Listening to the Breath of Life in the Heart of the World
The project we wish to share is that of listening to what “drives” our world, being attentive to and aware of the life that beats in our society. It is therefore an option for openness, constant exploration, and true discernment, collectively. In the language of a 16th-century man, Ignatius of Loyola asked us to “see God at work in all things.” It is a way of saying that one must first recognize this vast humanization movement that precedes us and continues beyond us, and then join in with confidence, humility, and generosity.
We Must Work for Liberation and Reconciliation
This involves a collective audacity to take a stand and take risks in order to set forth and meet all people, particularly those who are excluded and marginalized. It requires a willingness to serve – that is, an unselfish and friendly presence united with today’s women and men who thirst for liberation and reconciliation. Freedom of speech, the fight against injustice, poverty, prejudice, preconceived ideas, etc. Reconciliation with our planet and its threatened ecosystems; reconciliation among individuals, fellow citizens from various origins and nations; and finally, reconciliation with this transcendence that resides in every person’s heart, calling us toward happiness, communion, and growth.
In the Manner of Jesus, Humble and Poor
The figure of Jesus has left a mark on the history of humanity. Believers and nonbelievers alike can recognize in him, at the very least, a wise man and a prophet. What stands out, essentially, is that we draw inspiration from his “manner” of embodying the best in human beings. At the heart of a deeply secularized society, misguided by various fundamentalisms, albeit overflowing with spiritual and meaningful quests, we believe that this “humble and poor manner” of speaking and of conduct – typical of the man from Nazareth – remains credible. It is a manner that seems conducive to opening channels for dialogue among everyone, building bridges and inclusions, and attempting to ignite and spread this fire of love, of justice, and of peace to which we all aspire.
Our Option for the Poor
Love and Service of the Poor with Saint Ignatius
n his Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius asks us to “desire and choose poverty with Christ poor” (No. 167). As someone who was raised in a wealthy and aristocratic family from the Basque Country, he wished to become “a friend of the poor” and to “wear the dress of the Christ poor.” In a letter to his peers, dated August 6, 1547, he wrote, “So great are the poor in the sight of God that it was especially for them that Jesus was sent into the world.” Therefore, with his first companions, in Rome, Ignatius cared for the hungry and the homeless. He worked at establishing orphanages and a women’s refuge, the Casa Santa Marta. Since its foundation, the Society of Jesus has therefore been known for what we call today “the preferential option for the poor.”
The 32nd General Congregation
It is, however, not until the 20th century that this option gained its full power by way of an explicit commitment from the Society of Jesus to support and promote social justice. This commitment is of course rooted in the context of renewal from the Second Vatican Council. But more so, it was inspired by the 2nd General Conference of Latin American Bishops, held in Medellín in 1968 (which was in favor of the “liberation” of the people), as well as by the 1971 Synod of Bishops on “Justice in the World.” Therefore, at the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus (December 2, 1974 to March 7, 1975), a document known as “Decree 4” was passed and made history. In this official document, it is stated: “The mission of the Society of Jesus today is the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement. For reconciliation with God demands the reconciliation of people with one another.” William (Bill) Ryan, SJ, and Julien Harvey, SJ, two Canadian Jesuit delegates at this General Congregation, were among the key players in this new direction undertaken by the Society of Jesus toward an inseparable link between faith and justice.
The Inspiration of Fr. Arrupe
A witness to and luminous figure of the 20th century, Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991) was Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983. It was under his leadership that the famous 32nd General Congregation was held. Father Arrupe’s charisma served as guiding light and inspiration for the radical revision of the Society of Jesus’ mission in today’s world. Under his governance, the Jesuits updated one of Saint Ignatius’ fundamental insights, for whom an authentic Christian experience is ultimately held true in the “love and service” of our fellow man. Yet, Pedro Arrupe discerned that in our era, such love and service could no longer evade a critical analysis and a fight to change the structures that generate oppression, alienation, and injustice. Hence, to this day, whenever Jesuits and their lay collaborators commit to social analysis, transformation, and solidarity, they are following directly in the footsteps of Pedro Arrupe. They strive to be, as the latter continually urged his contemporaries, “men and women for others.”
The teaching of Pope Francis has given greater depth to our vision, placing faith, justice and solidarity with the poor and the excluded at the center of the mission of reconciliation. Rather than asking what we must do, we seek to understand how God invites us – and so many people of good will – to participate in this great work. 36th General Congregation of the Jesuits, 2017
The company of Jesus was born under the sign of reconciliation: reconciliation with God, reconciliation with the neighbor, reconciliation with creation itself. Each of our works is animated by this triple desire for reconciliation. With the whole church today, we understand that Christian love is necessarily expressed through words and gestures of justice and reconciliation.
Arts, Education and Research
We do not want to propose a simplistic or superficial hope. As Father Adolfo Nicolás has always emphasized, our contribution should rather be characterized by depth: a depth of interiority and “deep reflection, which enables us to understand reality more deeply and therefore to serve more effectively”. – CG 36, 2017
For each Jesuit, the world of culture and human thought is a privileged space where God is at work. The human, social and spiritual formation of young people requires the communication of the elements of a concrete culture: the education of young people has been a pillar of our apostolic mission since the early days of the Society. Thoroughly understanding the intellectual and cultural movements that fuel political choices, fostering dialogue between peoples and religions in a globalized world; celebrating beauty in artistic expressions from different backgrounds, and contributing to the world of art; learning to analyze reality in its scientific, philosophical and theological dimensions: this is the project of our research centers and our academic institutions.
Social Justice and Ecology
Pope Francis stressed the fundamental link between the environmental crisis and the social crisis in which we live today. Poverty, social exclusion and marginalization are linked to environmental degradation. It is not a question of separate crises but of a single crisis which is the symptom of something much deeper: the defective way in which societies and economies are organized. […] We Jesuits are called to help heal a broken world, promoting a new way of producing and consuming, which puts the creation of God in the center. – CG 36, 2017
Since the 32nd General Congregation of the Society, the Jesuits affirm that the service of faith involves the service of justice. With Pope Francis, we are aware that justice for the poor and the excluded goes through the ecological transformation of economies and societies, and even minds and hearts. As Pope Benedict reminded us in 2008, by sending us to “those physical and spiritual regions where others cannot reach or have difficulties reaching”, the church entrusts us with the task of being “bridges of understanding and dialogue”.
Pastoral and parishes
Reconciliation with God anchors us in gratitude and opens us to joy, if we make it possible. […] The proclamation and sharing of the Gospel continues to be the reason for the existence and mission of the Society: that Jesus Christ be known, be loved in return, and that the love of Christ is a source of life for all. He is always the source of the joy and hope that we offer to others. – CG 36, 2017
The Jesuits are called, by their rule of life, to serve “the good of souls” by “public preaching, lessons and all other ministries of the Word of God, and the Spiritual Exercises, Christian formation […], and the spiritual consolation of the faithful through confession and the administration of the other sacraments.”
Our parishes, public chapels and chaplaincies are eminent places for this service of faith. There are also Jesuits in hospitals, prisons and other places of support for people in crisis.
We Jesuits in Canada have been deeply impressed by our relations with Canada’s First Nations since the arrival of the first Jesuits in the 17th century. Today we are aware of the great obstacles presented by the painful history of relations between colonizers and first nations.
For more than 165 years, Canadian Jesuits have lived and worked continuously with the Ojibway, Odawa and Potawatomi nations, mainly in northern Ontario, around Manitoulin Island and Thunder Bay.
Here is the statement of reconciliation of the Jesuits in 2013, as part of our participation in the commission for Truth and Reconciliation.
We are called to recognize, appreciate and affirm the cultural and spiritual gifts of the indigenous peoples with whom we walk, in an attempt to contribute to “a genuine intercultural dialogue, a sign of liberation for both parties. Our intuition is that the Gospel is in harmony with what is good in every culture. ” (34th General Congregation, 1995)
A special gift that the Jesuits and the Ignatian family have to offer to the Church and her mission of evangelization is the Ignatian spirituality that allows the experience of God and can therefore greatly assist the process of personal and community conversion. Pope Francis constantly affirms that discernment must play a special role in the family, among young people, in the promotion of vocations and in the formation of the clergy. The Christian life is more and more personalized thanks to discernment. – CG 36, 2017
In the tradition of St. Ignatius, the Jesuits of Canada have centers of retreat and spirituality. They are places of prayer and peace for all. In an atmosphere that respects persons and their unique journeys, people can deepen their relationship to God, to the neighbor and to all creation.
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