Well, the ‘Francis effect’ continues in the Aula as elsewhere. So many people speak of the Holy Father’s address as something we will mine for years, long after this Congregation ends. In one conversation after another, people have spoken of how his words and his presence moved them to prayer. I certainly know that too.
Yet, now back to business, dealing with a variety of topics concerning the life or governance of the Society. In one way, the great consolation from Monday recedes just a bit as we deal with texts or questions. I suppose that is to be expected.
In another sense, though, the ‘effect’ of Monday lingers for me, though in a different form. When Pope Francis call us to be men who live the joy of the Gospel and who also share compassionately in the cross of Christ, especially as borne by so many others, he touched on important elements of our Jesuit spirituality.
This challenge from the Holy Father also provided me a way of paying attention beneath the words spoken to the men with whom I’ve been placed here at the Congregation. We come from so many places, from situations certainly completely alien to me coming from the U.S. Some of these men speak of the experience of sharing in the cross of Christ. Since Monday I have heard from men who bear the cross of violence arising from fundamentalisms of various forms. Men from South Asia spoke clearly of the marginalization they share with their people, for example, and whether what we say here at the GC will help or hurt them. I heard too from a Jesuit imprisoned for three years because of his faith, a suffering he shared with many of his people. The pain of the people of Syria came through in a very personal way listening to a Jesuit from the Middle East who wants us to know first-hand the terror in that land.
These men, my brother Jesuits, live out the compassionate sharing of the cross of Christ in others of which Pope Francis spoke. I’ve pondered in prayer how they bring his words to life, how they invite me out of my world into a space of deeper compassion.
Yet, a second element touches me. One might expect a kind of dourness or bitterness in these men who bear the cross. That’s so far from the truth. They bring alive for me the other side of Pope Francis’ call, to be men imbued with the joy of the Gospel. These men live it out and I’ve experienced it in their humor and the ease with which the engage others. The same is true in different ways of the many men I’ve met.
Yes, the ‘Francis effect’ continues, though maybe not with the euphoria of Monday afternoon. It lingers in the call to pray with the vision of our life and mission given us by the Holy Father that day. For me, perhaps more richly, it lingers as a lens through which to gain a deeper appreciation of my brothers as they speak in the Aula from such a wealth of backgrounds. No wonder the Pope’s words touched us so deeply – there was very fertile ground on which to fall!