Monday, January 7, 2008

Cardinal Rode Addresses the Jesuits

Cardinal Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (wow, what a title), addresses the Jesuits at the opening of their gathering. In it, he doesn't pull any punches on what should happen with the Society of Jesus.
Consecration to service to Christ cannot be separated from consecration to service to the Church. Ignatius and his first companions considered it thus when they wrote the Formula of your Institute in which the essence of your charism is spelled out: “To serve the Lord and his Spouse the Church under the Roman Pontiff” (Julio III, Formula I). It is with sorrow and anxiety that I see that the sentire cum ecclesia of which your founder frequently spoke is diminishing even in some members of religious families. The Church is waiting for a light from you to restore the sensus Ecclesiae.
He then continues to call them to faithfulness, orthodoxy and reform:
Love for the Church in every sense of the word, – be it Church people of God be it hierarchical Church – is not a human sentiment which comes and goes according to the people who make it up or according to our conformity with the dispositions emanating from those whom the Lord has placed to direct the Church. Love for the Church is a love based on faith, a gift of the Lord which, precisely because he loves us, he gives us faith in him and in his Spouse, which is the Church. Without the gift of faith in the Church there can be no love for the Church.
Then he just lays it all on the line:
With sadness and anxiety I also see a growing distancing from the Hierarchy. The Ignatian spirituality of apostolic service “under the Roman Pontiff” does not allow for this separation. In the Constitutions which he left you, Ignatius wanted to truly shape your mind and in the book of the Exercises (n 353) he wrote” we must always keep our mind prepared and quick to obey the true Spouse of Christ and our Holy Mother, the Hierarchical Church”. Religious obedience can be understood only as obedience in love. The fundamental nucleus of Ignatian spirituality consists in uniting the love for God with love for the hierarchical Church. Your XXXIII Congregation once again took up this characteristic of obedience declaring that “the Society reaffirms in a spirit of faith the traditional bond of love and of service which unites it to the Roman Pontiff” You once again took up this principle in the motto “In all things love and serve”.

You must also place this XXXV General Congregation, which opens with this liturgy, celebrated close to the remains of your founder in this line, which has always been followed by the Society throughout its multi-century history in order to show your desire and your commitment to be faithful to the charism which he left you as an inheritance and to carry it out in ways which better respond to the needs of the Church in our time.

The service of the Society is a service “under the banner of the Cross” (Formula I). Every service done out of love necessarily implies a self-emptying, a kenosis. But letting go of what one wants to do in order to do what the beloved wants is to transform the kenosis into the image of Christ who learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5, 8). It is for this reason that St. Ignatius, realistically, adds that the Jesuit serves the Church “under the banner of the Cross” (Formula I).

Ignatius placed himself under the orders of the Roman Pontiff “in order to not err in via Domini” (Const 605) in the distribution of his religious throughout the world and to be present wherever the needs of the Church were greater.

Times have changed and the Church must today confront new and urgent necessities, I will mention one, which in my judgment is urgent today and is at the same time complex and I propose it for your consideration. It is the need to present to the faithful and to the world the authentic truth revealed in Scripture and Tradition. The doctrinal diversity of those who at all levels, by vocation and mission are called to announce the Kingdom of truth and love, disorients the faithful and leads to a relativism without limits. There is one truth, even though it can always be more deeply known.

It is the “living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” (DV 10) which is the voucher for revealed truth. The exegetes and theological scholars are involved in working together “under the watchful care of the sacred teaching office of the Church, to an exploration and exposition of the divine writings (DV 23). Through your long and solid formation, your centers of research, your teaching in the philosophical-theological-biblical fields you are in a privileged position to carry out this difficult mission. Carry it out with study and in-depth examination, carry it out with humility, carry it out with faith in the Church. carry it out with love for the Church.

May those who, according to your legislation, have to oversee the doctrine of your magazines and publications do so in the light of and according to the “rules for sentire cum ecclesia”, with love and respect.

The feeling of ever growing separation between faith and culture, a separation which constitutes a great impediment for Evangelization (Sapientia Cristiana, proemio) also worries me.

A culture immersed with a true Christian spirit is an instrument which fosters the spreading of the Gospel, faith in God the Creator of the heavens and of the earth. The Tradition of the Society, from the first beginnings of the Collegio Romano always placed itself at the crossroads between Church and society, between faith and culture, between religion and secularism. Recover these avant-garde positions which are so necessary to transmit the eternal truth to today’s world, in today’s language. Do not abandon this challenge. We know the task is difficult, uncomfortable and risky, and at times little appreciated and even misunderstood, but it is a necessary task for the Church. The apostolic tasks demanded of you by the Church are many and very diverse, but all have a common denominator: the instrument which carries them out, according to an Ignatian phrase must be an instrument united to God. It is the Ignatian echo to the Gospel proclaimed today: I am the vine, you are the branches. He who remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit (Jn.15, 15). Union with the vine, which is love, is realized only through a personal and silent exchange of love which is born in prayer, “from the internal knowledge of the Lord who became man for me and who, integral and alive, extends himself to all who are close to us and to all that is close to us”. It is not possible to transform the world, or to respond to the challenges of a world which has forgotten love, without being firmly rooted in love.
Tip O' the Hat to Rocco.

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