With the election of Pope Francis as the Bishop of Rome, questions about Jesuits and Ignatian spirituality have surfaced in both religious and secular circles. In light of this, the contributors of Ibo et Non Redibo have decided to launch a blog series on Ignatian spirituality. In six blog entries, we will attempt to introduce some key principles by which Jesuits live, and how these insights may be useful to the Church and to the world. The previous four entries addressed the discernment of spirits, the idea of Magis, "men/ women for others" and holy indifference; the following is the fifth entry.
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The Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father Adolfo Nicolás, visited Canada in the summer of 2011. During his visit, he suggested that the Society of Jesus, the Catholic Church and the world in general are faced with the same challenges. As Jesuits, we have to identify these serious challenges and problems; we need to study and tackle them with depth of thought and compassionate imagination. Fr. Nicolás called us to a more profound reflection on the challenges of the world and subsequently to find creative solutions that address the heart of these issues.
Among the many key principles by which Jesuits live, this striving for depth and creativity is the most recent and not very well-known. Strictly speaking, this principle is not novel to the charism of the Society of Jesus. It is evident from the basic rule of the Society of Jesus, the Formula of the Institute: every Jesuit is called to strive for the defence and the propagation of the faith through diverse ministries of the Word of God and through all forms of service that lead to the salvation of souls, the greater glory of God and the common good. At the time the Formula of the Institute was written in the mid-1500s, new geographical horizons were discovered, and the first companions of St. Ignatius were sent to proclaim the Gospel to peoples and cultures that did not know the Lord. This required a great love for the people, as well as deep reflections on the reality at hand and creative fidelity. As it was then, so it is now: we are called to actively listen to these people in order to bring the message of the Gospel to where they are. We enter through their door, and we do so by exercising our imagination and engaging theirs. This has always been our way of life, our mode of proceeding.
Along with the Formulas of the Institute, the Thirty-Fifth General Congregation of the Society of Jesus (GC35) – which took place in 2008 – was more explicit and intentional in calling all Jesuits to renew our desire to serve in a profound way. Our mission to work at the new frontiers of our times requires that we be rooted at the very heart of the Church and that we love and serve with true creative fidelity (GC 35, D 1, n 13). To be rooted at the very heart of the Church requires depth of thought and spiritual depth. This rootedness in the Church implies that we are invited to feel and think with the Church as stated in the Spiritual Exercises, while loving and serving the world. We are invited to be in the Church and for the world.
To be faithful and fruitful in this mission, we need a deep faith along with human and social sensibility, as Pope Benedict XVI reminded the Jesuit delegates of GC 35. In that address, Pope Benedict reminded us: “As my predecessors have often told you, the Church needs you, counts on you, and continues to turn to you with conﬁdence, particularly to reach the geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach or find it difﬁcult to reach.” This requires creativity to reach and serve the frontiers where God seems absent, but where in reality he is always present and at work. As Jesuits, we are called to the frontiers of new and developing technologies, eco-sustainability, complex migration policies and patterns, and globalization. We are also called to address old frontiers such as relativism and atheism, while taking into account the reflection and experience of almost five centuries of working in the vineyard of the Lord.
This call for depth and creativity warrants a concrete example. There is a great need in the Church and in our world to better understand migration flows and patterns in light of economic development, or lack thereof. As Jesuits, we are called not only to an in-depth understanding of these issues, but also to love and serve migrants – to care for them in a compassionate way. To understand the challenges of our Church and the world requires that we live in creative obedience to the Word of God and to his bride, the Church. We need to be attentive to the Word of God, and to seek to do God’s will by finding creative solutions to the needs that we perceive.
The striving for depth and creativity is not just for Jesuits, but also for everyone. The mission of the Society of Jesus to live and proclaim a faith that does justice is an invitation to all to realize that we depend upon one another. For this, we need an enhanced awareness that “we bear a common responsibility for the welfare of the entire world and its development in a sustainable way” (GC 35, D 2, n 20). In order to help others grow in this awareness and to invite them to labour along our side, we need a union of minds and hearts that think and feel deeply. We need to acquire enough freedom to imagine and re-create the world with Christ, rooted in his bride, for love of the world. It is an invitation to build God’s kingdom together by responding to the needs of our time in deep and creative ways. It is a call to probe the depths of our minds and hearts to think and love this world into greater union with its Creator.