Tell it to SunStar: Quest for ‘Magis’

By Herman M. Lagon
Tell it to SunStar.
Tell it to SunStar.SunStar file photo

In Jesuit education and spirituality, the term “Magis” (Latin for “more” or “to a greater degree”) resonates with a profound and personal significance. It is a way of life, more than just a concept. As someone who has experienced a 21-year Ignatian formation, I have defined my Magis as an endless desire to do greater things for the greater good. It is about being allergic to mediocrity and finding an antidote to burnout in pursuing this more. This relentless drive transcends the confines of academic learning, urging everyone to embrace becoming persons for and with others.

Best-selling author Fr. James Martin, SJ, highlights a crucial aspect of Magis: It is not about the pursuit of wealth, power, popularity, or status. Magis is about seeking ways to serve the Divine and the universal good, embodying the Jesuit motto “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” (For the Greater Glory of God). The “Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything” author believes that Magis is a call to find the extraordinary within our unique circumstances, motivated by love and devotion.

Ignatian spirituality presents Magis as a movement from the adequate to the exceptional, disrupting complacency and nurturing growth. It embodies giving more than adherence to norms and laws, as reflected in the encounter between Jesus and a young man in the Gospel of Matthew. Here, Magis is depicted as an act of gratuitous generosity, echoing the depth of love in actions.

For instance, beyond just fulfilling your job or academic requirements, you could volunteer for additional tasks that benefit the wider community or organization. This could be mentoring a new colleague or student, leading a community service project, or organizing an event that fosters team spirit and inclusivity. By doing so, you live out the spirit of Magis, contributing more than what is expected for the greater good of those around you.

Practicing Magis can be as simple as performing daily acts of kindness with greater intention and depth. This could mean giving spare change to a person in need and taking the time to engage with them, understanding their story, and directing them to helpful resources. It is about elevating everyday acts of kindness to a level that seeks to create a more lasting impact.

Applying Magis to environmental care may go beyond basic recycling or conservation efforts. It could mean advocating for sustainable practices in your community, participating in local clean-up drives, or even starting a green initiative at work or in your neighborhood. The goal is to contribute to the environment in a way that has a more substantial and long-term positive effect.

Theologian Fr. Barton T. Geger clarifies that Magis is not about working harder or achieving excellence in a traditional sense. Instead, it is about discerning actions that serve the most universal good. This interpretation of Magis applies to all, irrespective of their spiritual level, and aligns with the Jesuit mission in education and social justice.

Meanwhile, former Jesuit and “Heroic Leadership” author Chris Lowney’s perspective on Magis in leadership is compelling. Magis-driven leadership is not about reacting to crises but choosing a life of daily heroism. It is about seeing every day as an opportunity to contribute to something much larger than oneself, whether in teaching, research, business, politics, or any other field.

In Magis, one constantly seeks to improve themselves not just for personal gain but to better serve others. This might mean enhancing your capabilities and expertise or cultivating healthier practices that enhance your efficacy in both personal and professional realms, such as mastering a new language for more effective communication with a diverse populace, or pursuing a course in conflict resolution to foster a more harmonious and productive workplace environment.

Magis can also manifest in taking a proactive role in addressing community issues. Instead of being a passive observer, you might get involved in local governance, volunteer for community-led projects, advocate for mental wellness, or fight for social justice. The aim is to contribute positively to societal development and encourage others to do the same, creating a ripple effect of positive change. Our concept of “kapwa,” or sense of togetherness, can live out Magis by engaging in acts that uplift our communities and contribute to the common good.

For his part, “Heart on Fire” author Patrick Hyland, SJ, points out the frequent misuse of Magis. It is not just doing more; sometimes, it is about doing less but with more focus and alignment with our purpose of praising and serving Christ. This understanding shifts Magis from a mere quantitative measure to a qualitative one. It is about focusing on meaningful actions aligned with our purpose, which can bring joy and fulfillment. This approach is vital in avoiding the traps of overcommitment and burnout and ensuring that our endeavors are personally satisfying and service-oriented.

Magis holds relevance even for those not deeply spiritual, as opposed to religious ones. It encourages individuals to seek excellence and deeper meaning in their personal and professional lives, making it a universal principle that inspires and motivates beyond theological boundaries. Living out Magis is a dynamic and personal challenge. It is about constantly growing, seeking deeper understanding, and acting with greater love and purpose. This journey is unique for each individual, shaped by their context and capabilities.

Magis calls us to live for a purpose greater than ourselves. It invites us to find and serve the greater good uniquely. This pursuit is not limited to a Jesuit ideal but is a universal invitation to elevate our lives beyond the ordinary, striving for the extraordinary in service to others. In this journey, we find the true essence of Magis—a life lived in dedication to something far greater than personal achievement.


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