It is “one of the most beautiful images at the start of every school year,” said former Saint Ignatius president Fr. Tim Kesicki several years ago. It is the event most of my junior Sacraments students point to when asked the moment they knew they were “really Ignatius men.” It is the occasion where the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds provide Labor Day weekend “air cover” for the St Ignatius Wildcats.
It is, of course, the “Walk.”
Downtown Cleveland shut down for a bit this past Friday as our 389 freshmen made the trek from Saint Ignatius to the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist to participate in the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit.
Our newest Wildcats came clad in the blue blazers--some of them a size or two too large--and khaki pants that have become the de facto uniform of the well-dressed Ignatian. They literally stopped traffic as they bore witness to the centrality of the Mass in the life of Catholics in general, and Ignatius men in particular.
When they arrived at the Cathedral, they were welcomed by the upperclassmen: Ignatians who had made the journey across the mighty Cuyahoga River during their freshman years.
Being young men from different parts of the metropolitan area, coming from families of differing incomes, nurtured in the traditions and customs of varying ethnicities, the freshmen also came as a microcosm of the Church, which is “catholic,” in the sense of being “universal” or “inclusive.”
These young Ignatians were, as they walked, unknowingly imitating their patron: Ignatius of Loyola. In his Autobiography, Ignatius referred to himself exclusively as “the Pilgrim.” His journey was from his home in northern Spain ultimately to Rome, but on a much deeper level, it was a journey from a quest for worldly glory to a desire for service: to God and to humanity. It was a journey through his earthly life to life with the Lord. Last Friday, our pilgrims journeyed to meet the same Lord who at the Cathedral would come to them--Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity--in the Holy Eucharist.
In doing so, they collectively claimed their citizenship in what Saint Augustine called the “City of God.” At the same time, they also claimed membership in their earthly city, Cleveland. St Ignatius’s location in the heart of the Forest City, near downtown, has long enabled our students to see firsthand the good--and the bad--in our community. Their sojourn marked their first lesson in the schoolhouse that is the city.
They were led in the liturgy by Bishop Roger Gries, OSB, who reflected on the Gospel account of Jesus taming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. The bishop noted how, as He did with the original disciples, the Lord comes to them in the “storms” of their lives--their struggles and sufferings and anxieties--and calls them to “be not afraid.” Moreover, the Bishop challenged them to be examples of Jesus, the “Man for Others,” and become “storm walkers”: men who recognize and give of themselves to those most in need.
This will not be the last time these young Wildcats will walk the thoroughfares of Cleveland. In the coming years, as they go out with the Labre ministry, many will befriend those who make the streets their home. Still, others may find themselves back at the Cathedral as pallbearers. They will visit City Hall as part of government class and the main branch of the Cleveland Public Library to do research. God willing, many will spend their adulthoods in the city as businessmen, attorneys, teachers, and first responders, helping to make Cleveland--and the larger world--a better, more humane place.
When they do, like Friday, as they entered the Cathedral, they will find their older Ignatius brothers already there.
A.M.D.G. / B.V.M.H.