During the opening Mass for the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, called on the sons of St. Ignatius to help restore the “sensus ecclesiae”—the sense of Church—and faithfulness to the Holy Father within consecrated life in the Church.
The Mass celebrated on Monday at the historic Church of the Gesu in Rome inaugurated the General Congregation that will elect a new superior to replace Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach.
In his homily, Cardinal Franc noted that “the election of a new General Superior has a fundamental value for the life of the Order,” and that this is “the second time in the history” of the Society founded in 1540 “that a General Congregation is held to elect a new General Superior even though his predecessor is still alive.”
The cardinal stressed as well that the Congregation was being held “to address important and very difficult issues that affect both the body of the Society as well as the way in which it actually operates.”
Such issues to be addressed include: “the identity of today’s Jesuit, the meaning and values of the vow of obedience to the Holy Father which has always characterized this religious family, the mission of the Society within the context of globalization, marginalization, community life, apostolic obedience, vocational ministry and other important issues.”
“There are many institutes of consecrated life that participate in Ignatian spirituality,” the cardinal continued, “and follow your elections attentively. Likewise there are many future priests studying at your universities and many people visiting your educational centers with the desire to encounter an answer to the challenges that science, technology, globalization, inculturation, consumerism, poverty, pose to humanity, to the Church, to the faith, with the hope of receiving a formation that will make them capable of building a better world of truth, freedom, justice and peace.”
Cardinal Rode warned Jesuits that “the authenticity of religious life is characterized by the following of Christ and exclusive consecration to Him and His Kingdom,” and he said that “consecration to the service of Christ cannot be separated from consecration to the service of the Church.”
The cardinal then went on to point out two areas of special concern to Jesuits; first, the decline of some members of religious families from “sentire cum Ecclesia,” and secondly, the “increasing estrangement of the Hierarchy.”
Regarding the first point, Cardinal Rode reminded the delegates to the Congregation of their task to “restore the sensus Ecclesiae” (the sense of Church) and that “love of the Church in every sense of the word is not a human feeling that comes and goes, but rather a love founded upon the faith, without which love for the Church cannot exist.”
Regarding the Hierarchy, the cardinal pointed out that “religious obedience is understood only as obedience in love; the fundamental nucleus of Ignatian spirituality consists in joining the love of God with the love of the hierarchical Church.”
Cardinal Rode also reminded the delegates of the “need to present to the faithful and to the world the authentic truth revealed in Scripture and Tradition,” something that requires “vigilance over doctrine in magazines and publications.”
Lastly, regarding the need to reconcile the faith with the culture, Cardinal Rode pointed out that the “task is difficult, uncomfortable and risky, and sometimes underappreciated, if not misunderstood, but it is a necessary task for the Church.”
He encouraged Jesuits to “maintain and develop their charism: ‘contemplatives in action’.”