The Jeffries Family Way

Jesuit Magazine Summer 22

“All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully.”
– Saint Ignatius of Loyola

By Tim Jeffries ’81

Suffering is painful, at times horribly painful. It ravages the body in ways large and small. Major injuries and surgeries do not need to occur to make this so; chronic pain crushes countless many every day. Suffering vexes the mind. We wonder how something bad happened. We question why something bad occurred. We struggle to make sense of it. Suffering torments the soul. Anger and rage often join with it. Tears and sobs are part and parcel of it. Loneliness and desolation, including suicidal thoughts, can occur because of it. Suffering is a temporal scourge, a famine, a flood. Suffering does not often make temporal sense, particularly if it involves and impacts a life well lived, a family well raised, charitable deeds well done. Suffering is typically an exhausting, pain-riddled conundrum, even when physical and emotional healing advance.

Thanks to God’s Holy Providence, suffering is also a mysterious participation in the life of Jesus Christ. If we let Jesus Christ via the Holy Spirit help us, what may surely be a disturbing set of suffering circumstances (body, mind, or soul) can often be the charting of a glorious path to the Kingdom of Heaven. Quoting the Catholic Catechism, the holy grace of Jesus Christ is a “gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.” Amen, with God’s help and purpose, suffering is often the truest path, the most consequential avenue, to the Faith, Hope and Charity that we need to survive and thrive. It is our mysterious opportunity to be cruciformed to Jesus Christ, our Holy Savior. In short, my four years of learning and spiritual care at Jesuit High School, “Changed and saved my life.” In countless ways, this is also the case for my beloved, heroic mother who was blessed by the Jesuits, most especially by Father Ed Harris, S.J.

Although blessed with happy moments, my childhood home on the other side of the American River was filled with domestic chaos and violence, countless tears, and immense heartbreak. My father was a tall, handsome “man’s man” with an array of failings. My mother was and remains beautiful, she was the runner up in the Miss Sacramento pageant in 1957. To this day, her radiance is exponentially increased by her love and kindness despite the vexing suffering of her youth and her marriage.

When my parents were married, we did not have much money. By God’s grace, they scraped together the money to pay for my big brother Michael’s sophomore and junior years at Jesuit High School. Burdened with learning issues, Michael struggled academically and had to leave Jesuit prior to my freshman year. Yet, Michael’s two years at Jesuit were the best years of his life prior to his horrific murder four years later.

During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Jesuit, my broken yet intrepid mother finally mustered the strength to divorce my failed father. My dear mother insisted that she keep our lower middle-class home for “her boys.” So, instead of receiving alimony payments for her 21 years of marriage, my mother had to make monthly payments to my father to “buy our home.” Despite working multiple jobs, our fractured family was broke. There was no extra money for many of the things we needed, including tuition money for my sophomore, junior, and senior years at Jesuit.

My mother was and remains one of my heroes. Yet, in addition to being broke during those dark days, my extraordinary mother did not possess a shred of self-esteem. Alas, the weight of her holy cross had her mysteriously pinned to the figurative ground. This heartbreaking reality made it that much more difficult for my mother and me to visit Jesuit High School in the summer of 1978. Once there, we met with Father President Gerald Wade, S.J., and tearfully shared our circumstances and pled for the continuance of my Jesuit education. This meeting was akin to the Garden of Gethsemane for us. Father Wade, and later Father President Daniel Sullivan, S.J., proved to be our angels in our garden. Both Father Presidents allowed me to attend Jesuit tuition free. All they asked in return was that I continue to thrive at Jesuit and my mother “pay some tuition” when she could. However, my mother was never able to pay any tuition, but she is now the second largest donor to the Class of 1981 Father Ed Harris Scholarship Endowment. Understandably, she shed tears of thanksgiving when she gave alms to Jesuit.

I have operated in a state of profound debt to the Jesuit community ever since Father Wade blessed us with a life-changing, life-saving miracle. My heartfelt debt is that much more profound due to the Jesuits’ love and kindness for my beloved mother and me when we were so broken. The love and kindness have never ceased. Father Harris (aka “Padre”) was the celebrant at my big brother Michael’s funeral in 1981. Father Harris was one of the five wonderful Jesuit priests who married my beloved Mary Frances and me in 1987, and he worked with my beloved mother and incredible stepfather to validate their marriage in the Roman Catholic Church in the 1990’s. Father Harris also baptized my youngest daughter Rachel in 1997. In addition, other extraordinary Jesuits have positively impacted and profoundly inflected the Jeffries Family, most notably Father Greg Bonfiglio, S.J., a former JHS President, helped me finally forgive my big brother murderer’s in 2008. Amen, miracles happen!!

Saint Rose of Lima witnessed, “Apart from the Holy Cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to Heaven.” Thanks be to God, my beloved mother, my blessed family, and me have been blessed with Jesuits since 1977 who have lovingly showed us God’s ladder of mercy. These amazing holy men of God also continue to steady this ladder for us directly and indirectly to this very day. The Jeffries Family Way is the “Way of the Cross.” By way of the Holy Spirit, the Jesuits miraculously made and lovingly continue to make this humble, holy way possible.