No doubt you’ve all seen pictures of the Aula, the hall in which we meet daily. Those responsible for remodeling the space did a wonderful job; it is a great place to meet. As we pray in the morning, that ‘choir style’, facing each other encourages the prayer.
Wonderful as it is, however, someone brought a simple fact to our attention today, a simple point with a much more profound meaning. While there is a fake skylight, you will not find a window in the room. There is a lot of warm wood, some lovely paintings, excellent choice of colors, but nothing natural in terms of light. On an overcast day like today, that’s not so bad, but there’s so much beauty in the fall Roman sky. I realized that we had them in the old Aula, though high up on the walls.
His point, however, was much deeper, and spoke to a restlessness that has bubbled up again and again during our time here, namely the call to the world beyond. We can so easily focus inward, on ourselves, but God constantly beckons us outward. That has been especially the case as we’ve labored over our way of governing ourselves. That is so alien to the charism we share.
The deeper point hits at a reality at our core as Jesuits, namely that all that we do finds its origin and purpose in our call to labor with Christ, to go on mission with him beyond these walls. To see, to hear, to experience, to be in communion with others taps into something so foundational in the hearts of each of us here.
As we have prayed and reflected, we have heard the need to attend to those with whom we collaborate, those deeply steeped in the spirit of the Spiritual Exercises. Often the question arises not simply how we can look out at them, but rather how their presence, their voices can help shape our discussions.
Deeper still lies a desire to see and to know the persons so often excluded or marginalized in discussions ‘at a high level. He invited us to think of the groups not present: women, refugees, the poor, indigenous peoples, those deemed undesirable. All that we do here, discussing governance or our common life aims to free us to see them, to hear them, to be with them, and all as part of being on mission with Christ. I think of Fr. General’s desire to be about the much needed work of reconciliation in our world, something definitely ‘outside the walls’.
My fellow Jesuit’s point certainly hit home and focused so much of the restlessness in our hearts these weeks. We are men who don’t easily settle into meetings but yearn to be ‘on mission’. I found myself pondering an imaginary window and all the richness and challenge beyond that beckon us and felt again the wisdom of Ignatius who urged us to have these GC meetings rarely, so that we could not only look out through windows, but devote ourselves to laboring with Christ beyond the windows or walls.