On the Rockhurst University campus, there is a building which everyone refers to as The MAC (Magis Activity Center). Most of its space is dedicated to equipment for training, shaping, and strengthening bodies’ physical well-being. “Magis” is an unusual word. It is a Latin adverb that translates into English as “the more” or “the greater.” It is one of the core values of Rockhurst and is related to the Jesuit motto, “Ad majorem dei glorium” (All for the greater glory of God). The Jesuit founder, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, believed that spiritual exercise is as important to the soul as physical exercise is to the body and study is to the mind. So, when students or others visit the MAC, much like they visit the classroom or the chapel, they do so with the intent of enhancing themselves: body, mind, and soul.
Each academic year, one of the university’s core values gets emphasized. This year’s emphasis is on magis, as our constituents are encouraged to pursue what is deeper, greater, and more. It is not unlike the four-year cycle of the Olympics in which a torch is lit in the host city and the Greek words, echoing from ancient times, ring out: “Citius! Altius! Fortius!” It means, “Faster! Higher! Stronger!” It suggests that we, as a global society, want to keep doing better—not just better as athletes but better as human beings who are entrusted with the earth’s every continent, as well as the waters that separate them. But more than running faster or jumping higher or fighting stronger, in magis we seek an even greater quality that reaches toward the divine.
I think it is illustrated well in the Gospels, when Jesus, the carpenter, comes to the seashore and gives the fishermen instructions on how to fish. It is almost laughable that they, who have been fishing all their lives and are the best in the business, would listen to someone who does not have any known fishing experience. But on several occasions, they benefit from His instruction. He says, “Go deeper.” He says, “Cast your net to the other side.” In doing so, He is essentially guiding them through magis, so they will do things differently from the way they’re used to, to go below the surface to a still deeper level in understanding, to trust in their ability and in God’s grace that we will reap greater rewards. Magis, in the Ignatian sense, refers to doing and being more, or doing and being greater, and doing and being it for Christ—much as the chief fisherman, Simon Peter, did—so that we can do more for, and be greater with, one another. As Jesus also often instructs His fisher-friends to sail to the other shore where He will meet them, He is reminding us about our existential journey from this shore to the other in figurative ways. This shore symbolizes today while that shore symbolizes tomorrow. This shore illustrates earth while that shore illustrates heaven. This shore is where we are right now in the physical, mental, and spiritual senses and that shore is where we are called to be through our encounters and interactions. Where we are sent by God to be is a place that is greater, a place that is the more, a place where He will meet us, a place of magis.