The UAPs are inspiring… and they can inspire the youth in Myanmar

By Titus Tin Maung, SJ

After the Ignatian long retreat in 2000, our novice master told us that we had become more human. I personally took his words literally. I considered it an affirmation of me having done the retreat well. My self-image, God-image and general worldview have changed ever since. A keen interest in Ignatian spirituality silently grew in me over the years. It provided me a liberating path, to walk upon and to unleash my fullest potential as a person. A Jesuit is a sinner, but is nonetheless loved and called by God, to take part in God’s unceasing creation endeavor in the world. This perennial Jesuit insight has remained lodged deep in my memory.

Dreaming that more may discover the Ignatian path to God, my super-ego let almost no opportunity slip away. Soon after my priestly ordination, I agreed to conduct Ignatian retreats for youth and religious of different congregations, group-sizes and ages. The number of retreats has grown to almost 400 during the past three years. Adapting the Ignatian retreat has always been essential. Preached retreats, rather than individually directed ones, have often been more affordable for most in the local context of Myanmar. In any case, the basic theme of any preached Ignatian retreat covers the “sinner-but-loved” element. Sometimes, I offer a little taste of the respective theme of each week of the Exercises, in small doses, to middle-aged religious in their annual six-day or eight-day retreats.

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In the midst of these activities, nothing has delighted me more than reading the first Universal Apostolic Preference of the Society of Jesus: grounding people in the Spiritual Exercises and discernment. Just a few months before the announcement of the UAPs, my proposal to pursue a course in Ignatian spirituality had been approved by the Superior of the Myanmar mission. A sense of confirmation ran through my spine as I read the first UAP. My personal acquaintance with Ignatian spirituality has largely been through my long years of Jesuit formation and my annual eight-day retreat. Finding myself now exploring Ignatius’ abundant spiritual heritage at Jesuit College of Spirituality in Melbourne, Australia, has been nothing less than a divine Providence. Half way through the course, I now realize that my knowledge of the rich Ignatian tradition has been but minimal.

I am currently dreaming with more excitement. I cautiously envision that the depth of knowledge of Ignatian tradition should equip me with creative flexibility, in putting more people on the Ignatian path to God. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. I have taken some initial steps in my journey to the dreamed land of Ignatian spirituality. Magis is a magic word that keeps me smiling along this personal spiritual journey.

Magis has also been a pathway to the hearts of Myanmar youth, too. I have had the privilege of playing a supportive role in the birthing of the Magis programme in the golden land of Myanmar. Myanmar Mission of the Society of Jesus (MMSJ) held its first national Magis program in 2019. About 120 youths across the 16 dioceses actively participated. Besides Catholic young people, a Muslim boy, a Buddhist girl and a few Christians of other denominations also joined. During the program, the participants encountered a leprosarium, the handicapped, an orphanage, and the garbage collectors in town; they also undertook a pilgrimage. The guided daily examination of conscience after their respective activities has helped the participants in becoming more conscious not only of themselves, but of those less fortunate people around them. Many have learned to be more appreciative of the gift of life and nature through the program. In response to Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’, the group of young people from Magis Myanmar has planted thousands of trees. This may have been like a drop in the ocean; yet a significant drop nonetheless. Instilling a consciousness of nature in the mind of our youth is the core of the matter here.

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Magis has truly been an effective tool with which the Myanmar Mission of the Society should continue to nudge the hearts of many more local young people. It is definitely an essential way of accompanying youth who have long been deprived of creative human formation programs, due to the oppressive political system of their country. For MMSJ, to be close to the poor is to be close to the youth. These lack a good educational system, economic opportunity and political literacy. Through the Magis program, MMSJ will touch the hearts and stimulate the minds of many more young people. Of this I am hopeful, and I’m willing to play a part.

Doing or supporting all the above activities with the UAPs in mind, life has been much richer for me as a young Jesuit. The UAPs have truly unearthed the original richness of Ignatian vision and spirituality; they have not only provided me with new eyes to look at the world, but also with concrete steps to move toward it.

[Article from "Jesuits - The Society of Jesus in the World - 2021", by Titus Tin Maung, SJ]

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles public relations.

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