from the OT to the New, love to Ralph know how it’s showing mercy & copmassion to judge others and tell people their wrong, or as you put it: “…a hundred other false “churches” Maybe consider reading (the above) Peter Leenheer comments a few times and listening to tonights Bible study to learn how to get the other person’s story, then that may give you some added insight as to why & how the believe as they do – But jus saying their wrong not only does damage to every people skill I have tried to read about and learn, yet it also just isn’t a good way to present God’s love, mercy and compassion… 🙂

    • Ralph Gaily says:

      Brian…and Mark…. I am not focusing “on my own sinfulness” because my sins have been forgiven by the Grace of God in the shed blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ in whom I have placed my faith. I am trying get people to reject the false teachings and traditions of man and his institutions that contradict the plain, and simple words of the Holy Bible. Research what the official catholic church teachings about Mary really state! What the leadership proclaim as truth. Then choose between the Holy Bible and the teachings/traditions of man. It’s one or the other! I’m not judging others as you say….. I am discerning between truth and error….. and trying to convince others to do the same. I am speaking a warning to all who care to hear it. My people skills may not be the best, but my intentions and motivations regarding the truth of the Gospel are. The best way “to present God’s love, mercy, and compassion”, in my opinion, is to let the Good News of the Gospel speak for itself as portrayed in the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit. To add or subtract from them is to deceive. We are warned in the Bible of strong deception and apostasy in the last days, and to keep alert. Stay alert! We are living in the Last Days…. Christ will soon return for His own. Be ready! Ralph Gaily, former catholic

      • Mark S. says:

        Ralph, just for your information I too am a former Catholic and let me please mention when you give some thought to try and answer brother John’s very good & insightful question, you may to consider this: (from my first post on this topic, when I forgot the verse that teaches it) as I wrote before: “…anyone that confesses Jesus is Lord, is your brother and the Catholic Church surely does claim that!” That is found in I John: 4 and Ralph after or even before you try to answer John’s and this question you just may want to consider reading again and a few more times again, Peter Leenheer comments & Brian Claricoates scripture verses of: “Mark 9:38-40 and hopefully, much of the divisiveness would go away.”

        Yet it seems to me some of cannot, because in my opinion have become sooo Pharisaical that they lack the ability to see for themselves, as in this above statement from our friend Ralph: “…I am trying get people to reject the false teachings and traditions…” And who made you Judge and Jury that these are false teachings, when according to, let’s see I have listed a number of verses the Word of God directly speaks about and against: as in the above: James 4: 10-12, Zechariah 7:9 and how it also goes against I John (I’ll just say chapter 4, because the whole, or just about entire chapter speaks about it, not speak evil of a brother in the Lord) and anyone who confesses Jesus is Lord is your brother and SURELY everyone and you Ralph recognizes the Catholic DOES PROCLAIM that very fact, so therefore again please answer what gives you the right to violate scripture?

  19. Brian Claricoates says:

    Mark, very nice response. Thanks.

  20. Tom C. says:

    Ralph, please tell me in the bible where our Lord was condescending. Your statements make you appear more like a Pharisee than a Christian. Did our Lord applaud the Pharisees? Did their attitude get them into heaven? Our Lord attracted people to him so that they can witness his love. His love is what brings faith.
    As I noted in an above comment, I am a Catholic. I am well aware that our Lord is our savior. Despite your views, we Catholics do not revere Mary. Yes, she may have a special place in our heart, but we are well aware that she is not “co-redeemer”. I did find our Lord through the Catholic Church. How I found our Lord does not seem very important to me and I don’t think our Lord would care either.

  21. No debate – you can’t prove anything SCIENTIFICALLY so you fall back on the typical “you just have to believe” and the “he’s the one true god” garbage.
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  22. Pingback: ‘Cogito ergo sum’ | John Fischer The Catch

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