On the 31st July each year, lies the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. Gratitude is one of the key pillars of Ignation spirituality and JRS UK chose to rejoice in this day with a time of reflection and celebration.
St. Ignatius clearly recognised the power of gratitude. He suggested gratitude as a central part of the daily Examen, ensuring that the Jesuits, and all whom they guide and teach, come into the practice of seeing the good that God grants them each day of their lives.
St. Ignatius knew that we, as human beings, can become distracted in daily life, and while some of our distractions can be life giving to those that we serve here at JRS, some tend to lead away from our best sense of ourselves and God. Thus, in the very human midst of our distracted living, the daily Examen is there to give us the opportunity to reflect on moments when we have most felt God’s presence.
To celebrate this feast day, the JRS UK team had a morning of reflecting on our work over the past year followed by mass, which further invited us to practice living in gratitude as we remembered those people, situations and events for which we are most grateful.
“Refugees come to the Day Centre and realise they are not alone. They come with a sense of rejection, and they leave with hope.”
JRS Team member
Our day began with a warm welcome from our Director, Sarah Teather, who spoke about the theme of gratitude and gifts; urging us to reflect on the gifts that our role at JRS UK offers us; the gifts that we receive from our refugee friends; and the gifts given to us by other team members. The team split into small groups to discuss these themes, and in doing so, came to appreciate that there is no more powerful way to acknowledge others than to be thankful for them and their contribution to the team; to our friends; and to the overall sense of community and family that is fostered here at JRS UK.
The fruitful discussions allowed each person to express their gratitude for one another and reaffirm some of the reasons that we are called to our work. A communal drive for justice, humanity and collectively was unanimously shared between the team, alongside our mission to accompany. A theme that resonated with all members of staff was that of reciprocity and how, not only do we see our refugee friends as unique individuals, as whole people, but they amidst adversity and sorrow, find the capacity to love and see us in the same way, not simply as service providers.
This capacity for love and for friendship is something truly unique to JRS, and gives our refugee friends a sense of belonging and hope in an otherwise hostile and degrading environment. The team felt as though this hope extends across the whole team and encourages us on our day-to-day mission.
“Love consists in a mutual sharing of goods, for example, the lover gives and shares with the beloved what he possesses, or something of that which he has or is able to give.”
Following our reflection we celebrated mass which was led by Fr. Mike, a member of the Jesuit community that lives in Wapping and a JRS volunteer. We held thoughts from the reflection morning that resonated with us and prayed upon these during mass. The day concluded with the usual JRS practice of sharing a special lunch with one another, and as we did so, we had a chance to take a step back from the busy day-to-day tasks and truly embrace those of whom we work so closely with and to simply give thanks for them.
Find out more about the theology of accompaniment and book tickets to our upcoming conference: ‘Walking with Refugees’.