How does one continue to be creative? It seems like sometimes there can be a great new idea, but after it’s launched, our brain goes on vacation and our creational gear slips right back into neutral. Problems, old and new, present themselves and we continue to resolve them the way we always did. Is that the fate of all new ideas? How do we keep that creative spark alive and ask ourselves if there isn’t a new and better way to go about what we are doing?
Here at the Cristo Rey Network, for instance, while the magic of our model is the creation of a new revenue stream for the schools, the same revenue stream isn’t available to the Network itself. I guess the first answer is that we always have to be critical. To criticize something is to make a judgment about it. Somewhere along the line of our (or at least my) religious formation, I think we have concluded that somehow we should not be judgmental. (It’s true that Pope Francis’ comment “Who am I to judge?” gained worldwide attention, but he never meant to say that we should never make a judgment about anything!) We are quick to quote St. Ignatius’ motto of AMDG, For the Greater Glory of God, for instance, but to decide what constitutes God’s greater glory requires making a judgment. We judge that a particular action will give God more glory than another one. So to be critical about how we go about something is to judge that this particular action is better than another one. In the case of the Network, we talk about imposing a tax on the schools. We say that they profit from the Network’s existence so they should be obliged to pay for it, even though many of them are already under a tremendous financial burden. Do we make that judgment just because that’s the way we always did it?
I’m sure you know that Sr. Helen Prejean is the Sister of St. Joseph who works with prisoners on death row and is the one most responsible for making us see the barbarity of capital punishment. She has given us a wonderful tool of discernment when she says that if something isn’t scary, a surprise and an adventure all at the same time, then it is not the gospel of Jesus. In other words, the Holy Spirit is not necessarily identified with the tried and the true. We cannot give up the quest for creativity. May we always leave room for an adventure, for what surprises and scares us. We cannot get comfortable with “the way we always do it.”