A Province of Society of Jesus in South Asia Assistancy
Inigo Day Talk and Service
Posted on: 4 Jun, 2019|Modified on: 1 Dec, 2014
By Aurel Brys
Talk by Aurel Brys sj to the Ranchi SJ on 29 July 2010 in preparation for St Ignatius’ feast.
Every year we have this talk, the novena, the celebration, we recall St Ignatius and his companions! It feels good, yes, but does it make sense, or is it rather chewing on the same bone over and over again?
It does make sense, not only because it feeds the sentiment, and because we need repetition, even an occasional pep-talk and reminder, dusting our tradition, but because of a deeper reason. We, the present Society of Jesus form a community of remembrance, we are a community of memory, personal and collective. We draw life from it for now and for the future. ‘To hope is to remember”.
As an example of this dynamics, do we not unconsciously think back or refer to our ‘collective tribal memory’: the myths, rituals, stories, the love of the land and sense of community that is ‘in the blood, in the heart, in the body’. It feeds us and bringing it out consciously, as e.g. RTC does in different ways, it stimulates us forward.
Or when the 2nd year theologians during the POP at that important juncture of decision making spend time in the Intensive Journal. They look back at their whole River of Life: the different currents , the energy, God’s actions. They draw fruit from it. And realizing that a river does not stop all of a sudden, they discover how their grace-filled life with its different patterns projects itself forward. It is in seeing this flow from past to present to future that they receive light and strength for their decision. To hope is to remember.
The Society of Jesus, a Society of remembrance! We did not invent nor found the Society. It has been given to us, as it started out of the original, primary and historical event/experience almost 500 years ago. Given to us also is the way it has grown, its River of Life and the different currents as manifested in its history and the 35 General Congregations. Given to us we desire to continue this lovely human-divine adventure according to the charism of Ignatius and the first companions and what the River of Life of the Society offers us now. Nadal’s words resound in us tonight how the grace given to St Ignatius and companions is a grace given to all and each one of us.
So, yes, this yearly talk and the events before and on 31st July make lots of sense. It is organic and necessary to go back, to remember, to celebrate this ‘yearly ritual’. Remembering propels us forward to be a Community of Hope. I will recall 2 primary experiences of Ignatius and companions, and one vital tool he gave us.
One more word about the ‘setting’. Ignatius and companions are in Italy. They cannot go to Jerusalem and now, as promised/foreseen earlier they want to dispose themselves into the hands of the pope. Their band could well be dispersed as it will be, and they know it. Is this the end of “what God had accomplished in them”?
What did God accomplish in them? And do they want this to end or to continue and how? It is with these two questions that Ignatius and companions wrestled in the Lord during the Deliberation of the First Fathers in 1539.
Two experiences, to be ‘friends in the Lord’ and “to be companions of Jesus” have led to the founding of the Society of Jesus. These are the object of the most intimate and deepest desires of Ignatius and companions. These guide them to found the Society. And these they want to continue, perceiving it as the Will of God. These we receive. They are now in our hands. As a community of remembrance every moment we “ask our Lord for what we want and desire”, to continue in, through and with us what God has accomplished in Ignatius and companions: ‘to be friends in the Lord’ and to ‘be companions of Jesus’, a Society of Jesus.
Friends in the Lord.
It is 1537 and Ignatius writes from Venice to his friend Juan de Verdolay: “ From Paris nine of my friends in the Lord have arrived in Italy…”. It is the first time the expression is used. To what experience does this expression ‘friends in the Lord’ refer to?
No doubt to a very deeply human friendship. They were men of deep feelings. The experience of mutual closeness and of mutual support, the joy and well-being of living together as friends. The experience of concern and care for one another. They took trouble for one another. Also the experience of deep spiritual communication with one another of how the Lord had been and was at work in them: the Spiritual Exercises, their desire and common experience of ‘helping souls’, etc. One must see these aspects of their deep friendship very concretely. And we know enough about their life in Paris, their meetings, their studies together, when one was sick, their outings, what they talked about and their longings, their openness and honesty as it had grown over the years. They were different characters, of different ethnicity, and yet they grew into a tightly bound group of friends in the deepest sense. From 1528 to 1539: eleven years of intense human and spiritual bonding. As ‘friends’, not as a family. I remember Father Arrupe stressing that point: ‘We are not a family, we are in a way not brothers: we are friends, deeply bonded and united. Can we say the same of one another, of those whom we live with or with whom we may have lived together for 3,5,10,20 and more years. It is in our hands.
Yet, besides all this, the most important factor which makes us truly friends in the Lord is how this friendship is rooted ‘in the Lord’ as the true source and wellspring that has called us together. I remember a very meaningful mantra: “Lord Jesus, source of my life”. Ignatius and companions lived this very deeply, individually and collectively. Let us ‘taste’ this in them, and strive to live it too as they did. It is in our hands.
“Friends in the Lord”: a deep human friendship which has its roots, its sacred roots, in the Lord, in spite of their very different characters and ethnicity and the unavoidable interpersonal conflicts. Ignatius and the First Fathers want that this friendship continues, even when scattered all over the world, as soon will be the case. How they relished it, and kept it and communicated it, and gave it to us, in our hands now. This is our legacy, to keep it alive, not just the memory, but the reality here and now. It is an invitation, a challenge, a deep current that flows on. We are called and called together to be friends, to be friends in the Lord. Fr Kolvenbach wrote: “We are not heroes, we are poor people who need the support of our companions. If as a Jesuit we think that we can do it alone, that we do not need each other, we are not an example of a Jesuit.”
Companions of Jesus
The second experience which God had wrought in Ignatius and his companions and which they did not want to end and which led to the founding of the Society was the experience of being rooted in the Lord. Their heart was in Jesus which made them affectively “Companions of Jesus”. It needs to be added immediately that this Jesus was outgoing, on a mission. “And Jesus went round doing good” so tells us the Acts of the Apostles.
With Jesus they were companions on a mission, active ‘apostolic’ companions of Jesus. They took on the horizon of Jesus actively bringing the Good News as Luke 4 gives us : “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, release to the captives, ….” Their activities, their choice of ministry, their way of life, are rooted in the apostolic Jesus. As Jesus knew Himself to be sent by the Father, so did Ignatius and companions know themselves to be sent by Jesus on a mission. To be on a mission is crucial to the Society, and this expresses itself emotionally and structurally in so many ways. “To help souls” is became the classic expression of this inner experience which so deeply bound the companions. To be companions of Jesus is ‘to serve’. An attitude of ‘serving’ characterizes Ignatius and his companions. And this is now given to us.
We know how Ignatius changed the structure of religious life as it was known then and we know how he ‘fought’ for it with all spiritual and other means, to safeguard this ‘apostolic’ call and the way of life that was most conducive to it. They were convinced that this was what God had accomplished in them and which they ‘in the Lord’ wanted to continue in the Society of Jesus: to be apostles. Ignatius never used the word ‘community’ in the Constitutions! Not only, one would think, out of caution that the very word would evoke the religious community as it was lived then , but mainly to open a creative way of living the ‘intimacy of an apostolic group”. It was very new at that time and even now we do not always find it easy to strike the balance between a group of apostolically engaged individuals (individualists!) on the one hand and wanting more and more structures to ‘safeguard’ us.
‘Friends in the Lord” and “Companions of Jesus”, two anchors, two pillars, the two main currents that characterized Ignatius and companions and on which the Society is founded. This is now given to us and this makes us a “Society of Remembrance”. It is in our hands now. It is not like a photo album which we receive or a memento which we relish, or even a tradition which we need to keep up. I is a living reality to be continued in the changing circumstances.
A tool to live this
Ignatius was a man of intense activity, yet he was a mystic closely united with God. How did he do it? How did he manage these two together? How do WE manage who are called to be the same ‘contemplatives in action’?
The first one, activity, generally is no problem. There is the aim, the desire, the motivation and don’t we manage pretty well to be busy, to be active, to do our work?
But the second “closely united to God”! We try, and God knows we try, with fits and starts, ever so often. We desire to be faithful to our ‘prayer time’, to our ‘meditation’! to fill the batteries in the hope that they will overflow into our activity. Often it does not happen: we limp along, feel frustrated: a nagging pain, guilt, rationalizing and trying to forget till we try again.
Is there another way? Yes, the way of THE Ignatian Prayer. After much search and struggle Ignatius managed to discover what we now call the Ignatian Prayer of “finding God in all things”, the form of prayer for an active apostle. To find and nourish the internal structure of being a ‘contemplative in action’ St Ignatius gave us that marvelous tool of as the Examen of Conscience, or better, the Examen of Consciousness.
I will touch upon two concrete ways to practice this prayer: one from our River of Life, one in daily life.
Before that, I want to narrate one incident which does illustrate the point. In LNN (Lay Leadership Formation), which has often participants of different religions, we have the custom of starting our meetings with the following question: “How has God been active, how have you experienced God at work in you during this past month?” It took time to explain it. Yet very soon people shared openly and often very touchingly. At one time an LNN member told me: “Father, I have been doing this ‘exercise of noticing God’s action in me’ many times now and somehow I get the strong feeling/sense that God is always at work and present in me. It gives me such a… it is difficult to describe it really… an inner fullness, a connectedness and a great joy. Thank you very much for introducing us to this marvelous prayer.”
One can see one’s River of Life as one dynamic becoming more and more conscious how God is at work in one’s life and to realize how these currents of our life, of God at work in us, flow from past to present to future. To hope is to remember. Ignatius’ autobiography though apparently half finished and without conclusion is a marvellous example of how he allowed himself to be nourished by that ever-present stream. Among others he recalled his foundational experience of God at Cardoner, and the confirmation of his deepest desire as companion of Jesus at La Storta.
What is our Cardoner? Where do we find it? In the experience of being called, that ‘feeling’ of being called and the different moments or elements present in it. It is in us: God at work. Recalling it, tasting it, we can let it nourish us and move us forward in the future. How have we experienced God at work in a special way? In the experience of the Spiritual Exercises, in encounters of forgiving and of being forgiven, in friendship (friendship in the Society, that precious gift). Standing in those wellsprings that ARE in us, however clogged up they at times may be. We draw fruit from it for the present and for the future. That dynamic movement of ‘remembrance’ which characterizes the Examen of consciousness and which is so symbolic of the movement of the Society as a Society of remembrance.
What is our La Storta? Recalling and savouring how we have experienced our personal relationship with and commitment to Jesus, we realize it as a present living reality which seeks to express itself in our desire and activities. Discovering God at work in us in our apostolic experiences, when we emptied ourselves. It IS there. With people: when touching their faith, their generosity, the commitment to their family, to their children, recalling the faith and commitment of a pracharak, of our parents, our bhabi, a companion, a Jesuit brother, and so many more. Many of these are experiences are in us. They are not just photos which we recall but wellsprings from which we drink. We graft our own experience on the experience of Ignatius and companions and of the Society, on their River of Life, and let this consciousness of God’s action enlighten our own River of Live. The Ignatian Prayer sees the past, not as past, but as part of the present, because one recognizes God at work as a living spring: “Finding God in all things” which makes us to become more and more ’contemplatives in action.” I become aware how God has been at work in me, how God is active in me now, and, as the river does not stop all of a sudden, we become aware how God invites me, pushes me on to realize this and to work with Him. Ignatius believed so strongly in this way of praying that he did not prescribe any other prayer for the formed Jesuit and was very insistent that we pray in that manner.
The practice of the Examen of Conscience in our daily life! The word itself has become for many of us so burdened as it evokes less pleasant experiences: moralizing, scraping, self-centred, legalistic, but also guilty for not being faithful to it, boring. And yet, it is anything BUT all these. It is an act of faith and deep trust in God-with-us as we, pilgrims, are one the way. It is God-centred as it calls for our continuous ‘attentiveness’ to God’s action in us. It is like a person who carries a full bowl of milk. He has his attention fully on the bowl, lest he spills the milk. This Ignatian ‘Examen’ sharpens our attentiveness in daily life to God’s action and thus seeking and finding God in all things creates in me the attitude of being a contemplative in action. It works wonders as Ignatius experienced it. He shared with us and the whole Society this wonder. We wish we could be faithful to it, we wish we would have that deep desire of continual attentiveness to God at work.
Do we find it difficult to be ‘faithful’ to the twice fifteen minutes of awareness: of what has been, of how we recognize God at work during the past half a day, of how we received or hindered it. May I suggest, even as an in between stage, the following. Cut the twice fifteen minutes up in smaller parts: four times five minutes spread over the day becoming concretely aware of this flow. And add to this during the day, often during ‘lost’ moments’ (waiting for a meal, going to our room, waiting for the electricity to come back or the generator to be put on, and so many occasions that present itself) frequent short awareness moments of recognizing God at work. All of these are expessions of our attentiveness to God active and present. The work wonders, for “the iron will bend, the heart will open, the mind will see and God will take over”.
To be friends in the Lord, to be companions of Jesus, to be attentive in seeking and finding God in all things: these are what God had accomplished in Ignatius and companions. They wanted this to continue in the Society of Jesus. This precious gift is in our hands. Happy Saint Ignatius Day.
Penitential Service in preparation of St Ignatius’ Feast 2010
Sign of the Cross
Invitation: Take heart and hold firm. It is God who has called us to companionship with his Son Jesus, and he is faithful to his promise.
Let us pray: Merciful God and Father, even if we abandon you, you do not abandon us, but bring us back to your love: you seek what was lost and make a feast for the lost son who returns. Open our heart tonight to your mercy and flood them with your forgiving love that we may gratefully accept forgiveness, that we may forgive others and especially our companions, and that we may be strengthened by our trust in you. We make this prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Saint Ignatius wrote from Venice in 1537 to his friend Juan de Verdolay: “My nine friends in the Lord arrived here from Paris in mid January. All are Masters of Arts and well versed in theology: four are from Spain, two from Savoy, and one from Portugal. They came braving the wars and the biting cold winter, and on arrival they settled in two hospitals to serve the sick and the poor in the lowliest tasks, those most contrary to nature.
And Father Polanco narrates on what happened afterwards: “Discussing among themselves what name they should chose, they began to pray over it. It seemed to them that since they had no other superior than Jesus Christ, whom alone they desired to serve, they should take his name and call themselves Company of Jesus.”
The Society is not yet born, but it has a life and a name. Their reunion with Ignatius after two years brings to light the interior bond that keeps them united: their mutual friendship in the Lord and their love and commitment to Christ. They already form an apostolic community with ideals and a way of proceeding that will characterize the future Society of Jesus. It is already a community in dispersion.
(The end of this reading.)
We reflect for a while in silence how the Lord has called us as he called St Ignatius and his companions.
We pray in thanksgiving, in the first place for the events that inspired Ignatius and companions and that led to the founding of the Society. We pray in wonder and gratitude for this grace which as a wellspring has nourished thousands of companions over the centuries and which has brought us together here this evening “Friends in the Lord and Companions of Jesus”. We also pause to express our sorrow and repentance for our unfaithfulness to this grace deep within us as individuals and as a group. Your response is : Lord, have mercy
May the Lord forgive us for our lack of attentiveness, our lack of attention to Him who is at work in us, in our work, in the people we meet and are sent to, and especially in our companions. For not taking the means to feel and strengthen this living presence by the prayer which Ignatius urged all of us to be faithful to and which enables us to seek and find the Lord: Let us pray.
For our complacency in our secure clerical world which at times makes our apostolate like excursions rather than true commitments. For not sharing with one another our inner experiences as Ignatius and companions felt urged to do, and in this way for our failure to build the true intimacy of an apostolic community. Let us pray.
For our lack of trust to believe that God invites us to work with Him where He already is at work in the first place. Let us pray.
For our lack of a passionate attachment to the person of Jesus, who is the true source of our life, of our community and of all that we do in His name. Let us pray.
For taking each other for granted, for our lack of caring to truly know each other and communicate with each other at a depth which is expected of us as Jesuits, as Friends in the Lord. Let us pray.
We bow our heads in repentance and silent prayer ……….
Let us pray as friends in the Lord and companions of Jesus in the words Jesus gave us: Our Father ……….”
The peace of the Lord be always with you…. Let us offer each other a genuine sign of peace.
Lord we pray, grant us an intimate knowledge of you, that we may love you intimately and follow you more closely, accepting our cross and sharing the Cross of our companions and of those you entrust to our apostolic care. Through our honest repentance and your loving forgiveness give us the deep joy of belonging to you and to this group which bears your name. We make this prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It is suggested that on this occasion we pay special attention in our repentance and in our individual confessing prayer to our sinful attitudes and actions with regard to our call of ‘Being friends in the Lord and Companions of Jesus’ and for our negligence in our Ignatian prayer of “seeking and finding God’s will every moment of our life”.