Each semester in the West Wing ILC, students read texts that reflect the mission and values of the University and our seminar. In the past, our texts have included Fr. Greg Boyle’s Tattoos on the Heart: the Power of Boundless Compassion, as well as Jeffrey Sachs’s The End of Poverty.
This semester, we read Fr. James Martin’s book, In Good Company: The Fast Track from the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Fr. Martin joined us for a dinner colloquium last week to discuss his journey from the fast-paced world of finance to priesthood, writing, and reflection. Fr. Martin began with a brief summary of his early life at the Wharton School of Business at Penn, and explained how no one had ever asked him what he wanted to do with his life. He mentioned the time he went to his academic advisor and proposed the notion of taking “American Poetry” during his undergraduate career, and how his advisor immediately dismissed that idea as a waste of time.
After years of competing in the stressful corporate world, Fr. Martin was extremely candid about his time suffering from depression and health issues due to his career. He admitting that it was a dark period where nothing made sense and it was extremely difficult to find the good in life. When flipping through the channels one night after a long day of work, he found a documentary about a Catholic retreat house and one priest’s journey to faith. He told the WW-ILC students that there was something very romantic and personal about this documentary and he couldn’t get it out of his mind.
With a corporate mindset, Fr. Martin made it his mission to become a part of this world, and worked to try to find his faith. Since joining the Jesuits, he has been extremely successful both personally and professionally. He spoke humbly about his experience with the Jesuits and his time at America magazine, The National Catholic Review.
Fr. Martin has written for many publications, including the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and is a regular commentator in the national and international media. The West Wing students spent the majority of the class period asking him questions about his time in college, which proved to be very pertinent to students’ own vocational journey.
Bridget Brennan, FCRH 2016
WW-ILC Resident Assistant and Student Intern, 2014-15 & 2015-16