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James Martin, S.J.January 16, 2008
One of the best Latin words used by the Society of Jesus is the "murmurationes" (or "murmuratio," depending on which Latin professor you speak with). It is the four-day period, just begun in Rome, before the election of the new Superior General, in which the delegates murmur (thus the word) about who might make a good General. St. Ignatius was adamant about removing as many temptations as possible for Jesuits to seek leadership positions in the church, since he had seen what ambition did to some of the churchmen of his time. Thus, when Jesuits pronounce their final vows, they make an additional promise against "ambitioning" for jobs, and even to turn in anyone who has been "ambitioning" or campaigning. So with no electioneering permitted, how to surface names for the right candidates in the General Congregation? The "murmurationes" is an elegant answer to that. Delegates speak to one another about Jesuits who are seen to have the right mix of strengths and talents to be General. It’s an efficient process that quickly surfaces good names. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, for example, was elected on the first ballot in 1983. Above is a photo, taken by Don Doll, S.J., from Creighton University’s terrific GC 35 website, with the following caption: "Members of the U.S. Assistancy asked Frank Case, S.J. (Oregon Province), Secretary of the Society, and Vincent Cooke, S.J. (New York Province), who were at GC 33, which elected Fr. Kolvenbach, S.J., to brief them on the ’murmuring’ process." Eagle-eyed viewers will be able to identify many of the U.S. delegates. In other words, "murmuring" about the "murmuring." James Martin, S.J.
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