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Matt Malone, S.J.November 03, 2016
Pope Francis speaks at the Jesuits' 36th general congregation in Rome Oct. 24. Pope Francis, a Jesuit, met his Jesuit brothers after the election of a new superior but did not participate in the election. The pope is seated next to Father Orlando Torres, secretary of the general congregation, and at right Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, the new superior general of the Jesuits. (CNS photo/Don Doll, S.J.)

It might interest you to know that the Society of Jesus really began in a college dorm room. It was September 1529 at the University of Paris. Francis Xavier, a Spaniard, and Peter Faber, a Savoyard, were expecting a new roommate. His name was Ignatius de Loyola, the 37-year-old son of minor Spanish nobility. As Ignacio Echániz, a Spanish Jesuit, has observed, Xavier and Faber “had surely heard about this interesting character. It was widely known that he was from the nobility of Guipúzcoa, that he had a conversion experience and that he had run afoul of the Spanish Inquisition. Above all, everyone spoke of how, after a thirty-day retreat made under him, three Spanish students from the University distributed their goods to the poor, took up residence in the hospice of Saint-Jacques and earned their keep by begging for alms. This caused a big sensation, and friends of the trio rushed to the hospice and forcibly dragged them out. Pedro Ortiz, the Dominican Master at the University, was particularly annoyed by these events.”

Ignatius was cleared of the charges by the Inquisition, but the effects of these bizarre happenings lingered, and both Xavier and Faber were reminded of them every time they saw Ignatius limping to and from class. As they got to know one another, Ignatius would have told his new roommates that he acquired his distinctive gait several years earlier during a series of botched attempts to correct the damage done by a cannonball at the Battle of Pamplona. This would have been an awkward moment for the roomies. Though Ignatius and Xavier were both Basque, their families were allied to opposing camps in the never-ending struggle to determine the destiny of what is now northern Spain. What’s more, Xavier’s brother, as Ignatius surely knew, fought on the opposing side at the Battle of Pamplona. If we can let our historical imaginations take flight for a moment, he may even have been the one who ordered the volley that cannonized, so to speak, the young Captain Ignatius.

It is remarkable, then, that these two men, Francis Xavier and Ignatius de Loyola, separated in age by 10 years, born into warring factions and of markedly different temperaments, would, with the aid of Faber and several other companions, found the Society of Jesus—what one historian has called “the most vibrant, most provocative religious order the Catholic Church has ever produced.” It is all the more remarkable when one considers that the Basques were better known for their worldly adventures than their saintly virtues. “They were especially prized,” according to Mary Purcell, “as soldiers, shepherds, seafarers and administrators, and widely despised as brawlers and ruffians.” Ignatius was no exception. He tells us in his autobiography (referring to himself in the third person) that “up to his thirtieth year he was a man given to worldly vanities, and having a vain and overpowering desire to gain renown, he found special delight in the exercise of arms.”

What is the point of this trip down the Jesuits’ memory lane? Well for one thing, on Nov. 5 we will celebrate, as we do each year, the feast of all the saints and blesseds of the Society of Jesus, an impressive company of men in which Ignatius and Xavier occupy pride of place. It is important to remember that none of these men started life as a saint, but that they grew slowly in holiness only after much struggle, only by the patient grace of God. For folks like me, sinners who are called by God to serve, that is very reassuring. But here’s another reason: Just three days after that feast, we will hold a presidential election. It will be worth remembering that even those who have fought on opposite sides of the fiercest battle can, with the aid of grace, come together and do great things for the common good.

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Egberto Bermudez
7 years 5 months ago
Well written Fr. Malone: “It is remarkable, then, that these two men, Francis Xavier and Ignatius Loyola, separated by 10 years, born into warring factions and of markedly different temperaments, would, with the aid of Faber and several other companions, found the Society of Jesus.” I would add that something similar could be written about Christ’s disciples, which came from diverse social and political backgrounds: Simon, a Zealot, a Radical Nationalist, at one extreme, and Matthew, the Publican, at the other. Nevertheless, for Ignatius, for Christ, as well as for Thomas Becket, the “honor of God” and the “things of God” are at the heart of the common good. This would take me to the crux of my comment. Things that Belong to Caesar and Those that Belong to God Matthew 22: 19-22 Show me the money you pay the tax with.' They handed him a denarius, 20 and he said, 'Whose portrait is this? Whose title?' 21 They replied, 'Caesar's.' Then he said to them, 'Very well, pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar -- and God what belongs to God.' 22 When they heard this they were amazed; they left him alone and went away. It is clear that for Jesus, there are things that belong to Caesar, about which Catholics could very well disagree and have different opinions and support different programs. This is the reason why the Catholic Church forbids the clergy to be involved in party politics because this would be clericalism pure and simple; because Jesus is not proposing a theocracy. But there are also things that belong to God that "should not be subject to human government." The problem is that what is happening in the USA more and more is that Caesar, that is, the government, wants to interfere more and more with the things of God and go against the "Laws of Nature and Nature's God" as our Founding Fathers would say. Therefore, the issue becomes: Which candidate and which party platform is promoting and is going to increase Caesar's encroachment with the things of God? Hence, after answering this question, in my humble opinion, we should vote for the opposing candidate. http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/upload/Forming-Consciences-Faithful-Citizenship-bulletin-insert.pdf Otherwise, are we going to vote into power those who would chain and enslave us? This is how an Emeritus Professor of Georgetown University explains the choice that we have: "Religion must now conform itself to the positive law of the land, with no exceptions. No appeal to conscience or higher law will be legally tolerated. Nor will any significant criticism of these trends go without legal consequences in both private and public institutions. [...] Catholic citizens will approve their chains […] (James Schall, S.J.)
Vincent Gaglione
7 years 5 months ago
I prefer to agree with the comments of Pope Francis: “The people are sovereign. I will only say: Study the proposals well, pray and choose in conscience.” Afterwards, whatever the outcome, as Father Malone says, we must come together and work to build a better society, a better nation, as hard as that might seem to be from our narrow perspectives.
Egberto Bermudez
7 years 5 months ago
I want to thank Fr. Malone for his article, and you Mr. Gaglione, for your comments and for the quote from Pope Francis. On the one hand, you made me realize that I made a mistake when I wrote: “we should vote for” I should have written: “I should vote for” instead. On the other hand, I fully agree with Pope Francis and his quote, by the way, as the great priest, bishop and pope that he is, Pope Francis doesn’t have a single atom of clericalism in any of his bones and I love him for this and for many other reasons. He is appealing to our responsibility:” study, pray and choose in conscience” and this is precisely what I have done. Nevertheless, all of this takes me to the heart and seriousness of the issue, it is all about “life and conscience,” which is what Caesar is attacking and violating more and more and using the coercive power of the state to do it. Here are some examples: I. Real Threats to Life, Religious Liberty, and Freedom of Conscience “In California, the state government has been trying to coerce every health insurance plan in the state to pay for abortions, including abortions performed in the final weeks of a pregnancy. New York’s leaders have been trying to do the same thing in that state. Late last month, the Obama administration upheld the California plan — refusing to enforce a longstanding federal law (the “Weldon Amendment”) that protects Americans’ rights not to participate in abortions. Also late last month, a court in Washington State ruled that every hospital there that provides maternity care must also perform abortions. These decisions are outrageous and will only further the destruction of innocent human life and disregard for women’s health needs in our society. But more than that, they are part of a disturbing pattern — of our government mandating policies that erode religious freedoms and conscience protections that are essential for democracy and civilized society.”(Archbishop José Gómez of L.A., in July 2016) http://www.angelusnews.com/articles/new-challenges-to-life-and-liberty HHS Refuses to Enforce Weldon Amendment-United States Conference of Catholic Bishops http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/HHS-Refuses-to-Enforce-Weldon-Amendment-FACT-SHEET.pdf II. Ethical Aggression in Medicine The disturbing pattern that the above quote mentions began as a cultural phenomenon in elite medical journals and is becoming law. The bottom line is a real threat or a ban on pro-life medical personnel whether Catholic, Christian, Muslim, any person of faith that happens to be pro-life, or anybody else who is pro-life, even on pro-choice medical personnel who would find it abhorrent to participate in the procedure. In other words, in you are pro-life do not even think about becoming a nurse or a doctor because your choice would be either to violate your conscience or to avoid the profession altogether. To me this is totally un-American, it looks more like the choice given to Christians by ISIS: either apostasy or death. 1) The article-This doctor wants doctors who object to performing abortions to be coerced to perform them in the name of "selfless professionalism." http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2217305/posts 2) The response-resisting ethical aggression http://www.consciencelaws.org/ethics/ethics081.aspx2) Yes, at the end, I agree with Fr. Malone, we must come together to support anything that enhances human dignity and progress and fiercely oppose anything that diminishes and destroys it.
Matthias Mendezona
7 years 5 months ago
The comments and observations of all are well put. To me as a Catholic, a Jesuit educated man and sinner as Fr. Malone states, the search for truth and those willing to speak the truth are what guide me during these elections. That as humans we will are all fallible is a given. What separates one from the other among those who offer themselves to serve the public good is whether one is willing to state the truth and courageously stand by it or not. When I apply that standard to our presidential candidates, the choice is clear. All human frailties are forgiveable if we acknowledge them and not conceal them from a public who is too occupied or to disconnected from the inside track to separate the truth from the lie.

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