"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

The Spirit Of The Renewed Province Plan Of The Society Of Jesus 2021-2024 (Philippine Province)

Fr Marko Ivan Rupnik (Slovenian, 1954–), The Good Samaritan (detail), 2010. Mosaic. Church of St Eusebius (Chiesa parrocchiale di Sant’Eusebio), Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, Lombardy, Italy.

renewed Province roadmap, a.k.a, The Renewed Province Plan Of The Society Of Jesus (Philippine Province) has just been promulgated by the Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus, Fr Primitivo Viray Jr, SJ on Easter Sunday.

After an in depth reflection of this multi-pronged plan, I would like to share the spirit of St Ignatius of Loyola that integrates the five thrusts: 1) Foster integrity and accountability in our communities and institutions, 2) Feed the hungry [children] and create sustainable livelihoods, 3) Summon our youth to engaged citizenship, 4) Build faith-based hope and resiliency, 5) Cultivate personal and institutional ecological conversion. Superior General Arturo Sosa SJ "offers us a great opportunity that, hopefully, we will take full advantage of," i.e., the "Ignatian Year" from May 20, 2021 to July 31, 2022, which commemorates the 500th anniversary of St Ignatius's conversion. The Philippine Province responds to this collective call through individual conversion and mutual renewal for Jesuits and lay partners alike. If the May 15, 2016 Province Roadmap was anchored on two papal documents, e.g., Evangelii Gaudium (First Apostolic Exhoration in 2013) and Laudato Si' (First Encyclical that Pope Francis wrote; promulgated in 2015), the new plan likewise follows the sensus fidei and sensus fidelium (sense of the faith and the faithful). The following are culled from Fratelli Tutti (Second Encyclical of the Holy Father promulgated on October 3, 2020), Laudato Si’ and Pope Francis’s recent messages.

1. Discreta Caritas and The Call To Be Good Samaritans

gnatian virtue of Discreta Caritas and The Good Samaritan–the exemplar of achieving our Desired Outcomes under Thrust No 1: Given the context of the lack of fraternal and sororal love both internally and externally the Holy Father gives us a model of fraternal and sororal love–The Good Samaritan. In Ignatian terms, brotherly and sisterly love is the flesh and blood of discerning love (discreta caritas). In his recent encyclical, Pope Francis states that the COVID-19 pandemic is one proof of the failure of the world to work together fraternally and sororally. "There was a fragmentation that made it more difficult to solve the problems that affect us all" (FT 7), he says. “Jesus tells the story of a man assaulted by thieves and lying injured on the wayside. Several persons passed him by, but failed to stop. These were people holding important social positions, yet lacking in real concern for the common good. They would not waste a couple of minutes caring for the injured man, or even in calling for help. Only one person stopped, approached the man and cared for him personally, even spending his own money to provide for his needs. He also gave him something that in our frenetic world we cling to tightly: he gave him his time” (FT 63). “Yet this call to love could be misunderstood. Saint Paul, recognizing the temptation of the earliest Christian communities to form closed and isolated groups, urged his disciples to abound in love ‘for one another and for all’ (1 Thess 3:12). In the Johannine community, fellow Christians were to be welcomed, ‘even though they are strangers to you’ (3 Jn 5)… [L]ove does not care if a brother or sister in need comes from one place or another. For ‘love shatters the chains that keep us isolated and separate; in their place, it builds bridges. Love enables us to create one great family, where all of us can feel at home... Love exudes compassion and dignity’ (FT 62). “[B]e Good Samaritans who bear the pain of other people’s troubles rather than fomenting greater hatred and resentment" (FT 77).

2. Cura Personalis and Solidarity

gnatian virtue of Cura Personalis and Solidarity to attain the Desired Outcomes under a two-fold Thrust No 2: (1) Springing from the context of the pandemic which exacerbates the existing social, economic, and political inequalities of Philippine society, we beg for the grace of cura personalis. This Ignatian virtue promotes, i.e., the welfare of underprivileged persons. Pope Francis says: "Social friendship and universal fraternity necessarily call for an acknowledgement of the worth of every human person, always and everywhere" (FT 106). Fraternal love promotes the human dignity of the elderly and disabled people, the poor and those who do not receive a fine education, those who do not grow up well nourished, and those who have no access to adequate health care. “If a society is governed primarily by the criteria of market freedom and efficiency, there is no place for such persons, and fraternity will remain just another vague ideal" (FT 109). (2) “Solidarity finds concrete expression in service, which can take a variety of forms in an effort to care for others. And service in great part means ‘caring for vulnerability, for the vulnerable members of our families, our society, our people’. In offering such service, individuals learn to ‘set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, before the concrete gaze of those who are most vulnerable... Service always looks to their faces, touches their flesh, senses their closeness and even, in some cases, ‘suffers’ that closeness and tries to help them. Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people’” (FT 115). The Holy Father says that “solidarity is a word that is not always well received; in certain situations, it has become a dirty word, a word that dare not be said. Solidarity means much more than engaging in sporadic acts of generosity. It means thinking and acting in terms of community. It means that the lives of all are prior to the appropriation of goods by a few. It also means combatting the structural causes of poverty, inequality, the lack of work, land and housing, the denial of social and labour rights. It means confronting the destructive effects of the empire of money... Solidarity, understood in its most profound meaning, is a way of making history, and this is what popular movements are doing” (FT 116).

3. Ignatian Magis and Dialogue

gnatian virtue of Magis or ever greater love and Dialogue to attain the Desired Outcomes under Thrust No 3: (1) St Ignatius writes in the First Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises a sort of mnemonic to the retreatant, lest he or she gets lost in the multiplicity. “The human being is created to praise and serve God alone. All other created things on earth are to be used as means in pursuit of this end. We are to use them in so far as they lead us to our last end, and be rid of them in so far as they hinder us in the pursuit of the end for which we were created” (Spiritual Exercises 23). Pope Francis has this to say, “Fraternity is born not only of a climate of respect for individual liberties, or even of a certain administratively guaranteed equality. Fraternity necessarily calls for something greater, which in turn enhances freedom and equality. What happens when fraternity is not consciously cultivated, when there is a lack of political will to promote it through education in fraternity, through dialogue and through the recognition of the values of reciprocity and mutual enrichment? Liberty becomes nothing more than a condition for living as we will, completely free to choose to whom or what we will belong, or simply to possess or exploit. This shallow understanding has little to do with the richness of a liberty directed above all to love” (FT 103). (2) The Holy Father calls everyone’s attention to a necessity for dialogue not only between young and elder but between past and present. “As a result, there is a growing loss of the sense of history, which leads to even further breakup. A kind of ‘deconstructionism’, whereby human freedom claims to create everything starting from zero, is making headway in today’s culture. The one thing it leaves in its wake is the drive to limitless consumption and expressions of empty individualism. Concern about this led me to offer the young some advice. ‘If someone tells young people to ignore their history, to reject the experiences of their elders, to look down on the past and to look forward to a future that he himself holds out, doesn’t it then become easy to draw them along so that they only do what he tells them? He needs the young to be shallow, uprooted and distrustful, so that they can trust only in his promises and act according to his plans. That is how various ideologies operate: they destroy (or deconstruct) all differences so that they can reign unopposed. To do so, however, they need young people who have no use for history, who spurn the spiritual and human riches inherited from past generations, and are ignorant of everything that came before them’” (FT 13). Pope Francis urges all peoples to dream anew in envisaging and engendering an open world, a universal dimension guided by an ethics of international relations and the promotion of the common good. While Pope Francis recognizes the important vocation of public servants he warns them when they fall astray from their noble calling. “In the face of many petty forms of politics focused on immediate interests, I would repeat that ‘true statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good. Political powers do not find it easy to assume this duty in the work of nation-building’, much less in forging a common project for the human family, now and in the future. Thinking of those who will come after us does not serve electoral purposes, yet it is what authentic justice demands. As the Bishops of Portugal have taught, the earth ‘is lent to each generation, to be handed on to the generation that follows’” (FT 178). ”But human beings are not completely autonomous. Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint" (LS 105).

4. Magnanimity and The Least Society of Jesus

gnatian virtue of con grande animo (with a big or magnanimous spirit) like the Blessed Virgin Mary and La "mínima" Compañía de Jesús to attain the Desired Outcomes under Thrust No 4: (1) We seek and choose above all else to be companions of Jesus Christ whom we have fallen in love with during our encounter with him through St Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises. We beg for the grace to know the Lord more clearly, to follow him more nearly and to love him more intimately through the many people we accompany in our various ministries. It is a challenging task to be a companion nowadays given the abuses in the Church. We look to the model of companionship–the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom our Lord himself has entrusted to be our mother. To be able to truly accompany others is to find Jesus present in every person that we meet, but to be able to find Jesus, especially among those who are suffering, is to find Mary suffering with her Son at the foot of the cross. The joys and sorrows of the Lord are the joys and sorrows of Mary. (2) St Ignatius always referred to the Society of Jesus as La "mínima" Compañía de Jesús, the least Society of Jesus because this is who and what we are. This is the basic and humble disposition of every Jesuit as a companion to fellow Jesuits and to other brothers and sisters. “Jesus reminded us that we have God as our common Father and that this makes us brothers and sisters. Fraternal love can only be gratuitous; it can never be a means of repaying others for what they have done or will do for us. That is why it is possible to love our enemies. This same gratuitousness inspires us to love and accept the wind, the sun and the clouds, even though we cannot control them. In this sense, we can speak of a “universal fraternity” (LS 228). As regards building faith-based hope and resiliency, Pope Francis tells us that: the Church esteems the ways in which God works in other religions, and “rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for their manner of life and conduct, their precepts and doctrines which... often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men and women” (FT 277).

5. Agape and Contemplatio

gape and Contemplatio: the fountainhead and the path to attain the Desired Outcomes under Thrust No 5: (1) Agape or Divine love–the last word of the Spiritual Exercises which is both the fountainhead and a summons. Pope Francis gives us the modeling of St Therese of Lisieux who invites us “to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness. In the end, a world of exacerbated consumption is at the same time a world which mistreats life in all its forms” (LS 230). ‘Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world. Love for society and commitment to the common good are outstanding expressions of a charity which affects not only relationships between individuals but also “macro-relationships, social, economic and political ones.’ That is why the Church set before the world the ideal of a ‘civilization of love’. Social love is the key to authentic development: ‘In order to make society more human, more worthy of the human person, love in social life–political, economic and cultural–must be given renewed value, becoming the constant and highest norm for all activity’. In this framework, along with the importance of little everyday gestures, social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a ‘culture of care’ which permeates all of society. When we feel that God is calling us to intervene with others in these social dynamics, we should realize that this too is part of our spirituality, which is an exercise of charity and, as such, matures and sanctifies us” (LS 231). Pope Francis chose the theme of the “Culture of Care as the Path to Peace” during his January 1, 2021 message for the 54th World Day of Peace. On December 25, 2020, Urbi et Orbi Message and Blessing, the Pope lovingly remembered in prayer the victims of natural disasters, he said, “May the King of Heaven protect all victims of natural disasters in Southeast Asia, especially in the Philippines and Vietnam, where numerous storms have caused flooding, with devastating repercussions on families... harm to the environment and consequences for local economies. As I think of Asia, I cannot forget the Rohingya people: may Jesus, who was born poor among the poor, bring them hope amid their sufferings.” (2) Contemplatio–Pope Francis charts a powerful way forward through contemplation, he says, "Those who contemplate in this way experience wonder not only at what they see, but also because they feel they are an integral part of this beauty; and they also feel called to guard it and to protect it. And there is one thing we must not forget: those who cannot contemplate nature and creation, cannot contemplate people in their true wealth. And those who live to exploit nature end up exploiting people and treating them like slaves. This is a universal law. If you cannot contemplate nature, it will be very difficult for you to contemplate people, the beauty of people, your brother, your sister. All of us" (General Audience, September 16, 2020). “God has written a precious book, ‘whose letters are the multitude of created things present in the universe’. The Canadian bishops rightly pointed out that no creature is excluded from this manifestation of God: ‘From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine’. The bishops of Japan, for their part, made a thought-provoking observation: ‘To sense each creature singing the hymn of its existence is to live joyfully in God’s love and hope’. This contemplation of creation allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us, since ‘for the believer, to contemplate creation is to hear a message, to listen to a paradoxical and silent voice’” (LS 85).

Fr JM Manzano SJ