On Sept. 20 Fr. James Martin, S.J., spoke at the first annual Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., Lecture, sharing valuable insights from his theological education and formation. The event celebrated the tenth anniversary of Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry (STM).
Martin is an STM graduate and now serves as the editor for America magazine. America is a Jesuit publication that contains news related to Catholicism and its impact on American politics and culture. Martin also received the first ever STM Alumni Distinguished Service Award at the lecture.
The event began with remarks from Father Leahy, who expressed his satisfaction with the progress of the STM and appreciation for the the school's faculty, staff, and students. Leahy also addressed the current state of Catholicism in the world, saying, “We're in a time when Roman Catholicism is in great turmoil, perhaps even crisis. It needs individuals who are involved in ministry—whether it be faculty, students, alumni, or donors—people who believe in what we can do to help make our church more alive.”
Martin then took the stage and began his remarks by reflecting on the life and work of Daniel Harrington, who was a BC professor and Chair of the Biblical Studies Department, an accomplished author and editor, and a renowned theological academic.
Martin remembered his time as a pupil of Harrington, describing Harrington’s vast expertise in theological studies along with his humble demeanor. Martin spoke of the kindness Harrington showed him when a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome prevented him from taking written exams.
Martin also recounted Harrington’s three characterizations of ministry: “careful preparation for the ministry, diligent work at the ministry, and compassion for people with whom you are minister."
Martin then discussed some of the most helpful lessons he learned in his 30 years as a Jesuit. He shared simple and practical insights such as, “you can’t do everything, but you can do something”.
To illustrate this point, Martin recounted his work at ground zero in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He recalled witnessing the destruction and realizing that he was not capable of working in the morgue. “I stood there on top of all the papers and ash and truly tried to discern what I could do. I realized that I could at least minister to the firefighters and EMTs and police officers. That was something I could do, so that’s what I did,” he said.
Martin also spoke about lessons he learned from his experiences as an author of several books, including one on the future of relations between the church and the LGBT community. He explained how working on this book, as well as both the positive and negative reactions to it, taught him that “you can always learn something new” but “you can’t be liked by everyone.”
Martin concluded exploration of insights with a simple but valuable piece of advice: “Always be kind.”
Robsham Theater was filled to capacity and the university livestreamed the lecture on Facebook. The video can be viewed on the STM Facebook page.
In conjunction with the tenth anniversary of the STM, Boston College released a strategic plan containing four directions that the university will focus on. “To thrive in the coming decades, Boston College must remain true to its intellectual and religious roots and seek to be the world’s leading Jesuit, Catholic university,” read the university’s statement.