More than Lip Service | Obama, Gay Marriage, and Unconditional Love

Fall and Spring are so nourishing at Loyola.  I find myself excited by the things I learn, the challenges I’m given, the classmates and professors who help me grow.  Then summer comes.  I take one class, maybe two, and the thrill of it all is packed into a few short weeks before I have no choice but to take a break.  And yet!

Last week Barack Obama spoke up in favor of gay marriage.  In that moment of his standing up for those who are marginalized, the excitement that normally comes to me through my courses set my heart once again on fire.  Why?  Because I saw a man who has been given great power – and with it, great responsibility – use that power to give voice to the voiceless, to show respect to those who are outcast, to preach acceptance and love not in a sermon but in his simply choosing not to discriminate, not to hate.

This is what Loyola is teaching me.  It is what Jesus – and the Jesuits who founded Loyola University Maryland – have always taught:  love unconditionally.  No wonder my heart is aflame when class is in session!  Learning to love is essentially getting to know God, Who is love.  The disciples asked regarding Jesus, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked to us on the road… (Luke 24:32)?”  I often refer to my experience at Loyola as my journey…I am walking with Him on this road and my heart is indeed burning.

Yet this summer my heart is burning again as I watch a man with so much power over others attempt to give that power to those without.  I took Intro to Pastoral Counseling a few semesters ago with Dr. Stewart-Sicking.  He had us not only reading about empowering others through our counseling but also through fighting the systems that keep others on the margins.  We were compelled to do service learning – I did mine at Bon Secours Hospice in Richmond, VA – so we could better understand those who are most in need of compassion – and action.  It gives me hope to see the leader of the free world risk so much (it is, after all, an election year) in favor of compassion.  Perhaps the citizens of his country will be inspired to risk the same.

I am taking only one course this summer although I dare say I am immersed in a second.  It is the course of Life, prerequisite:  Love.

Loyola’s Most Influencial People

Time magazine recently had an article naming their 100 most influential people of 2012, which made me start thinking about the different professors I have experienced through Loyola’s Pastoral Program and how they have influenced my life.

In the early part of 2009, I attended an information session about Pastoral Counseling at Loyola’s Columbia Campus.  Different speakers shared their experience in the Pastoral Counseling Department at Loyola.  I will never forget how I felt when Dr. Ciarrocchi, a professor in the Pastoral Department, spoke at the meeting.  His very presence embodied the spirit of Loyola.  I was so moved by how he described Loyola’s Pastoral Program that I knew in an instant that I had to become a part of whatever he was talking about.

On orientation day for the new Pastoral Counseling students, we were grouped according to the program we were joining.  I was confused as to which group I should join because I wasn’t sure if I was going to pursue my masters degree or take the classes I needed in order to be licensed.  I received my Masters in Clinical Psychology from Towson University in 1997 and it felt like a lifetime had passed since that time.  Dr. Fialkowski, director of M.S. admissions in the Pastoral Counseling Department, had recommended that I look into the Certificate of Advance Study program which would allow me to take the classes missing from my masters that were required for a Maryland license. 

I was very emotional on orientation day, scared to take this big step back into the world of graduate school and wondering if I had made the right decision.  At the beginning of the session with Dr. Ciarrocchi, he asked us what it was that brought us to this program.  When it came time for me to share, I surprised myself by breaking down in tears.  It had only been a year since I lost my brother to cancer.  Losing my brother propelled me to really reflect on my life and what I wanted to accomplish in my time here.  Dr. Ciarrocchi’s loving presence exuded from him while he comforted me and gave me the time and space I needed. Dr. Ciarrocchi fought a long battle with cancer which ended in the fall of 2010. He was the first professor I would have at Loyola and his being has left a forever imprint on my life.

Thank you! A note from Tucker Brown, PhD

Tucker BrownDear Pastoral Counseling Faculty,

I am honored and humbled that you awarded me the Dr. Barry K. Estadt medal.  I belong to such a supportive and dynamic cohort of students; this honor is as much theirs as mine.  Thank you for helping to create an atmosphere of thriving, love, and life-long friendship.

 I worked hard as a student and I approached the pastoral counseling program as a formation experience, as a process that would shape me into a skillful, wise, attuned, and responsive healer.  I worked hard and I recognize that I am graduating on Saturday very, very much because of your encouragement and pruning — your illumination of my growing edges and your honest response to my efforts.

By your instruction, presence, and patience I have been discovering a voice that might be of service to others.

 My wife, Emily, and I are going to New Mexico because we feel called to live and work among those whose voices some call illegal.  I have been able to honor and nurture a desire to answer this call with your wisdom, teaching, and blessing, and for that I am most grateful!

See you at the reception.

In gratitude,

Tucker