On Aug. 29, noted Jesuit James Martin, S.J., welcomed incoming freshmen with a message familiar to anyone with a Jesuit education—an introduction to the concept of cura personalis, Latin for “care for the whole person.”

“Jesuit schools care not just for the mind, not just the body, but for the soul, too,” said Father Martin, speaking at a Fordham College at Rose Hill Academic Orientation at Fordham Prep.

The talk culminated a required summertime reading of Father Martin’s book,The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything (HarperCollins, 2010), and began with a welcome message that embraced a diversity of backgrounds and orientations.

He told students that if they were ever troubled, worried, or upset, “there are people who are here for you.” Everyone at Fordham—from the faculty to the staff to the administration—is “devoted” to cura personalis.

Father Martin told students to have “reverence” for themselves and to take care of their bodies. That meant not partying too much, he said. He also warned students of “presenting a false self” to impress others, which includes trying to do too much good (or bad) for show.

He said it’s OK to not know what your major will be or what you want to do in life or who will become your friends.

“Believe it or not, some of the people in this room may become friends you’ll have for your whole life,” he said.

He noted that the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius Loyola, created a tradition that includes “healthy and life-giving decisions” that began with his own life’s path, which often took unexpected turns.

But he wasn’t always that way, Father Martin said. At one time, the young aristocrat had a hot temper, was vain, and was more interested in impressing women than he was in spirituality. He wanted to become a knight, but after a cannonball shattered his leg, the future saint retreated to the comforts of his family’s castle to recover. There, the only literature available to him was about the lives of the saints. Soon, he began to feel hopeful about his predicament and started to follow their example. He retreated to a cave where he fasted, at the expense of his health, said Father Martin.

“He realized he had to take care of himself physically instead, and that gives us some insight into Ignatian spirituality: Sometimes going ahead means making a U-turn,” he said.

He said that, like St. Ignatius, paying attention to one’s interior life helps in making good decisions.

“That’s called discernment,” he said. “God wants you to make good decisions.”

“And don’t rush the process. Let God work on God’s timetable. He is with you.”




Tom Stoelker is senior staff writer and visual media coordinator for Fordham News. After fifteen years as a freelance designer, Tom shifted his focus to writing and photography. He graduated from Lehman College, CUNY where he majored in English literature and photography and he received his master's in journalism from Columbia University. His work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal, and The Architect's Newspaper, where he was associate editor.