The Jesuit way: flowing with Divine Unpredictability
God never does the predictable. Who else would create amoebas, galaxies, giraffes, two sexes, millions of species, tenderness, despair? And that’s rather like the Jesuits.
From the start, the Jesuit way broke predictable forms. Monastic traditions were startled in 1538 with the proposal of Ignatius of Loyola where he wanted that the members of his new Order should work freely in the world and have little of community practices.
Ignatius had wanted his Jesuits to be open at all times to discern what God was calling them to in each new situation each new day in each new place and culture. “Indifference”, he called it, by which he meant going with the wonderfully unpredictable flow of God´s doings in life. And wherever they were, Ignatius wanted them to always feel the urge of life to the more... the “magis”... like a tree always putting out little new shoots that make it slowly but surely grow to an amazing size and complexity.
Naturally they did the unpredictable. So Xavier went to India, Japan, and almost entered forbidden China. The Jesuits started the first printing press in India in 1556. Two Jesuit missionaries, Gruber and D'Orville, reached Lhasa in Tibet in 1661.
Jesuit history has been volatile. They were creative, and naturally were loved and hated. For two centuries they had enjoyed high favor among the people, kings, and popes, and by 1764 the Jesuits had 41 provinces and 22,589 members. Suddenly they became the object of frenzied hostility, and that year they were actually suppressed by Pope Clement XIV!
The Jesuits were restored 1814 in and the unpredictable range of their doings grew. Matteo Ricci went to China, mastered Chinese, and became an advisor to the Emperor. Alexander de Rhodes first gave Vietnamese a script. 35 lunar craters are named after Jesuit astronomers. Alfred Delp, a German Jesuit was hanged for his opposition to Hitler. Gerard Manley Hopkins was a poet and founder of the Romantic movement in English poetry. Karl Rahner was one of the greatest theologians of the Catholic Church.
Today the Jesuits run hundreds of educational institutions worldwide including 28 universities in the US. About one third of the Jesuits work in social action. In India, Jesuits work among the poor Harijans of Tamil Nadu and Bihar, among the tribals of Maharashtra to those in Chotanagpur and in Santal Parganas. The Jesuit refuge Service runs camps and schools helping hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Little wonder that over the years countries have issued more than 500 stamps honouring Jesuits or Jesuit institutions.
So how do you describe these men, diverse yet bound together in their commitment to bring to all Jesus´ promise of life in overflowing abundance? How do you catch a dream and pin it down?