Visit of Father General at the Collegio Bellarmino (Rome)

Faithful to a long-established tradition, Fr. Arturo Sosa visited the community of mentors and students of the Collegio Bellarmino, in Rome. Jesuit scholastics from all parts of the world, mostly students in theology or sacred sciences, together with their formators, constitute a community of about 75 companions.

Here is the text of the homily that Father General delivered during the Eucharist he presided on Wednesday, November 7.

Dear companions,

It would seem that Saint Ignatius had long contemplated this passage of the Gospel to which we have just listened. In fact, in the Formula Instituti he wrote: “Therefore, those who will join us should meditate long and deeply, before bearing this burden, whether they possess so much capital of heavenly goods, that they can, according to the Lord’s counsel, complete this tower. That is, if the Holy Spirit who moves them promises them sufficient grace so that they can hope, with his help, to bear the burden of this vocation. And once, by the inspiration of the Lord, they are enlisted in this militia of Jesus Christ, with their belts fastened and setting themselves on the march, they must be ready to pay such a large debt day and night.

Paradoxically, the capital of heavenly goods does not come from the accumulation that strips others of it, as in the current capitalist economic system or in the commercial structure at the time of the First Companions. It is a capital that is created through the stripping of oneself, through detachment from everything and from every relationship that can put limits to the inner freedom, to the indifference described in the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises. To leave aside and to detach oneself from everything that obstructs or filters the action of the Lord and His Spirit.

This is the meaning of Jesus’ words that seem so strong: “If the one who comes to me does not love me more than he loves his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters and even his own life, cannot be my disciple.” Jesus focuses on the things that truly create attachments in human beings, that is, in each of us. The possessive relationships of the family, tribe or ethnic group and the fear of death shackle our freedom, preventing us from becoming disciples and companions of Jesus.

Certainly all of us want to build together this “tower” that is the Society of Jesus, collaborating with others in the mission of the Church. Therefore, we are invited to sit down first to calculate the cost and see if we have the means to complete it.

The meditation on the two standards takes its cue from this image of the king who, before waging war on another king, sits down to examine whether with his ten thousand men he can face the one who comes to meet him with an army of twenty thousand. Ignatius concludes by recommending the retreatant to have a colloquy with our Lady, so that she may obtain for him, from her Son and Lord, the grace of being received under His standard, first of all in total spiritual poverty and, if the divine Majesty so desires and intends to choose and welcome him, even in material poverty, and then even to the bearing of humiliations and insults, so as to better imitate Him in these, provided that he can bear them without causing sin on the part of any person and without offence to the divine Majesty.

This is the meaning of carrying one’s own cross and following Jesus. To do nothing but the will of the Father and therefore to offer all that we have, all our freedom, our life in the service of the reconciliation of all things in Christ.

The Apostle Paul reminds the Philippians that it is God who awakens in them the will to desire and to commit ourselves to the Lord according to His plan of love. His will for us is only that of a life marked by love for all. Obedience is precisely letting oneself be guided by God’s love through the action of the Holy Spirit without any tie that is disordered.

For those of us who wish to be truly Jesuits namely, companions of Jesus, in whatever stage of formation we are, it is important never to forget that, as the Formula reminds us again: This Institute in fact, demands men who are, more than ever, humble and prudent in Christ and distinguished for their purity of Christian life as well as for their knowledge.

May Our Lady of the Way be our companion and counsellor on our daily journey of deepening our decision commit ourselves totally to our own salvation and that of others, “in fear and trembling”.

(Original version: Italian)