By now you’ve probably read a lot about the process of “murmuratio”, that we Jesuits go through in preparation for the election of a new General Superior. Much of what you’ve read till now I’m sure will have inspired you, even filled you with a sense of awe at the working of the Spirit. So what I’m about to write is going to be a little different. I don’t deny, not for even a moment, that the Spirit is at work, but I want to put it in perspective — a very human context.
Some of us sat up Sunday, going through the profiles of the 215 members, preparing a short list of must-meet candidates. For the vast majority of us, this was a first experience; sure there was some anxiety, but nothing prepared me for what happened next. Hardly had Fr. Vicar General completed his exhortation when the scramble to make early appointments began. Five minutes into the exercise and some ‘much sought after’ candidates were already making appointments for the third day; and then there were the more reticent among us, who quietly sat and awaited our turn. I’m not complaining, not blaming anyone, no one stopped me from joining the rush, but the thought struck me — there’s nothing ‘spiritual’ about this. This is as mundane as the frenzy outside an Apple or Samsung showroom on the morning of a new release. Don’t for a moment believe that I am denying the workings of the Spirit, far from it. All I am pointing out is that the Spirit doesn’t gloss over human nature, it works in and through it — through the marrow in human flesh and bones.
We have now completed two days of the “murmuratio”. Names of possible candidates, desirable qualities, hopes, dreams for the Society are already beginning to repeat themselves. Some names of front-runners seem to be emerging (of course we wouldn’t know for sure till Friday). Then there are the others I have not yet met, coming from different socio-cultural contexts, different points of view, those voices on the margins, that nobody rushed to hear. We met in small groups last week and shared a lot of different perspectives, but one-on-one, the three of us together is a different experience. (My maths is good — 1 on 1, makes 3 of us together — 2 Jesuits together listening to the Holy Spirit!).
So I look forward to two more days of “murmuratio”, precisely to listen to these other voices from the margins. I hope they rock the boat, more than just a little, cast doubts on what seemed like sure candidates a couple of hours ago, because one of the expectations for Friday morning, the day of the election, is that we go with an open mind, that after having gathered all this information in the four days of “murmuratio”, we enter into the election with an open mind, in no way predetermining our choice, open to let the Spirit move the pen over the ballot paper.