To seek the glory of God is not the monopoly of the Society. From the very beginning the faithful have been exhorted to do all for the glory of God (1 Cor 1031) that God may be glorified in all things (1 Pet 411). It is a dogma of Faith that the world was created for the glory of God. What is peculiar to Ignatius is that he not only insists that the glory of God is the only end of man and of all other things on the face of the earth, but also proposes the logical conclusion of this seemingly Utopian ideal as the normal rule of life: for him it is practical common sense to say, not that ‘man must in everything give glory to God, but that he must order every detail of his life’ desiring and choosing solely that which is more conducive to the end for which we are created”.
When the ideal in view and the plan of life it imposes take concrete shape in the Word Incarnate and His Mission, St. Ignatius offers himself to serve under the banner of the Eternal King in His campaign to reclaim the world to the glory of God — any man of judgement and sense would do that; but Ignatian logic goes further to an oblation of greater moment.
Indeed, the Exercises are the soul of the Society and its Institute. St. Ignatius invites his sons to labor with Christ in bringing souls to Gods; and when he fashions a Code for his Order, he employs the theme-song of the Retreat as a sort of background music: “That all my intentions, actions and operations may be directed solely and purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty”.
The Society is distinguished from other religious institutes in that these others generally choose a particular work which with legitimate approbation thenceforth becomes for them, in concrete, the one way of procuring the glory of God and the measure of their activity, so that they will not in fact give greater glory to God by departing from their chosen field of labor, — whereas for the Society the greater glory of God is itself the aim and the norm of action. A simple analogy will not be out of place: Every business concern has financial profit as its purpose, but each chooses some particular means of making money.. Should a company be launched that has for its object simply the making of money, and the most money by the best means, whatever they might be, it would be in its own sphere what the Company of Jesus is among religious institutes. The Jesuit vocation, according to our Founder, is “to give glory to one’s Creator and to bring to Him all His creatures according to their capacity”.
It is the greater glory of God that inspired Ignatius to sacrifice many of the cherished traditions of the religious life, and what-ever might jeopardize the ‘mobility’ of his Order; the substantials of our Institute in general and the stress on obedience in particular are devised that the Society as a whole, and every individual Jesuit, may the more efficaciously promote the ever greater glory of God. “Obedience is nothing else than the ‘more’ of service carried out in the activity of daily life.”
Ministries that might tie down the Society, such as the stable care of souls, are rejected by St Ignatius. Nevertheless, educational institutions are accepted and made a ‘speciality’ by us precisely because their influence for good is so deep and far-reaching. We have other specialities too the so-called “ministries proper to our Institute” but this does riot exclude the taking up of other work when, and as long as, there is no one else to do it.
It needs hardly be pointed out that the mobility of the Society is diametrically opposed to inconstancy. The magnetic needle is all a-quiver and perpetually turning about precisely because in changing circumstances it must constantly point northwards. The Society is all the more stubborn in its purpose for that it knows that its lodestar can never wane; unlike some other religious orders it can never outlive the end for which it was created: it was not founded for the recovery of the Holy Land or the redemption of captives, but to satisfy the claims, ever urgent yet ever diverse, of the greater glory of God.
To the ‘indeterminacy’ of the Society, that is, to its determination not to be determined by anything but the greater glory of God, Suarez shrewdly attributes the hostility it meets with with-in the Church itself. Says Hugo Rahner in comment: “Many human failings may have afforded justifiable grounds for this adverse attitude; but basically it has its cause in the nature which. Ignatius communicated to his Order, in its ‘illimitability’ (to be measured only by Christ and the daily battle for salvation in His Church), and ‘in its readiness to dare and do all, never allowing itself to be wholly confined within the limits of peaceful forms and tasks. This spirit gave rise in the Order’s opponents to a feeling of being threatened; it was an apprehension which may have gripped ecclesiastical circles because of the Jesuits’ ever-changing tactics, their unwelcome interference, their constant pushing forward, their Pauline ‘solicitude for all the churches’ which they made their own”.
‘Illimitability’ is indeed a galling thing for human nature that likes to keep to its own chosen rut and to seek its own favorite corner, and no one should feel the illimitability of the Society more keenly than the Jesuit himself if he does not, if he is satisfied with the state of things, the chances are that he has lost sight of the ideal, for it cannot be sufficiently achieved in this life: To be wholly engrossed in one’s allotted task yet ever on the alert, to be entirely devoted to the work in hand yet ever ready to change this is indeed a hard saying; we are prepared to hear it, but do we live it, daily?
It is for this that we are schooled in the Exercises to “be rid of all inordinate affection and being so rid to seek and find the Divine Will”; and since we must seek the glory of God not only in our choice of a state of life “but also in all particulars”, the theme of absolute selflessness is taken up again and given prominence to in the Institute. In the matter of corporal penances St Ignatius admitted a more and a less, but our self-abnegation, according to Rule 12, must be relentless and all-embracing.
No consideration but the “service and praise of the Divine Goodness” must guide superiors in determining offices and ministries, and subjects in accepting them; and the more securely, universally and wholeheartedly to procure the greater glory of God, the Society is bound by a special vow to the Supreme Pontiff, who can better judge of the needs of the Church and of the whole world.
It was the intention of the first Fathers, says St Ignatius, “that, should it happen that somewhere they did not reap the desired spiritual harvest, they should betake themselves thence to another, and yet another, place, seeking the greater glory of God and the help of souls”.
The Jesuits shall probably find that there is some reason to fear the loss amongst them of that mobility which their holy Founder had so much at heart. New situations are daily creating new problems amongst them, and to none of them can the Society hold itself entirely a stranger. The Jesuits need the restless energy of St. Francis Xavier and the uncompromising adaptability of St. John de Britto to rise to the occasion. The Jesuits need, in fine, nothing short of the genuine spirit of Ignatius if they are to measure up to their vocation.
FR. CORREIA-AFONSO, S. J.