On 11 December, the fellows of the European Leadership Programme (ELP) spoke with John Dardis SJ, on the subject of authenticity as it relates to our own personal vocations. After some brief introductions, Fr Dardis showed us a video-clip of a commercial. While watching this commercial, it was clear that Fr Dardis was moved deeply.
I remember rolling my eyes and thinking, “How does this guy get out of bed in the morning if a commercial touches him this deeply?” After the clip finished, he asked all the fellows how the clip made us feel. He asked me first, and I gave an authentic answer. I did not feel anything, I saw it as a consumerist cash grab, something you often find on TV a lot during Christmas time. My cynicism did not seem to disturb Fr Dardis as he went on and asked all the other fellows. Every other ELP fellow felt something and (some) were deeply moved.
Sure, the commercial had its own motives, but it succeeded in telling a story that moved many of the fellows as well as Fr Dardis. This story (told in the commercial) was about the relationship between a father and son, specifically regarding vocations and a young person pursing his own path in life. Fr Dardis discussed how Christ himself used stories and parables to not only speak truth, but to touch the lives of people all over the world. Stories like the Good Samaritan and Prodigal Son used relatable themes to convey authenticity.
We then proceeded to do some Ignatian spiritual exercises to begin the discernment process for our own vocation. Fundamentally, every person who walks this Earth has the same vocation, which is to live and die in the imitation of Christ, that is to be truly and wholly authentic. Of course, there are different ways to do this, careers, family lives, etc. What I found to be particularly insightful is how Father Dardis discussed history, not only the saints of the past but those who we can relate to on a personal level and mimic in their virtue.
As a news junkie, I just had to ask John Dardis about the clerical sex abuse crisis in Ireland, specifically how Fr Dardis (an Irish native himself) believes the crisis can be abated and the healing of the relationship between the Church and the Irish people can begin. Once again John Dardis emphasized authenticity, that the Church must divorce itself from the pursuit of power and prestige. The Church is called to live in the imitation of Christ, to fundamentally return to charity for the poor and zeal for justice. A message with which I couldn’t agree more.
Before signing off for the evening, Fr Dardis gave the ELP fellows some spiritual exercises to meditate on, so to better discern in what specific manner, we can find fulfillment and authenticity in our own lives going forward. While this conversation was very brief, it proved valuable for not only myself but all the fellows of the ELP program.
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