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Pursuing The Magis

Pursuing The Magis

Bellarmine seeks the “more,” the Magis, in all that we do. We aspire to do more than merely graduate seniors who are ready to succeed in college. The Magis is one of many familiar Ignatian concepts flying around in Jesuit circles, like AMDG, “People for Others” or “Seeing God in All Things.” Yet, to live the Magis out is elusive. This is what the Magis Retreat aims to inspire in our seniors.

People often ask me, “How can you teach teenagers? Don’t they drive you crazy?” My first reaction is confusion, and then I remember what a crummy reputation teenagers have in our broader society. This is so misguided. Teenagers are generous, authentic and vivacious. It is an experience in and of itself to watch their growth from freshman to senior year. Seniors often need our assistance in seeing the beauty of their own transformations. High school for them flies by.  After four years of intense work, in the spring of their senior year, there is an almost universal temptation for seniors to be “done with it.” But, Bellarmine, because it is a school animated by the Jesuit Tradition, asks seniors for the Magis.  

Bellarmine seeks the “more,” the Magis, in all that we do. We aspire to do more than merely graduate seniors who are ready to succeed in college. The Magis is one of many familiar Ignatian concepts flying around in Jesuit circles, like AMDG, “People for Others” or “Seeing God in All Things.” Yet, to live the Magis out is elusive. This is what the Magis Retreat aims to inspire in our seniors.

The Magis Retreat guides seniors in a three day adventure based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.  The student leaders spend months exploring the major themes of the Exercises and present them in a way that is relatable to their peers. Some of the themes from the Exercises we probe include the following: God’s love, the Examen, the Reality of Sin, the Call of Christ the King, the Passion of Jesus, and Finding Hope in the Resurrection. A recent team member, Hunter Ylescupidez, shares, “Preparing and leading on Magis was a daunting task at first. My talk ended up being about God's unconditional love for everyone, a topic that I thought I would struggle with a bit. I had never really put those thoughts onto paper before. But in the end, receiving that talk was exactly what God needed me to do. It was what I needed to heal myself and love the parts of me that I despised for so long. I can say now that Magis changed my perspective on myself and God. For that, I'm eternally grateful for everything and every part of my life.” 

Ignatius doesn’t tell us what to believe but sets up a context so the retreatant can encounter Jesus and, therefore, be transformed in a way that only a personal encounter with a God, who is actively present, laboring for us to know God’s love, can bestow. Recent alumnus, Alex Cranston B‘15, shares, “Magis was one of the defining moments of high school for me. It was the moment where I seriously contemplated who Jesus really is to me. Now, every time I pray, I have a very real encounter with Jesus Christ. He is not only present in the Mass but also my everyday life. Thanks to Magis, he isn’t just a historical figure, but is real and living among us, IN us.” 

Magis means the “more,” specifically the “more” for God. It doesn’t mean adding more things or necessarily working harder than we already are; in fact, it could mean doing less. It is about the relationship with Jesus, personally and communally, and living that relationship as an extension of God’s love in our everyday world. It is allowing that relationship to direct one’s choices and actions everyday. This takes patience. This takes vulnerability. This takes commitment. 

On the final night of the retreat, students and adults are invited to come forward, kneel in front of the cross, receive a crucifix necklace, and publically answer the questions, “What does the cross mean to me?” And “How can I more closely follow Jesus?” 

Joey Heston B‘16 recalls this experience, “Magis was an amazing experience that I still think about to this day. Having students speak to their entire class about what the cross means to them becomes this shared experience that we still talk about occasionally. I remember when I did it, it surprised me how intimidating it was at first to speak to all my peers about such an intimate topic. Afterwards, even my friends who weren't on the retreat noticed that our class felt more unified and acted more together.” 

Seniors talk about Jesus’ ability to transform suffering in their lives and of no longer feeling alone, no matter what they are going through. They talk about forgiving people who have badly wounded them, of restoring broken relationships with themselves and family members, and of a newfound commitment to a relationship with Jesus. The Magis Retreat intentionally lacks a major conclusion. Like the Spiritual Exercises, it is meant to be a springboard into the world. Gifts from God always find their fulfillment in being shared. When reflecting on the Magis, Tommy Martin B‘16 shared, “I learned that an individual heart and a community are at their best when they grow together and for each other. I still think about this in my relationship to the people around me. My experience instilled in me an energy and belief in myself and my community that continues to motivate my actions today.”  The weekend has given them a taste of being with Jesus and once a person has a taste of this it is hard to be satisfied with anything else. 

Teaching high school students and walking the Exercises with seniors on the Magis fills me with hope for the future. The seniors’ growth during their time at Bellarmine inspires me not to become complacent in my relationship with Jesus. I am galvanized by their articulation of their understanding of a relationship with Jesus and what this means for them personally and moreover how it will shape their future. I am so grateful to have this continual opportunity to follow Jesus with greater faith, love and freedom and to witness the seniors own falling in love with Jesus. 

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