“This task of direct evangelization by the preaching of Jesus Christ remains essential today and must be continued,” stated Decree 4 from the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, “since never before have there been so many people who have never, heard the Word of Christ the Savior.” Four years after that gathering of Jesuit delegates, the Society hosted an International Consultation of Evangelization, a meeting designed to best determine how to implement the decree’s call for “direct evangelization.” The 1979 international meeting in Rome opened with an inaugural address by Pedro Arrupe, the Jesuits’ superior general. That extended address, appearing below, begins by considering how evangelization fits within the Society’s mission and the Jesuit vocation. Arrupe notes that, “Our way of living the gospel has often become secularized and self centered. In other words, it is time for the evangelizers to be themselves evangelized.”
For more sources from Arrupe, please visit The Arrupe Collection.
1. Why have this Consultation?
It is not only opportune but very necessary at this moment in history, to reflect on the missionary activity of the Society, which from the very beginning has been a privileged expression of our commitment to the service of the faith. We are all aware of the tremendous changes that have taken place in this area, as in others, of the life of the Church: among Christians, there are new experiences and new theological thinking; in the world at large, new socio-political situations; within the Society, a new pattern of growth. We have adapted ourselves in some measure, and almost inevitably, to the changed circumstances. But there is need to examine more closely what is happening and how we must respond to new challenges.
Some may judge that at present we are in a condition that in Ignatian terms could be called desolation. I do not quite agree; and much less can I accept that through discouragement some decide to withdraw—for it would be quite un-Ignatian to make a change in time of desolation. We must indeed change, but precisely because we see new opportunities for service in the situation that faces us. The opportunities are all the greater because today the whole world is rightly regarded as “mission territory.” And the work of evangelization is more and more one of fraternal collaboration. In these circumstances, how do we go about our task?
I have called you to reflect together on all aspects of this problem but with a definitely practical bias, so that we might arrive at an administrative policy in this area of apostolic service, a policy consistent with the Formula of our Institute.
Permit me, however, in this inaugural address, to put aside all pragmatic considerations for a while, and to climb into what may seem an ivory tower, in order to speak from a broader, panoramic point of view. You will need this point of view as background when you begin to reflect on concrete problems. Overwhelmed by everyday necessities, it is very easy to lose sight of the overview, to miss the forest for the trees.
2. What does evangelization mean?
Let us renew our basic understanding of this word, recalling some passages from Evangelii Nuntiandi:
For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good news into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new…. The Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the Message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs….
Strata of humanity which are transformed: for the Church it is a question not only of preaching the Gospel in ever wider geographic areas or to ever greater numbers of people, but also of affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind’s criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation….
What matters is to evangelize man’s culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way as it were by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots), in the wide and rich sense which these terms have in Gaudium et Spes, always taking the person as one’s starting-point….
Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness … this witness which involves presence, sharing, solidarity, and which is an essential element, and generally the first one, in evangelization….
Even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified … and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus….
Finally, the person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others…. Evangelization, as we have said, is a complex process made up of varied elements: the renewal of humanity, witness, explicit proclamation, inner adherence, entry into the community, acceptance of signs, apostolic initiative. These elements may appear to be contradictory, indeed mutually exclusive. In fact they are complementary and mutually enriching. Each one must always be seen in relationship with the others.
B. MISSION AND THE MISSIONS
In the light of Evangelii Nuntiandi, I would like to establish some aspects of evangelization with greater precision.
1. Respect for the particular
When we discuss large themes or problems that have worldwide relevance—such as evangelization—it is common practice to group diverse countries or cultures or situations in conventional blocks that have similar characteristics and distinguishing features. In this way we speak of “countries of the East” setting them off against the western block. We use the expression “the Third World.”
This widely followed practice has its advantages. But it is a simplification which at times can be employed only by distorting reality, by violently reducing to uniformity the peculiar traits of the members of the group, and finally by damaging, even suppressing, their identity. Nowadays each country has a more lively desire than ever before to be recognized in terms of that which is proper to itself. It is impatient with ignorance about its specific character, since such ignorance supposes alienation, and a falsification of its true self. We have to be very careful .in this area and not lightly take up such broad and misleading terms as “Latin America,” “Africa,” or the “Far East.”
2. An ever-increasing interaction
On the other hand, in the areas of technology, science, economics, social development, politics and the like, civilization shows a strong unifying and concentrating force which reduces the world to a “global village” in which boundaries disappear and people feel closer to one another. On widely different levels—ideological, social, cultural, political, religious, etc.—that which differentiates is being overwhelmed by powerful collective movements. Sometimes, to be sure, it is not a question of mere interchange of ideas and mutual influence; what is involved is rather some sort of ideological colonialism, a domination in the cultural or other spheres. Whatever the case, the fact remains that the final result is a world in which differences are vanishing and every day sees more problems that are common to a greater number of people.
The same thing happens in the area of religion. The division of the world into “Christendom” and “lands of the infidels,” in which we were brought up, is losing currency. The distinction between “Christian countries” and “mission territories” may have served some purpose of system and efficiency, and may even have fostered evangelical zeal; but nowadays it can be used only with delicate nuances.
Indeed, there has been a great change in the role played by the Christian religion in the different peoples of ancient Catholic tradition. On the one hand, secularism, materialism, the development in strength of various kinds of ideology—having as their only common trait an incompatibility with the Faith—have put the Church in a diaspora situation and have drastically diminished the Christian stamp of society and culture.
On the other hand, in the countries conventionally labelled “pagan,” confrontation of moral and religious issues has undergone extraordinary changes. And a wide range of new experiences, under Christian influence, cast a new light in which to study these problems.
In countries of Christian tradition one can sense puzzlement and frustration in the face of new kinds of problems and situations. One finds both intellectuals and the masses turning to ideologies that are exotic—be they philosophical or scientific, socio-economic or even religious—in which they think they will find answers which are more understandable to most people and more adapted to the secularized mentality of our times. It is as if contemporary problematic situations—in many ways quite new—had revealed the Christian Churches as devoid of resources to answer today’s questions. Or it is as if the manner of interpreting and living out the gospel in practice—both individual and social—were incapable of standing np to a probing analysis as severe and honest as that to which today’s problems are subjecting it. This challenge should force us to stop, think, and ask ourselves whether we should not put our conception and practice of the gospel through a searching re-examination in terms of the gospel itself. Our way of living the gospel has often become secularized and self centered. In other words, it is time for the evangelizers to be themselves evangelized.
3. The work of Evangelization
A country that is well established in the faith, and has a solidly based church, ought to feel obliged to pass on that faith to other countries where it is still lacking. “The person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others.” There are a number of points that have to be kept in mind for genuine evangelization: —
Christ, the one who reveals the Father through the Holy Spirit, the ideal man, the model, who in turn lifts up human values and through his grace confers on man the strength that he needs to achieve his supernatural purpose. This is the object of all evangelization.
Man, beneficiary of evangelization: despite his fallen nature man has a fundamental worth. In many cases doubtless this worth has almost disappeared or is so disfigured as to be hardly recognizable. But the value has to be rediscovered, purified and brought to perfection.
At present the interchange of ideas and values among individuals and groups at all levels can produce a certain standardization and bring about a kind of levelling. For this reason evangelization, of whatever kind it be and wherever it is being pursued, will have basically the same invariable objective: the human person, essentially the same wherever found. The value of each human being cannot be suppressed nor submitted to unjust oppression, whether by political power or economic interests, nor exploited and degraded as for example in pansexualism.
Nor can evangelization forget that the human person has a socio-cultural dimension which also demands attention. A human being shares with fellow-humans a culture which is at the same time common and exclusive; and every person is both an active and a passive subject of rights and obligations. The light of revelation must illumine those rights and obligations in order to make them stand out clearly.
Culture is the living framework in which man exists, i e., in which he thinks, expresses himself, acts and loves, in harmony with his ancestral tradition, which is full of meaning for him and for all others of his culture. Evangelization must never forget this reality. For each culture, like each individual, is different from all others and has to discover its true identity and self, and not just a mechanical duplicate of something from outside, whether freely accepted or not. Evangelization must be adapted to the individual, to his unique personality, in order to lead him to Christ, the inexhaustible Model and Compendium of all perfection. In this way it will vivify this personal and unrepeatable being that is a man, and a man inserted in the culture he has helped to fashion for himself. Hence, evangelization has to keep in mind each people’s special and distinctive context. We may at times legitimately speak of the great human groups, but when discussing evangelization we must deal with each people separately, prescinding from all others and taking it in its differentiated individuality.
An important consequence of this is that a recipient country has a right to decide the type and modality of the aid given and of the way it is to be given. That is, the mission of the one sent must be determined by the needs of the country that receives him. Apart from extraordinary cases, his mission must be shaped in accordance with the request (direct or indirect) of the host country.
Let us not forget, though, that cultures have a social function too. They must be ready, therefore, in a reciprocal giving and taking, to share their own values with other cultures, as well as to take from them. This supposes that every culture is willing to set aside any attitude of self-sufficiency, and to receive—and assimilate—contributions from other cultures, even if these latter seem, in some sense, less developed.
Naturally, the problem is complex: What criteria are to determine which are the “superior” values that one culture should offer to another? How is the transfer to be made? And what is the proper pedagogy for the culture that gives; what is the right manner of accepting and assimilating for the one that receives?
C. THE DIVINE PLAN
Gazing at this wondrous variety of men and cultures, I feel drawn like our Father St. Ignatius, whose thoughts while contemplating the Incarnation soared to the Trinity. If I may say so, I too want to penetrate the mind and heart of God, adoring and humbling myself before the immensity of his plan of salvation. The God who saves is the God who created.
What must be summed up in Christ is more than this present world to which we direct our apostolic effort, more than this generation of which we form a part, and even more than all preceding and succeeding generations; it is every organic and inorganic creature, everything that falls between Alpha and Omega, everything that has passed from nothing to being.
1. Expanding vision of the universe
Humanity is situated in the universe and the whole universe rests in the hands of God. This year a Nobel Prize has been given to those who have uncovered the tracks of the first great explosion, the “big-bang” of 20,000 million years ago (before anything was, according to scientists; which marks the beginning of creation, and of time and space). Expanding at the rate of two million miles per hour, the universe has already a diameter of more than 20,000 million light years. There are approximately 10,000 million galaxies. One of them—certainly not the biggest—is the Milky Way, composed of millions of stars. And our sun is only one of these stars, not the largest, but the nearest to our earth. The earth rotates around one star and is really only a speck of cosmic dust in so vast a universe. And on this speck of dust is something smaller still—man. This is where God chose to take on flesh. “The heavens proclaim the glory of God.”
If the macrocosm overwhelms us with its immensity, the marvels of the microcosm surprise us even more. Descending from molecules we arrive at atoms; we think we have reached the smallest. But the atom is still a giant: its radius is 100,000 times greater than its nucleus, and the nucleus, in its turn, is a world breeding the forces of matter and antimatter, a world in which some particles and anti-particles last less than one hundred trillionth of a second.
Creation has been expanding for 20,000 million years and man can only be traced back to three and a half million of these years. “What is man that you should be mindful of him?” What is man in the whole of creation and what is Redemption in the history of man? If we let a line of 20 kilometers represent the 20,000 million years since the origin of the universe, every thousand years would equal one millimeter. The history of mankind would be represented by the last 3 and a half meters of these 20 kilometers; the Redemption by Christ would be less than two millimeters with hardly a millimeter more for the Old Testament.
2. Consequences for our apostolic vision
The mind boggles at this. God “is seated over the world, whose inhabitants are like locusts. He stretches the heavens like a veil.” God, judging by our measure of time, does not seem to have been in a hurry to create intelligent beings, who presumably give sense to creation, nor once he had created them, to initiate the process of Redemption. Thousands of generations were born and died without ever knowing that God, in addition to being Father and Creator, is Redeemer, and that they were destined to participate in everlasting life.
These facts are not merely a pastime for lovers of science fiction, because when they are coupled with fundamental tenets of our theology (Christ is the only Savior, the salvific will of God is universal) they rouse us to a humble acceptance of the mystery of God’s Providence and give us an idea of the measure of time in God’s plan.
These facts are important for those concerned with evangelization. Do they not suggest that the three and a half million years since the appearance of man on the earth and the two thousand since the Incarnation are only a prologue to a story just unfolding? Science tells us that the sun, with its 5,000 million years of life, is but halfway through its life-span.
There is nothing that excludes the possibility that the Church may be still at the beginning of its history. This consideration makes us take fresh stock of our perspective, our concern and our possible despair. Here are some reflections from this standpoint:
What is the time and what are the means held in reserve by Providence for countries and cultures that have not yet been reached by the Good News so as to come finally to “the knowledge of the Truth?” For it is certain that God desires to save all men and bring them to recognize this truth. To what extent does God make this salvation and this knowledge depend on the truth of our apostolic initiative?
Because—and this is a second consideration—it is certain that ever since Christ said to his Twelve: “Go into the whole world to spread the Good News and to baptize all people” the Church has been in a situation of “being sent,” of permanent mission, which is a constitutive element that the Church cannot renounce. The whole Church is “mission” unto itself, renewing ceaselessly the joyous proclamation of the Paschal Mystery among its children. But the Church is also specifically “missionary,” “sent” by Christ, who is Himself “sent forth from the Father,” who is not only the bearer, but also the object, of the Good News. By his blood we have become “a new creation,” for He came that we might have life—all of us—and might have it more abundantly. We in our turn, must be heralds of that life.
D. THE JESUIT VOCATION
The Jesuit is a missionary; what is more, he is so by deliberate choice. The Society has always seen its vow to the Supreme Pontiff in all that concerns “missions” as its “wellspring and principal foundation.” To be sure, in the Formula Instituti and the Constitutions the word “missions” has a content and sense broader than evangelization “among unbelievers.” But it is also certain that this evangelization “among unbelievers” is the first and most important element contained in the expression. To enter into the Society is to make choice of a life of service of Christ in which “the missions” take the highest priority.
1. Ignatian Perspective in the Exercises
The Spiritual Exercises provide us with several insights into the perfect cohesion between that which could be called “Ignatian cosmogony and anthropology” and God’s plan for the whole of creation and for the human race, to which I referred earlier.
— “Man was created” (23). Ignatius could not have sunk a deeper foundation for his entire spiritual building and for his concept of the human being. He went right to the starting point from which the whole range of human possibility rises and apart from which none is conceivable. The human person comes into being with an existential tension between his littleness in the face of his Creator and his greatness as God’s creature, God’s image, God’s son— destined for God.
— The meditation on the Three Sins picks up the same tension from the viewpoint of one redeemed by Christ: “What have I done for Christ?” (53). St. Ignatius opens up the retreatant to every possibility by urging the question: “What am I doing now, what ought I to do for Christ?” It amounts to a blank check to be drawn on limitless generosity: “to reflect on what shall present itself to my mind.” In this way the ground is prepared for a response which, in the more radical cases such as those of Xavier and the first companions, takes on the form of a commitment that is distinctly missionary.
— In the second exercise Ignatius situates the retreatant more explicitly in a cosmic context. “Abasing myself by examples” in order to appreciate how insignificant and small I am, a sinner, in the midst of a creation which, incomprehensibly, tolerates my sinful disorder: “…the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the elements, the fruits of the earth, the birds, the fishes, and the animals…” (60).
The second week of the Exercises jumps abruptly “in medias res” with a perspective that is explicitly proselytizing and pluralistic. The temporal King wants to conquer all the land of the unbelievers (93). Then we see Christ, “and before Him the whole world, all of whom and each in particular He calls, and says: My will is to conquer the whole world … and thus to enter into the glory of My Father” (95).
What is presented to the retreatant is nothing more nor less than a call to arms. In the confirmatory colloquy Saint Ignatius is not content with letting the retreatant “reflect on what comes to mind.” Rather, with explicit reference to generosity, he makes him choose between two categories: if he is a person “of judgement and reason,” he will offer his whole self for labor. But if, beyond that, he wishes to signalize himself “in every kind of service of the Eternal King and Universal Lord,” he will make offers of “greater worth and moment” (97). Ignatius goes to the unusual length of dictating the formula of offering. Instead of simply being received in this life and state, the retreatant “wishes and desires and it is his deliberate determination” to imitate and follow Christ in this call to conquer the whole world.
2. Universal Mission of the Society
The body of the Society, therefore, is made up of men who, in their individual spiritual life, have desired “to show greater affection and to signalize themselves.” They have joined together under the Roman Pontiff for “the defense and propagation of the faith.”
The Society becomes aware of this “global mission” as the final consequence of our vision of the Blessed Trinity. Ours is an awesome responsibility which demands the marshaling of all our energies and talents. This mission, given by God the Creator of the world, crucified for love of the world, is characterized by “universality.” This is what we express by our fourth vow, which explicitly rules out any limitation or condition. It is in function of this universality that we understand our “apostolic availability” to be similarly without limit. The organic elasticity of the Society permits us to adopt any form of life which we consider necessary to reach any area of the world whatever, in whatever model of community structure or of personal accommodation, and to establish contact with any culture. We exclude no area of scientific specialization nor any social group. Any kind of particularization or restriction of our apostolic policy would damage one of the vital centers of the Society’s life.
It becomes apparent that by reason of the origin and finality of our mission, as well as of the means we take to carry it out, the principal agent— or even, in a sense, the only one—is the Holy Spirit, who is promised and sent by Christ in order to make known the truth and to instruct us in it. If in the biblical account we are given a vision of the Spirit hovering over the world being born, now we can perceive— and it is not mere symbolism— the Spirit laboring in the whole of history through all human generations for thousands of years. In the souls of men and women He leaves a trace of His action and He sows the “seeds” of truth and of grace in all human cultures, pregnant with the mystery of His purpose. Above all, He enlivens the Church like the soul in the body, and works within hearts in a hidden, interior, personal way, preparing the “Anakephalaiosis,” the final achievement of the unity of all creation in Christ as head. Our evangelizing activity, carried on under the guidance of the Spirit and with His power, is marked by an eschatological purposefulness in the building up of the Kingdom. Only to the extent to which we work in this way— rooted in, led by, and identified with the Spirit— can our activity make sense and bear fruit.
3. Consequences for our Activity
This approach to understanding the missionary activity of the Society and of each Jesuit has its consequences:
We should follow God’s way: able to do big things and small, just as God creates the macrocosm and the microcosm, with a perfect harmony between the whole and its parts. He “… before whom the whole universe is like a dew-drop that falls on the earth at morn, who is “great in big things, but greatest in the small,” He should have from us that “cooperation which the Lord asks of his creatures” (Const. 134), that a tiny piece of mosaic be fitted into the divine plan. The Lord has used small things to manifest his mighty deeds: a poor Hebrew to liberate His people, five pebbles in a sling to fell a giant, five loaves and two fishes to feed a multitude, a few jars of water for his first miracle in Cana.
We should keep to God’s pace. What I have said above about space and time would seem to tell us that God is not in a hurry: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day.” We should rethink our own impatience, our eagerness to get results. Our impatience can be an obstacle to a long term as well as more profound evangelization. Take, for example, the case of Ricci. His life could appear to some as having little significance as an evangelizer. And yet, in the larger view it had an enormous influence.
In the same way, we can ask ourselves if there are not circumstances when, rather than seeking quick conversions and other works that bear immediately visible results, we should better use a slower, even indirect, approach which ultimately would produce much greater fruit. For example: evangelize a culture, help a new social condition to evolve, direct public opinion towards the Gospel with the intelligent use of the mass media. These tasks take time, but they are the ones that affect the course of history.
In Japan, for example, in a population of 115 million, only 700,000 (0.6%) are baptized. And yet 14 million (14%) say that they are well disposed towards Christianity. This is undoubtedly a long term result of patient inculturation exercised through the indirect apostolate of education.
So we have to abandon our activism and our semi-Pelagian self-reliance and let our enterprise be one based primarily on the grace of God, one that can succeed only if it respects God’s way and God’s timing.
Spiritualism, as a radical attitude, is a temptation that threatens us from the opposite direction: leaving everything to the action of the Spirit, and regarding our own contribution as of no efficacy at all. It is the attitude of those who, disheartened by the disproportion between their efforts and the results obtained, and seeing the immense and ever growing number of those who either do not yet belong to the Church or live in it with a pagan heart, conclude that the battle is lost and take the pessimistic attitude of helpless resignation. The Church is for only a few, we hear these people say; Christianity, of its very nature, is meant for a charismatic minority of chosen souls able to live according to the Gospel demands in all their purity and rigor. If Paul and the Apostles had thought that way, Christianity would never have got beyond the frontiers of Judaism. But they had heard the Lord say: “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.” How firmly Paul was convinced of that mandate, we can tell from his words, that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to the full knowledge of the truth.” And so he turned towards the gentiles and the Hellenistic world. “I am perfectly willing to spend what I have, and to be expended, in the interests of your souls;” such was Paul’s attitude. “The love of Christ spurs me on;” such should be our disposition, as necessary envoys in God’s present plan. We must evangelize with no less energy than Paul, and yet with a great serenity that can say: “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”
That was the balance that St. Ignatius struck in his famous rule: “We should strive as if the outcome depended entirely on God, but put our trust in God as if it depended entirely on us.” We will act that way regarding those whom we are sent to, “like guardian angels, in two ways: helping them as much as we can for their salvation and yet not worrying or losing our peace if, when we have done all we could, they do not listen to us.”
This attitude is nothing new. For St. Paul wrote: “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News,” because the results did not depend on him: “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is of any importance, but only God.” This did not make him any less conscious of his obligation of faithfully living up to his apostolic calling: “Preaching the Gospel is a duty laid on me. And woe to me if I do not preach it.” Every member of the Society can apply these words to himself in their most literal sense.
Explicitation of the faith. I quoted earlier the words of Evangelii Nuntiandi that identify the value of our witness with our explication of the faith. This should make us appreciate deeply the sacrifice of those who must be satisfied with only an implicit proclamation of the Gospel, because they work in areas where there is religious intolerance or other similar obstacle. The witness of their lives, the disinterestedness of their service, will sometimes be all they can contribute, together with their hope that although no real evangelizing is possible “as long as the name, the teachings, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed,” yet this may yet be possible at some unforeseen future date. Sowers who must labor under this limitation can only think of the evangelizers who will come after them and who may then harvest the crop. “The time is close…. Very soon now, I shall be with you again, bringing the reward to be given to every man according to what he deserves… I shall indeed be with you soon. Amen; come, Lord Jesus.” The evangelizer has to have this eschatological perspective.
E. THE TASK BEFORE US
Of special pertinence to the Society’s missionary activity—since we are dealing with a fundamental point of our Institute—are my remarks in the final address to the Congregation of Procurators last October. I referred to the challenge facing our Society today, and specifically to the meaning for us today of the Ignatian criteria for our ministries. When St. Ignatius wrote these norms, he was thinking quite explicitly of “missions” in the broad sense of that expression in our Institute. But the norms do have a privileged application in the area of missionary activity traditionally so called. Please reread what I said with regard to deepening St. Ignatius’ original criteria under the headings of the greater need, the wider effects, and priorities. These notions are the parameters for the present and future missionary activity of the Society. When properly understood, they contain all the impetus and caution needed to bring about the best possible evangelization.
1. Universality in practice
I appeal to you as Jesuits especially involved or expert in this primary sector of the Society’s apostolate, to reflect on and share your experience, to point out possible lines of action, and to advise and help me in this important area of my responsibility to the Church and the Society. This is the precise reason for having your meeting here. Very concretely, it would help to concentrate your reflections on some of the following points:
The concept of “universal” applied to the missionary activity of the Society. I did not mention this before when treating the Ignatian criteria, precisely because I wanted to treat of it in particular. When we are dealing with missionary activity, it has to be taken into account. Actually, the Constitutions think in terms of the universal and conceive the Society as one body in which the division into Provinces or Vice-Provinces is merely a help towards better universal government. The Constitutions speak less, much less, of Provinces than of Provincials; and this is enjoined on Provincials as a duty: “First of all, the provincial superiors … should be obliged … to consider and to do what they ought to do for the universal good of the Society….” This is why, in the final address to the Procurators, I voiced my concern that administrative structures could be harmful to apostolic works that require a basis of cooperation that goes beyond province boundaries. “The broad vision of the Constitutions and a hierarchical structure of government giving all authority to the General ad aedificationem is not matched by the stability which in fact characterizes so much of our apostolate.”
This is why I indicated that we must begin first of all by planning on a universal scale and according to priorities. Provinces and particular regions would then have to adapt their contribution to the overall strategy. “By calling the whole Society to a basic option, GC 32 follows this path. We are slowly beginning to see the results. But when the central government launches a specific project requiring cooperation between Provinces, it is still considered by some an intrusion, an unwelcome interference with local plans.” You can easily see how much all this applies to the apostolate of young Provinces in former mission territories. Almost by definition, many such Provinces are the ones most in need of a strong helping hand from the other Provinces of the Society. “I repeat,” to continue my remarks to the Procurators, “the future calls us to think differently: options which are ‘univer-saliores’ and therefore ‘diviniores’ must determine the direction of the Society’s apostolate according to the manner and guidelines of the Constitutions.”
And therefore I come back again to what I said: “What I am trying to say with all the emphasis I can is this: While being fully committed to a local apostolate or particular ministry, we must always be ready to offer ourselves for more universal or important work if the Society asks us. And we should show this by anticipating the desires of Superiors.”
The tension between universality and inculturation is connected with this. Please take it into account during your discussions so that you will not fall into contradictions in your conclusions or run the risk of a “double message” that could cause confusion.
Of course a universal vision does entail a corresponding universal planning that moves down by a kind of capillary action to concrete and complementary action in successive steps. Commissions for the planning of ministries should be aware of this, and one of the purposes of the evaluation process is precisely to see the relationship of needs and available forces for their application where they can be productive apostolically.
2. Our spiritual resources
My next point is the need of a “robust spirituality.” I referred to this also in the address to the Procurators, and I feel that I should repeat it here. It is what is asked of a Jesuit committed to evangelization in an outpost, quite alone, in an atmosphere at times hostile, living in the living in the midst of so many material or spiritual needs. If there is no ongoing spiritual nourishment in which prayer can help him to assimilate what he experiences in the life about him, he runs the risk of emptying himself in a meaningless activism. If prayer is the lifeblood of every apostolate, this is all the more true of the missionary apostolate. The support of a very solid spiritual life is much more necessary for an apostolate in the world of unbelief than it is for one in a Christian context or with Christian communities.
That was the reason why I mentioned “fervor,” a word that St. Ignatius used to describe the spiritual stance of the Jesuit and of the Society itself: “Fervour is the Society.” The aim of the Society is “to advance with fervor in the salvation and perfection of one’s neighbor.” St. Ignatius, reflecting on the spiritual needs of his time, new needs resulting from the geographical discoveries and the breach in the Catholic unity of Christianity, remained nevertheless cool-headed in his control of the missionary and apostolic zeal of Jesuits. For “fervor is the Society, but not an unbalanced fervor, rather a fervor that is enlightened as well as being courageous.”
In our day too such balance is needed, in this age in which the challenge has assumed gigantic proportions. The younger generation, because they are perhaps more sensitive to needs of all sectors and specifically in the social, human sphere, particularly need to be helped in controlling their impulsiveness even though it springs from a most praiseworthy generosity. They ought to have a formation which will help their acceptance of reality, and what I already said about God’s “way” and the divine “timing” is relevant to this point. There is need too for witness in ordinary life: with regard to this, what steps have to be taken in the area of inculturation, so that witness to faith can be understood by those to whom our evangelical action is directed?
3. A series of questions
I would like you to consider this question also: has the “missionary” spirit in the Society declined? Or is there perhaps a search for a new understanding of the word “mission” and for a more meaningful motivation in proclaiming the Good News than that there is no salvation without conversion to the faith? There seems to be a call for a new presentation of the theology of evangelization.
Then, reflection on the slow movement of divine action can lead us to an effort to influence dominant ideologies, as a step towards conversion. How is the tension to be resolved between the option of a long term, indeed ultimate, evangelization and the demands of individual conversion? Given that everything cannot be done all at once, what are the criteria that will in practice determine priority options and their achievement?
In the collaboration between donor and recipient countries, how can we rid ourselves of any vestige of colonialism or cultural paternalism which could understandably be hurtful to the sensitivity of young developing churches and so damage the work of evangelization?
How resolve the problem in regions of “primary evangelization,” when trying to keep in proper balance our faith-justice option? In other words: What policy and what criteria adapted to varying countries need to be followed so as to emphasize in one case conversion, in another social development, or again the institutional apostolate like education?
What is the best and most desirable relationship between mission offices and the territories they serve? And what is the status of these offices in relation to the Provinces in which they are based? How are we to look after some of those Provinces or Vice-Provinces in countries of “primary evangelization” who lack the support of a “Mother Province” or a “Mission Office” to help with fraternal aid?
Finally, what kind of help do you yourselves think that the Society expects the General to give in this whole area of missionary activity? And more specifically, how do you look on the work of the Curia, in particular that of the Mission Secretariat, as a coordinating center of the global resources of the Society to meet universal needs?
These questions, as you see, demand a good deal of reflection and bring us face to face with a vista of enormous problems and possibilities. But we should meet them with stout hearts because, although we know our own weakness, we are encouraged by the promise of the Lord when he sent his disciples to convert the whole world. He told them—and we take the words as addressed to ourselves too—“Go and teach. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” We feel ourselves strengthened by that promise of “Christ, Redeemer of man, center of the universe and of history.”
Other Apostolates Today: Selected Letters and Addresses—III, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1981, “Fraternal Collaboration in the Work of Evangelization,” pg. 141–161.