Vol. 167 No. 31 - July 30 - August 05, 2016
Finding God in all things and to work for the greater glory of God is characteristic of the Jesuits. Our mission is to Glorify God in all things. We find this outlined in 1 Corinthians 10:31 which states, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
Therefore Jesuits always think about four questions: What have I done for Christ and His Universal Church? What am I doing for Christ and His Mission? What will I do for Christ and His people? What is my commitment, loyalty to accomplish St Ignatius Loyola's Vision? In the vision of our founder, we seek to "find God in all things." We dedicate ourselves to the "greater glory of God" and the good of all humanity. And we do so gratefully in collaboration with others who share our values, including laypersons, who have become part of the "we", the extended Jesuit family.
In our varied ministries, we care for the whole person: body, mind, and soul. And especially in our pastoral, social and education ministries, we seek to foster "men and women for others." Jesuits draw on the rich tradition of Ignatius' spirituality and reflection. In our retreat centres, parishes, campus ministries and other settings, we offer these resources to all who want to discern God's presence in their lives. At the same time, we also aim to be "contemplatives in action," people who bring this spirituality into the wide world. That includes our work on behalf of global justice, eco-spirituality, peace, and dialogue. Our collaboration with the laity flows from our personal relationships with Christ. We see ourselves as companions of Jesus, and we invite others to join with us, as friends in the Lord. Together we build up the body of Christ. From experience and reflection, we know that meaning, value, and divine purpose can be revealed "in all things."
Throughout much of the world, the Jesuits are best known for their colleges, universities and high schools. But in a time when many are searching for greater meaning, another aspect of Jesuit life is attracting wide interest. And that is the unique spirituality introduced nearly 500 years ago by St Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. He established the Society of Jesus in 1540, instructing the early Jesuits to go out and "find God in all things." That is the signature spirituality of the Jesuits.
Ignatius' spirituality is grounded in the conviction that God is active in our world. As the great Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, wrote: "God is not remote from us. He is at the point of my pen, my paintbrush, my needle, my heart and my thoughts." The spiritual path laid out by Ignatius is a way of discerning God's presence in our everyday lives, and doing something about it. Ignatius' spirituality is not merely an inward journey, much less a self-absorbed one. It aims to bring people closer to God and more deeply into the world with gratitude, passion, and humility not away from it. Ignatius called on the Jesuits to be "contemplatives in action." Today, Jesuits and their lay collaborators work with people in many walks of life, such as education and the pastoral. They help to cultivate "men and women for others."
In today's world, collaboration between Jesuits and laity apostolate in Mission is the biggest challenge for the Jesuits. Challenges putting collaboration between lay people and Jesuits in a wider theological and ecclesial context, it seems clear that collaboration is more necessary than ever, because neither the Mission of the Church, nor that of the Society can be conceived today without the participation of the laity. It is a common mission which we must learn to share. This does not mean that everyone needs to perform the same role. Each one has his or her specific role, with complementary commitments and in need of one another.
John Froz, SJ is a Pastor, Writer, Media Person and former Editor of Jesuit Parivar.
Recently, in a conversation with La Civita Cattolica, Pope Francis asked and answered a question about his identity, "Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio? I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon." It is very likely that in this he would have been influenced by Decree 2 of the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus (1974-1975), which asked and responded to the question of who and what a Jesuit is. This is what the decree said in its introduction - "What is it to be a Jesuit? It is to know that one is a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus as Ignatius was. Pope Francis was the Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus in Argentina (1973-79), and in this role would have been a member of that Congregation.
The Decree itself was probably a reflection on the beginnings of the life of Ignatius who was quite aware of the fact that he was a sinner. His desire for constant and austere penances in the days following his 'conversion' is testimony to this. Most of his days spent in the cave at Manresa were spent in penance and prayer as reparation for his sins. The realisation that he was a sinner was the first step to his experiencing the unconditional love of God. It was the beginning of his conversion and transformation into the kind of person he was to become.
St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, is undoubtedly, an outstanding figure in world history, the history of the Catholic Church, and in the fields of education and management. He was born at Loyola, Spain, in 1491 - at a time of great voyages of discovery. A year after he was born, Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas, and a few years later, in 1498, Vasco da Gama landed at Calicut, South India. In 1517, just four years before Ignatius was wounded at the battle of Pamplona (on May 20, 1521), Martin Luther had revolted against the Catholic Church at Wittenberg, in Germany, and ignited the great religious upheaval in Europe, known as the Reformation, which led millions to abandon the Catholic Church and became Protestants. Thus, it appears as if God, in His providence, raised up Ignatius, precisely at this time, to strengthen His weakening Church, restore its credibility, and bring back many who had strayed from it.
Given his upbringing at the royal courts, the young Ignatius dreamt of becoming a great soldier - a noble knight doing deeds of valour for his lady love and his king. At the battle of Pamplona, he was leading a small garrison, defending the fortress against a vastly superior French army. Though his men, seeing the heavy odds against them, were ready to capitulate, Ignatius insisted on fighting till the bitter end. As the battle raged, a cannon-ball struck his right leg, and seriously wounded him. With his fall, the Spaniards immediately surrendered. The French troops, full of admiration for the grit and determination shown by the valiant Spanish nobleman, rushed to give him first-aid, and even arranged to send him back to his family castle of Loyola. During his convalescence there, Ignatius asked for some romantic novels to pass the time
There are many things that one can say of Ignatius Loyola, for he was a key figure in an age which was a turning point in the history of Europe and of the world.
Clare Booth Luce, the American feminist writer, used to say: "A great man is a single sentence", meaning thereby that the achievements of history's great men can usually be summed up in one line. Thus we say: "Alexander was a great conqueror." Or, "Einstein changed the way we look at space and time." So let me frame that line for Ignatius: Ignatius taught the modern Church to pray. Saints Benedict and Basil did this for the medieval Church, for they are the 'fathers' of monasticism, and the monks were the great spiritual teachers in an earlier age. But Ignatius lived at the cusp of modernity, and what he taught affects us still.
What is the chief characteristic of modernity? The experience of subjectivity. The ancient and the medieval world emphasised society, the clan and the family. Modern man, by contrast, sets himself at the centre, and sees everything from that perspective. For this is what 'being modern' is – giving importance to oneself and one's personal experience over one's community or social order.
One of the most fascinating videos I have seen is a documentary called 'Cosmic Journey' (available on YouTube). The journey begins by looking at a square foot of our planet Earth. From here, it zooms out ten times, so you see ten times more of the surface area, and it keeps zooming out in magnitudes of ten, so that soon you are seeing the whole country and the continent and globe; then you are seeing our solar system and our galaxy, and you keep zooming out, until you are seeing as much of the universe as our modern telescopic equipment is capable of capturing. And as you sit there, beholding the majesty and the grandeur of the universe, you cannot help but be awestruck at the infinite magnitude of our Creator God. But then, the journey goes back to a single drop of water and begins to zoom in—again in magnitudes of 10. So you enter the microscopic realm and then the sub-microscopic, the world of cells, and molecules and atoms and nano-particles, until you are enveloped in the tiniest sub-atomic particles known to human science–which are no less fascinating than the inter-stellar spectacle you were witnessing just a few minutes earlier.
This "cosmic journey" is a wonderful metaphor for what Ignatian Spirituality has to offer us today. Most of us have a tendency to look for God's revelation at the cosmic, colossal level. And our tradition certainly has enough instances when God has revealed Himself in dramatic ways: at Mt Sinai, at the Red Sea, in Jesus' amazing healings and miracles. But St Ignatius (along with nearly every other saint) also understood that God is revealing Himself inside of us, at the very core of our humanity and being. We are not simply to understand God's revelation as something that is external to us; rather God, through Jesus, also wants us to look deep within ourselves to see how He is present in our interior-most feelings, desires and experiences
Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls.
The other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings, to help them in the pursuit of the end for which they are created.
From this, it follows that we ought to use these things to the extent that they help us toward our end, and free ourselves from them to the extent that they hinder us from it.
To attain this, it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, in regard to everything which is left to our free will and is not forbidden.
Consequently, on our own part, we ought not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honour rather than dishonour, a long life rather than a short one, and so on in all other matters.
Rather, we ought to desire and choose only that which is more conducive to the end for which we are created. (Sp. Ex. 23)
The Principle and Foundation is the first exercise in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola. It gives us a clear understanding of the purpose of our creation, and how we can live our life more meaningfully and out of freedom. It is a doorway to enter into the Spiritual journey of our own self through the Spiritual Exercises into the Divine Presence. Here we encounter God of our creation, redemption and sanctification. Having experienced this God and come into His presence, we on our part are moved to discern ways that will strengthen us to do His will joyfully and faithfully.
In the Mission Church of Santa Clara University, California, where I did my doctoral studies, the 9:00 p.m. Sunday Mass was a delightful spiritual-cum-social activity that students yearned for, after a strenuous study week. It was popular, because it was completely student-focused, organised by them to the least detail. Their participation was so devoutly exuberant, that one not familiar with the local ethos could wonder what role the priest would have in it. As the "main celebrant", he was noticed only at the homily and at the consecration. The Mass was so lively and enjoyable, perhaps because it had so little to do with rubrics or rituals, that college freshmen, from traditional Catholic parishes, would sometimes ask me, a Resident Campus Minister, whether Jesuits belonged to the Catholic Church. When I would answer with a strongly felt affirmative, their usual response was: "No kidding!"
Jesuits have a great reputation for being obedient to their Superiors, and especially to the Pope. But they also have one for doing their own thing, with directives coming from above falling off them, like water off a duck's back. In the Age of the Enlightenment, the kings and princes of Europe expelled the Jesuits from their territories, because they were too much the Pope's men. And the great irony is that eventually, they, who took a unique Fourth Vow of obedience to the Pope, and with no evidence that they were unfaithful to it, were themselves suppressed by a Pope.
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