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Contemplative Action: A Principle of Place and Purpose

When I enrolled at Gonzaga, Jesuit Education was new to me. But I’ve found that Gonzaga’s Jesuit identity has become the crux of my college education and personal formation. So what makes this Jesuit education so unique?

As St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, came upon the river Cardoner, he found a sense of deep peace, and it was in that moment of contemplation and reflection he developed the truest principles of his faith. Service for the common good, development of the whole person, reflective and critical thought, and seeking God in all things are among the principles the Jesuits are built upon and the same ones we hold as a university. While I am not a religious person, I believe very strongly that every one of us here at Gonzaga has a spiritual connection. We build community upon these principles because we believe that we can make a better world if we live them out.

But my favorite Jesuit principle? The one I find most powerful, special, and unique of the Jesuit faith is being contemplative in action. The statue of St. Ignatius that stands in front of College Hall visually illustrates contemplative action: his head is slightly lowered in humble reflection but his robes are flowing to represent moving forward with intent. He represents the way the principle asks us to focus on what’s in front of us but also to keep moving forward and offering our hands to serve others.

Gonzaga University is a place where students come to unfold their potential and create paths to success, happiness, and purpose. As pretty as that sounds, it is easier said than done. It wasn’t until my first service immersion trip with the homeless population that I realized how contemplative action is practiced. In the midst of our work, our leaders would pause to reflect with us individually and as a group. They asked tough questions about the stereotypes we may have brought to the experience. They encouraged us to examine our feelings of apprehension or anxiety. They motivated us to see the experience as more than just charity, but an opportunity for deeper human connection. I began to realize that the real glue holding this community together is the endeavor to improve and grow with intention.

After this experience with contemplative service, I started to notice contemplative action around me at Gonzaga: in the administration, the student newspaper, classroom discussions. At Gonzaga, we live and serve with the spirit of contemplative action guiding us all. Unfolding purpose is not a simple task, but like St. Ignatius, I too am developing my truest principles upon the Spokane River with the entire support of the Gonzaga community.




Sidnee is a Sophomore from Clarkston, Washington.

She is studying Communication and Entrepreneurial Leadership.