Pope tells Jesuits to walk to peripheries, be open to future

IMAGE: CNS/Itua Egbor, SJ

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) — Pope Francis, speaking both as pope and a
Jesuit, asked members of the Society of Jesus to continue to journey to where
Christ is most needed, and always ask God for consolation, compassion and help
in discernment.

The Jesuits aim to “move forward, overcoming the
impediments which the enemy of human nature puts in our way when, in serving
God, we are seeking the greater good,” the pope told more than 200 Jesuits
chosen to represent the more than 16,000 Jesuits at the order’s general

Given that the Society of Jesus’ way of proceeding for
“the greater good is accomplished through joy, the cross and through the
church, our mother,” the pope said he wished to help revive its zeal for
mission by reflecting on those three points.

Instead of the usual custom of general congregation
delegates going to the Vatican to meet the pope, Pope Francis went to the
Jesuits’ Rome headquarters Oct. 24 to meet them. He was greeted by Venezuelan
Father Arturo Sosa, who was elected superior general of the order Oct. 14, as
well as by other members. He spent more than three hours at the headquarters, including time devoted to a “private conversation,” according to the Vatican press office.

After taking part in morning prayer with the delegates,
Pope Francis delivered a lengthy reflection on how the Society of Jesus can
best serve God, the church and the world, while remaining true to its Ignatian
identity and zeal for mission.

He said the Jesuit way of journeying and moving forward
as followers of the Lord requires: asking God insistently for consolation;
allowing oneself to be moved by Jesus crucified on the cross for one’s sins;
and doing good by being led by the Holy Spirit and by thinking with the church.

The true work of the Jesuits, he said, is to offer the
people of God consolation and help them so that “the enemy of human nature
does not rob us of joy — the joy of evangelizing, the joy of the family, the
joy of the church, the joy of creation.”

May this joy not be stripped from “us, either by
despair before the magnitude of the evils of the world or by the
misunderstandings between those who intend to do good,” he said, and may
it not be replaced “with foolish joys that are always at hand in all human

Even when feeling unworthy, Jesuits should still pray
persistently for consolation so that they may be a sincere, joyful bearers of
the Gospel, he said.

“Good news cannot be given with a sad face. Joy is
not a decorative ‘add-on'” nor is it a cosmetic, “special
effect,” he said. “It is a clear indicator of grace; it shows that
love is active, working and present.”

“This joy of the explicit proclamation of the Gospel
— through preaching the faith and practicing justice and mercy — is that
which leads the Society to go to all the peripheries,” the pope said.
“The Jesuit is a servant of the joy of the Gospel.”

Jesuits can move forward by “letting ourselves be
moved by the Lord placed on the cross — by him in person and by him present in
so many of our brothers and sisters who are suffering (and are) the great
majority of humankind,” he said, quoting the late-Father Pedro Arrupe who
said that wherever there is pain, the Society of Jesus is there.

God’s mercy isn’t an abstract term, but “a
lifestyle,” Pope Francis said. Too often, people “dilute” the
life-giving power of mercy with “our abstract formulations and legalistic

God “looks upon us with mercy and chooses us,”
sending people out to bring that same mercy “to the poorest, to sinners,
to ‘discarded’ people and those crucified in the present world, who suffer
injustice and violence.”

Only when people experience firsthand God’s healing mercy
on their own wounds “will we lose the fear of allowing ourselves be moved
by the immense suffering of our brothers and sisters, and will we hasten to
walk patiently with our people, learning from them the best way of helping and
serving them.”

Lastly, journeying forward in doing good requires the
grace of discernment — so that actions are inspired by “the good
Spirit,” which roots people to the church, he said.

It is in the church that the Holy Spirit works and
“distributes the diversity of her charisms for the common good,” Pope
Francis said. The importance of thinking with the church is what lies behind
the Jesuit St. Peter Faber’s insistence that “those who wanted to reform
the church were right, but that God did not want to correct it through their

Thinking with the church, “without losing peace and
with joy, considering the sins we see, in us as well as in others, and in the
structures that we have created, involves carrying the cross, experiencing
poverty and humiliations,” he said.

St. Ignatius advised personal reflection before speaking
or acting in response to clear contradictions in order to operate according to
the good Spirit. His invitation is not so much a guideline for how to respond
to controversy, but a reminder to “act against” an anti-ecclesial
spirit and orient oneself fully toward the mother — the church — “not to
justify a debatable position, but to make room so that the Spirit could act in
its own time.”

Pope Francis said that serving the Holy Spirit with
discernment “makes us men of the church — not clerical, but ecclesial —
men for others.”

“We don’t walk alone
or comfortably, but we walk with ‘a heart that does not rest, that does not
close in on itself but beats to the rhythm of a journey undertaken together
with all the people faithful to God,'” he said.

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