A participant in the FCIP Online Teaching Course recently asked for an explanation of what, precisely, we mean when we talk about cura personalis: care for the whole person, mind, body and spirit. His inquiry related specifically to whether this well-engrained phrase relates to the actual physical body (as in the Latin mens sana in corpore sano: a healthy mind in a healthy body) or if there is a more abstract implication to the term.
Before providing my own understanding of the term, I went to Fr. Jose Mesa, Secretary for Secondary and Pre-Secondary Education for the Society of Jesus and Faculty Fellow in FCIP. His response eloquently explains how Jesuit educators view this foundational principle: “I understand the cura personalis as care for the person of the student and this also means awareness of his/her uniqueness and need to accompany the student to develop a good learning process. The cura personalis is one of the ways we help students to aim for ‘human excellence,’ that is the education of the whole person. Growth in mind, body and spirit is one way to express this holistic education.”
The Ignatian Spirituality website further elaborates that Jesuit education goes beyond the intellect of the mind but entwines all aspects of the body as one. “Our talents, abilities, physical attributes, personalities, desires, hearts, faith, and minds are all equally worthy of care and attention.”
Faculty regularly focus on how we can guide our students to this integrated and unified development of mind, body and spirit. We challenge students to use what they are learning to be men and women for and with others. We create assignments and service opportunities that will help them move beyond their comfort zones. But when do we do this same type of learning for ourselves?
As faculty and staff at a Jesuit university, it is important that we all make a personal commitment to growth, to develop in mind, body and spirit, to better serve humanity and also to provide an example for Loyola students.
To exemplify this personal growth challenge, participants in the 2017-18 Ignatian Pedagogy Certificate Program did a group service project. Several people wanted to do something they had never done, push their level of comfort, provide service that they would not normally consider doing. We volunteered to serve lunch at a women’s shelter and talk with the residents. While the facility was only a few blocks from campus, the experience was miles from what most had experienced before.
The service experience made each of us aware of how a small act of kindness can lift a person’s spirits, nourish her body and soul. But it also nourished those of us who served; we all came away grateful for someone we spoke with or something we learned about ourselves. Each reflected on what the experience meant to them, their personal growth, and further action they will take as a result of their volunteering.
Tim Muldoon describes cura personalis concisely: “It is rooted in the faith that God has created me to do some good in the world, and that through discernment I can come to an understanding of how to love the people in my life as Jesus might, awakening in them the same desire to give their lives in loving service to others.”
How are mind, body, and spirit intertwined in our lives? Set a goal for this month to do something that challenges your personal growth. Reflect on the action and the impact and on your unique contribution to the world. Take care of your whole self and exemplify this care to others.