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Rev. James Martin, S.J., delivered the sixth annual Ignatian Values in Action lecture September 14 at 7 p.m. in the Byron Center.
The lecture was part of The University’s Royal Reads Program. Every summer, the first-year class has a required book to read and a mandatory lecture to attend that goes along with the reading. This summer’s Royal Reads’ book was Martin’s New York Times bestseller “A Jesuit’s Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life.”
Although the first years were required to attend the lecture, faculty, staff, students and alumni were welcome to attend this free event. In fact, Brian Conniff, Ph.D., the dean of The University’s dean of the college of arts and sciences, said during his opening remarks that a record number of alumni attended this year’s Ignatian Values in Action lecture.
Martin is currently the editor-at-large of the Jesuit American magazine. He has written a variety of books, including “Jesus: A Pilgrimage,” “Between Heaven and Mirth” and A Big Heart Open to God. Martin has also written articles for the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and has appeared on various radio and television networks, including NPR’s Fresh Air, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor and Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.
In May 2017, Martin received an honorary doctoral degree from The University, and was also the keynote speaker of the commencement ceremony that year.
“Technically, I am an alumnus of The University of Scranton,” Martin said at the lecture. “And so, when you see me at our 50th reunion, please be nice to me. You will be 71, and I will be 106.”
During the lecture, Martin told first-year students a few “dirty little secrets” about college. The first secret Martin shared was that everyone is nervous when they first enter college.
“No matter how cool or chill the person next to you seems to be, they’re nervous,” Martin said.
Martin’s next secret was that it is ok not to know.
“It’s ok not to know everything,” Martin said. “You’re not God.”
The final secret Martin shared was that you will make friends in college.
“Some of the people in this very room, whom you’ve not even met yet, may become friends that you will know your whole life,” Martin said. “And, funny enough, some of the people you meet on the first day and think, ‘Oh my gosh, my new best friend,’ you’ll never see them again. So just relax. The friendships will come naturally.”
Martin then went on to discuss the importance “cannonball moments” in our lives. A cannonball moment is “something that totally devastates us and forces us to reevaluate things.”
Later, Martin discussed a few Jesuit spirituality ideals that he thought the first-year student should keep in mind throughout their first year at The University. The first point Martin brought up was the importance of being yourself and not comparing yourself to others.
“If you compare yourself, you will end up miserable,” Martin said. “You have no idea what’s going on inside of another person. As the old Jesuit expression goes, ‘Compare and despair.’”
Martin also brought up the idea that you can make good decisions in life and that you can make “U-turns” if you need to. He discussed the concept of Cure Personalis and how we are spiritual beings living a human experience.
Martin also talked about the importance of desires in our lives.
“Desire is a key way that God communicates with you,” Martin said.
However, Martin clarified that God does not communicates with us through our material desires.
“I’m talking about our deepest desires,” Martin said. “The ones that shape our lives. Desires that help us know who we are to become and what we are to do.”
“Naming those desires makes us more grateful when we finally receive the fulfillment of our hopes,” Martin said.
Martin also asked the first-years a question that changed his own life when he was asked it when he was 27: “What would you do if you could do anything you wanted?”
Martin closed his lecture with a quote he attributed to Jesus Christ.
“Go Royals,” Martin said.
Following Martin’s lecture, Rev. Herbert Keller, S.J., the interim president of The University, shared a few remarks, thanking Martin for coming to speak at The University.
Martin stayed after the lecture for a book signing in the Byron for those who attended the Ignatian Values in Action lecture.