A Spiritual Path to Racial Justice

A Spiritual Path to Racial Justice

By Eugene Curtin

Racism, and the spiritual work required to achieve racial justice, is the theme of a new book published by Patrick Saint-Jean, SJ, PsyD, a Jesuit in formation who currently teaches at Creighton University in the Department of Psychological Science.

The Spiritual Work of Racial Justice: A Month of Meditations with Ignatius of Loyola presents a series of meditations based upon the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.

The book has received high praise from the Very Rev. Brian G. Paulson, SJ, provincial of the U.S. Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus.

The book, Paulson says, merges Saint-Jean’s personal experience as a Black man with the more general experience of being Black in the United States.

It “beautifully weaves together several threads,” Paulson says. “His personal experience — at times painful — as a Jesuit in formation who is both an immigrant and a Black man; poignant reminders of the long history of race-based violence in the USA which has, too often, plagued our country since colonial times, including the ‘racial reckoning’ and calls for racial justice in the wake of the recent murder of George Floyd by a white policeman.”

To these problems, Paulson says, Saint-Jean applies the Spiritual Exercises in order to encourage and embrace love of God and love of neighbor.

“Racism is learned, and is based in fear of ‘the other,’” Paulson says. “Racism is also rooted in the lack of knowledge and experience across races and cultures. Patrick Saint-Jean invites us to educate ourselves and do the spiritual interior work each of us needs to do to let go of fear of Black people and deepen our commitment to racial justice so that we might live together in hope.”

The book received further praise from M. Shawn Copeland, a Catholic theologian and the first African American to serve as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

“Legislation may make the healing of our fractured racial-ethnic relations possible, but only love can heal us,” Copeland writes. “Jesuit Patrick Saint-Jean offers us a way to heal our battered souls and bereaved hearts, using reflection, journaling and reading in openness, humility and prayer to lead us to concrete acts of love for our neighbors.”