Thursday, September 13, 2012

Faith, Service, Justice and Poetry

Patrick Dobson

In “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice,” Kolvenbach examines the evolved objectives of Jesuit higher education in response to contemporary society. This increased educational standards attempt to “educate the whole person of solidarity for the real world.” It can also be argued that such solidarity of the real world includes the very values in which the Jesuit system embodies: service, faith and justice. When comparing the virtues of the Jesuit commitment with great works of 20th century poetry, it becomes apparent that perhaps these values are equally prized both in, and out of the church.

Komunyakaa's poem, entitled “Slam, Dunk, & Hook,” offers insight into a team of persevering basketball players. The short rhythmic sentence structure utilized by Komunyakaa mimic that of an actual game, in which the players swiftly move up and down the court in quick succession. However much like life, the pleasurable sport has it's darker moments at times. For instance, the author mentions the trouble amongst the players, as well as the death of “Sonny Boy's mamma.” The teammates push forward, applying their strife to their duties on the court. By focusing their efforts of the greater cause of their team, they were able to overcome personal adversary and outmaneuver the “footwork of bad angels” to experience victory. The underlying message of this poem is equally comparable to the values instilled within the Jesuit school system. Through faith, dedication, service and teamwork, they overcame obstacles and achieved great victories.

In Judith Ortiz Cofer's “Common Ground,” the complexities of individuality become marginalized as the author highlights the inescapable truth of aging, and ultimately, returning to the earth. As Ortiz mentions that “bones speak in the language of death, and flesh thins with age,” the notion of mortality soon becomes apparent. The author speaks of her reflected portrayal in the mirror, and how such sights reflect her “mother's stern lips” and “father's brow” and other inescapable traits. The poem highlights the inescapable destiny of inheritance and traits, both good and bad. More significantly, the wrinkles on the author's face begin to appear “like arrows pointing downward to our common ground”; common ground signifying death and a return to the earth. While both dark and somewhat unsettling, the poem forces it's reader to question matters of faith and community. While it's often easy to become lost in one's solitude, all people ultimately share a common outcome. Moreover, the true message of this poem may not be related to aging and death, but perhaps togetherness, faith, and making the most out of the time shared here on earth.

In Robert Frost's “Mending Wall,” two neighbors are brought together once a year to-rather ironically-mend the wall that separates them. Throughout the poem it becomes clear that one neighbor seeks out the company of the other, with hopes of uplifting the spirits of his troubled neighbor. This story greatly captures the virtues of service of one neighbor reaching out to the other, as well as the justice of working together to mend their storm-ravaged wall. More significantly, the efforts of the kind neighbor can also be likened to the very ambitions of the Society of Jesus; which is to not “impose (their) religion on others, but rather to propose..his message of God's Kingdom in a spirit of love to everyone.”

Service and the promotion of justice may be equally sought after in Jesuit education, as well as beyond it. Through Kolvenbach, it remains clear that the implemented strategies of the universities seek to “make the world just.” Luckily for the world, this goal appears more commonly throughout other works of literature as well. When examining the underlying message of various poems of the 20th century, values of service, faith, and justice appear quite often as well. Although the troubles of contemporary society oftentimes appear large, because the core values of such society remain good, faith in this world will overcome even the worst adversaries.

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