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Invitations to Encounter
By Matthew J. Ippel, SJ
Comforting a young Central American migrant struggling to compose himself during the holiday party because celebrating this time of year is difficult when he is so far from his family. An encounter.
Hearing the painful story of a long, dangerous, and tiring journey from Central America through Mexico, as a Salvadoran immigrant shares how he clung to la Virgen de Guadalupe as a sign of hope and promise. An encounter.
Listening to a
student at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis share with me how I
have a soothing, calming voice...that puts her to sleep in class! An encounter.
Life is full of them. As I look back on my two and a half years in the Jesuits, I have been blessed and challenged by so many. Encounters with others have turned my world upside down; they have been discomforting and eye-opening; they have been grace-filled. Whether with other Jesuits, those I accompany in my ministry, or those I engage and meet for the first time, these encounters lay a claim on me.
In a post-Thanksgiving car ride to visit a Jesuit at Saint Louis University, Steve, another Jesuit scholastic, and I engaged each other in conversations that spanned the variety of most Jesuit chats. Needless to say, with two Jesuits studying philosophy, our conversation was not far removed from what occupies a solid chunk of our lives. Steve spoke eloquently about the philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas says the role of the other and her/his impact on another person is their "face" making a claim on you and me. Wow! Talk about the ethical and philosophical consequences of such a statement. As I look back on the encounters I have experienced in my Jesuit life, I am deeply moved and struck by how each of these people — fellow human persons whom I have had the privilege and deep joy to know — made a claim on me.
I feel compassion for the young man who for the first time in his life is not with his family during Christmas. I am disturbed at the thought of someone fleeing such horrific violence and oppression. I am heartened by my student's abrupt honesty and her support of my efforts to become a better instructor.
As I grow more
into my Jesuit vocation, I realize more and more the primacy of human
experience and how God is operative and active in it all. It is God who invites,
challenges, and encourages me to recognize and love that which is in front of
me, to love and care for that “face” which has made a claim on me. This claim
of the other is about encounter. Encountering others, in a world constantly
changing, on the one hand more human and on the other dehumanizing.
|Matthew Ippel, SJ, (second from left) with students from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis|
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Matthew Ippel, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Chicago-Detroit Province. He graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy and Georgetown University. Witnessing the authentic commitment of the Jesuits during his time in Latin America led Matthew to actively pursue a religious vocation. He pronounced first vows in 2015 and is currently in his first year of first studies at Loyola University Chicago. This summer, Matthew will move to Lima, Peru, to continue his philosophy studies at the Jesuit university, Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya.