Friday, January 18, 2008

The Mandate of Ignatius

It's Election Day in Rome... and as you can see, the Ballot Boxes are already in place.

In about 12 hours or so (1100UTC, 6am Eastern) the church'll have a new "Black Pope" as the Jesuits of the General Congregation choose one of their own as the Society's 30th Superior-General -- a mission given under obedience to last the length of his days.

As the murmuratio winds down quietly, the delegates are said to be "amazed" at the wisdom, beauty, and prayerfulness of the five-century-old process. And while its resulting mandate begins immediately for the one tasked with it, a moving inaugural ritual will take place on Father-General's first full day in office.

On Sunday afternoon, just before celebrating his first Mass as leader of the Catholic world's largest, most storied and influential religious community, the 29th successor of Ignatius of Loyola will make a "statio," or "station stop," at the room of the Jesuit founder. Known as the camerete, it was there that Ignatius wrote the constitutions governing the life of his small band, the room where he spent the last years of his life. After his death within its walls, it was converted into a chapel which, though physically overshadowed by the massive Gesu church next door, stands as its humble yet towering foundation.

Joined by a small group representing his electors, the new General will spend a moment in silent prayer. A Jesuit deacon will open the Book of the Gospels to the 23rd chapter of Matthew and read aloud its exhortation:
As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Messiah.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
That they might "continue to illumine the prayer of the Society," the opened Gospels will then be placed upon the chapel's altar.

At that point, the senior elector -- likely, in a first, the General-emeritus Peter-Hans Kolvenbach -- will turn to the Superior and read him the Ignatian exhortation, written in the same room, of the proper attributes of the good General.

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.
(Whispers translation from the Italian original.)

PHOTO: Don Doll SJ