Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ gave the following homily at the end of the Extended Council meeting at the Curia on 11 September.
We have dedicated a week to remembering the meaning of the vocation to the Society of Jesus today and yesterday, but above all directing our gaze and our desires to the future. We have remembered to renew our commitment, to rekindle our hearts and to seek the best ways to act effectively in vocation promotion.
The premise is very simple. GC 34 clearly reminded us of it (Decree 10, 1): without vocations to the Society of Jesus the mission of reconciliation and justice, universal apostolic preferences, collaboration with others inside and outside the Church… become simply impossible.
If we find meaning in our religious life and in our vocation to the Society of Jesus, if we love this life that we have chosen to follow Jesus, we will be very motivated to promote this precious charism that the Lord gave to his Church, through St Ignatius and the first companions, for which we are currently responsible. It is worth remembering how the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus ended, in which Ignatius shaped the basic characteristics of the charism received. The tenth principal part is entitled: How the whole body is to be preserved and increased in its well-being.
To preserve and increase does not refer, in the first place, to the increase of the number of Jesuits or of their apostolic works, without forgetting that the harvest of the Lord’s vineyard is abundant and that He does not cease to go out in search of them. The Constitutions refer ‘to the spirit of it, and to the achievement of its purpose’, that is, to the charism and mission that give meaning to the body, its life and its actions. Only a body that grows in its well-being is capable of attracting those who hear the Lord’s call to work in his vineyard with the Society of Jesus’ way of life and work.
The first companions heard and chose the call to become companions of Jesus like the apostles. The evangelist Mark tells us (3:11-15) that Jesus ‘went up on the mountain and called those he wanted, and they went with him. He appointed twelve, whom he called apostles, to be with him and to be sent out to preach with power to cast out demons’.
Living with Jesus is the condition for being sent. For this reason, ‘the means which unite the human instrument with God and so dispose it that it may be wielded well by his divine hand’ [C. 813] are the most effective for living and promoting our vocation. Familiarity with Jesus in personal prayer and the Eucharist is the condition for making ourselves companions in mission, so that, as St Paul points out to the Corinthians, preaching the Gospel is an interior necessity and not a source of privilege or vanity.
The reading from Luke’s gospel that we hear today invites us to first remove the beam in our eye so that we can help others see better. What do we need to do, from now on, to deepen our familiarity with God, through prayer and the Eucharist? What obstacles do we need to remove in order to become better companions of Jesus in the way of the apostles and to be sent to work in the vineyard? If we do not remove that beam from our eyes, we will be the blind leading other blind people. Let us recognise our limitations and sin so that we can be forgiven and follow the call to be disciples who resemble the Master.
From a consistency of life as companions of Jesus we can cooperate with divine grace and ask insistently for vocations to the Society. Recovering the daily practice of prayer for vocations is a necessary step to renew and revitalise the ‘culture of vocation promotion’ that we need today as a universal body – a culture of vocation promotion that begins by making every Jesuit, every community and every apostolic work of the Society feel responsible for transparently presenting the charism and the invitation to be part of this body. Getting closer to people, especially young people, opening our houses, improving our hospitality, making ourselves accessible… are basic elements of a culture of vocation promotion.
The willingness and ability to accompany personal processes is a condition without which vocational promotion is not possible. Ours is not an advertising campaign to sell the Society of Jesus ‘product’. What we do is accompany processes of vocational discernment, aware that it is the Lord who calls and the person who freely chooses to become a companion. We are aware of the need to make a special and creative effort to increase the number of those who choose to become Jesuit Brothers.
Revitalising the culture of vocation promotion throughout the body of the Society means renewing our efforts to live life fully as Jesuits while providing the means to attract and accompany vocations. The principal means are people who are fully dedicated to vocation promotion – priests, Brothers, and Scholastics who have the necessary means, work as a team, dedicated full-time to making the charism of the Society visible in the great diversity of social and cultural contexts in which we are present. Let us not be under any illusions. If we do not dedicate excellent Jesuits, exclusively and for a sufficiently long time, to the promotion of vocations, through all the means that we have available today, we will not be able to cooperate with the action of the Holy Spirit.
The challenges of vocational promotion vary according to the different continents and provinces, which forces us to be creative in our ways. However, there are elements common to all Jesuits, whatever their age, to all communities and apostolic works. We will have vocations if our style of religious life is close to that which flows from Ignatian spirituality; if our life of poverty, chastity, and obedience are ways of showing the centrality of God in our lives; if closeness to the poor and apostolic vigour come from a growing familiarity with the Lord Jesus with whom we become companions.
Mary, mother of the Society of Jesus is an excellent model of companionship. She knew how to accompany her son Jesus with all his consequences, without ever abandoning him. Let us also allow ourselves to accompany her and learn from her how to accompany others.