My grandma and Jesuit priests have something in common: they love Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and for obvious reasons. The man founded the Jesuit order with his companions, Saint Xavier and Peter Faber, and he is the epitome of forgiveness and generosity. Still not making the connection? Fine, let me clarify further.
I personally am a huge fan of St. Iggy—as I like to call him—as well. More specifically, I am a huge fan of his prayers and writings. My favorite one is his prayer of generosity, which my grandma first taught me and my Jesuit High School reiterated. It goes like this:
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.
Recently—well since this Sunday and with the beginning of the commercial Christmas season—I have been thinking a lot about what that generosity, the act of giving St. Iggy speaks so highly of, actually means. I have thought of where I see it most often and when I see it most often. I have thought of all the different commercials and Christmas movies on TV that focus on giving. And I have thought about my family and what giving means to us. And I have thought about myself and what I like to give and be given the most.
Then it came to me. Generosity isn’t about giving the most; generosity isn’t about spending the most. Instead, it’s about doing the most.
My grandma taught me that.
My grandpa passed away over four years ago. He was the giving kind of man. He always bought what was new, what was the best, and gave it to his grandchildren. He liked being on top of what was popular and we appreciated it too.
When he passed away, there was an unsaid sentiment that holidays would be dimmer because of the void my grandpa left behind. The first Christmas since he joined the Lord, we didn’t know what to expect from my grandma when we gathered at their home as one large family. After the dinner and drinks were over, we all joined in the living room where a beautiful Christmas tree stood.
My grandma was the first to give her gift.
It was after we all had sat down and conversation quieted that she came into the room with a stack of envelopes in her crossed arms. We all knew before she said it that there would be one for each of us. We all waited to open it simultaneously. As I pulled white cardstock from the envelope, I didn’t know what to expect. I turned it over. Winston Churchill’s famous speech, “Never Give Up”.
Tears began welling up in my eyes. It was my grandpa’s favorite speech, his motto. I looked around and my relatives had tears in their eyes as well. However, some of them were holding a second sheet of paper. I looked down into the envelope again. There was a small photograph left behind. I reached in and pulled out a picture of my grandpa smiling back up at me. I turned it over, it was signed in scratchy black ink, “Never give up. Much love, Grandpa.”
One by one, we all stood up to hug my grandma with tear soaked eyes. It was the best Christmas gift we all could have received.
I can’t imagine what it took for my grandma to coordinate that effort. I know it cost barely anything, but the strength to face the fact that the love of her life passed away just a few months before Christmas spoke with more strength than any other gift I have received.
I will keep that Christmas in mind as this time of generosity arises. It doesn’t matter how much one gives or spends, it’s about doing more. Better yet, spend less and I am sure it will do more.
Kevin Tighe is a Senior English major from Milwaukee, WI. He currently works for the Center for the Study of the American Dream and was previously the Training Coordinator for Manresa 2011. Kevin also enjoys maintaining his social media accounts and currently maintains his own personal blog.