Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Friday, February 22, 2008

"So that we all know where we stand..."

Following is my translation of the address given by B16 at the Audience with the GC35 Jesuits. I am not a professional (or even a serious amateur) translator, just a Society of Jesus-lovin' fool with an Italian (okay, Sicilian) grandmother. If you think I have made a mistake in here somewhere, let me know. It's a bit rough, because Italian (moreso than Spanish or Latin) really doesn't lend itself a coherent literal translation; there'll be a lot of [brackets] and "dynamic equivalence" going on. You've been warned.

My emphases and comments.



P.S. InsightScoop has a thought-provoking entry on this, as does CWN.
P.P.S. This is bilocatin' over at SWC



At morning's end, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience the participants in General Congregation 35 of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and gave the speech that follows:


Dear Fathers of the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus,

I am happy to be gathered [with you] today while the labors which you are undertaking enter into their conclusive phase. I thank the new Superior General, Father Adolfo Nicolás, who is to be the interpreter of your feelings and of your desire to address all the attentions the Church places in you, as I spoke in the message directed to Rev. Father Kolvenbach and -– through him -– to all of the Congregation at the beginning of your efforts. Once again, I thank Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach for the precious service of his governance to your Order for almost a quarter of a century. I salute also the members of the new General Council and the Assistants who will help the Superior General in the very delicate !! task of guiding your Society in its religious and apostolic aspects.

Your Congregation takes place during a period of great social, economical and political changes; of emphatically ethical, cultural and environmental problems, of conflicts of every sort; but also during a period of more intense communications between peoples, of new possibilities of knowledge and dialogue, of deep aspiration to peace. These go to the core of the Catholic Church and its capacity to announce to our contemporaries the Word of hope and of salvation. I myself wish, so deeply, the whole Society of Jesus would live -- thanks to the results of your Congregation -- with renewed vigor and fervor the mission for which the Spirit [has] inspired the Church and which, for more than four centuries [has blessed the Society] with extraordinary apostolic fruitfulness. I want today to encourage you and your brothers to continue on the road of this mission, in full faithfulness to your original charism, in the ecclesial and social contexts that have come to characterize the beginning of this millennium. As my Predecessors told you many times, the Church needs you, counts on you, and continues to look upon you with trust, in particular to reach those physical and spiritual places where others have not arrived or have difficulty in arriving. i.e. "Only Jesuits can do what the Jesuits do" The words of Paul VI are to remain engraved in your hearts: "Wherever in the Church you have been, either in the most difficult fields and in their vanguard, or at the crossroads of ideologies in the social trenches, or at the forefront [literally "at the confrontation"] between the burning needs of man and the perpetual message of the Gospel, there have been Jesuits." (3 December 1974, to General Congregation 32) This was a bit rough to translate...

Like the Formula of your Institute says, the Society of Jesus first of all is founded "for the defense and the propagation of the faith." Let us be mindful of exactly who has the authority to define what that faith is In a time in which new geographic horizons opened themselves, the first companions of Ignatius made themselves available to the Pope himself because "he sent them wherever he judged it to be for greater glory of God and help of the souls" Interesting set of priorities, yes? (Autobiography, n. 85). Thus you were sent off to announce the Lord to peoples and cultures that did not know Him yet. There is one such traveler with a courage and a zeal that remain an example and inspiration to this day: the name of St. Francis Xavier is the most famous of all, but how many other would [have done the same] if [they] could do it! Today there are people who do not know the Lord, or who do not know Him well, who do not know to recognize Him as the Savior; these [people] are greatly distant, not from the geographic point of view but, rather, from the cultural one. That is, engagement with the culture is supposed to produce a change in the culture. It is not the seas or large distances that are the obstacles challenging those who proclaim the Gospel, much more [of an obstacle is] the boundary of continuing in an erroneous or superficial view of God and of man Was that was a little bonus for Fr. Sobrino?, which interposes itself between human faith and human knowledge, faith and modern science, faith and striving for justice.

So the Church has urgent need of persons of solid and deep faith, of serious culture and of genuine human and social sensibility, of religious and priests who dedicate their life to be on this boundary witnessing and to helping to understand that in you inhabits a deep harmony of faith and reason, between Gospel spirit, thirst for justice and labor for peace. Only this way will it be possible to make known the one true Lord to so many for whom today He remains hidden or unrecognizable. To this the Society of Jesus ought dedicate itself preferentially. Which is to say "bring Christ -- sacramentally -- to those who do not know Him or know Him fully." Faithful to its best tradition, it is to continue forming with great care its members in [both] knowledge and in virtue, without [stooping] to content itself with mediocrity, because the task of confrontation and conversation within the very diverse social and cultural contexts and [given] the different outlook of the world today is most difficult and laborious. And this search for quality and human solidity, [both] spiritual and cultural, should also characterize all the complex formative activity and education of the Jesuits, towards all manner of persons wherever you find them.

In its history, the Society of Jesus has lived extraordinary experiences of proclamation and encounters between the Gospel and the cultures of the world –- all one has to do is think of Matteo Ricci in China, of Roberto De Nobili in India, or the "Reductions" of Latin America. You are rightly proud of this. Today I feel the duty of exhorting you to place yourselves again on the path of your predecessors with as much courage and intelligence, Is it just me, or does this sound a lot like "get back on track?" but also with as much profound motivation of faith and passion for serving the Lord and His Church. Nevertheless, while you seek to recognize signs of God's presence and work in every place in the world, even outside the confines of the visible Church, while you strive to build bridges of understanding and dialogue with those who do not belong to the Church or have difficulty accepting its positions and messages, you must at the same time loyally accept the fundamental duty of the Church to adhere totally to the Word of God, and of the charge of the Magisterium to preserve the truth and the unity of Catholic doctrine completely. This is as clear as can be: in all you do, you are to remain 100% on "doctrinal diversity" need apply. This is valid not only for the personal efforts of the individual Jesuit: since he works as a member [literally "a limb"] of an apostolic body, you also have to be mindful [literally "be attentive to"] your works and institutions preserve always [that] clear and explicit identity, because the goal of your apostolic activity is not to remains ambiguous or dark, and because many other people share your ideals and wish to unite themselves to you effectively and enthusiastically, collaborating with your efforts to be of service to God and man. Pay attention to what you do and say, because others are also paying attention to you...and we don't want people wandering off in the wrong direction.

As you well know from having completed many times, under the guidance of St. Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises, the meditation "of the two flags," our world is a battlefield [Literally "a theater of combat"] between good and evil, and you have been [witnesses to] the work of potent negative forces, which have caused dramatic situations of the spiritual and material servility in our contemporaries against which you have, time and again, declared to want to fight, striving in service to the faith and the promotion of justice. Such forces demonstrate themselves today in many ways, but are particularly evident through cultural tendencies that often come to dominate, like subjectivism, relativism, hedonism, and the practice of materialism. For this reason I have asked your renewed efforts to promote and to defend Catholic doctrine "those neuralgic points of doctrine under heavy attack today from secular culture," some of which I gave as examples in my Letter. The issues of the salvation of all of the men in Christ, of sexual morality, of marriage and of the family, today are continually debated and put in doubt, are deepened and clarified in understanding within the context of contemporary reality, but only by preserving the harmony with the Magisterium which avoids provoking confusion and disconcerting the People of God. Let me repeat: What the Magisterium says, goes. Always.

I know and I understand well this is an especially sensitive and troubling point for you and for many of your brethren, above all for those involved in theological research, in interfaith dialogue and in dialogue with contemporary culture. For this very reason I have invited you previously and invite you again today to reflect how to recover [literally, "find again"] the fullest sense of your characteristic "fourth vow" of obedience to the Successor of Peter, which does not consist solely of a readiness to to be sent off on mission to distant lands, So let's not hear any more about how the 4th Vow is only that mission thing but also -– in the most genuine Ignatian spirit of the "think [literally "feel" or "sense"] with the Church and in the Church" – "to love and to serve" the Vicar of Christ on Earth with that "effective and affective" [literally, "real and affectionate"] devotion which ought make of you of his precious and irreplaceable collaborators in his service for the universal Church. Nobody can hold a candle to you guys when you proceed according to the desires of Christ's earthly representative.

At the same time I encourage you to continue and to renew your mission among the poor and with the poor. They are not lacking, unfortunately, for new causes of poverty and of marginalization in a world marked with serious economic and environmental imbalances, of processes of globalization guided more from egotism this is often mistranslated as "individualism" which ain't the same thing than from solidarity, of devastating and absurd armed conflicts. As I reminded the Latin American Bishops gathered at the Sanctuary of Aparecida, "the preferential option for the poor is implicit in the Christological faith in that God, for us, made Himself poor, to enrich us with His poverty (II Cor 8:9)". Therefore, it is natural for those who really want to be companions of Jesus, to really share that love for the poor. For them, this option for the poor is not ideological so enough about those ideas, m'kay?, but is born of the Gospel. Innumerable and dramatic are the situations of injustice and poverty in the world today, and if it is necessary to strive to understand and to fight its structural causes, it is also necessary to fight, in the heart of the man, the deep roots of evil, the sin that separates it from God, there are no sinful structures without sinful people to create, run and staff them without forgetting to meet the more urgent needs in the spirit of Christ's charity. Recalling and developing from one of the last of the farsighted intuitions of Father Arrupe, your Company continues to pledge itself in a praiseworthy manner in the service of the refugee, who often are the poorest among the poor and who need not only material help, but also [help] in that most deep spiritual, human and psychological venue that is proper to your service. The preferential option for the poor means the purpose of meeting their material needs is so that you may meet their greater, i.e., spiritual needs

I invite you to pay specific attention to the preservation of the ministry of the Spiritual Exercises which, from your beginnings, has been characteristic of your Society. The Exercises are the source of your spirituality and the mother of your Constitutions, but are also a gift the Spirit of the Lord has given to the whole Church: it is up to you to continue to use this precious and effective tool for the spiritual growth of souls, for their initiation to prayer, for meditation in this secularized world where God belongs. In the past week I also made progress in the Spiritual Exercises, along with one of my closest collaborators of the Roman Curia, under the guidance of your outstanding brother, Card. Albert Vanhoye. In times like these, in which [we see] confusion and multiplicity of messages, the speed of change and circumstances makes it especially difficult for our contemporaries to put order in their own lives and [makes it difficult] to answer decisively and with delight the call the Lord makes to everyone, [in times like these] the Spiritual Exercises represent a path and a particularly beautiful method of knowing His will and putting it into practice. So, while you may tweak around the margins, the Spiritual Exercises are, and are to remain, a pathway to Christ. Only. This ain't yoga, people.

In this spirit of obedience to the will of God, to Jesus Christ, which also becomes humble obedience to the Church, In case anyone showed up late: you cannot be obedient to Christ without being obedient to His Church. This is being repeated for a reason. There may be a quiz later. I invite to continue to completion the labors of your Congregation, and I join you in the prayer taught by St. Ignatius at the conclusion of the Exercises -– a prayer that always seems to me too great, to the point that I almost do not dare to say it and which, nonetheless we ought always repeat. "Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me. I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more." (EX 234).


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