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Jesuit Community, Leadership and Spirituality Today: S.Asian Perspective

Posted on: 1 Dec, 2014

Modified on: 1 Dec, 2014

By unknown

Jesuit Community, Leadership and Spirituality Today: S.Asian Perspective

1. Jesuit Communion in Community

1.1. Ignatius desired union of hearts among Jesuits more than community life. He expected that like the first companions Jesuits would be scattered in different ministries and yet experience union and communion with one another. He was also aware that Jesuits would be learned men and sometimes socially well connected. But unless they were united among themselves and their superiors the Society cannot be preserved, governed or consequently, attain the end it seeks for the greater glory of God (Const. 655-656).

1.2. The means that Ignatius offers first and foremost is the selection of candidates both for the first and the final profession. These men should be prudent and outstanding in learning and holiness. Natural gifts and mortification were the criteria to accept candidates. (Const. 657-658).

1.3. Obedience was another means that Ignatius offered for effective communion among Jesuits. Ignatian obedience is not a command but a commission for the mission of the Society. While obedience included trust and accountability Ignatius recommended properly ordered subordination. Transparency and shared responsibility will help foster a sense of belonging to the community. For Ignatius our communion was so important that he would want anyone who causes division among us to be separated from the community as a pestilence or the plague (Const. 659-660, 664).

1.4. The chief bond that would cement the union among Jesuits is the love of God our Lord as individuals and as a community. This is manifested in an attitude of Ignatian reverence towards one another fostered by overcoming self-love, self-will and self interest and a total contempt of temporal things and a worldly attitude (Const. 671).

2. Spiritual Leadership

2.1. The Superior General is the prototype of Jesuit leadership. Ignatius expected the Jesuit leader above all else to be closely united with God our Lord and intimate with him in prayer and in all his actions (Const. 723). This mystical union is reflected in a total dedication to God in love that always overflows into service. Union with the Divine makes the leader a channel of Divine blessings on the community and their ministries.

2.2. A Jesuit leader is known for his love for the Society. This is expressed by his knowledge of the Ignatian sources that is seen in his conversation and way of proceeding. His commitment to Ignatian values will keep him free from the influence or threats of powers that be and may sometimes cost him his very life (Const. 728). The quality of this universal love is free from all disordered passions (Const. 726) so that his judgment will be objective. He has overcome self, put order in his personal life and is able to make decisions without any disordered affection (SpEx 21).

2.3. An Ignatian leader is uncompromising when it comes to the values of the Kingdom. He blends strictness with kindness (Const. 727). Even though reprimanding someone who is wrong is necessary he has broad shoulders to bear the imperfections of many. But this magnanimity is always mixed with fortitude (Const. 728) so that the weaknesses of others do not come in the way of completing any undertaking of the Society.

2.4 Ignatius did not want his followers to blindly honour their commitment to God but wanted them to be knowledgeable, erudite and prudent (Const. 729). They must be outstanding in learning and at the same time develop the art of discernment both in the spiritual life as well as in the things of this world. These men have to be were always vigilant, solicitous and energetic (Const. 730).

3. The foundation of Jesuit Spirituality

3.1. In his life and teachings Ignatius wanted Jesuits to be imbued with the Divine before they were sent forth on their mission so that they would radiate that "Supreme Wisdom and Goodness of God our Creator and Lord" (Const.134). Ignatius' principle of choice which later became the motto of the Society of Jesus, "Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam," or the spirituality of infinite possibilities would thus be lived in every Jesuit's activity.

3.2.Life for Ignatius was union and familiarity with the Divine. This relationship permeated everything he did, gave meaning to his life and was the bedrock on which all his activity rested. Ignatius gave primacy to this relationship until it possessed and consumed him. It motivated him to strive after the infinite possibilities in every aspect of his life both temporal and spiritual.

3.3. This relationship is his legacy to the church and the hallmark of a Jesuit. Ignatius and his companions were recognized for their apostolic achievements but what set them apart as Jesuits is that they were spiritual men living their spirituality of infinite possibilities. The people they ministered to were given the pathway of attaining the same goal that these Jesuits were after. Experiencing the Divine and growing in that relationship in the midst of everyday life was a new way of living, it was to experience the Divine in all things and recognize the infinite possibilities in their personal lives.

3.4. It was Ignatius' desire that Jesuits be grounded in the Spiritual Exercises so that God would take primacy and become the guiding principle of their life and activity. Contemplative prayer as Ignatius intended in the Spiritual Exercises is an experience that leads to "an abiding state of union with God." Genuine contemplative prayer, as proposed by Ignatius, will in turn lead to a contemplative life which is "the abiding state of union itself in which one is moved both in prayer and in action by the Spirit." If Jesuits are grounded in the Spiritual Exercises, as Ignatius intended, and have experienced this genuine contemplative prayer then constant communion with God will become their way of life. All that Jesuits accomplish will thus be in union with God and their lives will be an expression of their relationship with the Divine. Jesuits will thus be contemplative likewise in action.

4. The Three C-s of Jesuit Spirituality: Contemplation- Compassion-Creativity.

4.1. Contemplation
4.1.1 Jesuits are called to be contemplatives: seeing God in all. The Spirituality of the Exercises enables us to perceive the Divine at the heart of the secular. Sensitivity to the unfolding of the Kingdom of God in all realms of life is the dynamics of Jesuit spirituality. This means a spiritual alertness to the grace and demands of the Spirit of God, a discernment that makes us listen to what the Spirit is telling us in the concrete life situation.
4.1.2. In the Indian context Jesuit contemplation calls for a twofold focus: vertical and horizontal. We need to look deep into ourselves and experience the mystical oneness with Christ in us. And with this in-sight (jnana) we need to look into the world and perceive the signs of the working of the Spirit around us. In the socio-economic struggles of the people, in the cultural and religious diversity of the country, in the environmental issues and secular movements we need to discern the call and demands of the divine Spirit. Without a contemplative depth religious life in India lacks credibility and persuasiveness.
4.1.3. This alertness is possible only if there is spiritual discipline in our daily life. It has been the noble heritage of the Society that each Jesuit spends an hour in silent meditation every day. In the last few decades this practice has been diluted and relativised to the needs of the person and demands of the work. The tragic consequence is that there is a wide-spread spiritual crisis in the Society. Should we not reinstate a better discipline in daily meditation in our life?

4.2. Compassion
4.2.1. The hallmark of a genuinely religious person is compassion. Indian sages and Christian masters bear witness to this. Compassion based on our faith in the crucified God makes us see the suffering of God in the suffering people. The third week of the Exercises makes us realize that the Cross of Christ is not merely a historical fact, much more a present reality. God meets us through the suffering persons and marginalised communities here and now. Jesuit response to this demands that we become sensitive to the suffering our people.
4.2.2. Promotion of justice has been an optio fundamentalis in our mission today. This however has to be conjoined with a compassionate attitude (bhakti) to people with whom and for whom we work. Otherwise there is the danger that our commitment gets easily manipulated by political interests and ego clashes. The question then arises: who will liberate the liberator!
4.2.3. A basic concern of Jesuit apostolate has been cura personalis. We need to give attention to every human person entrusted to our care by God. Institutionalised works and organised projects tend to make us Jesuits efficient administrators, but we tend to bypass individuals in their utter helplessness and acute suffering and struggle. Does our institutionalised approach set on efficiency make us callous to concrete human persons?

4.3. Creativity
4.3.1. The basis of Jesuit creativity is the principle of magis. Rather than getting settled in the status quo we should constantly ask ourselves: what more can I do for Christ? An irresistible restlessness evolving from our commitment to Christ the Lord is the characteristic of Jesuit commitment (karma). Openness to the ever-widening horizons of the activity of the divine Spirit makes us explore new ways of responding to the demands of the Kingdom of God.
4.3.2. Creativity evolving from a deep Christic experience enables us to transcend boundaries: to go beyond the borderlines of countries and continents, cultures and religions. Globalisation on the spiritual landscape of humanity is the challenge that we have to respond to. Our creative endeavors could then make people realize that the one divine Spirit is bringing the one human race into a unity in divine life.
4.3.3 Jesuit creativity has to be related in a special way to the secular culture of India. Participating in peoplesí movements, writing in secular journals, dialoguing with secular thinkers, working in government projects, responding to national issues etc. could be a major concern of Jesuits in India. We need to invest a lot of our time and energy to preserving the sound secular fabric of the nation. Does not our involvement tend to get confined to Church structures and issues?