To the greater glory of God

A young woman looking out over her chosen path

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I was educated at Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit boarding school in Lancashire. Although members of my father’s family had been educated at Stonyhurst for three generations I never expected that I would attend the school myself, it being a boys’ school. However, just a year after the College became co-educational, my mother became a member of staff at Stonyhurst and so we all moved up to Lancashire and my sister and I joined our brother there as day pupils. We were delighted that we wouldn’t miss out on the 'Stonyhurst experience' that seemed to have had such a positive impact on all the former pupils we knew, both family and friends. I spent eight years at Stonyhurst and can wholeheartedly say that the time spent there and, most importantly, the Jesuit values that were instilled in me in my education, continue to have a very strong influence on my life today.

Expected to give our very best

Stonyhurst felt immediately different from my Catholic primary school in that it had a very definite ethos, which was apparent in every aspect of life at the school. One of the first “Jesuit” things I learnt to do at the College was to start every piece of written work with the letters AMDG (to the greater glory of God) and then finish with LDS (praise God always), thus dedicating that work to God and reminding us that we were expected to give our best in every piece of work that we did.

Unfortunately, I fell out of this practice at university though it is one I would like to resurrect. The school motto, Quant Je Puis (as much as I can) was also taken seriously and we were expected to give of our best in every aspect of life, whether in academic work, sport, art, drama or service of others. This concept of men and women living their lives in service of others is one that is central to Jesuit education and a practice that was very much alive at Stonyhurst. All pupils took part in the Arrupe Project, named after Pedro Arrupe SJ, which consisted of social justice and charitable groups taking place within and outside of the Stonyhurst community. As pupils of a school ‘in the Jesuit tradition’, we were also introduced to Ignatian spirituality through year-group retreats, pilgrimages, and guided prayer weeks. We were encouraged to discern our vocation in life, something which we were taught each one of us had.

Discernment – the confidence to choose my path

Nothing is more practical than finding God - a Pedro Arrupe SJ quoteThe ‘Stonyhurst experience’ for me was so immersive and engrained in my approach to life that I took it very much for granted. When I left school and went to university I was shocked that the idea of an education based on a values system and moral code was completely foreign to most of my contemporaries. Although, at that time I had a difficult relationship with my Catholic faith, I never doubted the values that I was taught at school.

My education, and more specifically the Ignatian practice of discernment, has been of the utmost importance in giving me confidence to choose the path and vocation which most closely aligns with the unique person I am, as created by God. In my case, I decided that my vocation was to be embodied through marriage and devoting my time, energy and love to my husband and children. In some ways this may seem like a counter-cultural decision, and I think it is one that I would have found more difficult to make had it not been for my often fumbling yet still vital practice of prayer and discernment.

Prayer support and resources for a mature relationship with God

I am so grateful for all that I have received from my Jesuit education. It has provided me with a framework within which to live my life. This framework helps me to try to keep to the path of life that I want to follow. It helps me to aspire to do more and be more and to try to deepen my relationship with God each day.

It gives me an unending source of inspiration in the awesome Jesuit priests that I know today and those who lived in the past (my sons are, in fact, called Ignatius and Xavier!). I feel that my Jesuit formation is ongoing. Despite all of the positive influence I have received, I am someone who is by nature lazy in their attitude towards prayer. I am very fortunate to have been made aware of some of the wide range of Ignatian spirituality support and resources that are on offer, and I hope that, through them and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I can develop a more mature adult relationship with God.

Elizabeth Cohen


Go Deeper

St Ignatius, the pilgrimRead this 'Godtalk' piece by the late Peter Knott SJ on maturity as a Christian.

Godtalk: Gratitude

Watch and discover more about Stonyhurst College from some of the students themselves.