The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated
the transformation of human life demanded by the changing times we live
in. But we still don’t know how deep this change will have to be.
- The pandemic has highlighted the importance of care - the Jesuit word ‘cuidado’ in Spanish - in many dimensions of our lives.
It has brought to light so much neglect accumulated over decades in the
way human beings have related to each other, to nature and to God.
- We can learn from it how caring for oneself and caring for others is intimately related.
On the feast of the Annunciation, wrote
to the whole Society a long letter on " Care or “cura” in the
governance of the Society's life-mission at this change of epoch”.
I invite you to read it slowly and attentively and to discuss, in the
communities and also in the apostolic works, about the importance of
maintaining this creative tension between care of the apostolate (cura
apostolica) and care of the person (cura personalis).
- We also need
to talk about the dangers of failing to exercise this ‘cura’, the
dangers of a lack of care whether for our life or of our mission. The
neglect of one leads to the neglect of the other. The charism and
authentic way of proceeding of the Society of Jesus preserves this
From the time of his Incarnation right
through to Easter, Jesus shows a radical commitment to the care of a
creation in need of reconciliation. Acting in history, he continually
cares for his own. He shows this in his "apparitions" to Mary Magdalene,
to the disciples of Emmaus and to the Apostles. Jesus takes care of
them. He calls Mary by name, he tells the disciples where to cast their
nets for fishing, he prepares the food they need after the work (Jn
20-21), he opens their eyes and warms their hearts so that they can see
and feel the signs of his presence.
Giving the best of ourselves to the
mission requires us to nurture - to take care of - common discernment
and apostolic planning enlightened by the Universal Apostolic
Preferences. In them we find concrete indications to link up the care of
the apostolate with care of the person.
- Taking care of our spiritual life allows us not to get lost on the path to God that we are called to show to all human beings.
Caring for the lives of the discarded takes on a profound meaning at
this time. Their number has multiplied exponentially as a consequence of
the unjust structures of our world. Our global structures seem
incapable of putting human beings and the Common Good at the center of
local, national or global political decisions.
- Accompanying young
people is a continuous exercise in learning about what it means to take
care of the present and the future of humanity. Here is where the
meaning of our life-mission is constantly renewed.
- The neglect of
nature has been laid bare during the pandemic of COVID-19. To continue
to neglect it is the greatest of the irresponsibilities of a humanity
that has come up against its fragility. We have received a big wake-up
call about the need and also the possibility to respond as one single
humanity without distinction of culture, age or religion.
Returning to the Ignatian sources has
allowed us to re-read Ignatius’ life as an experience of being cared for
and being invited to care. In the Autobiography, Ignatius shows how he
is led and cared for by God himself. The Spiritual Exercisesare
the mystical journey of God's care, a God who is committed to the
vocation of the human being whom he cares for through the incarnation,
death and resurrection of Christ. Everything is thus contemplated ad amorem.
And the Constitutions, in their parts IV, VIII and IX are nothing other
than the commitment of those who govern, to preserve and care for the
body of the universal Society in function of the mission.
The letter I wrote in March builds on
the rich reflection of the ex-officio letters of 2018. They make it
clear that the difficulties in the areas of cura apostolica and cura
personalis stem mainly from a separation between the two. When we have
this duality, the path is taken to a separation of competencies between
the local Superior and the Director of the Work. And this path does not
help in the care of the mission.
To take care of the mission, the Society
of Jesus needs to take care of the people who make it possible and who
form its apostolic body. For this reason, it is urgent to learn to
collaborate with lay men and women, with the diocesan clergy and with
other religious men and women so that we can all work together as a
body, taking care of others and allowing ourselves to be taken care of.
Caring requires "opening processes" of
open-mindedness and conversion to free us from clericalism, paternalism,
individualism and authoritarianism, which are found in so many current
contexts. To care and to allow oneself to be cared for is to grow in the
universal Society; it is an essential part of the culture of our
The process of restructuring the
governance of the Society of Jesus has highlighted the role of
"delegation" in the exercise of authority in the apostolic body as a way
of maintaining the tension of care in all dimensions.
a) In large
administrative units, both demographically and geographically, some
people receive delegated authority to accompany different areas of
life-mission and ensure their care.
b) Other complementary forms are
added that help in the coordination of apostolic areas, in the
accompaniment of the development of the apostolic plan or in the
articulation of communities and works in a given geographical area.
In the letter I point out some immediate steps that we can take during this Easter season:
Each Jesuit as well as each companion in the mission can ask: “what can
help me to grow in that transparency and honesty that arise from
interior freedom and Ignatian indifference?”
b) I ask local Superiors
and Directors of works (Jesuits or lay) to take initiatives to help
communities and works adopt spiritual conversation, or similar forms of
exchange, as the usual way of discussing matters that are central to the
life of the community or apostolic work
c) Each major superior can
ask himself: “how can I grow in my capacity for in-depth dialogue with
the members of my province or region and with the companions in the
mission who have responsibilities in it?”
We are faced with the challenge of
building a culture of care through in-depth dialogue among the
companions in the mission. This means that, while maintaining the
maximum respect for the conscience and vocation of each one, we want to
create an atmosphere of discernment. This discernment will illuminate
the apostolic planning of each work and how it fits into the overall
plan of each Province or Region in the light of the Universal Apostolic
Let us make the most of the experience
of the COVID-19 pandemic to be able, in the next stage, to overcome any
lacks that exist either the care of persons or our care of the
apostolate. We want to put care (‘cura’) at the very centre, the very
heart, of the way we relate to each other in the life and mission to
which we are called.