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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Inside A Jesuit Pope

Something which absolutely needs to be discussed is the fact that Francis is a Black Pope, a Jesuit.

Being a Jesuit means something. But, most Catholics do not understand what it means to be formed as a Jesuit.

Examining a few elements of Jesuit may help understand what, how, and why the Pope is acting.

First of all,  imagine what is it to be a Jesuit and a Pope. Imagining thinking like a Jesuit in the Vatican.

And, in order to think like a Jesuit, one must understand Jesuit spirituality and mission to a certain extent. I cannot cover all the aspects, which, if you can imagine a prism, send out hues coloring the entire Jesuit approach to life.

However, here a a few points which might help the layperson understand our Pope.

One, the Jesuits believe that God is an active God. God is involved in people's lives, guiding, directing, moving souls, minds, hearts. This aspect of the prism colors how a Jesuit thinks of other people, trusting that God works through other people. The Pope would promote collegiality to a certain extent because of the Jesuit belief that God works in this way. Jesuits also believe that all people have gifts and talents which need to be recognized, even in different cultures. They would be open to the new and the different, discussion and deliberating as did the first Jesuit fathers.

Second, Jesuits learn to be attentive to the movements of the Holy Spirit within themselves and others, through discernment. Being attentive to God means listening within the attitude of reflection and prayer. This takes time. Nothing is rushed. Peace indicates the Will of God and doubt indicates one has not yet determined God's Will. When the Pope refers to making a "mess", he means examining the movements of doubt and uncertainty in order to find the Will of God. This type of discernment is usual, daily, and involves both the heart and the head. However, one would hope that the deep prayer and examination of conscience both accompany this attentiveness.

Third, a subtle but strict hierarchical structure is the form of Jesuit organization. This means that the Pope would choose men to support his ideas in the military-like functioning of the Order. While wanting this strict order of command, the Jesuit does not want it to be obvious. Authority is taken seriously within the Order.

A leader could, for example, ask his subordinates to go to the missions immediately. Jesuits are still trained to move fast, but under the strictures of the leader. The Pope definitely sees himself as part of a hierarchy. This ability to move fast, however, means that the Pope would expect and want change if things seemed stagnant to him. Flexibility has always been the mark of the Jesuit in the missions.

Fourth, a Jesuit is always aware of the interesting split in the Order between this strict hierarchical structure and the singularity of the man in the mission. A Jesuit may be sent out with only one companion, or work in a small group, not in a larger community, such as the Benedictines. This tension between strict hierarchical structure and independence "in the field" is part of the structure of the Jesuits. Jesuits learn to be companions in the Lord. Perhaps one of the difficulties for Pope Francis is that he is isolated from this friendship, this communal aspect of his Order.

Fifth, freedom marks the Jesuit's mind-set despite the strict order of command. This means that a certain independence marks each Jesuit, as he learns to have confidence in God but only through detachment from things and people, and through humility, Humility is a goal of the true Jesuit. That the Pope speaks of humility and acts in certain ways means that he is aware of the Ignatian aspiration for humility, which must underline discernment.

Sixth, "for the greater glory of God" is the Jesuit motto. This means that God's Glory is to be seen in the world. The experience of Ignatius in seeing the world in a new way after his conversion colors the view of the world for the Jesuit. The Jesuit stands firmly in the real world, not leaving it, but facing suffering, difficulties, for God's Glory There is no sense of leaving the world with a monastic mind, but engaging the world. The Jesuit, through his own personal encounter with God through others and in the world, is to transform the world. The Jesuit is always, "in the world" but with God's Glory as the goal. This is another tension for Francis in Rome--engaging in Europe, yet looking for a way to bring about God's Glory. Dialogue with and in the world marks the Jesuit vocation.

Seventh, some Jesuits use the phrase "creative polarity" to describe being a contemplative in the world, yet being active.  This is yet another tension in the Order and means a Jesuit must be dedicated to prayer and action. Of course, this tension involves daily examination of conscience and repentance. Because of this aspect of the prism, I trust this Pope will be true to his calling as Vicar of Christ through the daily examen.

Eighth, ‘Ego ero vobis Romae propitius’. Christ, carrying His Cross, said to St. Ignatius, "You will be favored in Rome". I am sure the Pope thinks of this phrase. I believe Francis has a confidence now that God has favored him in this position, which would account for some of his actions and words.

Ninth, Mary appeared to Ignatius, giving him hope and consolation. This Pope has great love for Mary, which should be an excellent sign of hope for the Church, despite all.

Tenth, poverty is key to the Jesuit. Francis' preoccupation with the poor and statements about the politics surrounding the poor are part of the Jesuit charism, and to be expected as part of the Jesuit Order's commitment to social justice.

Eleventh, consistency against heretics was, in the past, a mark of the Jesuit Order. One thinks of the great Bellarmine. We know that the Pope dealt with Liberation Theology in the seminaries of Argentine. Let us pray Francis sees the moral heresies rearing their hydra heads in Rome, and, also, learns to deal with those modernist fantasies with the same consistency as Ignatius.

I could write more, but this is a short compendium of some of the aspects of seeing the Pope through the prism of the Jesuit Order.

to be continued, maybe....