A Heart on Fire:
Christopher Staab, SJ
When we think of Brazil, what often comes to mind are images of soccer, Samba, or Carnival. No doubt these are images that do give us an idea of the people in this vast and very diverse country. Yet, as a Jesuit student of theology here, I have had the unique opportunity to discover that though soccer is a fundamental passion for Brazilians (the 7-1 loss to Germany in the World Cup still stings the people) and that yes, the country does stop for celebrations during Carnival, these are images that often times are not so helpful in understanding the culture.
I think of my own experiences here: drinking tea with a family in southern Brazil; taking the bus to attend Mass at a favela and greeting the people who so attentively welcome the parishioners; and studying with other theology and philosophy students in our library at the theologate. I wish I could share with you insightful, deep experiences, uncover the richness of this country, but what comes to mind as I reflect on my own journey as a Jesuit are the simpler images.
But I suppose finding beauty in the simplicity is exactly what my Jesuit formation is helping me to see. Yes, we pursue the magis, but it strikes me that the magis is right before all of us, in the more quotidian, simple routines of our lives.
I entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 in what was our former novitiate in Berkeley, Mich. Upon taking vows in 2007, I was sent to Lima, Peru, where I studied philosophy. Returning to the United States in 2011, I was then missioned to Chicago, where I taught English and Spanish literature at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. And now I am in Brazil, a full-time theology student at a Jesuit center for theology and philosophy studies in the city of Belo Horizonte.
Though this itinerary may seem anything but simple, studying Philosophy in Spanish and now doing theology studies in Portuguese, I am learning to be a Jesuit by finding this Jesus who is right before me, calling me to find him in the people who are with me. To learn their language, their ways of thinking, and how they perceive the world. That is why those 20 minutes after Mass talking with the people are so important and why that moment of drinking tea in a small village with a Brazilian family is central to my Jesuit formation. For Ignatian spirituality—whether lived in Jesuit formation or in the context of a family—asks me, and all of us, to learn to put others at the center of our lives. And in doing this, we are most like Jesus, who puts you and me in the center of his life.
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