Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ignatius Man

From the Hermitage

Dear Friends,

Yes, it is a special day for me even though I no longer am a Jesuit.  However, as my first superior outside the Society, the late James Cardinal Hickey, then Archbishop of Washington, said to me, "Milt, once a Jesuit, especially for 20 plus years, always a Jesuit.  If you change you way of thinking, I will be concerned."  It is my belief that there are very few men in our Church who wear the mitre who would be so genuine and respectful of my 26 years of formation as a Jesuit scholastic and priest.
Throughout the years I worked with Cardinal Hickey as my "boss," he would frequently call me aside for a genuine spiritual conversation.  Always about the Society and the way of life Jesuits live.

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was an extraordinary man.  One of the characteristics of this saint, often overlooked by historians and commentators on his life, fail to look at the humility which marked much of his life as a Jesuit.  It is always Ignatius the soldier, Ignatius the teacher, Ignatius the man of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius the Founder of the Jesuits.  However, I have always looked at the man whose thoughts and life formed my for so many years as a powerful man because he never liked the center of the stage.  I have been blessed to have celebrated Mass a number of times in the room where this leader in the Church died.  It was in this room one day that I came to see beyond the popular ways this man of God and the Church was portrayed.

Yesterday, you may recall my mention of "Ignatian indifference."  This I believe is the source of his power that captivated so many young men during his lifetime.  Within his years as the Superior General the small band of eight venturous men and multiplied to 1,000!  Ignatius' humility springs from his personal commitment to indifference.

What did he mean by indifference?  In 1997, a Jesuit priest, Father Joseph Conwell, author of Impelling Spirit, wrote in his book these words to his brother Jesuits.  I believe these words are a part of the DNA of anyone who has had affiliation with the Jesuits, with the Society of Jesus, with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

We must set aside fear.  Have no fear of the future, fear of change.
The call is to listen, to listen to the Spirit within, 
listen to one another, listen to events outside,
listen to the sights and sounds of the times, 
listen to the needs of God's people and God's world.

Humility is not standing in the corner when others pass by.  Humility is not keeping quiet when the heart is aflame with a sense of a new mission.  Humility is making change always available to the inclinations of the Holy Spirit in one's life.  In truth Jesuits are recognized for their intelligence.  Yet, it is that very intelligence that enables Jesuits to be the power that God uses in them to bring what He has implanted in their hearts and minds.

On this day, while lauding the Jesuits, there is one group of men in the Society of Jesus who are the outstanding models of humility.  Today I remember especially the Jesuit Brothers who always shunned any spotlight.  Their mission was to be the backbone of any Jesuit community.  They were there to make the community life livable.  In my early days the Brothers were looked upon as the less educated.  Shame on us of those days for thinking that way.  Among the The Brothers there have been and always will be saints:  humble men whose mission is to support the Jesuits on the front lines.  Here were the carpenters, the cooks, the bakers, the tailors, the bookkeepers, the sacristans, the men who cared for the properties but always men who did not look for recognition in any way.  Always the men who could be found silently on their knees in our chapels throughout the day ... praying for us who were teaching, administrating or leading spiritual programs for others.

Yes, I do miss my Jesuit life and brothers but I made a decision that I felt Ignatius was asking me to lead ... becoming a diocesan priest.  I am happy that I did because God has blessed me to impact the lives of a number of priests, parishioners and programs ... yes, and even a Pope (St. John Paul II)!  Oops!  I guess there goes my humility for the day!!!!

Again, as we Jesuits, those in the Society and those who may no longer use SJ behind their names but who will always think Jesuit ways, and sign off to one another,

Oremus pro invicem!

Fr. Milt