Friday, March 14, 2014

How & Why "Age Quod Agis" is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to the Miami Heat: Part I

I had the wonderful opportunity of serving on the Sponsorship Committee Review team for Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon. The Crusaders are doing so much, so well. I was impressed with their strong sense of community, their commitment to academic, athletic, and artistic excellence and their outstanding Friday Morning Liturgy. I couldn't wait to tell my own students about all I learned and what I hoped to integrate at St. Ignatius College Prep. However, as enthusiastic as I was about the "big picture" mission work, I wanted them to know two specific things about Jesuit High: their school motto and one famous alum. In fact, I couldn't separate one detail from the other, because I think Jesuit's guiding words have shaped the head coach of the Miami Heat into the man he is today.
Jubilee Tower is a cornerstone.
Arrive on campus and one of the first things you will see is the Jubilee Tower. Standing between the Jesuit Residence and the Office of the President, it is striking in its simplicity and its significance. It acts as a cornerstone. It beckons everyone to remember that since 1956, the Jesuits have sought to educate young men (and since 1993 young women) by the motto Age Quod Agis. I wasn't sure what that meant.

I envy those who exhort Latin maxims on a whim. From legal terms like quid pro quo—"a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something,to the theological and philosophical Ex nihilo nihil fit—"nothing comes from nothing," Latin proverbs colors conversation while offering a truth, especially in vino veritas!

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I love the motto that guides Ignatian spirituality: AMDG; it is Latin for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. Visit any campus sponsored by the Jesuits and you will see AMDG on student papers, in art work, publications and more. Jesuit High was no exception. But, I quickly became aware that they had another. As I walked down the hall, I noticed framed copies of their alumni publication; Age quod Agis is the title. Nota bene (NB): I needed to translate.

The Jesuit who led our committee was happy to share he knew what it meant because those words guided his formation in the Society of Jesus. He said, "Age Quod Agis means do what you are doing. That is a more literal translation, but what's implied is to do it well. In other words, do well whatever you do."

My reaction was a bit of a blank stare. I thought to myself—well that's inspiring (tongue in cheek). At one point I even wondered if it was boring.  But, as I spent time on campus, I began to realize why it's important and how it makes a difference.

Age Quod Agis is mindfulness. It is focusing on the job at hand. It is disallowing distractions—noise, voices, media, anxiety—unless that is what you are doing! I doubt that Age Quod Agis has ever been an effortless duty, but my sense is that the world we live in today makes this both extremely difficult and that much more important.

During my time at Jesuit, I was struck by the absence of one thing that pervades human life across the planet: the cell phone. During the school day, I did not see a single student or teacher on their phone, holding their phone, or orchestrating the stealth glance into a pocket to flash read the screen on their phone. 

To be fair, students are free to use phones in one of three designated places on campus, but I have no idea where that might be because I never saw students using one!

I think this is worth sharing because not only have they have been able to manage this policy but primarily because of the fruit it has yielded. I was a witness to it; I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it. Students are remarkably present to one another in a way that my students (and I include myself in this) are not. They are Age Quod Agis. 

What might that mean? Students are managing one less task amidst the many that are placed on them in the world of high school. They are finishing homework, they are laughing with their friends, they are intentionally walking a certain path hoping to run into someone special, they are worried about their next test, they are studying, they are learning, asking questions, challenging the status quo and and they are helping each other out. They are doing what they are doing...and they are doing it well. Can you imagine a world that would only do what it's doing? That might mean fewer accidents, better listeners, more people feeling understood, an increase in prayer? It's worth considering...and promoting!
Jesuit High School Class of 1988
All this being said, when Erik Spoelstra attended Jesuit High School, the campus and the community were much different. It was all boys. The enrollment wasn't even 1000 students; today it is 1285. There were more Jesuits and fewer male and female lay teachers. But, some things weren't all that much different. And my next posting will feature how that common motto Age Quod Agis shaped a video coordinator who has become a great coach in the NBA. This NB translates into Not Bad

Photo Credits
NBA Finals

JHS crest
St Ignatius of Loyola
Jubilee Tower

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