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Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Jesuits: like the angels

I read today that the British Jesuits are to hand over the parish of the Sacred Heart in Wimbledon, south west London, to the Archdiocese of Southwark, after serving the parish for more than 130 years due to a lack of men and resources - there are currently only 200 British Jesuits in the order (read the letter of the British Jesuits' Provincial). This reminds me of an article I saw last year about the Jesuits in the US - Fewer Jesuit priests this Easter, but more people learning Jesuit ideals.

Though the Jesuits mentioned in both articles are fairly sanguine about the situation, I find it sad that someday there will be no Jesuits. I can't help trying to imagine ways the order could reverse this decline. First Thoughts had an idea on this too - it was to basically turn the Jesuits into the new Opus Dei ;) but I have something else in mind. If there was one thing Ignatius of Loyola was, it was practical: he was a fan of adaptation. As the letter of the Provincial states .....

From the early days of the Jesuits, it is the flexibility of response for this mission which Ignatius so prized: a man did not join the Jesuits to do a particular thing, but he did so to offer himself to God through the Society of Jesus to be used where the needs were greatest, doing whatever task might be required at that time – whether that be hacking his way through the dense forests of north America, protecting the Amerindians from the slave-traders in Paraguay, teaching schoolchildren in a college in Prague or training to be an astronomer in the Court of the Chinese Emperor. Jesuit spirituality is one of availability for mission and so (to be true to our charism in a changing world) we should be open to constant metamorphosis in our mission and practice. St Ignatius would approve of the observation of Blessed John Henry Newman: “In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

And so what I propose is changing one thing about the Society of Jesus: allow celibacy to be optional. It's not as though Ignatius had nailed down the celibacy requirement for Jesuits: his only statement on the issue was that the Jesuits should be in this like the angels. Brian O'Leary SJ writes in an article in The Way ...

In part VI of the Constitutions, Ignatius will insist that through their chastity Jesuits imitate the purity of the angels. Purity here does not mean chastity (disembodied spirits cannot be chaste) but rather single-mindedness, single-heartedness. This was the medieval understanding of the word ‘purity’ that Ignatius inherited. He is saying that through their human chastity Jesuits are to imitate the single-mindedness and single-heartedness of the angels. And what does the Christian tradition teach about the angels? Angels are part of the heavenly court, standing before the throne of God in uninterrupted contemplation and adoration. But angels are also God’s messengers, sent to comfort, enlighten, warn or accompany human beings. Yet in being sent (we would say, in being missioned) they never leave the throne of God. They remain in God’s presence, they continue to be contemplatives, even when carrying out whatever project God has entrusted to them on this earth. It is easy to see how they were, to adapt Jerónimo Nadal’s phrase, contemplativi etiam in actione, contemplatives even in the midst of action, and how they could appeal so much to the sensitivities of the early Jesuits.

I suggest that there's no reason why one cannot be a single-hearted and single-minded contemplative in action while also engaging in intimate human connections. I don't believe God sees love as a contest of loyalties and in fact there are plenty of examples of committed people achieving extraordinary ends without sacrificing their relationships .... one example: the original society of Jesus, the apostles :)


Anonymous Victor said...

(((And so what I propose is changing one thing about the Society of Jesus: allow celibacy to be optional.

But angels are also God’s messengers, sent to comfort, enlighten, warn or accompany human beings.)))

Crystal, you would think for a guys like myself who was forced by society to take a two year occupational course in the early sixties that with this education "I" should have conquered the world and/or at least learn to be on topic by NOW!:)

As far as Angels are concerned, I could write a small book on how in reality, they've influenced my life and many of these stories would be confirmed by some of our six loving girls angels of mine.

As a matter of fact, the first church that I ever attended was built in 1954 and called "Saint Angels" "Holy Angels" and I learned at my dad's funeral that he had also helped to build "IT" and I was about 8 or so when "I" became an altar boy back then. My best friend Mike and "I" later were the only two who were leader of High Mass and long story short, me, myself and i having stole from The Angels on three occasions, spiritually did not help the fact that "IT" was closed down last year.

To get back on topic! As far as allowing celibacy to be optional, I honestly believe that "IT" would be just as easy and right to say that, me, me and me having stole about 5 or six dollars from the angels, that would also be perfectly OK cause GOD would still love U>S (usual sinners) and always WILL.

I'll close by saying that these angels have all kinds of "Facebooks look" and I'll never forget the look of "The Angel" who stared me in the eyes on the third and last time that I stole from His Church saying in French, Victor, there are a LOT of Hypocrites ( ) in this world.

The good news is that since then, "IT" has never been that easy for me to steal again. :)

What's that you say Angels?


1:23 PM  

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