By Raymond Guiao, SJ
This past Labor Day weekend, I drove straight west from Chicago over to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where I was invited to preside at the wedding of a former student of mine.
I wasn’t expecting an interesting trip–hours of driving through cornfields and flat farm land with nothing but the music on the radio and a book on tape to help pass the time. But something pretty profound struck me as I crossed the Mississippi River into the cornfields of Iowa. Rather than feeling “numbed” by the sameness of driving through cornfield after cornfield, I was absolutely awestruck by the thought of the abundance that these crops would soon produce.
You see, I’m a city boy, born and raised in the steel belt urban center of Cleveland. Sure, I had seen cornfields in Ohio before, but I hadn’t ever been to a place where as far as the eye could see are cornfields and soy bean fields, almost without interruption. On and on I drove, on a ribbon of highway that cut a narrow canyon between endless fields of seven-foot tall leafy green, golden-tasseled stalks of corn. And all the while, I imagined what harvest must be like here. What incredible abundance, growing all around me, which is but a corner of the
||While the numbers of Jesuits in formation may not seem a “bumper crop” in terms of numbers, the sheer quality of these men in formation gives me tremendous hope for the future.|
Now I don’t know much at all about farming, but, I do realize that my life in the Jesuits has not been all that different from the world of tilling and farming. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says to his disciples, “Come with me into the fields where the harvest is plenty but laborers are few (Matthew 9:37). In my years as a Jesuit high school teacher, I found myself tending not tender crops in a cornfield, but young souls in a classroom, adolescents in their growing years. And in my present work as director of Jesuit formation for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Provinces, I find myself tending the formation of young Jesuits, men whose leading desire is to minister to God’s people, to “help souls,” as the Institute of the Society of Jesus puts it. So, in a sense, all of us Jesuits are farmers, called by God into His fields to tend souls. Of course, without the generous help of friends and benefactors of the Society of Jesus—the sun and the rain that are so necessary for young crops to grow—none of God’s abundant yield would be possible.
This season of Thanksgiving comes, appropriately enough, at harvest time. For, when we see such abundant harvest that is the crop of talented, faith-filled, and generous Jesuits in formation, how can we not be truly grateful?
|Fr. Raymond Guiao, SJ, is the provincial assistant for formation for the Midwest Jesuits.|