Dear Fordham,

In his podcast, Malcolm Gladwell described being surprised at the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Expecting only limited insights from 500-year-old work, instead, to his delight, he found Ignatius “breathtakingly relevant.”

There are many saints who inspire us to have the courage to do the right thing, those who lived dramatic lives or died bravely as martyrs. Ignatius devoted his life to God in a different way. He translated the messages of the Gospel to the messy uncertainty of life, providing a roadmap for discernment. He found God while building universities, in thousands of bureaucratic decisions where the moral answer was far from clear.

And he did so in ways that remain remarkably sophisticated and relevant. Centuries before Freud and modern psychology, Ignatius focused on the critical need for self-knowledge, and change rooted in self-forgiveness.

His principles of discernment we might now label “design thinking.” He taught us how to be innovative and nimble, because we hold onto what matters, fiercely, and let go of our attachment to the rest.

His teachings about how to run the enormous and far-flung Jesuit “company” could be reprinted today in any business school journal–only because management theory eventually came around to the idea of leadership grounded in purpose and empathy.

Fordham, today we celebrate Ignatius Day with special urgency as the University makes the transition to lay leadership. We are part of an extraordinary heritage, full of centuries of accumulated wisdom and purpose. It is up to us to keep it. It is our fuel. It is what makes us special.

Prayers and blessings,

Tania Tetlow