This is what I learned from the Jesuits

I am not a religious person. I am a catholic due to family and cultural tradition. Slowly, I started to become less religious as I started studying Ayn Rand, Carl Sagan and more recently, Steven Pinker and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

It should not be a secret the problem with religions, not only the Catholic Church; but most of them is their dogmatism. In other words, their inability to be open to debate their own beliefs and ideas.

Somewhere between my High School and College years I met a group of Jesuits in Monterrey, Mexico; my hometown. I spent a lot of time with them, at least once a week for a couple of years. And although I ended up following a different path, I will always be grateful to them.

It is not a secret the Jesuit Order is not Rome’s favorite group. Their differences are well documented. They differ in a wide range of controversial subjects; such as, sexuality, abortion, birth control, and even the way they evangelize around the world. Luis Manuel, their leader at that time told me he used “tea and rice” and not the traditional “wine and bread” when he evangelized across Asia.

But what I remember from them is a more personal story. For instance, we used to gather at Luis Manuel’s home every Thursday to box a couple of rounds or wrestle greco-roman style. They had a ring, boxing gloves and face covers. The only rule was “no hitting in the face”. I only did it once and it was probably the most intense six minutes of my life. Afterward, we had a couple of beers and grilled sausages. It was fun.

On Saturdays we used to play soccer and then watch games on their big TVs. After everybody went home to shower, we came back and met a group of girls to play “Bible marathon”.

Someday, they invited everyone for a conference about sexuality. They introduced their panel: a sexologist, a radio broadcaster and two married couples. They abandoned the conference because they felt “they are not experts”. But to me their message was clear: listen to the experts not the dogmatic doctrine of the Church.

We also attended rock concerts -real ones, El Tri and Soda Stereo- not “church rock”. The majority of them were studying to become engineers or had studies in history. You could talk to them about anything. I invited Luis Manuel home to meet my parents right before he moved to Asia. My Mother prepared a nice dinner; we had wine, laughed and zero talk about religion. He laughed at my parents’ jokes and they bullied me talking about my stories. It was like saying goodbye to someone from the family.

I will always be grateful to them. They set the standard for what I believe religion should be: a place for personal enlightenment and extraordinary relationships. There was no room for dogmas or political non-sense.

Years later, I heard Luis Manuel had cancer. I do not know what happened to him.

For Spanish version, click here.

Economist and nerd. Dad.