LIVING AS APPRENTICES
I’ve had a love affair with the Society of Jesuits, a Roman Catholic order of priests and brothers founded 500 years ago by the soldier-turned-mystic, Ignatius of Loyola, since I first learned about Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises. It was strengthened by a retreat a friend and I did several years ago at Manresa, a Jesuit Retreat Center near Detroit. I fan the flames by reading Margaret Silf, James Martin, SJ, William A. Barry, SJ, and Tim Muldoon. The Prayer of Examen with which some of you may be familiar was conceived by Ignatius of Loyola. (I must admit that this fascination with a Roman Catholic order raised some eyebrows in the land of Calvinism that is West Michigan.)
The Jesuits are the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church (17,00 priests and brothers worldwide). Their vision, is to “find God in all things” and to dedicated themselves to the “greater glory of God.” According to their website, they are pastors, teachers, and chaplains. But they are also doctors, lawyers, and astronomers, among many other roles. In their varied ministries, they care for the whole person: body, mind, and soul. And especially in their education ministries, ministries, they seek to “nurture men and women for others.”
The most famous Jesuit in 2013 is Pope Francis – the first Jesuit and the first non-European Pope. Pope Francis is a new breed of Pope, one devoted to simplicity and serving the poor. Last week, Pope Francis issued a bold 50,000 word “apostolic exhortation” that demonstrates again that he clearly intends to make a difference in the world. Here are some of those words:
“To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the Market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”
Pope Francis denounces the “idolatry of money” and plans to make the inexorable rise of inequality one of the church’s central concerns. He intends his message to be heard. I hear it, believe it, and try to practice it. And now I also have one more reason to appreciate the religious order of Jesuits!