Educator as Advocate

In a recent conversation with a colleague about the times we feel most fulfilled as educators, my colleague spoke of those moments when he acts as an advocate for students. 

Advocate: that word stuck with me. Our modern usage thinks of advocate in many ways (as a supporter, for example), but my mind turned to the meaning of the word in the context of faith. In Jn 14:16, Jesus says, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever . . ." The word for counselor in verse 16 is the Greek parakletos, translated advocate. According to helpful study notes from my New Testament (Ignatius Press), the word parakletos "is a legal term for an attorney or spokesman who defends the cause of the accused in a courtroom. Jesus uses it for a heavenly intercessor who is called to the side of God's children to offer strength and support."

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The Holy Spirit is our Advocate. When we feel the attacks of the accuser, when we feel unworthy and sinful, the Holy Spirit comes to our defense. The Holy Spirit as Advocate stands on our behalf to defend our inherent worth and dignity, the possibility of hope and redemption, the chance of being acquitted.  

Sometimes my students and even my colleagues feel accused, unworthy, alone or isolated. I am not precisely sure of the theological soundness of this idea, but I think it's fair to say that in coming to be like God, in seeking to be like Christ, we should think about the ways that we can model the advocacy of the Holy Spirit. We might consider: In what ways are we "intercessing" for others, acquitting them of their self-accusations or the criticisms of others? How are we advocating for one another in their roles as coaches, teachers, and academic counselors? What does it mean to advocate -- to work on behalf of others, to come to their defense -- in the ministry of Ignatian education?  

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