A few months ago, as chairman of the Fordham London Advisory Board at Fordham University, I made the opening speech at the conference “The Future of Business Education”. I remember I started by saying that:“2020 will be remembered as a horrible year”. A concise sentence, and one difficult for me to utter, but, unfortunately, dramatically appropriate. Today, with 2020 finally behind us, I look forward to 2021, wondering howI would like it to be remembered.

I think I would like it to be remembered as a year of renewal. This is what I wish for. In a few months, the Ignatian Year will begin, proclaimed by the general curia of the Society of Jesus to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the canonization of its founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola. The year dedicated to him will begin on 20 May 2021 and will end on 31 July 2022. This will be an important opportunity to promote, at a universal level, the recovery of the fundamental values ​​of man, starting from the Ignatian Conversion. An example from the past that is still extraordinarily relevant today.

A renewal that Europe first experienced in 1400, when it was shaken by humanism, a philosophical current that unequivocally decreed the end of the medieval era, considered barbaric and dark. Christian faith, a re-evaluation of classical culture, moral sense and ethics were the cardinal principles of this cultural phenomenon, which affected religious and political life and every level of social life. It had an essential prerogative: to place man at the center of everything. The Renaissance had begun. In this period of ferment and constant change, on May 20, 1521, the Lord granted spiritual renewal to Ignatius of Loyola, a noble Spanish knight.

The change occurred during his convalescence, when, immobilized due to a wound in battle, he had the opportunity to approach the sacred texts and to discover the lives of the saints. These readings made him reflect on what the meaning of his existence really was, bringing about a deep spiritual conversion in him. So, he decided to give up his military career and shed his possessions to devote the rest of his life to preaching the word of God and caring for those most in need.

Today, 500 years later, we are again experiencing a period of strong contrasts, which affect our everyday life. The “plague” of 2020 is called Covid19 and, despite our technological tools and our advanced scientific skills, it has put us in check, with enormous impacts on the health, economic, social and political levels of the world.

St. Ignatius of Loyola proposed an innovative vision of mankind who, through a process of inner maturation, becomes capable of understanding the difference between good and evil, between right and wrong, and therefore of orienting his choices. Being inspired by the tradition of St. Ignatius means to embody values ​​such as freedom, justice and truth. An approach of particular value especially if applied to the education of the young. Education is one of the fundamental development processes a person goes through. An educational model that embodies and transmits Ignatian values ​​to new generations will only facilitate the renewal we are seeking. A renewal which, let’s remember, starts from the recovery of the teachings coming from the past and which also depends on how we will be able to transmit them to tomorrow’s leaders. Being able to take even one step towards this awareness will definitely make 2021 better than 2020.

 

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