Ignatius the great communicator

‘We are bombarded by much media “noise” today. We can lose the gift of silence.’ Fr Brian F. McCoy SJ reflects on communication following last week’s inaugural Province Communications Conference.

It is said of St Ignatius that he wrote more than 7000 letters. No similarly influential person of the 16th century seems to have written more letters than he did. He wrote his last one the day before he died.

Communication meant a lot to Ignatius. Sometimes it was by personal conversation. His first companions were also his friends. They enjoyed many lasting and deep conversations. Together, and over time, they called themselves ‘friends in the Lord’.

Sometimes it was by the written word. As he wrote the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus he found time to write many letters. He would write to influential people, benefactors and supporters. He even wrote letters to the parents of Jesuits, noting his appreciation for the gift of their sons.

Many letters were written to Jesuits, often words of advice and encouragement at a time when there was great change in the world and Church. He encouraged Jesuits to listen carefully and use the various means available at that time to communicate.

Some became public speakers. Others theologians. Some became poets and artists. Many were missionaries and, in foreign lands, he encouraged them to learn the language of the local people.

I believe he would have been very happy with our Province Communications Conference held last week in Sydney. This conference drew together people, Jesuit and lay, from across our many and various Province ministries and whose tasks include finding the best way to communicate about their work.

There are around 30 ministries in our Province. They include parishes, schools, social ministries, spirituality centres, chaplaincies to migrant communities, formation and our Sevenhill winery.

The spirit that holds those ministries together is articulated and expressed by the ways we communicate about them — from written forms to different uses of social media — expressing that Ignatian spirit common to all but expressed in very particular ways by each one.

We are bombarded by much media ‘noise’ today. We can lose the gift of silence. Our call to the Ignatian magis — to know how to communicate what is really important — involves a depth of listening that begins within ourselves and extends to listening to others.

There is great power not only in the gift of silence but in what it can generate in all we hear and desire to communicate.

Whatever forms of communication we prefer to use, the challenge we face each day is to allow them to generate the best and the deepest expressions of what we hold as true and important. Ignatius used to maximum effect the means available to him in his time. It is up to us to do likewise.

Fr Brian F. McCoy SJ, Provincial