Tuesday, October 25, 2016

With New Cremation Norms, CDF Aims To Bury (Questions Over) Ashes

Given the rather fevered interest over yesterday's heads-up in the side-feed – and, above all, the pastoral import as cremation (long a forbidden option) becomes an increasingly common practice in Catholic funerals – below is the English text of the CDF instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo ("To Rise With Christ"), released at Roman Noon this Tuesday on burial rites involving the ashes/cremains of the deceased.

As with any binding Curial document governing the life of the church, the following was explicitly approved by the Pope and published on his orders.... Yet as the note's most prominent proviso – an almost airtight prohibition on the scattering of ashes following a funeral liturgy – notably overrides a 2008 guidance on the question from the Italian bishops, who will enforce the new norms is anyone's guess.

Here, the complete text (with footnotes):
Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo
regarding the burial of the deceased
and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation

1. To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). With the Instruction Piam et Constantem of 5 July 1963, the then Holy Office established that “all necessary measures must be taken to preserve the practice of reverently burying the faithful departed”, adding however that cremation is not “opposed per se to the Christian religion” and that no longer should the sacraments and funeral rites be denied to those who have asked that they be cremated, under the condition that this choice has not been made through “a denial of Christian dogmas, the animosity of a secret society, or hatred of the Catholic religion and the Church”.1 Later this change in ecclesiastical discipline was incorporated into the Code of Canon Law (1983) and the Code of Canons of Oriental Churches (1990).

During the intervening years, the practice of cremation has notably increased in many countries, but simultaneously new ideas contrary to the Church’s faith have also become widespread. Having consulted the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and numerous Episcopal Conferences and Synods of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has deemed opportune the publication of a new Instruction, with the intention of underlining the doctrinal and pastoral reasons for the preference of the burial of the remains of the faithful and to set out norms pertaining to the conservation of ashes in the case of cremation.

2. The resurrection of Jesus is the culminating truth of the Christian faith, preached as an essential part of the Paschal Mystery from the very beginnings of Christianity: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” (1 Cor 15:3-5). Through his death and resurrection, Christ freed us from sin and gave us access to a new life, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rm 6:4). Furthermore, the risen Christ is the principle and source of our future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep […] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:20-22).

It is true that Christ will raise us up on the last day; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. In Baptism, actually, we are immersed in the death and resurrection of Christ and sacramentally assimilated to him: “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col 2:12). United with Christ by Baptism, we already truly participate in the life of the risen Christ (cf. Eph 2:6).

Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning. The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church: “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven”.2 By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. In our own day also, the Church is called to proclaim her faith in the resurrection: “The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live”.3

3. Following the most ancient Christian tradition, the Church insistently recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places.4 In memory of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the mystery that illumines the Christian meaning of death,5 burial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.6 
The Church who, as Mother, has accompanied the Christian during his earthly pilgrimage, offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of her grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory.7

By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body,8 and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity.9 She cannot, therefore, condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the “prison” of the body. Furthermore, burial in a cemetery or another sacred place adequately corresponds to the piety and respect owed to the bodies of the faithful departed who through Baptism have become temples of the Holy Spirit and in which “as instruments and vessels the Spirit has carried out so many good works”.10

Tobias, the just, was praised for the merits he acquired in the sight of God for having buried the dead,11 and the Church considers the burial of dead one of the corporal works of mercy.12 
Finally, the burial of the faithful departed in cemeteries or other sacred places encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead, while at the same time fostering the veneration of martyrs and saints.

Through the practice of burying the dead in cemeteries, in churches or their environs, Christian tradition has upheld the relationship between the living and the dead and has opposed any tendency to minimize, or relegate to the purely private sphere, the event of death and the meaning it has for Christians.

4. In circumstances when cremation is chosen because of sanitary, economic or social considerations, this choice must never violate the explicitly-stated or the reasonably inferable wishes of the deceased faithful. The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased’s body does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life. Thus cremation, in and of itself, objectively negates neither the Christian doctrine of the soul’s immortality nor that of the resurrection of the body.13

The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, “unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine”.14 In the absence of motives contrary to Christian doctrine, the Church, after the celebration of the funeral rite, accompanies the choice of cremation, providing the relevant liturgical and pastoral directives, and taking particular care to avoid every form of scandal or the appearance of religious indifferentism.

5. When, for legitimate motives, cremation of the body has been chosen, the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority. From the earliest times, Christians have desired that the faithful departed become the objects of the Christian community’s prayers and remembrance. Their tombs have become places of prayer, remembrance and reflection. The faithful departed remain part of the Church who believes “in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church”.15

The reservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has too passed away. Also it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices.

6. For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. Only in grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature, may the Ordinary, in agreement with the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, concede permission for the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence. Nonetheless, the ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.

7. In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects. These courses of action cannot be legitimized by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation.

8. When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law.16

The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on 18 March 2016, approved the present Instruction, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation on 2 March 2016, and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 15 August 2016, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Gerhard Card. Müller

Luis F. Ladaria, SJ
Titular Archbishop of Thibica

[1] AAS 56 (1964), 822-823.

2 Roman Missal, Preface I for the Dead.

3 Tertullian, De Resurrectione carnis, 1,1: CCL 2, 921.

4 Cf. CIC, can. 1176, § 3, can. 1205; CCEO, can. 876, § 3; can. 868.

5 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1681.

6 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2300.

7 Cf. 1 Cor 15:42-44; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1683.

8 Cf. St. Augustine, De cura pro mortuis gerenda, 3, 5; CSEL 41, 628:

9 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 14.

10 St. Augustine, De cura pro mortuis gerenda, 3, 5: CSEL 41, 627.

11 Cf. Tb 2:9; 12:12.

12 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2300.

13 Cf. Holy Office, Instruction Piam et costantem, 5 July 1963: AAS 56 (1964) 822.

14 CIC, can. 1176 § 3; cf. CCEC, can. 876 § 3.

15 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 962.

16 CIC, can. 1184; CCEO, can.876, § 3.


Monday, October 24, 2016

"Not Clericalists, But Men of the Church" – Jesuit Pope Calls His Own To "Consolation, Compassion, Discernment"

As the 36th General Congregation of the Jesuits prepared to elect the 30th successor of Ignatius earlier this month, it was noted that the unprecedented reality of a member of the Company being Bishop of Rome had turned the order's fraught dynamic of recent decades with the Holy See on its head.

Earlier today, then, perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that, yet again, the Pope fully punctuated the thought by going down the street to the Jesuit Curia to visit the supreme assembly of his own community, breaking the usual practice of the delegates being called to see him at the Vatican.

Having won over the Society after initial skepticism upon his election – so much so that, for the first time ever, the GC left Europe to pick a Father-General in the Latin American pontiff's mould – Francis had already met privately with the new "Black Pope" Fr Arturo Sosa (above left) over an evening last week at the Domus.

Given the prime purpose of today's stop – an extensive speech to the order (which, in the manner of only Francis' most significant talks, is dotted with footnotes) – it is telling that the onetime provincial and novice master's "marching orders" to the Society founded upon the "fourth vow" of obedience to the Pope for the missions were conveyed by Papa Bergoglio before the finalizing of the GC decrees which will fine-tune the life of the global church's largest male order over the next generation. Here, it's worth adding that – beyond the texts' usual exegesis of what the Jesuit charism demands for ministry in this age – the gathering has chosen to pursue a specific focus on the 17,000-member community's global governance, with an eye to a possible overhaul of the General Curia. Pending those decisions, the election of the four Assistants ad providentiam, who form the core of Sosa's new leadership team, has been temporarily postponed.

Back to this morning, with Francis speaking in Spanish – one of the Congregation's three official languages with English and French, yet just as much, the one he reserves for when he especially wants to lead "from the heart" – here's the official translation (emphases original) of the Pope's fluently Jesuitical hymn to the vision of Ignatius which has formed his own life and identity, spoken from the rostrum of the new Aula where the GC meets.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Friends in the Lord,

While praying over what I would like to say, I remembered with particular affection the words of Paul VI to us as we came to the end of the 32nd General Congregation: “This is the way, this is the way, Brothers and Sons. Forward, in nomine Domini. Let us walk together, free, obedient, united to each other in the love of Christ, for the greater glory of God.”1

Also, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have encouraged us to “lead a life worthy of the vocation to which we have been called”2 [Eph 4:1] “and following the path of mission” in full fidelity to your original charism in the ecclesial and social context that characterises this beginning of the millennium. As my predecessors have often told, 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.”3 Walking together – free and obedient – going to the peripheries where others do not reach, “under Jesus’ gaze and looking to the horizon which is the ever greater glory of God, who ceaselessly surprises us.”4 The Jesuit is called as Ignatius says “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” [Con, 304]. That is, as Nadal used to say “for the Society the whole world is our home.”5

Ignatius wrote to Borgia regarding a criticism of the Jesuits who were called “angels” (Oviedo and Onfroy). Some critics used to say that the Society was not well instituted, that it had to be instituted more in spirit. “The Spirit which is guiding these critics” – Ignatius used to say – “does not know the state of things of the Society which are in the making, other than what is necessary (and substantial).”6 I very much appreciate Ignatius’s way of seeing things which are coming into being, removing oneself from the constraints of the concrete. It takes the Society from all that paralyses it, freeing it from frivolities.

What is “necessary and substantial” is the Formula of the Institute, which we should keep before our eyes every day, keeping our eyes on God our Lord. “The nature of this Institute which is his pathway to God.” This is how it was for the first companions and they foresaw that this is how it would be “for those who would follow us in this pathway.” So both poverty and obedience or the fact of not being obliged to sing the office in choir, are neither demands nor privileges, but aids to mobility and thus being available in the Society: “to run in the path of Christ our Lord” [Con 582]. In virtue of the vow of obedience to the Pope we have a “surer direction from the Holy Spirit” [Formula of the Institute 3]. In the Formula, we have this Ignatian intuition. Its centrality is what makes the Constitutions stress that we always keep in mind “places, times and persons” so that all rules are aids – tantum quantum – for concrete things.

For Ignatius, being on the road is not only coming and going, but it translates into something qualitative: It is drawing profit, and progress, is going forward, to do something for others. This is how the two Formulas of the Institute, approved by Paul III [1540] and Julius III [1550] express it, when they focus the work of the Society on the faith - and its defence and propagation – and on the life and teaching of persons. So Ignatius and the first companions used the expression “to draw greater fruit” (aprovechamiento) [ad profectum,7 cf. Phil. 1:12 and 25] which is the practical criterion of discernment proper to our spirituality.

Drawing profit is not individualistic, but it is for the common good: “The end of this Society is to devote itself with Gods grace not only to the salvation and perfection of the members own souls, but also with that same grace to labour strenuously in giving aid toward the salvation and perfection of the souls of their neighbours” [General Examen, I, 2]. If at all the balance of Ignatius’ heart was inclined towards something, that was towards helping our neighbours, so much so that he used to get angry if somebody was to tell him that the reason that someone remained in the Society was “in order to save his own soul. Ignatius did not want men, who although being good, were not zealous for the service of their neighbour” (Aicardo I punto 10 p. 41).

We are to draw profit from everything. The Formula of Ignatius expresses a tension: “not only... but also...” and this conceptual framework combining tensions – the salvation and perfection of one’s own soul, and the salvation and perfection of one’s neighbour’s – from the higher realm of Grace – is proper to the Society of Jesus. The harmonization of this and of all the other tensions (contemplation and action, faith and justice, charism and institution, community and mission...) is not expressed in abstract formulations but is achieved in the course of time through what Faber called “our way of proceeding”8. Journeying and progressing in the following of the Lord, the Society moves towards harmonizing the tensions brought about by the diversity of the men whom it brings together and of the missions it receives.

Drawing profit is not elitist. In the Formula, Ignatius proceeds to describe the means for seeking the greater and more universal good which are truly sacerdotal. However, we observe that the works of mercy are taken for granted. The Formula says “without these being an obstacle” to mercy!!! Works of mercy – caring for the sick in hospitals, begging for alms, sharing, teaching catechism to children, the patient suffering of insults... are the daily bread of Ignatius and his first companions. They took care that none of these became obstacles!

Drawing profit in the final analysis is “that which they sought the most.” This is the magis, this more, which moves Ignatius to start accompanying people and helping them reflect on the various experiences of their lives with regard to faith, justice, mercy and charity. The magis is the fire, the fervour in action, awakening those who have become dormant. Our saints have always incarnated this fervour. It used to be said of St. Alberto Hurtado that he was a thorn in the flesh of the dormant Church. This militates against that temptation which Paul VI called spiritus vertiginis and de Lubac called “spiritual worldliness.” This temptation is not primarily moral, but spiritual, and distracts us from the essential: that we be fruitful persons, to let our footsteps leave marks in history, especially in the lives of the very least in our society. “The Society is zealous”9 as Nadal used to say. To revive the zeal for mission for the greater good of persons in their life and doctrine, I would like to make more concrete these reflections in three points: given that the Society’s way of proceeding for the greater good is accomplished through joy, the cross and through the Church our Mother. We need to look at how we move forward by overcoming the impediments which the enemy of our human nature tries to put in our way when we are in the service of God and seeking the greater good.

1.- To ask insistently for consolation

We can always take a step forward asking insistently for consolation. In the two Apostolic Exhortations and in Laudato Si, I consistently underlined the importance of joy. In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius invites us to contemplate “the office of consolation,” which is the work of the Risen Christ Himself [Sp. Ex. 224]. This is the true work of the Society: 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 evangelising, the joy of the family, the joy of the Church, the joy of creation.... Let the enemy of our human nature not rob us of our joy, neither by despair before the magnitude of the evils of the world, and the misunderstandings between those who want to do good, nor let him replace it with foolish joys that are always at hand in all human enterprises.

This “service of joy and spiritual consolation” roots us in prayer. This consists in animating ourselves and animating others “to ask insistently for God’s consolation.” Ignatius formulated this in a negative way in the sixth rule of the first week when he said “It is very profitable to make rigorous changes in ourselves against desolation” by insisting more on prayer [Sp. Ex. 319] It is beneficial because one is “worth little in time of desolation.” [Sp. Ex. 324] To practice and teach this prayer of petition and supplication for consolation is the principal service we render to joy. If somebody does not consider himself worthy (something which is very common in practice), he should at least remain persistent in prayer for consolation for love of the message, because joy is constitutive of the Gospel message; he should therefore also ask for it for love of others, for his family and for the world. One cannot give a good piece of news with a sad face. Joy is not only decorative, it is also a clear indicator of grace, it shows that love is active, working and present. For this reason, in an age of instant gratification and unabated consumption, the search for joy should not be confused with the search for “a spiritual effect,” when our existential identity is more concerned with long lasting effects: Ignatius opens the eyes and wakes us up to the discernment of Spirits to discover the difference between long- lasting joys and transient joys. (Autobiography 8) Time is the key to recognising the action of the Spirit.

In the Exercises, “progress” in the spiritual life is brought about in consolation. It is to go from “good to better,” it is also “every increase in hope, faith and charity and every interior joy.” (Sp. Ex. 316) This service to joy was what led the first companions to decide not to disperse, but to institute the Society and celebrate spontaneously their companionship, which was characterised by joy and which made them pray together, go on missions together and then to reunite again, in imitation of the life of the Lord and his apostles. This joy of the explicit announcing of the Gospel - through preaching, faith and the practice of justice and mercy – is that which leads the Society to go to the peripheries. The Jesuit is a servant of the joy of the Gospel, both when he is working as an artisan, conversing and giving the spiritual exercises to a single person, helping him or her to encounter “this interior forum whence comes the power of the Spirit, which guide, free and renew him” 10 and when he is working with structures, organising works of formation, of mercy, or of reflection which are institutional expansions of those turning points where the individual will is broken down and the Spirit enters to act. As M. de Certeau rightly said: The Spiritual Exercises are the apostolic method par excellence” which made possible the “a return to the heart, the beginning of docility to the Spirit which awakens and propels the exercitant to personal fidelity to God”11.

2.- Letting ourselves be moved by our Lord placed on the cross

We can always take a step forward in letting ourselves be moved by the Lord crucified, by him in person, by him present in so many of our brothers and sisters who are suffering – the great majority of humankind! Father Arrupe used to say that wherever there is pain, the Society is there.

The Jubilee of Mercy is an appropriate time to reflect about the works of mercy. I have deliberately used the plural, because mercy is not an abstract word, but a lifestyle that places concrete gestures before the word. These gestures touch the flesh of the neighbour and become institutionalised in works of mercy. For those who do the Exercises this grace by which Jesus commands us to resemble the Father (cf. Lk 6:36), begins with this colloquy of mercy which is the expansion of the colloquy with the Lord placed on the cross for my sins. The entire second exercise is a colloquy full of sentiments of shame, confusion, pain and grateful tears, seeing who I am – making myself less – and who God is – making Him more – “who has given me life till now” – who Jesus is, hanging on the cross for me (Exx. 61 and preceding). The way Ignatius lives and formulates his experience of mercy is of great personal and apostolic benefit, and requires an acute and sustained experience of discernment. Our father said to Borgia: “I am personally convinced regarding myself that both before and after I am totally an obstacle. Because of this I feel increased spiritual happiness and joy in the Lord in as much as I cannot attribute to myself even a semblance of good.”12 So Ignatius lives from the pure mercy of God even in the smallest details of his life and of his person. And he used to feel that, the greater an obstacle he might pose, the more Lord treated him with goodness: “Such was the mercy of the Lord, and such was the abundance of his tenderness and the sweetness of his grace with him, that the more he wished to be punished in this way, so much more benign was the Lord, and the more generously he lavished his treasures from his infinite freedom. With that, he said that he believed that there is no person in the world in whom these two things coincided as much as in him: how much he failed God, and received all and many continuous graces from his hand.”13

Ignatius, describing his experience of mercy in these comparative terms – the more he failed the Lord, the more the Lord reached out in giving him his grace – released the life-giving power of mercy which we, many times, dilute with our abstract formulations and legalistic conditions. The Lord who looks at us with mercy and chooses us, sends us out to bring with all its effectiveness, that same mercy to the poorest, to sinners, to those discarded people, and those crucified in the present world, who suffer injustice and violence. Only if we experience this healing power first-hand in our own wounds, as people and as a body, will we lose the fear of allowing ourselves be moved by the immense suffering of our brothers and sisters, and will we hasten to walk patiently with our people, learning from them the best way of helping and serving them. (cf. GC 32, d.4 n.50)

3.- Doing good led by the good spirit, thinking with the Church

We can always take a step forward in doing good in the Good Spirit, sentire cum ecclesia ["to think with the Church"], as Ignatius says. The way we do things in using discernment is also proper to the Society. Faber used to formulate it asking for the grace that “everything good would be realised, thought or organised, be done through the good spirit and not through the bad.”14 This grace of discernment, it’s not enough to think, do or organise the good, but do it of the good spirit, is what roots us in the Church, in which the Spirit works and distributes the diverse charisms for the common good. Faber used to say that, in many things, those who wanted to reform the Church were right, but that God did not want to correct it through their means.

It is proper of the Society to do things thinking with the Church. Doing this without losing peace and with joy, in the context of the sins we see, in us as well as in others, and in the structures that we have created, involves carrying the cross, experiencing poverty and humiliations, where Ignatius encourages us to choose between bearing them patiently or desiring them.15 Where the contradiction was very clear, Ignatius used to advise to recollect oneself, before talking or acting, in order to work in the Good Spirit. We do not read the rules for thinking with the Church as precise instructions about controversial points (some rules could be out of date), but examples where Ignatius was inviting in his times to “act against” the anti-ecclesial spirit, inclining ourselves totally and decisively towards our Mother, the Church, not in order to justify a debatable position, but to open space so that the spirit could act in its own time.

Service of the good spirit and of discernment makes us men of the Church – not clericalists, but ecclesiastics – men “for others,” with nothing of our own which cuts us off from others, but rather everything that is ours placed in common and for service.

We neither walk alone nor comfortably, but we walk with “a heart that does not rest, that does not close in on itself but beats to the rhythm of a journey undertaken together with all the people faithful to God.”16 We walk becoming all things to all people, with the goal of helping others.

This self-emptying makes the Society have and always able to have more the face, the accent and the lifestyle of all peoples, of every culture, inserting ourselves in all of them, in the very heart of every people, to become the church, there with every people, inculturating the gospel and evangelising every culture.

In a filial colloquy, or as a servant to his Mistress, we beg Our Lady of la Strada to intercede for us before the “Father of mercies and God of all consolation” (2 Cor 1:3), to constantly place us with her Son, with Jesus who carries, and invites us to carry the cross of the world with Him. We entrust to Her “our way of proceeding” that it should be ecclesial, inculturated, poor, attentive, free from all worldly ambition. We beg Our Mother to direct and accompany every Jesuit along with that part of the people faithful to God whom he has been sent, along these paths of consolation, of compassion and discernment.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

In Catholic Gotham, The Final Showdown

SVILUPPO (10.30pm): Going into tonight's Al Smith Dinner, last week's Wikileaks claimed release of emails written by top aides to Hillary Clinton seeking a "Catholic Spring" and bashing church conservatives – and the fury the disclosures wrought from leading prelates (tonight's host included) – became just the latest hurdle in a relationship between the hierarchy and the Democratic nominee that, over some two decades, could be described as "difficult" or "chilly" at best.

Yet even as the story and tonight's keynote at New York Catholicism's premier social fund-raiser provided an opening for the Republican nominee to burnish his own bona fides with the nation's largest religious body – all the more after a clash with the Pope over his signature issue – Donald Trump's venture away from humor to charge that his opponent was "pretending to not hate Catholics" and "is so corrupt" turned the usual lightly-barbed, apolitical jokefest into something of a horror show, as the Waldorf-Astoria Ballroom erupted in a degree of boos and heckling at the GOP candidate unknown in the evening's recent memory.

While Clinton responded with a less adversarial tone, subtler digs – and an effusive tribute to "the Holy Father, Pope Francis" – the Democrat's roast still carried considerably more edge than prior editions of these joint appearances, reflecting the mutual animosity of a torrid campaign which has repeatedly pushed the limits of even the strained atmosphere ever present in the final weeks of the Making of a President.

On the bright side, the evening raised a record $6 million for Catholic Charities in the nation's second-largest diocese, and – unlike at the night's start – ended in a quick handshake between the contenders, albeit with their arms extended at fullest distance...

...for its cost, however, as a visibly anxious Cardinal Timothy Dolan repeatedly wiped his brow with his dinner napkin, here's fullvid of both candidates' remarks and the host's closing reflection:

With 18 days remaining until the election – and early voting already underway in more than a dozen states – a national poll released last week showed Clinton with a 20-point lead among Catholics, the margin fueled by a massive advantage for the Democrat among Latinos and a rare near-split of the Anglo pewfolk, who usually tend to lean Republican.

* * *
7.30pm ET – Much as it's a common lament among church-folk that religion has lost its place in the center of the public square, that'll be anything but true tonight, just as it always is on the third Thursday in October every four years.

Of course, that can only mean one thing: the venerable Al Smith Dinner at New York's Waldorf-Astoria, where the tradition begun in 1960 continues on as both nominees for the presidency make their final joint appearance of the campaign at the annual Catholic Charities fundraiser begun to honor the first of the faithful ever nominated to the top of a national ticket.

Yet with three weeks to go in an electoral slog that's reached monumental levels of bitterness, hysteria and polarization – and both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton playing before an accordingly charged hometown crowd – as with so much else over the last 18 months, the usual lightheartedness of the evening can't be taken for granted. If anything, with the candidates placed at the center of the white tie-wearing, multi-tiered dais on the stage of the Waldorf's Ballroom, then taking turns in delivering roast-style speeches, Cardinal Timothy Dolan's probably musing that he shouldn't have lost so much weight over the last year: as the dinner's head honcho, he'll be the only thing separating Clinton and Trump for some 90 minutes, a task which will draw upon every ounce of the famously gregarious prelate's "ultimate host" skill-set.

A church historian by trade, Dolan has been an especially dedicated custodian of the quadrennial rite begun by Francis Cardinal Spellman with John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Even if there was never any question on his end that this most gobsmacking of cycles would wrap up as it (almost) always has since, this night alone has the makings of an epic chapter in an eventual memoir – and despite the Tenth Archbishop's well-burnished reputation as a human equivalent of Bernini's Colonnade, pulling it off without incident remains no small feat.

More to come.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

From the "Sink or Swim" Desk

So, folks, one Election down – two to go... and a Scarlet Bowl on tap, to boot.

Even as the package for the First Ballot of these weeks took a bit to sufficiently wrap up, hopefully the result's been worth the overtime that finally saw it come together.

These days, see, coverage is a choice between speed and depth, and – especially with the month ahead – at least on this end, the better thing seems being able to look back with a sense of having done the story well enough that it stands the test of time. (Just as, nine years later, the Whispers treatment of the last "Black Conclave" still holds its own.)

Lest anyone missed it before, the shape of this Fall Cycle has already been laid out...

....and as we move into its second phase – let alone some surprises along the way – the reminder's in order that these pages keep coming your way solely by means of their readership's support.

To be sure, this is never the scribe's easiest of moments, but it is the only way this work can pay its bills – and, especially these days, Lord only knows how much remaining a truly independent outlet relying on the crowd still beats selling out.

While the latter's never an option here, such is the state of the books that shutting down remains a risk – so it seems, a sizable one... because without your part in making all this happen, it simply can't be done.

As ever, Church, the path ahead is your call:

...so, can we get back to the news yet?


Monday, October 17, 2016

For Jesuits' Future, Father-General's "Journeys of Collaboration"

Keeping with the custom of the Society of Jesus, before Saturday's Mass of Thanksgiving for his election, the 31st Father-General (back right) stood and listened as the mandate of his office was read out to him in the small room adjacent to the Gesu Church where Ignatius of Loyola wrote the job description into the Constitutions of his Company.

As for what Arturo Sosa's ascent as the first non-European "Black Pope" means, however, the fallout is anything but typical, reflecting an unprecedented "upstairs" dynamic in the five-century history of the church's largest and most influential order, even more than the worldwide Society's relentless shift of its membership's dominance toward the other side of the global south.

On the prinicipal sliding scale that faced the 215 electors of the 36th General Congregation – how closely they wanted the new General to be affiliated with the first Jesuit ever to occupy the Chair of Peter – the GC Fathers moved decisively and quickly to secure a maximal bond to Francis, choosing someone Papa Bergoglio already knew as a fellow Latin American provincial, and a confrere whose CV included a significant role in the social ministry the "White" Pope has come to see as indispensable to the entire church's mission.

Given one of the more onerous tasks each Father-General faces – negotiating the Jesuits' relationship with the Vatican and smoothing out its concerns – that kind of comfort level from the outset is a very potent asset. At the same time, as another Latin confrere indicated, the new chief enjoys a reputation as "caudillo" – the loaded term roughly equivalent to "strongman"... a quality where, lest anyone forgot, Francis isn't exactly a slouch, himself.

Yet even for as critical as the Pope angle is – all the more in the present scene – in another established tie with the folks up the Borgo, as Sosa was the Society's top resident official in Latin America at the turn of the decade while remaining in his native Venezuela, it is no less significant that the Nuncio then posted to Caracas was Pietro Parolin, now tasked with making the Holy See's trains run on time as Francis' formidable Cardinal-Secretary of State.

In terms of the internals of the Company, meanwhile, the choice of Sosa signals a continuity at the helm of a kind unseen in living memory. It's been over a century since the last time a deputy of the Jesuit Curia became successor of Ignatius in his own right, and some seven decades since a Father-General has come to the post without having spent most of his professed life away from his homeland.

That combination makes for a rather unusual mix. In light of the new Superior's prior tasks as a General Counselor at home, then the overseer of the Society's Roman houses – which, given their nature, encompass (and require close ties with) the entire Jesuit world – Sosa begins with a better sense of the wider order than the last 50 years of his predecessors have had at the start of their tenures. Being a "lifer" in Latin America until 2014, meanwhile – in contrast to the heavily Eastern exposure shared by the last three Generals – brings a greater ease and experience with the deeply established institutional apparatus which dominates the Jesuit reality across the Western world.

That background will help with guiding two concurrent, but remarkably counter-posed transitions: in Europe and the Americas, the ongoing hurdle remains how the Society's works broach the future amid increasingly fewer priests and brothers available to lead them, while the immense growth zones of Asia and Africa (which have rocketed to a plurality of the order's membership within three decades) present the challenge of forging a sustainable path toward the building of new entities to serve ecclesial environments whose youth and dynamism are bursting at the seems.

* * *
With its major election completed, the GC now moves to its other marquee items: the preparation and approval of the Decrees which will set the focus for Jesuit life and identity worldwide over the next decade or more, and the reconstitution of the Curia with the body's choice of the four Assistants ad providentiam – the Rome-based principal advisers who form the core of a General's team. Beyond them, the remainder of the dozen or so General Counsellors are freely chosen by the Superior, who likewise determines the geographic or topic-based responsibilities each holds.

On the latter front, the election of the new Assistants will mark the final major responsibility to leave the hands of Fr Federico Lombardi (left) after a decade of juggling that 24/7 role alongside his higher-profile tasks as head of Vatican Radio and Television and director of the Holy See Press Office, from which he retired in August.

Much as it's a fitting tribute to Don Federico's herculean work ethic that the many hats he's worn are now demanding a community-sized group to carry onward, even a team of hands would be hard-pressed to equal the grace, generosity, integrity and dignity Lombardi has embodied without fail – all while navigating the ceaseless load of four pressure-cookers, to boot. May his pure, ever-faithful goodness remain an example far and wide, especially for those of us who've been blessed to share the ride of these years with him.

As the Negotia (business) phase winds down, the assembly is set to meet in short order with Pope SJ for Francis' intensely awaited address.

While it's long been the case that the pontiff sizes up the life of each major religious community in an audience and speech to its global chapter during its discussions, not since a Camaldolese Benedictine became Gregory XVI in the 1830s has a Pope been able to assess an order's mission and challenges as one of its own members.

Again, much as that would be a big deal for any order, the historic confluence of the Pope-as-member is infinitely more consequential given the community in question, for two reasons: the Jesuits' size, scope and the sheer clout of their efforts on the global stage and – in a particular way – Ignatius' placement of the Company at the direct and complete service of the Pope, vowed to obedience to the pontiff and his directives for "the missions."

Accordingly, the first Jesuit-turned-Bishop of Rome maintained a resolute silence in the run-up to the election of the General, two prior turns from Francis serve to summarize his concept of what the modern Jesuits are, and what the "mission" means today.

First, during an intimate meeting with the Jesuit community in Krakow (above) during his July visit for World Youth Day, after wrapping up a planned Q&A with the confreres, the Pope sat back down to launch into a spontaneous reflection, with a pointed request – that the Society "work with seminarians... above all, giv[ing] them what you have received from the Exercises: the wisdom of discernment."

As the onetime provincial and novice-master explained his call:
Some priestly formation programs run the risk of educating in the light of overly clear and distinct ideas, and therefore to act within limits and criteria that are rigidly defined a priori, and that set aside concrete situations: 'you must do this, you must not do this.' And then the seminarians, when they become priests, find themselves in difficulty in accompanying the life of so many young people and adults. Because many are asking: 'can you do this or can you not?' That’s all. And many people leave the confessional disappointed. Not because the priest is bad, but because the priest doesn’t have the ability to discern situations, to accompany [people] in authentic discernment. They don’t have the needed formation.

Today the Church needs to grow in discernment, in the ability to discern. And priests above all really need it for their ministry. This is why we need to teach it to seminarians and priests in formation: they are the ones usually entrusted with the confidences of the conscience of the faithful. Spiritual direction is not solely a priestly charism, but also lay, it is true. But, I repeat, you must teach this above all to priests, helping them in the light of the Exercises in the dynamic of pastoral discernment, which respects the law but knows how to go beyond. This is an important task for the Society....

In the Exercises St Ignatius asks to be introduced both to the intentions of the Lord of life and to those of the enemy of human nature and to his lies. What he has written is bold, it is truly bold, but discernment is precisely this! We need to form future priests not to general and abstract ideas, which are clear and distinct, but to this keen discernment of spirits so that they can help people in their concrete life. We need to truly understand this: in life not all is black on white or white on black. No! The shades of grey prevail in life. We must them teach to discern in this grey area.
To be sure, the interpretive key of that statement is the centrality of discernment and conscience sketched out by Francis in Amoris Laetitia – and, with it, the ongoing skirmishes the concept has wrought in the Establishment he inherited. That the Pope saw fit to deem the church as lacking in discernment in speaking to his own confreres (and, what's more, proposing them as the remedy) merely highlights the critical import he assigns to the issue and its likely return in his GC address.

Yet even before his first Synod on the Family, the now-(in)famous "D"-word loomed large in Papa Bergoglio's mind.

A week before launching the 2014 Extraordinary Synod, Francis (seen above with Sosa and his now-predecessor, Fr Adolfo Nicolás) presided at an epic Jesuit moment in the Gesu – a Vespers to mark the bicentennial of the Society's restoration after four decades of suppression, an act which no less than John Paul II chalked up to the "enemies of the church."

Basing his preach for the occasion on the 18th century Father-General whose single-mindedness in mission contributed to Pope Clement XIV's move to disband the order, while the reigning pontiff cited Fr Lorenzo Ricci's witness as an example for the modern Company, it isn't hard to see Francis finding in the historic General a model likewise for himself....
In times of trial and tribulation, dust clouds of doubt and suffering are always raised and it is not easy to move forward, to continue the journey. Many temptations come, especially in difficult times and in crises: to stop to discuss ideas, to allow oneself to be carried away by the desolation, to focus on the fact of being persecuted, and not to see anything else. Reading the letters of Fr Ricci, one thing struck me: his ability to avoid being blocked by these temptations and to propose to the Jesuits, in a time of trouble, a vision of the things that rooted them even more in the spirituality of the Society.

Father General Ricci, who wrote to the Jesuits at the time, watching the clouds thickening on the horizon, strengthened them in their membership in the body of the Society and its mission. This is the point: in a time of confusion and turmoil he discerned. He did not waste time discussing ideas and complaining, but he took on the charge of the vocation of the Society. He had to preserve the Society and he took charge of it.

And this attitude led the Jesuits to experience the death and resurrection of the Lord. Faced with the loss of everything, even of their public identity, they did not resist the will of God, they did not resist the conflict, trying to save themselves. The Society - and this is beautiful - lived the conflict to the end, without minimizing it. It lived humiliation along with the humiliated Christ; it obeyed. You never save yourself from conflict with cunning and with strategies of resistance. In the confusion and humiliation, the Society preferred to live the discernment of God's will, without seeking a way out of the conflict in a seemingly quiet manner. Or at least in an elegant way: this they did not do.

It is never apparent tranquillity that satisfies our hearts, but true peace that is a gift from God. One should never seek the easy "compromise" nor practice facile “irenicism”. Only discernment saves us from real uprooting, from the real "suppression" of the heart, which is selfishness, worldliness, the loss of our horizon. Our hope is Jesus; it is only Jesus. Thus Fr Ricci and the Society during the suppression gave priority to history rather than a possible grey “little tale”, knowing that love judges history and that hope - even in darkness - is greater than our expectations.
* * *
All that said, back to the Father-General of the present.

Woven in the palpable Christology of his homily at Saturday's Thanksgiving Mass, in keeping with the analysis above, it was deeply telling that Sosa devoted almost as much of his de facto "inaugural message" to the theme of "collaboration" – the term the Jesuits use for the participation of non-members in the Society's works – urging the order to embrace the practice "generously."

In the grand scheme of things, that indication is even more significant than the new General's pledge that the Company will continue "to think so that we never cease posing pertinent theological questions."

Here, a translation of Sosa's complete text:
Dearest Brothers,

A few days ago, in this very Church of the Gesù, where the remains of St. Ignatius and Pedro Arrupe are laid to rest, Fr. Bruno Cadorè invited us to have the audacity of the improbable as the distinctive stance of persons of faith, who seek to bear witness to such faith in the complex reality of human life. He invited us to leave behind our fear and to row out into the deep, as a kind of attitude for being at once creative and faithful during the General Congregation.

Certainly, the audacity that we need in order to be servants of the mission of Christ Jesus can flow only from faith. For this reason, our gaze is directed first of all to God, since you have only one Father, and He is in heaven, as the passage from the Gospel which we have just heard reminds us. And as the Formula of the Institute reminds us at paragraph no .1: “Let (the Jesuit) have before his eyes, as long as he lives, before anything else, God, and then the form of this his Institute.” In fact, it is the whole heart that we wish to have in tune with the Merciful Father, the God that is only Love, our Principle and Foundation – the heart of each of us and also the heart of the body of the Society.

If our faith is like that of Mary, Jesus’ own mother and the Mother of the Society of Jesus, our audacity can go even further and seek not only the improbable, but the impossible, because nothing is impossible for God, as the Archangel Gabriel proclaims in the scene of the Annunciation (Luke 1:37). It is the same faith held by St. Teresa of Avila, or St. Teresa of Jesus, whose memorial we celebrate today. She too, without fear, entrusted herself to the Lord in order to undertake the improbable and the impossible.

Let us ask, therefore, for this faith from the Lord, so that we, as the Society of Jesus, can also make our own the words of Mary in her response to the extraordinary call that she received: “Behold the servant of the Lord: Be it done to me according to your word.” Like Ignatius and the First Companions, like so many Jesuit brothers who have fought and who fight today under the banner of the cross, in service only to the Lord and to his Church, we too desire to contribute to that which today seems impossible: a humanity reconciled in justice, that dwells peacefully in a well-cared-for common home, where there is a place for all, since we recognize each other as brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters of the same and only Father.

For this reason, we reaffirm even today the conviction of Ignatius as he wrote the Constitutions: “Since the Society of Jesus was not instituted by human means, it is not through them that it can be preserved and increased, but with the all-powerful hand of Christ, our God and Lord; in Him alone must our hope be placed.”

With our hope placed in God and in God alone the General Congregation will proceed with its deliberations and it will contribute to its duty to preserve and grow this whole body (Const. 719).

The preservation and growth of the body of the Society is tightly bound to the depth of the spiritual life of each of its members and of the communities in which we share life and mission with our companions. At the same time, it is necessary to have an extraordinary intellectual depth in order to think creatively about the ways in which our service to the mission of Christ Jesus can be more effective, in the creative tension of the Ignatian magis. To think about ways of deeply understanding the unique moment of human history in which we are living, and to contribute to the search for alternatives for overcoming poverty, inequality, and oppression. To think so that we never cease posing pertinent theological questions, and so that we continue to deepen our understanding of the faith that we ask the Lord to increase in ourselves.

We are not alone. As companions of Jesus we too want to follow the journey of the incarnation, to identify ourselves with the human beings that suffer the consequences of injustice. The Society of Jesus can develop only in collaboration with others, only if it becomes the least Society that collaborates. Let us be attentive to the linguistic pitfalls here. We want to increase collaboration, not just to seek that others collaborate with us, with our own works, only because we don’t want to lose the prestige of the position of who has the last word. We want to collaborate generously with others, inside and outside of the Church, in the awareness, which comes from the experience of God, of being called to the mission of Christ Jesus, which doesn’t belong to us exclusively, but whom we share with so many men and women who are consecrated to the service of others.

In the journey of collaboration, with the grace of God, we will also find new companions to increase the number, always much too small no matter how great, of collaborators who, along with the others, are invited to be part of this body. There is hardly any doubt about the need to increase our prayer and our work for vocations to the Society, and to continue the complex commitment to provide the formation that makes of them true Jesuits, members of this multicultural body that is called to testify to the richness of interculturalism as the face of humanity, created in the image and likeness of God.

Let us, therefore, today make our own the words of the Apostle Paul: may the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward the other according to the example of Christ Jesus, so that you may give glory to the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ with one heart and one voice. (Rm. 15:5)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Tenemos El "Papa Negro" – Shattering 500 Years, Jesuits Call an American General

As anticipated, the watershed has come to pass – albeit with a twist.

For the first time in its nearly five centuries of existence, global Catholicism's largest and most influential religious order has sent its leadership beyond Europe.... Yet even as the bulk of the modern Society of Jesus now belongs to Asia, the direction of the historic shift went elsewhere: the 30th successor of St Ignatius is a Latin American – not so much an intrepid move as an intriguing echo of the cardinals' vote three years ago, this choice now accordingly bound to a certain Argentinian Jesuit-turned-Pope.

Just after Roman Noon, word emerged from Borgo Santo Spirito that Fr Arturo Sosa (right) – the 67 year-old Venezuelan serving as delegate for the Jesuit houses in Rome – was elected the Company's 31st Father-General, the election completed after some two hours.

More to come.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

"In All Things Love and Serve" – As Jesuit Pope Looks On, The "Black Conclave" Awaits

Even as the Pope keeps plugging away at various initiatives, above all else, the core of this Fall's news-cycle is rooted in three elections – none of which Francis has a vote in, yet all set to offer a snapshot of Jorge Bergoglio's impact on the wider church as his pontificate wends toward its fifth year.

Of course, the buildup continues toward the most omnipresent of the coming choices – with 26 days remaining until the US' presidential election, after a campaign cycle unparalleled in its strangeness and rancor, only now is much of the leadership class of the nation's largest religious body deciding what to do. In other words, that dynamic amid a tight race makes this October an even more critical time than usual in terms of the all-important Catholic vote.

A week later, meanwhile, another key decision awaits: in a confluence that only occurs once every dozen years, the US bishops will follow up the White House vote with the election of their own president and vice-president during their plenary in Baltimore. As the bench's (almost) sacrosanct tradition elevates the incumbent #2 to the top slot, the pick of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo's deputy will essentially lock in the conference's direction for the next six years: a timeframe likely to extend beyond Francis' reign, and likewise one which – given turbulence between the hierarchy and Federal government on several fronts – portends an intense new phase of church-state disputes regardless of who ends up in the Oval Office.

Given Sunday's announcement of cardinals-designate and a Consistory next month, we can add the thread of another, albeit not imminent, vote to this election-centric cycle – the eventual next Conclave.... For now, though, even the fresh scarlet crop takes a back seat to the first major ballot of these weeks: among the looming trio, the most consequential one for the church, the one most important to the Man in White, both personally and in the programmatic... and, indeed, the one over which Francis looms largest.

*    *    *
After two years of preparation, the "Black Conclave" is upon us – sometime tomorrow morning (Friday, 14 October) in Rome, the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus will culminate in the election of the 30th successor of Ignatius of Loyola as head of global Catholicism's largest and most influential religious community of men.

It's no accident that the post has long held the moniker "Black Pope" – in terms of the raw authority he can exercise across the Catholic world and the massive collection of works he oversees, the Jesuit Father-General is the second most powerful cleric in the universal church, behind only his white-clad neighbor up the Borgo Santo Spirito.

The reasons are twofold: first, unlike the fixed term of office held by practically every other global superior, Ignatius gave his successors a lifetime mandate (even as, for the third time in a row, this GC has seen a General resign due to age or infirmity). And most of all, with the Company crafted to resemble an army, once elected, the General's prerogatives are sweeping and practically unchecked – an exercise most vividly seen in his unilateral appointment of the provincials who manage the order's worldwide branches, and the heads of the ten continental assistancies into which they're grouped.

Already, the immediate prelude to the election is underway, in the form of one of Catholicism's most mysterious and fascinating procedures. Since Monday, the 215 delegates have been immersed in the traditional 96 hours of murmuratio ("murmuring") – an exercise of intense prayer and discernment, in which the electors may speak to each other, but only one-on-one, to pursue information about candidate(s) with the qualities to be elected General, and the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Aside from prayer and meals in common, activity among any more than two delegates is forbidden, as is "lobbying" or vote-counts of any sort. Notably, after spending the GC's first week in small group discussions of the De statu Societatis – the massive report on the "State of the Society," identifying the global order's strengths and needs (and thus framing the identikit of the new General) – the Fathers moved to slow up their timeframe before proceeding to the election, a signal that the initial sizing up of their options and direction needed a bit more depth.

Once the four days of mumuratio are completed early tomorrow, after a 7.30am Mass of the Holy Spirit, the voting begins. All told, it tends to be much quicker than the "other" Conclave: in the two most recent electoral GCs (1983 and 2008), the General respectively emerged on the first and second ballots.

While the Society used the two-year prep period to gut and rebuild the Aula where the Congregation meets – and, to help "live in reconciliation with the earth," made the proceedings as digitally-friendly as possible to cut down on paper – the vote for the General will still be done in pen and ink. Yet only its conclusion brings the fun part: once a simple majority has chosen the new successor of Ignatius, before the doors are opened and the wider world is informed, by ancient custom, the name of the designee must be sent to the Pope for his assent.

Over the last few GCs, with the pontiff already put on standby, the message was delivered by phone call.... But this time, for obvious reasons, what's to say the Man in White won't be waiting outside the room?

More on that in a sec.

* * *
As for the state of the Company, just shy of nine years since Adolfo Nicolás was elected the 29th heir of Ignatius, the mood as the Spanish-born missionary in Asia departed the Generalate last week at 80 is markedly different from what greeted the Fathers of GC35, who stoked a fair amount of shock in early 2008 by making the figure known as "Nico" (above) the oldest man ever tapped to lead the 17,000-member order.

Hailed as a second coming of Pedro Arrupe, Nicolás was a provocative choice to succeed Peter-Hans Kolvenbach – the austere Dutchman whose diplomatic 25-year tenure placed the high tensions of the early 1980s in the rear-view mirror. Even so, however, the Society the more recent Spaniard inherited is a drastically different animal from the Europe-and-America-centric era of the 1960s and 70s given a staggering geographic shift of its membership.

Already a key thread at its predecessor, the current Congregation even more powerfully reflects an altered reality – the dominance of Jesuits from the global south, above all in Asia, whose delegation this time is more than double that of the historically formidable Latin American branch; and, in a major first, larger than this GC's European contingent. (What's more, of the 5,600 Asian Jesuits, no less than 4,000 are from India.)

Accordingly, while the last General represented an acceptable "fusion" of the Company's heritage and future at an earlier stage of the demographic handoff, the reality remained that every Jesuit chief has been European-born. With the Eastward trajectory only increased over the last near-decade, the scene is effectively set for its potential watershed moment in tomorrow's vote – a realization of the mission begun almost five centuries earlier, when Francis Xavier sailed for India and Japan.

On another critical front, meanwhile, there's the matter of the Jesuit up the street from the General Curia – as never before, a professed member whose fourth vow (of obedience to the Pope for the missions) now applies to himself.

Here, it bears recalling that the election of Jorge Bergoglio SJ as Bishop of Rome stoked no small amount of in-house anxiety among his confreres in light of his reputation as an authoritarian provincial of Argentina in the 1970s, and the resulting split it caused within the community there. As Francis has since openly admitted to regret over his youthful management style – he was named provincial at 36 – and invested a significant amount of time and energy reaching out to "us Jesuits" both in Rome and on the road, the concerns have effectively been assuaged.

At the same time, however, the reality of a Jesuit Pope – and one who had once been "exiled" by his superiors – has created a dynamic as tricky as it's proven a boon to the order's profile: within the Society itself, the eclipse of its own leadership by the figure of the Roman pontiff. In more ways than one, that's turned the fraught scenario of the early 1980s – when John Paul II temporarily imposed his own delegate, Fr (later Cardinal) Paolo Dezza, at the Jesuits' helm – on its head. Still, it's a historically unique challenge which looms large over tomorrow's vote.

Later this month, Francis will address the GC, his remarks likely to carry as much weight as the decrees which will shape the next steps of the Company's mission, which the delegates will craft following the election of the new General. In the meantime, though, it is nothing short of extraordinary that, despite his status as the de facto superior – and his history as an attendee of the Arrupe-era Congregations that canonized "the service of faith and promotion of justice" as the core of the modern Jesuit charism – the Pope has studiously avoided a manifestation of his mind to his confreres as they approach the choice of their next head.

As context goes, Francis' silence is quite the reversal from the run-up to Nicolás' election, when the Vatican's then-Religious chief – the outspoken Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rodé – presided and preached at the opening Mass, and the days just before the balloting saw Benedict XVI issue a letter to the GC urging the gathering to, among other things, reaffirm the Jesuits' "total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in particular on those neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked by secular culture, as for example the relationship between Christ and religions; some aspects of the theology of liberation; and various points of sexual morality, especially as regards the indissolubility of marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons."

Given the history, then, the aftermath of the election is almost certain to bring an epic moment: a Jesuit Pope rushing over to his community's headquarters to pay his respects to the new successor of Ignatius.

That is, if he's not already outside the Aula, looking to be the first one to head in.

* * *
Following his election – most likely on Sunday – the new Father-General will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving with the GC delegates in the Gesu Church. The liturgy begins, however, in the adjacent camarete: the small room where Ignatius wrote the Society's Constitutions.

There, the 31st Superior will be charged with the following mandate, drawn from the founding text....
Your Fatherhood, the Lord has chosen you as successor of St Ignatius in the leadership of his Company.

Remember the qualities that the Constitutions recommend that the Superior General must expect of himself: be always united intimately with the Lord, for familiarity with God in prayer and in all things is the fountain of grace for the entire apostolic work of the Society.

Be for us an example of virtue, let charity for all be resplendent in you, and true humility: this will make you lovable before our Lord God and before men.

Be free from passions, live with mortification and rectitude, that you may always be pure in your justice and each one inspired by your integrity.

Know to moderate kindness with firmness, just indulgence with severity, that you might match the love of Christ the Lord.

With strength of spirit, support the weakness of the many and persevere constantly in the face of adversity, trusting not in your own strengths, but in the love and grace of God. Be firm in doctrine, wise in your judgments, prudent in your decisions, illumined in discerning the spirits, vigilant in leading to fulfillment that which is entrusted to you.

Seek not the esteem or the honors of men, but seek rather to please only the Lord, to receive from him your just reward.

Love the Company, not as your possession, but as that which has been entrusted to you, that it might bring forth countless fruits of charity and service; and when the owner of the house returns, know that from this you will make account before his just mercy.

Remember, then, that you are given to us as a guide, so that in watching and following you in the acceptance of our own vocation, all of us might persevere and grow in that way which leads to the Lord, with the end of reaching that for which we have been created and called.

May the good Father bring to completion that which he has begun in you, for the good of the church, of the Company and of men.

In all things love and serve.