The following is the text of a speech I gave this morning at the Welcome Week 2013 Call to Community program. The setting was St. John’s church, and the subject was the Jesuit Values. I was very honored to be selected to speak in front of all the new students, or as we call them at Creighton, #NewJays2013. Here is what I said to the class of 2017:
Good Morning. I am here today to share the Jesuit value of Magis with you, and to explain why it is so important to me. The concept of Magis can be difficult to properly comprehend. It seems easy—after all, it translates to “the more.” Jesuits across the world, including those on this campus take this to mean “What more can I do for Christ?” However, I am going to begin this discussion by talking about something else that is incredibly important to me, something that I cannot imagine living without—Ice cream.
Have you ever been to one of those top-your-own yogurt places? The setup is pretty simple: you grab a cup, put some yogurt in it, and then help yourself to toppings. Your creation is then weighed and priced accordingly. I don’t know about you, but my self control vanishes when I see all of those toppings displayed in front of me. I want it all. Pretzels? Yum! Sliced strawberries? Healthy! Oreos, animal crackers and tapioca pearls? Why not!
By the time I weigh my dish, it is always very expensive and very gross. Granola, skittles and marshmallow crème do not taste well together. Instead of eating a delicious bowl of ice cream, I end up with a strange and confusing-tasting concoction with forgotten treasures and hidden lumps.
I came to college wanting to immerse myself in the Creighton and Jesuit communities. I remember hearing all the Jesuit values and being drawn to Magis, thinking to myself “That one sounds rather simple.” Why would I stick to classes when I could do so much more?? I saw all of the opportunities at Creighton like ice cream toppings. I went nuts, no pun intended, and I ended up implementing Magis to the extreme.
In my first four semesters at Creighton, I was involved in the Arts and Sciences students senate, two plays, Greek life, Being a CU Star Tour Guide, the core revision task force, university chorus, volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of North Omaha, The Creightonian and Welcome Week. I had an on-campus job, was trying to pin down a major, make and keep friends, call home every once in a while, work out and eat. Oh yeah, and classes too.
I felt miserable. It was like I was carrying around a hundred pound weight, and the burden of my stress was making college unbearable. Wasn’t immersing myself and “Magis-ing” up supposed to make me feel better? After all, Father Lannon talks about Magis, and he seems fairly content with his life.
I had made a significant yet common rookie mistake: I misunderstood the difference between quality and quantity. Once I had that figured out, I made the decision to only take on activities that I was truly passionate about, activities that would help me reach my full potential and give back to the communities around me. I discovered that there are three areas where I can apply the quality of Magis to my life: my friends and family, the Creighton community and the world.
When interacting with my friends and family, I keep Magis in the back of my mind. This means that I can always be more patient with them, more appreciative and grateful of the love and care they show me and more supportive of them when they need it most. I have tried, sometimes unsuccessfully, to always give graciously of what is mine, whether it is a kind word or help on homework or a shoulder to cry on. These interpersonal relationships can be tricky to navigate, but they are what make college so wonderful and my life full of happiness and meaning.
When thinking on the scope of the Creighton community, I see Magis as simple yet purposeful actions. I believe that random acts of kindness are Magis. I also think Creighton students strive to improve their relationships by meeting new people or getting to know a classmate better. I have definitely lived outside of my comfort zone here, majoring in a subject I knew nothing about, being involved in organizations I had once turned up my nose at and making friends who are completely different from me in every way, shape and form.
Trying to do more for the world sounds impossibly daunting. But by following the example of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit order, I have learned to reflect inwardly to find the courage to stand up for others and seek and defend the truth despite external pressures and barriers.
I have seen my friends at Creighton live out the value of Magis in a variety of ways all around the globe, whether it be having a life-changing semester of service in the Dominican Republic, deciding to study social work because of what they have experienced on a fall break service trip or spearheading a campaign to collect blankets for the Sienna Francis house. We can always be better role models and citizens of the world, and for me, Magis describes this desire perfectly.
I hope that you remember about Magis as you live out your first semester at Creighton, whether it be when signing up for clubs or reaching out to a friend. After having lived out the Jesuit value of Magis in all of its interpretations, I can tell you from personal experience that by always striving for the more, to be better and not busier, Creighton will truly change your lives in ways that will astound you. Good luck, godspeed, and don’t forget to eat some ice cream every once in a while.
What do you think? Does Magis sound doable to you?