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James Martin explains the Jesuits, celebrates the election of one of their own

March 14, 2013

Father James Martin writes on the CNN religion blog about the papal election of a fellow Jesuit, Jorge Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis. Martin, for those of you who aren’t familiar with him, is the editor-at-large of the Catholic magazine America. He provides some helpful insight on the Jesuit order, which was founded in the 16th century by St. Ignatius Loyola.

Vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Challenging spiritual retreats. Lengthy novitiate programs. These are not your typical priests. Certainly not the type of priests who become bishops and cardinals. And certainly never pope … until now.

I was not familiar with the order’s discouraging ambition.  Very interesting:

…[W]e are not supposed to be “climbers.”  Now here’s a terrific irony.  When Jesuit priests and brothers complete their training, they make vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and a special vow to the pope “with regard to missions”; that is, with regard to places the pope wishes to send us.  But we also make an unusual promise, alone among religious orders as far as I know, not to “strive or ambition” for high office.

St. Ignatius was appalled by the clerical climbing that he saw around him in the late Renaissance, so he required us to make that unique promise against “climbing.” Sometimes, the pope will ask a Jesuit, as he did with Jorge Bergoglio, to assume the role of bishop or archbishop.  But this is not the norm.  Now, however, a Jesuit who had once promised not to “strive or ambition” for high office, holds the highest office in the church.

Martin concludes that St. Ignatius would be smiling at the new pope because, ultimately, you can’t be too rigid with your rules, especially if what you do is ad majorem Dei gloriam (for the greater glory of God).

We’ll see if the pope’s spiritual training makes this a different kind of papacy than we’ve seen before.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack Wirtz permalink
    March 18, 2013 5:37 pm

    Glad you fell like blogging again….welcome back

    • eeflynn permalink*
      March 19, 2013 7:16 pm

      Thanks, Jack. Let’s hope I can keep it going. This motherhood thing takes up a lot of time!

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