Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach’s Homily to General Congregation 33 (1983)

In their first ballots, the delegates of the 33rd General Congregation elected Peter-Hans Kolvenbach their new superior general. After, the former the vice-provincial of the Near East offers this homily.

For more from the 33rd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, please consult this page.



September 16, 1983


As we take up again the work of the General Congregation, the Lord invites us this morning to lose our life for His sake and take up the cross, our own cross, and follow Him. This word of the Lord should in no way call forth in us somber reflections on our weaknesses and shortcomings, our limitations and failures, even if these are, in fact, our cross.

The Gospel serves to remind the General Congregation that the great majority of Jesuits are men who, following the example of St. Ignatius, desire to lose their life in order that their brothers and sisters—all men and women—may live by the true life, the life of God. Without doubt the General Congregation must pass laws and decrees, but this legislative labor has only one purpose: to liberate the energies of love for Christ, that are alive in the Society, so that they may bear abundant fruit. Through all the deliberations and decisions of the General Congregation there should be always present among us the Jesuit who is willing to lose his life so that Christ may live in his brothers and sisters. It is this Jesuit whom we represent and it is for him that we labor in the General Congregation so that he be able to fulfill the Ignatian ideal of his life.

Finally, the Lord invites the General Congregation to carry its own cross and lose its life in order to follow the lamb wherever He goes. What St. Ignatius presupposes in the meditation on the Kingdom is still fully true today: so many Jesuits are ready to work and watch. But the magis of the Kingdom consists in working and watching as it pleases the divine Majesty, working and watching only when the Lord deigns to choose and admit me to such a state and way of life. The postulates that the Society has entrusted to the discernment of the General Congregation reveal the intense desire of Jesuits to live the Paschal Mystery today so that others may come alive. The General Congregation is called to lose its life in desiring for the Society—through its decrees, initiatives, and projects—only that which pleases “the divine Majesty.”

Through the intercession of St. Ignatius we offer this Eucharistic prayer, beseeching for the General Congregation the blessing of God the Father, through his Son Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Original Source (English translation):

Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, “Homily of Father General,” pg. 482.