On Being a Jesuit and Not Being “In the Center" | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | CWR blog
“We Jesuits and the entire Society are not in the center; we are, so to say, removed; we are in the service of Christ and of the Church….” — Pope Francis, Sermon at the Gesŭ. Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 2013.
After returning from his memorable trip to World Youth Day in Brazil, Pope Francis celebrated morning Mass on the Feast of St. Ignatius today at the beautiful Church, the Gesŭ, the center of so much Jesuit history and tradition. We are by now used to this Pope’s style. He gives simple, straight-forward, brief reflections, usually with three points, based on the day’s readings or feast. He tells stories, makes homey remarks, and recalls his own experiences. He usually has some remark or take on life that is memorable, but that is not necessary. There is something nice about an ordinary sermon on an ordinary day.
This was the Pope’s first ceremonial visit to the Order since his elevation to the Pontificate. Some two hundred Jesuits were there together with the Father General of the Order, Adolfo Nicolas, and Archbishop Luis Ladaria, a Spanish Jesuit who is secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Obviously, a pope who is a Jesuit is first Pope, just as a Franciscan Pope is first a Pope. The tradition of the respective order will influence a pope’s ways of teaching and his emphasis. What could we understand of John Paul II without knowing something about Poland or of Benedict without knowing something of German university life? In addition, Pope Brogoglio is from an Italian family in Argentina. When we spread out the lives of these three popes, we have an amazing glimpse at the catholicity, the universality, of the Church.
In his sermon, the central theme was precisely “putting Christ at the center of the Church.” We are to serve Him and to be rather annoyed by or “shamed” by our “limits and sins.” But this recollection teaches us the sense of “humility” for which this Pope already stands in the public eye. One has to be careful not to be “proud” of one’s humility, a lesson we still recall from Christ’s dealings with the Pharisees, if not from the fallen angels themselves.
Among Jesuits, of course, the Pope will recall Jesuit things.