St. Ignatius, Pope Francis, and the Jesuits

Today was the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.

To mark the feast, Pope Francis celebrated mass at the Church of the Gèsu, the “mother church” of the Jesuit order. Here are his remarks to his fellow Jesuits:

To be men routed and grounded in the Church: that is what Jesus desires of us. There cannot be parallel or isolated paths for us. Yes, paths of searching, creative paths, yes, this is important: to go to the peripheries, so many peripheries. This takes creativity, but always in community, in the Church, with this membership that give us the courage to go forward. To serve Christ is to love this concrete Church, and to serve her with generosity and with the spirit of obedience.

Drew Christiansen, SJ, has a useful essay on Francis, the Ignatian Pope:

As I witnessed his day by day abandonment of centuries-old custom, I marveled at his joyful, spiritual freedom. I soon realized it manifested his appropriation of the Ignatian value of “indifference.” It is an old-fashioned, philosophical term, borrowed from the Stoics, but what indifference means is freedom from distracting and degrading attachments, so as to be free to do what is more conducive to the good of souls. As Pope Francis has made his daily changes, it has become clear that his aim is to make the church the church of Christ, welcoming to all, and appealing because it shows its care for all people.

One maxim that comes from the Spiritual Exercises, tantum quantum, summarizes the principle for using all created things: Use them insofar as they contribute to the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Discard and reject them, when they lead away from that goal.

And Pope Francis himself talked about his Jesuit spirituality during the press conference on the flight back to Rome from Brazil that received so much press for other reasons:

Pope Francis said he still considers himself a Jesuit, but first he posed a tricky logic problem: “The Jesuits make a special vow of fidelity to the pope. But if the pope is a Jesuit, does he have to make a vow to the superior of the Jesuits?”

“I am a Jesuit in my spirituality, a spirituality involving the Exercises (of St. Ignatius),” he said. “And I think like a Jesuit,” he said, but smiled and quickly added, “but not in the sense of hypocrisy.”

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