Fr. Dulles on what the Jesuits are all about
Our esteemed man in red, Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., has written a really admirable piece on what the Jesuit charism is, and what it can offer for the Church in this new millennium. It's quite good, and I hope it gets photocopied and given out to every Jesuit novice in formation in North America (maybe even elsewhere?). It's too bad the whole article is behind the America firewall, but here is a selection. After clarifying the founding principles of the Society--that is, a religious order focused on the greater glory of God above all, centered on Jesus Christ the way that leads to life, and fundamentally oriented toward the service of the Church--in typical Dulles fashion he then helpfully elaborates this Jesuit charism in ten features:
1. Dedication to the glory of God, the "ever greater God," whom we can never praise and serve enough. This gives the Jesuit a kind of holy restlessness, a ceaseless effort to do better, to achieve the more or, in Latin, the magis. Ignatius may be said to have been a God-intoxicated man in the sense that he made "the greater glory of God" the supreme norm of every action, great or small.Dulles then overviews the teaching and guidance the Popes since Paul VI have given the Society as it has sought to renew itself according to the call of Vatican II. Finally, he mentions the main challenges facing the Society for the near future.
2. Personal love for Jesus Christ and a desire to be counted among his close companions. Repeatedly in the Exercises Jesuits pray to know Christ more clearly, to love him more dearly and to follow him more nearly. Preaching in the towns of Italy, the first companions deliberately imitated the style of life of the disciples whom Jesus had sent forth to evangelize the towns of Galilee.
3. To labor with, in and for the church, thinking at all times with the church in obedience to its pastors. Throughout the Constitutions, Ignatius insists on the teaching of the doctrine that is "safer and more approved," so that students may learn the "more solid and safe doctrine."
4. Availability. To be at the disposal of the church, available to labor in any place, for the sake of the greater and more universal good. Regarding the Society as the spiritual militia of the pope, St. Ignatius sees the whole world, so to speak, as his field of operations. Inspired by this cosmic vision, he admits no divisions based on national frontiers and ethnic ties.
5. Mutual union. Jesuits are to see themselves as parts of a body bound together by a communion of minds and hearts. In the Constitutions, St. Ignatius asserted that the Society could not attain its ends unless its members were united by a deep affection among themselves and with the head. Many authors quote in this connection the term used by Ignatius of his first companions: "friends in the Lord."
6. Preference for spiritual and priestly ministries. The Jesuits are a priestly order, all of whose professed members must be ordained, although the cooperation of spiritual and lay coadjutors is highly valued. In the choice of ministries, Ignatius writes, "spiritual goods ought to be preferred to bodily," since they are more conducive to the "ultimate and supernatural end."
7. Discernment. Ignatius was a master of the practical life and the art of decision-making. He distinguished carefully between ends and means, choosing the means best suited to achieve the end in view. In the use of means he consistently applied the principle: "tantum...quantum," meaning "as much as helps," but not more. In this connection he teaches the discipline of indifference in the sense of detachment from anything that is not to be sought for its own sake.
8. Adaptability. Ignatius always paid close attention to the times, places and persons with which he was dealing. He took care to frame general laws in such a way as to allow for flexibility in application.
9. Respect for human and natural capacities. Although Ignatius relied primarily on spiritual means, such as divine grace, prayer and sacramental ministry, he took account of natural abilities, learning, culture and manners as gifts to be used for the service and glory of God. For this reason he showed a keen interest in education.
10. An original synthesis of the active and the contemplative life. Jerome Nadal (1507-80) spoke of the Jesuit practice "of seeking a perfection in our prayer and spiritual exercises in order to help our neighbor even more." According to Nadal, it is a special grace of the whole Society to be contemplative not only in moments of withdrawal but also in the midst of action, thus "seeking God in all things."
The greatest need of the Society of Jesus, I believe, is to be able to project a clearer vision of its purpose. Its members are engaged in such diverse activities that its unity is obscured. In this respect the recent popes have rendered great assistance. Paul VI helpfully reminded Jesuits that they are a religious order, not a secular institute; that they are a priestly order, not a lay association; that they are apostolic, not monastic; and that they are bound to obedience to the pope, not wholly self-directed.This is the best summary of what it means to be a Jesuit that I have ever seen in print. The only thing I would like to see is how "Justice" fits into that charism today. Granted, that is a complicated and not-yet-sorted-out issue, but fundamentally I think there is an important truth there, although I do think it is hard to get at in light of a lot of sloppy cliches and rhetoric that is thrown around out there. But if I could be so bold as to add an eleventh point:
Pope John Paul II, in directing the Jesuits to to engage in the new evangelization, identified a focus that perfectly matches the founding idea of the Society. Ignatius was adamant in insisting that it be named for Jesus, its true head. The Spiritual Exercises are centered on the Gospels. Evangelization is exactly what the first Jesuits did as they conducted missions in the towns of Italy. They lived lives of evangelical poverty. Evangelization was the sum and substance of what St. Francis Xavier accomplished in his arduous missionary journeys. And evangelization is at the heart of all Jesuit apostolates in teaching, in research, in spirituality and in the social apostolate. Evangelization, moreover, is what the world most sorely needs today. The figure of Jesus Christ in the Gospels has not lost its attraction. Who should be better qualified to present that figure today than members of the Society that bears his name?
11. Faith at the service of Justice. Vatican II has given the contemporary Church a clarified vision that sees evangelization and the preaching of the Gospel as not merely an interior or individual concern, but one that includes the entire cosmic and anthropological orders. Concretely, evangelization entails a transformation of the world and culture, the social and political realms, so that the whole world and all of man's life becomes a reflection of and a means toward humanity's union with God brought about in Jesus Christ. Because of the central importance Jesus Christ has in their charism, and because of their understanding of nature and grace that recognizes the integrity of nature and at the same time its always-oriented character toward the supernatural, Jesuits can serve with particular effectiveness a ministry toward this task, which includes as a part, teaching and preaching about the church's Social Teaching and the imperative of building a just world, as well as assisting the laity by impelling and initiating movements in which the laity can effect this work of justice (and ultimately charity).