Last Monday (24th October) Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope, addressed the 36th Jesuit General Congregation meeting in Rome. In the next blogs we will reflect on the three ways he suggested the Jesuits can choose to carry out their mission nowadays.
The original speech, in Spanish can be found on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqrK938BBPg with the English version at http://gc36.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/20161024_Discourse_ Pope_ GC36_EN.pdf
“One cannot give good news with a sad face…ask insistently for consolation”
Pope Francis began by recalling some of the words his predecessors had addressed to the Jesuits in the same setting: Benedict XVI had told GC 35 that “the Church needs you, counts on you and continues to turn to you with confidence, particularly to reach the geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach, or find it difficult to reach.” Paul VI had said that the Jesuit mission involves “walking together—free and obedient”. Pope Francis then quoted St. Ignatius, reminding the Jesuits that, “Our vocation is to travel through the world and to live in any part of it where there is hope of greater service to God and of help of souls.”
Pope Francis’ first suggestion to carry out this task in our own days was to seek the path of consolation. When Ignatius contemplates the risen Jesus he sees him carrying out the office of consoling others, and this is also what his Jesuit sons are called to do. The Pope insists that “the true work of the Society is to console the faithful people of God and to help them through discernment so that the enemy of human nature does not rob us of our joy: the joy of evangelizing, the joy of the family, the joy of the Church, the joy of creation”.
This is a favourite theme for Pope Francis, a recurring theme in his major documents. The true Christian life can only be lived with joy: it is the living out of the Gospel, the good news of God’s provident love and mercy for us. “One cannot give good news with a sad face,” he insisted.
“Joy is not only decorative, it is also a clear indicator of grace; it shows that love is active, working and present” and is a sign of “progress” in the spiritual life, he reminded the Jesuits. After his experience of feeling torn between choices offering different types of joy, St. Ignatius “opens the eyes and wakes us up to the discernment of spirits to discover the difference between long-lasting joys and transient joys.”
I am sure this call applies not only to Jesuits but to all Christians. “Let not the enemy of our human nature rob us of our joy, whether by despair before the magnitude of the evils of the world or the misunderstandings between those who want to do good, nor let him replace it with foolish joys.”
Let me look in the mirror to see if I have a sad face, and into my heart to ask the Risen Jesus for the grace of his consolation.