Thursday, February 28, 2013

Of Popes and Jesuits: Australia's Province Express

Of Popes and Jesuits

Depending upon the times or one’s prejudices, Jesuits have been portrayed across a whole gamut of descriptors, from ‘the Pope’s storm troopers’ to ‘His Majesty’s loyal opposition’. And the General of the Jesuits has long been styled ‘The Black Pope’—an ambiguous epithet suggesting either the leader of the largest body of religious priests and brothers, or something more sinister. It is true that the Society’s relationship with the Papacy has been a long and sometimes very testing one.

The Popes in Ignatius’ time

Ignatius, of course, was the Pope’s man. It comes through unambiguously in his Exercises, theConstitutions, his autobiography and huge correspondence. In the formation of his men, he introduced a fourth vow at the final profession of a Jesuit. Often misunderstood, it is not a special vow of loyalty to the Pope or his teachings; all religious have that in their vow of obedience. No, it is a vow 'for mission' by the Pope, a ready availability to go wherever the Pope might send an individual or a group of Jesuits to meet a particular need.

The early years of the Society, a time of great missionary outreach to an expanding globe, saw the Pope making many requests of Fr General for such missions. In more recent times, the late Pope Paul VI asked the General for a special mission, not to a place but to a challenge. It was to respond to the rise of atheism in intellectual and practical ways. Many Jesuits immediately took up that call and began a new and quite different mission of the mind.

When Ignatius founded the Jesuits, his order had significantly different characteristics and many people, Roman cardinals especially, were skeptical (at least) or suspicious (at worst). One such was Cardinal Gian Pietro Carafa. Ignatius disagreed with him on many occasions. Carafa had founded the order of Theatines and wanted Ignatius’ Society of Jesus to merge with them. Ignatius, of course, resisted.

Carafa was a harsh, intolerant autocrat, given to nepotism and hated anyone or anything Spanish. So imagine Ignatius’ perturbation when he learned that the Cardinal had been elected Pope Paul IV. A witness (and later Ignatius’ biographer, Luis da Câmara) reported that when Ignatius heard of Carafa’s election, ‘he shook in every bone in his body’. Sadly, relations did not improve with any ‘grace of office’—even to the point of the Pope suspecting Spanish treachery and having Ignatius’ quarters searched for arms and weapons. Of course, none were found. There was an uneasy truce.

Ignatius was well aware of the suspicions people had of his Society. He was scrupulous in gathering documents in its support, many judgements vindicating it after false accusations brought before Church authorities, and testimonials by others of note. Being the man of deep interiority that he was, Ignatius always knew that ultimately the hand of God was in whatever transpired. When once asked what he would do if the Pope were to suppress the Jesuits, he quietly and confidently replied that he would need fifteen minutes of prayer and he ‘should think no more about it’!

The suppression of the Jesuits

That hypothetical question became a reality some two centuries later when Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society in 1773. Clement was a weak Pope who bowed to the pressures of the inter-related royal houses of Europe, the Bourbons. Admittedly, the Jesuits were moving in powerful and influential circles in the courts and were making many and powerful enemies. Kings and princes were threatening to break away from the Church and also threatening the Papal States. Clement yielded, ‘in the name of peace of the Church and to avoid a secession in Europe’. Our General, Fr Lorenzo Ricci, was jailed in Castel Sant’ Angelo, poorly treated and humiliated, and even prevented from celebrating Mass. He died two years later.

But four decades on, in 1814, Pius VII (himself a captive of Napoleon and exiled in France) made his way back to Rome and restored the Jesuits, affirming that he ‘would be guilty of a capital crime if he neglected to employ the skilled rowers for the storm-tossed barque of Peter which the Society could provide’. Additionally, he endorsed the restoration of schools and colleges as a key ministry of the Society.

Fr Arrupe and the Vatican

In more recent times, Paul VI was a strong supporter of the Society and its works. In an address to Jesuits gathered in Rome for a General Congregation in 1974 he said:

Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme fields, in the crossroads of ideologies, in the front line of social conflict, there has been and there is confrontation between thedeepest desires of humankind and the perennial message of the Gospel, there also there have been, and there are, Jesuits.

… Your Society is, we say, the test of the vitality of the Church throughout the centuries; it is perhaps one of the most meaningful crucibles in which are encountered the difficulties, the temptations, the efforts, the perpetuity and the successes of the whole Church.

If they were encouraging words, they were also challenging ones. And if we were indeed ‘Papal storm troopers’ then the Pope was exhorting us into the fray.

Soon after Pedro Arrupe assumed the mantle of leading the Society in 1965, he picked up the decree of the Second Vatican Council for all religious orders to go back to their roots to rediscover and renew their original charism. Arrupe soon became known as ‘the second Ignatius’.

Some more conservative Jesuits thought this was too much, too soon. The Society’s mission of ‘the service of faith and the promotion of justice’ led to a renewed ministry of service to the poor and the marginalised. Some of our critics saw the manifestation of this in so-called ‘liberation theology’ as crypto-Marxism. The then Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, condemned liberation theology in the 1980s. At the same time, Pope John Paul II had concerns regarding the direction of the Society and his relationship with the General was fractured. This was a cause of great sorrow for Arrupe because he was a son of Ignatius through and through.

Getting on in years, he asked to be allowed to resign, but the Pope refused, perhaps not wanting another General Congregation which would ensue and have the Society push the boundaries even more. Sadly Arrupe suffered a stroke while in office. But instead of his own Vicar General taking over in his place, the Pope stepped in and, in a highly unusual intervention, appointed his own man, an eighty-year-old traditionalist philosopher, Fr Paolo Dezza, as administrator until the next Congregation. The move rocked the Society, but the Jesuits accepted the Pope’s intervention, as extraordinary as it was. Some Vatican watchers remarked that the Pope was expecting unrest, but was surprisingly moved by the Society’s loyalty. His relationship with the invalid Arrupe warmed and he became a regular visitor to the invalid Pedro.

Compliments and expectations

After the long reign of John Paul II came the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope. His history as Prefect of the Congregation which had investigated the teachings of a number of Jesuit theologians, and found them wanting in areas of orthodoxy, was in the minds of many Jesuits. These theologians had been called to Rome to explain themselves, or had their publications or their teachings censored. So it was that the Society was somewhat anxious about its relationship with the new Pope. At the Congregation to elect Kolvenbach’s successor, the new Pope addressed the assembled delegates. He began by saying how he had just completed his annual retreat, using the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius. This was a good omen. Then he shared how hard he found that final prayer of Ignatius, the ‘Take, Lord, receive all my liberty.’ Did not others find it so? This was an even better omen! He went on to say,

As my predecessors have often told you, the Church needs you, counts on you, and continues to turn to you with confidence, particularly to reach the geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach or find it difficult to reach.

Nowadays [...], the obstacles challenging the evangelisers are not so much the seas or the long distances as the frontiers that, due to a mistaken or superficial vision of God and of man, are raised between faith and human knowledge, faith and modern science, faith and the fight for justice. This is why the Church is in urgent need of people of solid and deep faith, of a serious culture and a genuine human and social sensitivity, of religious priests who devote their lives to standing on those frontiers in order to witness and help to understand that there is in fact a profound harmony between faith and reason, between evangelical spirit, thirst for justice and action for peace. […] At the same time I encourage you to continue and renew your mission among the poor and for the poor. [...] For us the choice of the poor is not ideological but is born from the Gospel.

Once more, from the Papacy, a compliment, but also a weighty expectation; an enormous mission. And may we be graced to fulfill it.

Interestingly, our previous General, Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, had asked Pope John Paul II if he could resign from office, but was refused. When Pope Benedict XVI was elected, the General once again asked, and was given, permission. Now the Pope himself has followed suit. Soon our Society will have another Pope to serve in our special way. Like all healthy relationships, it will have its bruisings, but also its blessings.

Currently there are six Jesuit cardinals world-wide. Four of them are over the voting age of eighty, so unable to join the conclave to elect the new Pope. But the Jesuit Cardinal Archbishops of Buenos Aires and Djakarta will be voting. We wait prayerfully for the graced workings of the Holy Spirit.

And (in case you are wondering) there has never been a Jesuit Pope.

Fr Ross Jones SJ, Rector, St Ignatius’ College Riverview. First published in Viewpoint newsletter.

Prayer: Julian of Norwich

Thanksgiving belongs to prayer. Thanksgiving is a true inward acknowledgement, we applying ourselves with great reverence and loving fear with all our powers to the work that God moved us to, rejoicing and given thanks inwardly. And so the power of the Lord’s word enters the soul and enlivens the heart and makes us rejoice in the Lord.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Third Sunday in Lent

Third Sunday in Lent
March 3, 2013
Exodus 3:1-8; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9

Jesus addresses a major question about sin and suffering. In the Gospel, Romans killed Galileans and mixed their blood with the blood of their sacrifices. People asked, “Did they do something more sinful than other Galileans to deserve such a fate?” “By no means,” says Jesus. We make sense of suffering by looking for reasons and causes. In another case, eighteen people die in an accident when the tower at Siloam falls upon them. Did they somehow conceal guilt that only God knew about and finally received retribution? We search for meaning in suffering and there isn’t always an obvious answer.

            We make the same judgments today. When we hear that a smoker develops lung cancer we conclude it is because she smokes cigarettes. We reckon we don’t have to be as compassionate because the tragedy isn’t as great as when a non-smoker develops lung cancer. When we catch a cold, we go back a few days in our memory to find out who may have given it to us and we get annoyed with ourselves for not being more careful when shaking hands. When someone dies in a car crash, we wonder if he did something sinful, like drinking before driving, and therefore is partly responsible for his own death. Sometimes, accidents are just accidents. Sometimes, bad things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people, yet we want to measure someone’s level of goodness or badness when tragedy strikes.

            What does this tell us about God’s interaction in this world? Many people say, “God allows suffering.” I find this hard to take. What sort of uncaring God is this then? The most basic answer is that suffering exists and sometimes it is merely accidental. God does not will a toddler to develop leukemia just as God doesn’t permit someone to become an alcoholic. It frustrates us because many of us make the best choices we can and misfortune still befalls us. The world is imperfect, unpredictable, and we simply cannot control it. We also don’t want to accept that it is this way, but that is the beginning of wisdom.

            All of these questions about suffering and the indiscriminate nature of life put us face to face in front of God. Some gaze squarely forward and declare, “God does not exist,” but fortunately for many of us, we experience the nearness of the living God and are drawn into a closer relationship. We come to know a truth about God that can only be experienced.

            After Moses goes through life-unsettling events, he settles in Midian and leads his flock through the desert to Mount Horeb. A bush catches fire and Moses notices it is not consumed. As his intrigue carries him forward, God calls out to him to stay where he is and to remove his sandals. God tells Moses that He is alive and has a connection to the past. God also reveals great compassion when he speaks about the people’s suffering. It saddens God a great deal and wishes it to stop. God declares his dream for them – that they be rescued so they can occupy a spacious land that flows with milk and honey. God does not wish harm or injury to the Egyptians who oppress them although he does want the brutality to stop. God does intervene by speaking to Moses. However, we wonder why an all-powerful God doesn’t find a more active way to scold the wayward people and redeem those who are unfairly harmed. We jump to all sorts of conclusions about why God leaves this up to humans to figure out because we remain a people who want answers.

            Moses learns a lot from God just by being present. He is intrigued to go near to the mysterious bush where he can meditate on God’s abiding presence. God only projects goodness that cannot be contained. Every time we have an experience of God, we want to share the significant insights we gained. Our experience impels us to move outwardly. God reveals that he is alive, active, concerned, filled with many emotions, and that he is concerned about our suffering.

            Can we see suffering as a place of holy ground? Do we acknowledge that it leads us to God? It is good to take off our shoes when we contemplate the suffering of another. It becomes their burning bush experience in which they encounter the one God who is alive to them. As we all have and will suffer in our lives, God’s name will be remembered through all generations because we will find God alive to us and concerned about our suffering. God does not will misfortune and God does not want to see us in any pain, and God appears before us to let us know of his enduring presence during our worst times. Though the world is imperfect and unpredictable, God’s presence remains constant. This becomes enough for us.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Kings 2, Naaman the Syrian, King of Aram, contracts leprosy and petitions Elijah to be made clean. There are many people within Israel with leprosy, but only Naaman, a foreigner is made clean by washing seven times in the river Jordan. In Daniel, Azariah stands up in the fire and asks that God receive them with a contrite heart and humble spirit. In Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to the people and asks them to keep the commandments and their work will be complete. In Jeremiah, the prophet encounters a people who will not listen to the voice of God and he is filled with despair. In Hosea, the people return to their God and remember how God was faithful to them. They are stronger because they realize that God stands by them through all tribulations. God tells them that he does not want sacrifice. He wants their love and mercy.

Gospel: Like Elijah and Elisha, Jesus was sent not only to the Jews. Jesus found opposition in his hometown to his prophetic words, but they were heeded by those outside of Israel. When Jesus is asked about forgiveness, he stresses that we are to forgive seventy-seven times. Seven is a number of perfection to the Jews and this number represents ad infinitum.  While explaining fidelity to the law, Jesus declares that every jot and tittle of the law is to be upheld. The one who keeps and teaches the laws will be called great. Jesus was driving out a mute demon. The crowds react and wonder from where his power comes. Some wonder if it is from Beelzebul, but Satan cannot remain divided against himself. A scribe approaches Jesus and asks which is the first of all the commandments and Jesus replies, “The Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God.” Jesus told his disciples the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee at prayer. The publican went home justified because he realized his lowliness in the face of God, but the Pharisee, assured of his righteousness, went home empty.

Saints of the Week

March 7: Perpetua and Felicity (d. 203), were two catechumens arrest and killed during a persecution in North Africa. Perpetua was a young noblewoman who was killed alongside her husband, their young son, and their pregnant slave, Felicity. They were baptized while under arrest and would not renounce their faith. Felicity was excused from death because it was unlawful to kill a pregnant woman, but she gave birth prematurely three days before the planned execution. They were flogged, taunted by wild beasts, and then beheaded. They appear in the First Eucharistic Prayer.

March 8: John of God (1495-1550), was a Portuguese soldier of fortune who was brought to Spain as a child. He was a slave master, shepherd, crusader, bodyguard and peddler. As he realized that he frittered away his life, he sought counsel from John of Avila. He then dedicated his life to care for the sick and the poor. He formed the Order of Brothers Hospitallers and is the patron saint of hospitals and the sick.

March 9: Frances of Rome (1384-1440), was born into a wealthy Roman family and was married at age 13. She bore six children and when two died in infancy, she worked to bring the needs of the less fortunate to others. She took food to the poor, visited the sick, cared for the needy in their homes. When other women joined in her mission, they became Benedictine oblates. She founded a monastery for them after her husband's death.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Mar 3, 1595. Clement VIII raised Fr. Robert Bellarmine to the Cardinalate, saying that the Church had not his equal in learning.
·      Mar 4, 1873. At Rome, the government officials presented themselves at the Professed House of the Gesu for the purpose of appropriating the greater part of the building.
·      Mar 5, 1887. At Rome, the obsequies of Fr. Beckx who died on the previous day. He was 91 years of age and had governed the Society as General for 34 years. He is buried at San Lorenzo in Campo Verano.
·      Mar 6, 1643. Arnauld, the Jansenist, published his famous tract against Frequent Communion. Fifteen French bishops gave it their approval, whereas the Jesuit fathers at once exposed the dangers in it.
·      Mar 7, 1581. The Fifth General Congregation of the Society bound the professors of the Society to adhere to the doctrine of St Thomas Aquinas.
·      Mar 8, 1773. At Centi, in the diocese of Bologna, Cardinal Malvezzi paid a surprise visit to the Jesuit house, demanding to inspect their accounting books.
Mar 9, 1764. In France, all Jesuits who refused to abjure the Society were ordered by Parliament to leave the realm within a month. Out of 4,000 members only five priests, two scholastics, and eight brothers took the required oath; the others were driven into exile.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Prayer: "The Cup of Life"

I am entirely ready to have the chains that keep me bound be broken.
I am entirely ready for the walls I've built around myself to be torn down.
I am entirely ready to give up my need to control every situation.
I am entirely ready to let go of my resentments.
I am entirely ready to grow up.

Macrina Wiederkehr   P. 101

Monday, February 25, 2013

Prayer: Oscar Romero

Those who want to bear the mark of the Spirit and the fire that Christ baptizes with must take the risk of renouncing everything and seeking only God’s reign and justice.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Prayer: Ambrose

Prayer is the wing by which the soul flies to heaven, and meditation is the eye by which we see God.