By Deanna Howes Spiro, Director of Communications, AJCU
If a liberal arts education is to truly live up to its name, then it must include the arts. Through theater, music, dance, sculpture or painting, exposure to the arts helps students to understand humanity at its core.
It also helps students to use their imaginations, an important dimension of Jesuit teaching. As part of the Ignatian practice of contemplation, one is encouraged to use their imagination to visualize Jesus, often in scenes from the Gospels. This is central to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, as explained by Rev. Kevin Burke, S.J. in The Ignatian Tradition*:
“Imagination is not primarily geared to help us escape from reality. On the contrary, it orients us to reality. We use the imagination to construct images (real images) of the world (the real world). As with the Exercises, so too with the entire spirituality that flows from them: early Jesuits in Europe wrote plays, painted masterpieces, and built churches; Jesuit missionaries in Paraguay taught Guaraní Indians how to make violins and play them. They engaged imagination to build a world for faith.”
Today, Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States are home to vibrant performing arts centers and studios, where students have opportunities to study with gifted faculty and staff, and to collaborate with fellow students. But the schools are also serving their communities through art, much like the early Jesuits, through partnerships with local elementary schools and city beautification projects. In this way, they are building a world for faith and justice.
Our schools would not be where they are today without the imagination and creativity of Jesuits, faculty and students past and present. We celebrate their contributions in this issue of Connections, and invite you to contemplate how their stories inspire you and your faith.
*Excerpt quoted from page 99