Friday, 5 April 2013

Men and Women for Others

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org

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 two entries addressed the discernment of spirits and the idea of Magis; the following is the third entry.

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Many of you who have studied at Jesuit institutions are familiar with the motto “Men and Women for Others”. This concept has been at the core of Jesuit identity since the beginning of the existence of the Society of Jesus, and is consequently at the core of one formed in the Ignatian tradition. The motto is nevertheless a simple one: we are to be at the service of our brothers and sisters. This service is multifaceted: there is the service of faith and the Gospel, service of the poor, service of justice, and service of education, which involves teaching others the first three “services” that are mentioned.

It is the hope of the Society of Jesus that through these experiences of serving others, Jesuit institutions will instill certain values in their students. Here are but a few: generosity with one’s time, energies, and resources, learning to endure ridicule and persecution, being attentive to the needs of those around you, and having a discerning heart in order to answer God’s call to serve whenever and wherever.

This phrase originated from a talk given by the then-Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, to the Tenth International Congress of Jesuit Alumni of Europe in the Spanish city Valencia on July 31st of 1973. At this Congress, Fr. Arrupe stated that “Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others; men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ - for the God-man who lived and died for all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbours; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce.”

This emphasis on a heart-felt service in charity that Fr. Arrupe spoke of finds its Jesuit origins in the Spiritual Exercises (Sp. Ex.) of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The four “weeks” or stages of the Exercises are meant to help us attain an interior freedom in order that we may follow Christ in service in whichever way we are called. The four weeks end with a meditation called “Contemplation to attain the love of God”. Before the retreatants launch themselves into the prayer, St. Ignatius first calls their attention to two very important points, which have become foundational to the identity of Jesuit mission (Sp. Ex. 230-231):

1. The first is that love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than in words.

2. The second is that love consists in a mutual sharing of goods, for example, the lover gives and shares with the beloved what he possesses, or something of that which he has or is able to give; and vice versa, the beloved shares with the lover. Hence, if one has knowledge, he shares it with the one who does not possess it; and so also if one has honours, or riches. Thus, one always gives to the other.

Let us not think that St. Ignatius invented charitable service towards our brothers and sisters! It is at the heart of the Christian message: the call to service and care for our fellow brothers and sisters is all-present in the New Testament. In order to be authentic, this service ought to freely proceed out of our love for God and neighbour, rather than from any hope for recompense. The following verses from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians may serve as a brief summary: “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love…you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Gal 5:6, 13-14, italics mine)

The heart of the Ignatian motto “Men and Women for Others” is the integration of faith and justice, and this helps to shatter two bad practices which are essentially different sides of the same coin: when one pulls away from works of justice while only concerning oneself with works of faith; and when one disregards faith while only engaging in works of justice. Fr. Arrupe reminds us that Christ calls us to integrate both aspects. To separate one from the other is false – it is a false icon of the Gospel.

Credit: http://www.telegraph.co.ukv
This may be of help as we understand Pope Francis’ immediate concern for the poor and marginalized upon assuming the Petrine office. Pope Francis celebrated the Lord’s Supper at a juvenile detention centre on Holy Thursday. In his homily, he made sure to highlight the importance of service. He said, “...it is the Lord’s example: he is the most important, and he washes feet, because with us what is highest must be at the service of others…And with us too, don’t we have to wash each other’s feet day after day? But what does this mean? That all of us must help one another: this is what Jesus teaches us and this is what I am doing, and doing with all my heart…I must be at your service.”

“Men and Women for Others” means that we must be at each other’s service in an act of integrating faith and justice, and this service ought to be done in joy and love. So many of our brothers and sisters desperately need our message of faith, hope, and love; as well as our resources, talents, and our loving hearts. We can live this out as we encounter others in our everyday lives. How do we respond to others' needs? How are we utilizing our energies and resources? Are we able to see Christ in others?

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