Fr. Stempsey teaches philosophy and medical ethics at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass.
"What makes me happy to be a religious today?"
Everyone these days seems to be seeking happiness, but you can't find happiness by directly seeking it. Happiness, as the ancient Greeks realized, is a fulfilled, flourishing human life. For Aristotle, this is a life of contemplation-a life filled with opportunities to reflect deeply on what is most important. St. Ignatius of Loyola urges us to go even deeper: to become contemplatives in action, people living busy lives but continually striving to find God in all the things.
As I think back over thirty years as a Jesuit, I realize that religious life has offered manifold opportunities for just this kind of contemplation. When I became a Jesuit I stopped practicing medicine, a deeply fulfilling profession itself, but I began thinking much more deeply about that profession. My mission, for over twenty years, has been studying and teaching philosophy, and doing research and writing about the philosophy of medicine. This mission has presented more opportunities to contemplate life, death, suffering and the meaning of it all than anyone could expect in a single lifetime. I have come to realize that God is indeed in all things-in students eager to learn; in fellow scholars from around the world gathering to discuss their research; in dusty old books filled with ancient wisdom long forgotten by the modern world; and even in suffering. But most fulfilling is knowing that I am part of a bigger mission, which joins me with Jesuits around the world in helping others find God in all things.