By: Tim Nendick
That’s the key image of IFTJ for me. My first experience on IFTJ, after a frantic 24 hours on a bus (I only got a spot hours prior) to an unfamiliar destination, started with Susan Haarman telling us “shout present with your life!” That is the core of the IFTJ experience — an opportunity to understand what it is that drives and animates our lives — and to live those things outlaid in the world, with our own lives.
A key thought of the Ignatian Family Teach In is this: that our faith, when lived, does justice. It isn’t a side effect, but the core of the identity. Our faith is ‘present’ in the world, is concerned with the reality of the world, and labors for justice. Gathered together are more than a thousand people who are learning about this way of doing faith or have internalized and embraced it already. That mass of people, hope, and passion is what Kim Bobo called “a fire that fans other fires.”
It’s easy to think we are alone in the struggle for justice, that we cannot possibly impact systems on a global system. Such a simple fatalism is much harder to give weight to when you are surrounded by 1200 people from around the country — from different parishes, different universities, different Jesuit Volunteer Corps sites — all people dedicated to understanding the world around them and working to make that world better. It is truly a community of both action and reflection — that is, a community driven by praxis.
And so, it is in this amazing group, in the spectacle and hope of the moment, that many people come together collectively to say, “Presente!” And in that moment, our faith begins to necessitate justice. In that moment, as Rutilio Grande likes to put it, our ‘gospel grows feet.’ And the feet it grows move, be it towards a fence in Fort Benning, GA or towards Capitol Hill. They move together, with purpose, proclaiming that they together are one body in Christ, one body here and now, one body, presente!