The Successor of Ignatius and the Successor of Peter
From the greeting of the new Father General of the Jesuits to Pope Benedict at today’s audience:
What inspires and impels us is the Gospel and the Spirit of Christ: if the Lord Jesus was not at the centre of our life we would have no sense of our apostolic activity, we would have no reason for our existence. It is from the Lord Jesus we learn to be near to the poor and suffering, to those who are excluded in this world.
The spirituality of the Society of Jesus has as its source the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. And it is in the light of the Spiritual Exercises – which in their turn inspired the Constitutions of the Society – that the General Congregation is in these days tackling the subjects of our identity and of our mission. The Spiritual Exercises, before becoming a precious tool for the apostolate, are for the Jesuit the touchstone by which to judge our own spiritual maturity.
In communion with the Church and guided by the Magisterium, we seek to dedicate ourselves to profound service, to discernment, to research. The generosity with which so many Jesuits work for the Kingdom of God, even to giving their very lives for the Church, does not mitigate the sense of responsibility that the Society feels it has in the Church. Responsibility that Your Holiness confirms in Your Letter, when You affirm: “The evangelizing work of the Church therefore relies a lot on the formative responsibility that the Society has in the fields of theology, spirituality and mission”.
Alongside the sense of responsibility, must go humility, recognizing that the mystery of God and of man is much greater than our capacity for understanding.
It saddens us, Holy Father, when the inevitable deficiencies and superficialities of some among us are at times used to dramatize and represent as conflicts and clashes what are often only manifestations of limits and human imperfections, or inevitable tensions of everyday life. But all this does not discourage us, nor quell our passion, not only to serve the Church, but also, with a deeper sense of our roots, according to the spirit of the Ignatian tradition, to love the hierarchical Church and the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ.
“En todo amar y servir”. This represents a portrait of who Ignatius is. This is the identity card of a true Jesuit.
The full text is available on the official Jesuit web site, as is the Pope’s discourse, not yet translated from the Italian.
However, Vatican Radio provides some indications of the Pope’s message:
Today, noted the Pope, “the obstacles challenging those who announce the Gospel are no longer seas and vast distances, rather they are the boundaries of a superficial vision of God and of man, which place obstacles in the way of faith and human knowledge, faith and science, faith and the commitment to justice”. Faced with these boundaries, continued Pope Benedict, Jesuits must “witness and help create the understanding that there is instead true harmony between faith and reason”, a harmony that must be translated into the defence of those “central issues which today are increasingly under attack from secular culture”. In short marriage and the family, sexual morality and the question of mankind’s salvation in Christ:
Here the Pope invited the Jesuits to renewed reflection on the meaning of their characteristic “fourth vow” of obedience to the St Peter’s Successor, which he said “does not only imply readiness to be sent on mission to far off lands, but also in true Ignatian spirit – to feel themselves “with the Church and in the Church” – to love and serve the Christ’s Vicar as precious and irreplaceable collaborators at the service of the Universal Church”.