I recently came across reference to a letter that Saint Ignatius sent to the Jesuits who were attending the Council of Trent. Though written over four hundred and fifty years ago, it seems to me to retain its relevance in the digital age.The points Ignatius makes seem a good example of the discernment to which Pope Francis repeatedly calls us.
1. Since associating and dealing with many people for the salvation and spiritual progress of souls can be very profitable with God's help so, on the other hand, if we are not on our guard and helped by God's grace, such association can be the occasion of great loss to ourselves and sometimes to everyone concerned. In keeping with our profession we cannot withdraw from such association and, therefore, the more prepared we are to proceed according to a common plan, the more likely we are to succeed in our Lord. In the following notes, which may be modified or amplified according to need, we may be able to offer some assistance.
2. Be slow to speak. Be considerate and kind, especially when it comes to deciding on matters under discussion, or about to be discussed in the council.
3. Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.
4. When these or other matters are under discussion, I should consider the reasons on both sides without showing any attachment to my own opinion, and try to avoid bringing dissatisfaction to anyone.
5. I should not cite anyone as supporting my opinion, especially if they are persons of importance, unless this has been thoroughly arranged beforehand. And I would deal with everyone on an equal basis, never taking sides with anyone.
6. If the matters being discussed are of such a nature that you cannot or ought not to be silent, then give your opinion with the greatest possible humility and sincerity, and always end with the words salvo meliori iudicio—with due respect for a better opinion.
The rest may be read here.
About the Author
Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.