We have now finished four full days of GC36. We were about to change gears and move into the process of discernment for electing a new Fr General but this morning we stopped and reviewed how we were going! Some felt we needed more time to listen and learn more about each other. Some wanted to move on.
Our dispersal is spread over thirteen Roman houses (most delegates are living in the Curia along with the Bellarmino and Gregoriana Colleges). This means some of us travel back and forward each day as we only share meals with those with whom we are living. I am fortunate to be based in the Canisio, beside the Curia, with another twenty-three delegates and some involved in GC36 Communications. Those times when we share our meals, along with other members of the house (retired Jesuits and those working in the Vatican Radio), have enabled more personal and social conversations to be shared. We are very fortunate in living so close.
When it came to the decision this morning – whether to move on or not – we experienced agreement. We would continue conversation, have a break on Sunday and begin the process of murmuratio on Monday. It was one of those memorable moments when different views were aired but the final decision was unanimous. It gave us confidence we could listen, hear the opinions of others and then make a decision as a group.
We are a group of two hundred and fifteen Jesuit delegates, brothers and priests. We come from very different parts of the world and represent many cultures, languages and customs. We speak in the Aula, along with the help of interpreters, in English, Spanish and French. We also share some important things in common. They include the priority we place on prayer, reflection and conversation.
This trilogy of prayer, reflection and conversation lies at the heart of our Jesuit way of proceeding and forms a tried and trusted way in which we seek to listen to God’s presence and Spirit within each one of us and guiding us as a group. This was something the first Companions discovered in their desire to find God’s will for the leadership of the Company they believed God called them to form. It encouraged them as they sought to elect one from amongst them to be their leader.
We pray because we want to enter into the presence
and mystery of a merciful and graceful God.
We reflect because we want to listen carefully to what we are experiencing
and not be distracted by fears, selfish concerns or negative interests.
We converse with others. We speak, listen and respond,
because we desire to grow and express
a companionship that is Spirit-led, truthful and life-giving.
Each day of the Congregation has begun in prayer, often in a variety of languages. We gathered for Eucharist last Sunday night at the church of the Gesú to offer the Congregation and our decisions to God. We prayed through the intercession of St Ignatius and the Jesuits who have gone before us. We have begun each day with prayer together in the Aula and finished with a Eucharist.
We have moved from prayer to reflection. We looked at De Statu, a draft and prepared document describing the Society of Jesus in the world of today. We have also considered the needs of the Society over the coming ten years and the qualities we might seek in the next General Superior.
This led us into a number of group conversations, listening to how we each saw and interpreted the same draft document we had read and reflected upon. Over the days we met in different groups and met many new faces. We have followed this model for four days: prayer, reflection and conversation.
When we seek to prepare for important decisions we draw on our Ignatian tradition and come back to this trilogy. We return to prayer, we commit ourselves to reflection on what we are personally experiencing and we enter into open and respectful conversations. It prepares us personally and as a group for the decisions we are about to make. This morning, in making a decision whether to move the process on or not, we found we could make a decision as a group. It was very encouraging and consoling!