By Brian Harper
Polish Jesuit Fr. Waldemar Los is the general program coordinator for MAGIS 2016, a gathering of young people from all over the world who are interested in Ignatian spirituality. Father Los is leading 18- to 30-year-olds as they travel to Poland this July for a series of experiences that will culminate with World Youth Day. Registration for MAGIS 2016 closes on March 10. Click to learn more and register today.
The following is an edited version of a conversation with Fr. Los.
Could you give us some background on MAGIS and what you hope to achieve with this historic meeting?
MAGIS has a long history. It is a preparation program conducted by the Jesuits before World Youth Day. Since 1997, the Jesuits thought it would be good to prepare Jesuit youth for World Youth Day in a special way. They started with a pilgrimage. The next World Youth Day was in Rome, so they did a couple of pilgrimages. And in 2005, the German Jesuits started a program that includes Ignatian experiments, which are the heart of the program. Jesuit youth are always invited by the Jesuits in the country where World Youth Day will be conducted to join MAGIS, which helps people to grow, deepen their Ignatian spirituality, and discover themselves.
Listen to an interview with Fr. Los.
Young people will be traveling from all over the world to Poland for MAGIS and World Youth Day. What can they expect when they arrive?
MAGIS is offered to Jesuit youth, so we hope that people who are coming to MAGIS — and this year, we expect 2,000 people, more or less — can expect that we will help them to grow and to deepen their relationships to God, to others, and to themselves, and therefore, be better Christians, people, and basically, to live magis. Magis means more.
So, what can they expect? I would say they can expect many challenges, because that is one part of MAGIS. It shouldn’t be too easy, because a human can grow only when they reach a border or some obstacle. That’s the best way to grow. Besides challenges, people can expect some surprises. I can promise that what they will encounter for sure will be great community, many great people from all over the world, a very good and deep spiritual program, and finally, a time of grace. I think, I hope that they will be able to meet God in others.
Can you tell us a little bit about some of the experiments that young people will participate in during MAGIS?
We prepared over 100 experiments and divided them into five categories. One of them will be pilgrimage, social work, or environmental work. Some others will be cultural and inter-religious experiments. Others will be art experiments and spiritual experiments. The experiments are a time when they will spend five full days in small groups of 25 people. Those groups will have four cultures, so the language will be one part of the challenge. They will spend the week doing an activity. People on pilgrimages will walk, cycle, sail, or canoe. People who participate in an art experiment will paint, dance, do some art pieces, and so on. So they will spend a week on an activity with reflection, and those elements should help them to go through a spiritual journey.
How can young people from the Midwest of the United States get involved with MAGIS and World Youth Day?
They have to subscribe through their country coordinator. That is Brad Held, a Jesuit from the United States. On our home page is a link they can use to contact him. They can also contact a local chaplain at a Jesuit university or high school and ask them for support or any way to contact Brad and register.
Those in French Canada and other countries can also contact their coordinators here. The registration for the English Canada Province trip to World Youth Day has closed, but those participating or those who have questions may contact the coordinators here.
Pope Francis, who is the first Jesuit pope, will attend World Youth Day in Poland. What can people with a passion for Ignatian spirituality learn from the pope as they plan to travel to MAGIS or World Youth Day?
First of all, they should listen to him; not only to his words but also to his messages, which he is not only sending verbally. That is, I think, the most important thing. People who know Ignatian spirituality, who know the Jesuits, have an advantage, because Pope Francis is still a Jesuit. He is still, in his way of teaching, using his background. He is still sharing his spirituality. So, I hope people who go through MAGIS will be even more able and more sensitive to listen to the message Pope Francis gives us every day.
In Krakow, we are now in the Year of Divine Mercy. The motto of World Youth Day — "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy" — is also about mercy. The motto of MAGIS is “To give and not to count the cost.” We want to teach generosity. All these elements are coming deeply from Pope Francis’ heart. All of us are invited to open our hearts to God’s mercy first, which Pope Francis is proclaiming.
How can friends of the Midwest Jesuits who are interested in supporting MAGIS 2016 get involved?
There are several ways to give support. One of them is, of course, prayer. We need a lot of prayer, because it is a huge event, and we struggle with many difficulties. So, please, if you can, pray for us. Support us in a spiritual way. The other way is material support, to give a donation to support the preparation of the program or to fund a scholarship for young people who are not able to pay for the trip and for the time in Poland. The donation page is on our web page and also on the Midwest Jesuits' web page. You are very welcome to support us, and we will be very, very grateful for a small donation for MAGIS, because this money will help people to go through a great, great, great adventure: God’s spiritual adventure.