All the Delegates at the 36th General Congregation were awaiting, with beating hearts, the day of October 24: the visit of a Pope with his confreres, reunited in a General Congregation at the Curia, at a stone’s throw from the Vatican. This Monday, at 9:05 AM, Pope Francis makes his entrance in the Aula where the works of the General Congregation are held. He does so without fanfare. This is his style: simplicity and modesty. In addition, here, he is among his own. He is with family.
The welcome is warm. Personally, I am moved. To tears. A certain emotion takes over the Aula. Something unspeakable is happening. A Jesuit pope before his Jesuit confreres. Something unprecedented. A grand premiere! A sign of the times, from which one must draw some meaning in prayer and meditation in the days to come.
Long before the Holy Father takes the floor to address to the Assembly, many, like myself, are expecting to hear “magic” formulas, previously determined “recipes” for our Jesuit life and for the healing of a “broken world.” Nothing of the sort happens. Rather, his discourse is simple and clear. No bombastic or verbose language. His discourse does not manifest any pretension: no flamboyant rhetoric. His discourse is rather plain, but dense. It focuses on key words and phrases.
I dwell on the ones that will orient my future Jesuit life, and, maybe we hope, the future life of all Jesuits:
“The Church needs Jesuits to go to the places where others do not go”,
“Ignatius did not desire perfection for its own sake, but rather, for the salvation of others”,
“The Good News ought not to be given with a sad face, but rather, with joy”,
“One of the expressions of joy is a sense of humour – a grace to ask for!”
“The Society – it is fervour in the mission”,
“The Jesuit – he is a servant of the joy of the Gospel”,
“A large part of humanity is suffering”,
“Where there is pain, there is the Society”,
“Following the example of St. Peter Faber, we always ought to ask for the grace to discern (a word that appeared many times during his address) in order to act according to the Good Spirit”,
“We have to work for peace, even to the point of giving our lives”,
“Laudato Si is not green encyclical; it is more of a social encyclical than a green one”,
“To not promote vocations is suicidal for the Church” …
Notwithstanding his words, going beyond them, he is a fascinating man. His courage, his prophetic boldness, his simplicity, his radiant smile, his love-filled gaze, his calmness, his interior depth, his Ignatian humour, and above all, his unconditional love for the Church and his unwavering bond to the Ignatian heritage. He is a fascinating man.
by Paulin Manwelo, SJ (ACE)