The Jesuits on Obedience
The 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus was held in Rome from January to March. One of its key actions was the election of a new Father General. But the Congregation also discussed and discerned a number of pressing issues in the life of the Society and of the Church.The documents that are the fruit of that discernment are now available in PDF format here.One recalls that Pope Benedict urged the delegates to express anew the Society's traditional commitment to the service of the Church and its special relation with the Holy Father. Here are some excerpts from "Decree Four: On Obedience in the Life of the Society of Jesus."
We will only be able to live our vow of obedience as freedom and true self-realization if the mystical experience of passionate love for Christ, the one who is sent by the Father and who is obedient to the Father's will, remains alive in us and if we daily renew our unconditional commitment to be his companions [#17].The fourth vow, which Ignatius himself defined as "our beginning and principal foundation," expresses what is specific to the Society: total availability to serve the Church wherever the Pope sends us, The fourth vow also makes clear the place of the Society in the Church. It gives the Society structural incorporation in the life of the Church by linking its charism as an apostolic religious order to the hierarchical structure of the Church in the person of the Pope. It is through this vow that the Society participates in the universal mission of the Church and that the universality of its mission, carried out through a wide range of ministries in the service of local churches, is guaranteed [#31].The availability promised in the fourth vow is distinct from the Ignatian spirituality of "sentire cum ecclesia." However, both are rooted in the love we have for Christ our Lord, a love that extends itself to love for the Church and for "the one who holds the place of Christ our Lord for us." That is why we speak of being united with the Pope effectively and affectively. Taken together, the fourth vow and our ecclesial spirituality move us to offer the service asked of us by the Pope [#33].
About the Author
Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.