By Chris Yates, Creator & Director of Emmaus: The Nature of the Way; Loyola Marymount University ’16
“Love transcends a relationship from a puzzle to a mystery. With a puzzle, you eventually hit a wall but with a mystery, that wall opens up into infinity,” said Rev. William Fulco, S.J. during his Archaeology & The Bible class that I was lucky enough to be part of at Loyola Marymount University (LMU).
I often reflect on moments like these, which occurred throughout my four years at LMU in Los Angeles, California. LMU is the place where I have been forever changed by moments as simple as a sentence, like this one shared by Fr. Fulco.
As a student, I was very involved in Campus Ministry, and having professors like Fr. Fulco gave me greater insight into this seemingly ‘mysterious’ group of men known as the Jesuits. As my four years progressed, I grew lucky to call a number of these men professors and mentors, but also friends.
One day during my junior year, I had a light bulb moment, in which I realized that the Jesuits who I knew at LMU were instrumental in forming the man I am today. But I was also saddened, as I realized that hundreds of students would leave LMU without ever meeting a single Jesuit.
On top of this phenomenon, society as a whole has not painted priests in the most positive light. There are often misconceptions about priests that make them unrelatable or not approachable. As a result of my own experiences, I decided to create a project to confront these obstacles and capture the inherent humanity of these men.
Over the past two years, professional photographer Robert Macaisa (LMU ‘14) and I photographed twenty-two Jesuits who live at LMU’s Jesuit Residence. The result was a photography book called Emmaus: The Nature of the Way.
Through the juxtaposition of formal and informal portraits, paired with word-for-word anecdotes about conquering alcoholism, escaping Vietnam during the war, handling a mother’s sundowning episode and more, Emmaus: The Nature of the Way aims to shed light on the humanity of these men.
On Saturday, May 13th, Robert and I were fortunate to celebrate our official book launch and gallery exhibition. At the gallery opening, Fr. Fulco introduced the project, fully encapsulating all that the book hopes to do.
“Chris started out wanting to tell other people this is who we are — in a big sense, we are finding out now who we are,” he said. “In each one of these [photographs], Chris and Robert saw something about us that sometimes we didn’t see ourselves. And when we see our finished product, [we] realize they’re right — this is who I am. They captured something that we didn’t know about ourselves.”
This was yet another moment in my own journey in which I was uniquely changed from a blessed encounter. The book is not simply two covers with some photographs, or someone’s diary, but rather, a spiritual exercise, walking with these men in solidarity as each one of us strives to understand The Nature of the Way.
For more information on Emmaus: The Nature of the Way and to obtain a copy of the book, please visit natureoftheway.org. You may follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @natureoftheway.