For vocations to religious life
We have dedicated a week to remembering the meaning of
the vocation to the Society of Jesus today as yesterday, but above all
directing our gaze and our desires to the future. We have remembered to renew
our commitment, to rekindle our hearts and to seek the best ways to act
effectively in vocation promotion.
The premise is very simple. GC 34 clearly reminded us
of it (Decree 10, 1): without vocations to the Society of Jesus the mission of
reconciliation and justice, universal apostolic preferences, collaboration with
others inside and outside the Church... become simply impossible.
If we find meaning in our religious life and in our
vocation to the Society of Jesus, if we love this life that we have chosen to
follow Jesus, we will be very motivated to promote this precious charism that
the Lord gave to his Church, through St. Ignatius and the first companions, for
which we are currently responsible. It is worth remembering how the
Constitutions of the Society of Jesus ended in which Ignatius shaped the basic
characteristics of the charism received. The tenth principal part is entitled: How the whole body is to be preserved and
increased in its well-being.
To preserve and increase does not refer, in the first
place, to the increase of the number of Jesuits or of their apostolic works,
without forgetting that the harvest of the Lord's vineyard is abundant and that
He does not cease to go out in search of them. The Constitutions refer “to the
spirit of it, and to the achievement of its purpose”, that is, to the charism
and mission that give meaning to the body, its life and its actions. Only a
body that grows in its well-being is
capable of attracting those who hear the Lord's call to work in his vineyard
with the Society of Jesus’ way of life and work.
The first companions heard and chose the call to
become companions of Jesus like the apostles. The evangelist Mark tells us
(3:11-15) that Jesus "went up on the mountain and called those he wanted,
and they went with him. He appointed twelve, whom he called apostles, to be
with him and to be sent out to preach with power to cast out demons".
Living with Jesus is the condition for being sent. For
this reason, “the means which unite the human instrument with God and so
dispose it that it may be wielded well by his divine hand” [C. 813] are the
most effective for living and promoting our vocation. Familiarity with Jesus in
personal prayer and the Eucharist is the condition for making ourselves
companions in mission, so that, as St. Paul points out to the Corinthians,
preaching the Gospel is an interior necessity and not a source of privilege or
The reading from Luke’s gospel that we hear today
invites us to first remove the beam in our eye so that we can help others see
better. What do we need to do, from now on, to deepen our familiarity with God,
through prayer and the Eucharist? What obstacles do we need to remove in order
to become better companions of Jesus in the way of the apostles and to be sent
to work in the vineyard? If we do not remove that beam from our eyes we will be
blind leading other blind people. Let us recognize our limitations and sin so
that we can be forgiven and follow the call to be disciples who resemble the
From a consistency of life as companions of Jesus we
can cooperate with divine grace and ask insistently for vocations to the
Society. Recovering the daily practice of prayer for vocations is a necessary
step to renew and revitalize the “culture of vocation promotion” that we need
today as a universal body.
A culture of vocation promotion that begins by making
every Jesuit, every community and every apostolic work of the Society feel
responsible for transparently presenting the charism and the invitation to be
part of this body. Getting closer to people, especially young people, opening
our houses, improving our hospitality, making ourselves accessible... are basic
elements of a culture of vocation promotion.
The willingness and ability to accompany personal
processes is a condition without which vocational promotion is not possible.
Ours is not an advertising campaign to sell the Society of Jesus “product”.
What we do is accompany processes of vocational discernment, aware that it is
the Lord who calls and the person who freely chooses to become a companion. We
are aware of the need to make a special and creative effort to increase the
number of those who choose to become Jesuit Brothers.
Revitalizing the culture of vocation promotion
throughout the body of the Society means renewing our efforts to live life
fully as Jesuits while providing the means to attract and accompany vocations.
The principal means are people who are fully dedicated to vocation promotion.
Priests, Brothers, and Scholastics who have the necessary means, work as a
team, dedicated full time to making the charism of the Society visible in the
great diversity of social and cultural contexts in which we are present. Let us
not be under any illusions. If we do not dedicate excellent Jesuits,
exclusively and for a sufficiently long time, to the promotion of vocations,
through all the means that we have available today, we will not be able to
cooperate with the action of the Holy Spirit.
The challenges of vocational promotion vary according
to the different continents and provinces, which forces us to be creative in
our ways. However, there are elements common to all Jesuits, whatever their
age, to all communities and apostolic works. We will have vocations if our
style of religious life is close to that which flows from Ignatian
spirituality; if our life of poverty, chastity, and obedience are ways of
showing the centrality of God in our lives; if closeness to the poor and
apostolic vigor come from a growing familiarity with the Lord Jesus with whom
we become companions.
Mary, mother of the Society of Jesus is an
excellent model of companionship. She knew how to accompany her son Jesus with
all his consequences, without ever abandoning him. Let us also allow ourselves
to accompany her and learn from her how to accompany others.