Every so often, the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) conducts what they call "general congregations." These gatherings of Jesuit leaders from around the world can be organized to elect a new leader, to discern and to articulate priorities, or to conduct other business related to the global mission of the Society.
In 1975, the Jesuits held their 32nd General Congregation. One of the documents composed at that meeting was "Our Mission Today: the Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice." This document has since had an enormous influence on the work of Jesuits around the world, and it articulates a compelling message for all of us seeking to live out our faith.
What follows are some resources for prayer, reflection, and ways to take action, which explore the significance and demands of the pursuit of justice for all of us inspired by Ignatian spirituality.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
The Suscipe comes from the Contemplation of the Love of God in the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises. Click here to learn more.
"Our Mission Today" explains that the service of faith and the promotion of justice are necessarily tangled up. Firstly, our disposition toward the work of justice — our ability to recognize injustice and have compassion for the poor and the marginalized — flows from our relationship with Jesus and the ongoing conversion of our hearts. "...We are at one and the same time children of the Father and brother and sister of each other. There is no genuine conversion to the love of God without conversion to the love of neighbor and, therefore, to the demands of justice."
Secondly, the pursuit of justice leads us into solidarity with the poor and with Jesus. "We strengthen our commitment to be companions of Jesus in His mission, to labor like Him in solidarity with the poor and with Him for the establishment of the Kingdom."
And lastly, the pursuit of justice requires the humility and courage to continue the work. "If we have the patience and the humility and the courage to walk with the poor, we will learn from what they have to teach us what we can do to help them. Without this arduous journey, our efforts for the poor will have an effect just the opposite from what we intend...."
"Our Mission Today" is relatively short and well worth reading; the full text is available here.
Documents like this are meant to guide our actions, but often it through the lived examples of people like us that we come to understand what this Ignatian journey demands of us.
Public Defender Brings Ignatian Spirituality to the Incarcerated
|by Adam Kaufmann (Fordham News)|
"After a decade representing people charged with serious crimes in Hudson County, New Jersey, public defender John Booth felt he was burning out, tired of watching clients repeat the cycle of incarceration.... So in 2009, after considering ways to help people like his clients beyond the courtroom walls, and after the loss of a child to stillbirth, Booth started a journey toward deeper spiritual reflection and practice."
Compassion and Kinship
|by Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J.|
"Father Gregory Boyle, founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries, is an acknowledged expert on gangs, intervention and re-entry and today serves on the U.S. Attorney General's Defending Childhood Task Force." Fr. Boyle is the author of Tattoos on the Heart.
Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job
|by Kerry Weber (Loyola Press)|
"When Jesus asked us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and visit the imprisoned, he didn’t mean it literally, right? Kerry Weber, a modern, young, single woman in New York City sets out to see if she can practice the Corporal Works of Mercy in an authentic, personal, meaningful manner while maintaining a full, robust, regular life."
Dorothy Day: Selected Writing
|edited by Robert Ellsberg (Orbis Books)|
"Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, and currently a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church. In her lifelong option for the poor and her unstinting devotion to active nonviolence, Day fashioned a new face for the gospel in our time."
The Jesuits often invoke this Latin word “magis” — the “more” or the “greater.” The idea is that in all our endeavors we should strive for something greater — the greater good and the greater glory of God.
God is inviting each of us to greater works of love, to the "most perfect manifestations" of the graces we have received. Each of us must discern the magis in our own lives. Here are some ideas to get you started.
|TALK TO A SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR|
Spiritual direction is an important part of the Ignatian spiritual journey. A director listens and helps guide prayer and discernment, not by telling us what to do, but by helping us identify God's invitation and presence in our lives. If you aren't familiar with spiritual direction, or if it sounds daunting, read this short article about it.
The OIS Catalog of Spiritual Directors can help connect you with a spiritual director in your area.
|LIVE IN SOLIDARITY WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS|
“Too often we are insulated from any real contact with unbelief and with the hard, everyday consequences of injustice and oppression." (Our Mission Today, 35)
Often, our income determines the neighborhood we live in, and we can easily end up surrounded by people just like us. This means that we may have to be more intentional about seeking out opportunities to spend time with people on the margins, sharing our lives with them as we get to know who they are.
Talk to someone at your church, or maybe someone at a church across town, or do a quick Google search for ways to get involved in your community.
"Ignatian spirituality, as Jesuit theologian Jon Sobrino suggests, is a call to live from the Fourth Week [of the Spiritual Exercises], under the light of resurrection, and though we remain pilgrims under the shadow of the cross, the Third Week, Sobrino asks us to consider what it might look like to live as resurrected beings—not from sheer force of will, nor from a list of ethical mandates, but because we have found ourselves in God’s love and mercy, and it is our deepest yearning and joy to share the bounty with others."
As we reflect on the invitation to pursue justice, we begin by giving thanks to God for the people God has put in our lives and the graces we have received.
We imagine the good future that God has promised. "The banquet is already served, the table is overladen, and all are welcome." As we imagine what this divine feast will be like, we think back over the past day, week, or month, and ask ourselves:
Thinking about the questions asked and the feelings they inspired within us, we consider one or two simple ways we might respond to God's invitation to live in solidarity with our neighbors and pursue justice with greater purpose.
We conclude by praying Glory be to the Father,...
(Adapted from "Reconciliation on Earth as It Is in Heaven," by Christopher Pramuk, PhD)