James R. Page, SJ
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Fell in love with philosophy at the University of Toronto.
- Taught Scripture at St. Louis University High School.
- Served as a deacon at St. Michael’s Church in Bedford, Massachusetts.
Will serve at St. Francis Xavier College Church at Saint Louis University and assist in their campus ministry.
James R. Page, SJ, was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, by his two parents, John and Maria Page, alongside his younger brother, David Page. He attended Pomona College for undergraduate studies and majored in economics, while also becoming involved in a number of Bible study groups across the campuses of the Claremont Consortium. Entering the second semester of his junior year, he met the Jesuit priest Donald Hawkins, SJ, at that time the pastor of the Holy Name of Jesus Church in New Orleans, who would go on to become the first person to suggest that James consider a vocation to the priesthood. In the second semester of his junior year, James studied abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, taking courses in Hebrew and Jewish studies. After college, James discerned to seek admittance to the Society of Jesus. The summer before entering the Jesuits, he went on the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela. As he began the pilgrimage in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, he was told that he had been accepted into the Jesuits.
For his first two years as a Jesuit, as a novice, James did apostolic work in a number of different places: living in a L’Arche community near Kansas City, tutoring children in Nicaragua, working in high schools in Denver and Houston, among other ministries. After taking vows, he left to study philosophy at Regis College at the University of Toronto. During his three years in Toronto, he also worked in catechetical programs, a L’Arche community, and participated in a number of interreligious dialogues hosted by the university. After graduating, James went to teach Scripture at St. Louis University High School. While there, James also helped in their retreat programs and started a Philosophy Club. James then went on to earn his Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, with a focus on Scripture. He was part of the RCIA program at St. Ignatius Church, and during his diaconate year he worked at St. Michael’s Church in Bedford, Massachusetts. His first assignment as a priest will be serving in the College Church at Saint Louis University and assisting in their campus ministry.
Bachelor’s degree, economics, Pomona College; Master of Theological Studies, philosophy, Regis College, University of Toronto; Licentiate in Sacred Theology, Scripture, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
I have a number of favorite saints: Claude la Colombière, SJ, Gregory Palamas, Thomas Aquinas, etc. Perhaps the saint that I have spent the most time with, reading about him and his life, would be Augustine of Hippo. Though I find myself thoroughly disagreeing with him on many points, he is the only saint whose writings have reliably been able to move me to tears, especially his Expositions on the Psalms. Reading Augustine, I could not help but feel his passion for the Scriptures and his eager desire to understand. My own love of Scripture grew from reading and encountering his commentaries early in my conversion.
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
I would have to say that the most pleasurable hobby I have cultivated in my Jesuit life has been the art of calligraphy. Though I don’t know if it’s fair to say that I was the one doing the cultivating. My mother, an artist in New Orleans, was the one who taught me calligraphy. Any success I have in this craft is due to her patient instruction. I have always loved the experience of the visual arts, having been raised by an artist; however, I never quite excelled at painting. A number of difficulties present themselves when learning how to paint (obviously, it’s a difficult skill to master!). However, given that I am color-blind (to some degree), I had tremendous difficulties fully appreciating the nuances that a painting palette could convey onto a canvas. Calligraphy allows me to draw words beautifully, where color differences are not as important in terms of communicating meaning. I have been able to slowly develop my skill in drawing Greek lettering, which makes for relaxing meditation when writing out Scripture verses. I am still working on drawing out Hebrew letters in calligraphy!
What was one particularly meaningful experience you had during your formation, and why was it meaningful to you?
One of the most meaningful experiences I have had as a Jesuit was panhandling on the sidewalk in Dupont Circle, in Washington, D.C. During the novitiate, we go on what’s called “the Pilgrimage Experiment.” We’re given a ticket and five dollars in cash and told to beg our way across the United States. I remember looking at the place where I had planned to panhandle, walking toward the spot where I had wanted to sit, but when the moment came to sit down, I couldn’t bring myself to sit down. I awkwardly switched directions and crossed the street. I began pacing, collecting myself, trying to muster up the courage to simply sit down. I turned back around and headed back to the same place that I had avoided moments before. As I sat down, as soon as I sat down, as soon as I turned toward the foot traffic and saw the people passing me by, I was cut off. No one looked at me, no one acknowledged me, people scurried by, studiously avoiding acknowledging my presence. It was an experience of being released from society. And I was only there for three days. I met a number of other panhandlers over the three days I was there. One lady, in particular, with whom I panhandled, she taught me some of what to do when living on the street. But I go back to that experience of being cut off from the rest of society, the moment I sat down, and I cannot even begin to think of what that must do to someone who experiences that day after day after day.
The only group of people who never ignored me, who always acknowledged my presence, were children. They would always look to see who was sitting there, only to be corrected by their parents, who would tell them to look away. It was a startling realization, seeing this behavior over and over, on the part of parents toward their children. I admit, it was a shock, to see what was happening at that young age, to realize that as children, we were already being socialized to cordon off the breadth of our vision, to make our vision of who is human, who is part of my community, my neighbor, smaller and smaller and smaller. I was learning through experience that this narrowness of vision was something that we were taught as children, not something that came naturally. I have continued to reflect on this insight throughout my life as a Jesuit. This experience, toward the very beginning of my life as Jesuit, has continued to nourish my ministry, challenging me to be more compassionate, more vulnerable and more humble in the face of alterity, knowing that everyone I meet really does have a natural desire to witness to the universality of the human family.
Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only six words.
“Lord, to whom can we go?” (John 6:68)