Downward Mobility

“He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor,” saith the Lord. (Luke 4:18)

Exactly nineteen years ago (give or take a day or two), I had the privilege of listening to the late Fr. Dean Brackley SJ address us Jesuit Volunteers.

We were highly motivated recent college graduates, living through the first decade of the Great Age of Yuppiedom. Our peers had jumped aboard the train of upward mobility. That’s why you go to college: to be upwardly mobile. Stay upwardly mobile, and someday you will have a perfect, shiny life.

Dean BrackleyFr. Brackley urged us to head the other direction.

Be downwardly mobile.

If something involves a lot of money, stay away; go the other direction. If you see a poor person, go towards him.

Forget about shiny. Forget the word ‘career.’

Fall in love with a human being who can give you nothing. And, if the building smells bad, looks rundown, and the gadgets don’t quite work, you’re probably in the right place. The people you want to know and love are the people with no money.

Fr. Brackley, God rest his beautiful soul, gave a memorable speech. The slogan of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps was—and still is, I believe—“ruined for life.” A perfectly promising young professional type joins the JVC, instead of going to law school or business school. Next thing you know, the young unsuspecting idealist gets ruined for life. No longer cares about living in a McMansion or driving a Beemer.

Downward mobility which ruins you for life. Maybe this type of reflection can help us understand our Holy Father a little better, and St. Ignatius Loyola, for that matter—and the Lord Jesus Himself.


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