In Conversation with a Jesuit Priest

Something I have very much enjoyed doing is to sit and have a conversation with someone whose path of life normally wouldn't converge with mine. Our distinctions may be glaringly obvious, but then we consciously create room in order to find our similarities.

This is something that can be practiced with anyone from any background. It is an experience I have shared with Catholics, Friars, Monks, Hermits, Atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Homosexuals, Christians who differ greatly from me, old people, young people, and folks from foreign countries. I hope to share more posts like this which document these kinds of conversations, as well. It’s such a wonderful, life-giving encounter to have, but also admittedly rare. It requires two people whose optimistic curiosity outweighs their fears and insecurities.

This week I had a chance to sit with Fr Kevin, a priest and Jesuit Monk of 44 years who joined El Retiro San Inigo, a Jesuit Retreat Center of Los Altos, last August. He’s been a teacher at Jesuit high schools for most of his life and all I could think while talking with him is, “I hope my son goes to a school like his!” The understanding and sensitivity in the Jesuit Order for each person’s individuality and the intimate presence of God is wonderfully profound and refreshing.

We sat and talked in Fr Kevin’s office for nearly an hour and a half. I had hoped we could have a more personal conversation and connection, like I’ve shared with my close Franciscan friend Fr Dan Riley, but it was hard getting Fr Kevin to come out of the bigger picture of Ignatian Spirituality. I’ve come to realize it is not uncommon for people living truly spiritual lives of devotion to find discussing themselves to be difficult when one of their main focuses in life is becoming as less self-centered as possible. They’re used to talking about God, their spiritual heroes, and those they live to serve. When someone in this lifestyle finally does open up, it is such an intimate gift.

Something that was really impressed upon me while spending time with Fr Kevin was his awareness of “Invitation”. He spoke of every moment and every decision carrying with it an invitation. “Each and every decision we face, “ he said, “carries with it an option for greater kindness; greater love; greater sensitivity. And we will find that every time we’ve chosen to love, we’ve chosen God and God is at work through it." 

One of the most remarkable things about having a practice of Silent Prayer is the ability to connect with someone like Fr Kevin in a linguistic manner that we both understand. We may come from very different backgrounds and different generations and have different looking faiths, but we are not foreign to one another. We’ve been to a shared place of vulnerability and trust. Scripture tells us that everyone of us has a shared core of reality in the revelation that Christ is all and is in all. When someone else has encountered that reality, even without having named it Christ, it is so easy to share in our similarities.

I’ve carried my conversation with Fr Kevin with me and am grateful for my time with him. Looking forward to more conversations and hopefully recording them here.

Josh Pinkston