Non scholae, sed vitae discimus.
This is Father Joseph T. Durkin, S.J., a longtime professor of history at Georgetown University who died at the age of 100 in May of 2003. Father Durkin spent fifty-nine of his eighty-three years as a Jesuit at Georgetown, teaching courses on the history of the United States and serving as an academic advisor and spiritual guide to countless Hoyas. Still mentally sharp in his mid-to-late nineties, Father Durkin remained active on campus during my undergraduate years at Georgetown; he could be seen most mornings walking from the Jesuit Residence to Lauinger Library, always smartly dressed in his black clerical suit. Once at Lauinger, Father Durkin would spend hours sitting in the lower-level stacks at a large table covered by books, taking longhand notes for what would have been his own last book.
Today is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, and I find myself thinking of Father Durkin and others like him. I can't claim to have known Father Durkin well - we had a couple of conversations when I was an undergrad, but that was all - but I can still say that he had a tangible influence on my desire to become a Jesuit. The visible witness that Father Durkin and other Jesuits at Georgetown gave to a vocation that linked the life of the mind and the life of the spirit helped inspire a youth who came to Washington wanting to go into politics to consider doing things he had never previously imagined, like becoming a Jesuit, a teacher, and - three years from now, hopefully - a priest.
To be sure, the Jesuits whom I really got to know at Georgetown had the strongest effect on my vocation, and I surely would not be a Jesuit today were it not for men like Fathers Tom King, Ron Murphy, and Jim Schall. Even so, the fact that Jesuits like Father Durkin were visible in the background made a difference: they showed me that the Jesuits whom I knew and admired most were part of a greater tradition, a tradition that I increasingly - and, initially, to my own surprise - desired to become a part of.
Asked to explain how I came to enter the Society of Jesus, I cannot say that I had a self-consciously transformative experience of Ignatian spirituality while I was a Georgetown undergraduate, or that I was drawn by the person and character of Ignatius of Loyola, or that I was inspired by the Magis or "the faith that does justice" or any other Jesuit catchphrase. What I can truly say is that I was moved and inspired by a way of being in the world modeled by Jesuits I knew and encountered at Georgetown - and I remain profoundly grateful for that, especially on days like this great feast. My prayers and best wishes today are with all who celebrate St. Ignatius' Day, and I hope that the example of Jesuits like Father Durkin will continue to draw others to this least Society. AMDG.