Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

For the Greater Glory of God.

It's the motto of the Society of Jesus, aka the Jesuits, who are the spiritual children of the saint we honor today. St. Ignatius Loyola was a soldier whose leg was shattered by a cannonball during combat. During his recovery, the only books available to him were biographies of Christ and the saints. Having a lot of time on his hands to reflect on his own sinfulness in light of these holy models, especially that of The Master, he began a remarkable journey of conversion that climaxed with a vision of the Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus. In the aftermath of this mystical experience, he wrote his classic Spiritual Exercises, which have become a staple of Catholic spiritual life. It's difficult to put the Spiritual Exercises into words, except to say that you will come to a definite realization of how bad a sinner you are and what precise things are obstacles to your spiritual advancement. Do not attempt this without a spiritual director, by the way.

After a brief segue to the Holy Land, from which he was rather harshly kicked out, Ignatius began to attract a number of companions. These, of course, would be the founding member of the Company (later the Society) of Jesus. Initially wanting to go to the Holy Land and live a life mirroring that of Christ, they would instead become famous for taking the "fourth vow" of obedience to the Pope. The Jesuits would be the backbone of the Counter-Deformation movement, immovable foes to Protestants and worldly monarchs, and a cradle for saints ranging from Francis Xavier to Peter Canisius to Robert Bellarmine.

Here's my favorite bit about St. Ignatius. After he was ordained, he spent the next year and a half preparing to offer his first Mass. That's how seriously he took the Eucharist.

Here we are, 450 years after this great man's death, and the company he founded is in something of an upheaval. Jesuits have become known more for theological wackiness than orthodoxy. Sure, you've got some good ones: Mitch Pacwa, John Hardon, Vincent Micelli, and so forth. Let's be honest, though. John Paul II actually suspended the election of the Superior General in the early 80s out of his concerns. More recently, Cardinal Rode and Pope Benedict have specifically reminded the Society of their obligations to the Church and the papacy. Such reminders are born from an uneasiness with the heterodox direction many of St. Ignatius's sons have taken. Let us pray for them and ask that God restore them to their former glory.

St. Ignatius Loyola, pray for us and your spiritual children.


Philip said...

Is your Latin out of order? Ad majorem dei gloriam. At least that's the order of the letters on all of the signs around campus here.

It would be interesting to look at how the Jesuits are doing with vocations. Here on my campus, there hasn't been a vocation to the Jesuits from a student or alumnus since the early 1990's. There was one alumnus last year who decided to become a Dominican.

Interestingly, the Jesuits don't seem to care. They give nice homilies, though.

Throwback said...

Yeah, my latin sucks. Always has. I'll fix it.

According to one of the Jesuits at Loyola, vocations are hurting and they are all getting very old. All the more reason we should be passing on our prayers.