The Ecclesial Theme and Ecclesial Families
In the Exercises, Ignatius speaks of serving Christ in the hierarchical Church, which he sees as the church militant, the Body of Christ. It is composed of two groups: the Ordained (Orders) and the Non-Ordained of laity and consecrated religious. These are known as ecclesial families. The Spirit of God breathes in each of one as the Body of Christ, and both groups must respect this fact. St. Peter symbolizes the Church’s structure of Orders, permanence, stability and law, while St. Paul represents the paradigm of the Non-Ordained in which membership is creative, dynamic, and idiosyncratic.
Within the universal communion, the Body of Christ functions in smaller ecclesial bodies: unity among the ordained persons, bishops, priests, and deacons, and unity among the bishops themselves. The Ordained, the bishop with his presbyters and deacons, resemble the string section of the orchestra. Like the violins, violas, cellos, and basses, they too are hierarchically constituted. They speak and act in unison.
The Non-Ordained ecclesial groups are represented by the laity, Christian families, as well as consecrated religious men and women. The Non-Ordained, like the individual and colorful sounds of the other orchestral sections like the woodwinds, brass, and percussion, which correspond to the various charisms in the Church. Such charisms function within the spontaneous promptings of the Spirit, and every age has endowed men and women with graces given for the apostolic unity and holiness of the entire Body of Christ. In our own day, the Church is blessed with new life and vision such as the Focolare and Sant’ Egidio Movements, the Sisters of Life, the Daughters of St. Paul, the many secular institutes, and those institutes of consecrated women who have rediscovered their original spirit.
Third, “Office holders in the Church are obliged not to stifle the Holy Spirit but to recognize and foster the free movements of the Spirit in the Church” (Avery Dulles, America Magazine, February 4, 2013). This fact prompts Karl Rahner to plead for doctrinal diversity in the church favoring a pluriform Church with structures that are adaptable to local and transitory needs” (Dulles). This fact places before the Church what is known as charism and structure.
In the sixteenth- and seventeenth centuries, the Jesuit-priest, Matteo Ricci (d 1610) spent his entire adult life as a missionary in China. At first, he brought the Catholic Church to China, but later he adapted the Catholic faith to the Chinese culture instead of the other way round. Later, he served the Chinese Catholic Church in China. Similarly, Mother Angelica responded to the inspiration of the Spirit to promote and advance the Catholic faith through modern social media.
The Church fosters the sense of Catholic solidarity by accepting the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church. All of us are affected by the Magisterium which guides our creed, our code of morals, and cult, our worship. We all must obey the Magisterium; it’s not easy. Often, this has meant the obedience of faith on the part of theologians who were silenced for their avant-garde views. It was only years later, that their views were vindicated. Nevertheless, there is no Catholic faith without the Church’s hierarchical structure. The other alternative is hold that ‘to everyone his/her own pope,’ essentially the Protestant position: private and subjective interpretation of the Bible and of faith itself.
Summing Up the Ignatian Charism
In the Ignatian charism, the mission is the focus, the all-important goal. It is a practical, disciplined, and structured charism that embraces the world. Nothing is finally secular. Ignatian spirituality forms disciples who seek always the Magis, the more. It is a restless spirituality, never at home except on the mission, even if that mission is done at one’s desk or at home.
The Ignatian charism forms affective and effective disciples of the Lord, trained in spiritual detachment and discernment. The Daily Examen is that essential prayer which daily helps to realize the goal—to find God in all things. The times in which we live are testing this resolve.