The Society of Jesus was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish soldier, who, like most men of his time, initially dreamed of bravery, fame, wealth and beautiful women. But while he was trying to recover from the injuries he suffered after being seriously wounded in a battle, the books he read completely transformed him. He wanted to serve God – not the king. ‘For the greater glory of God’ (Ad majorem Dei gloriam) became his motto. Giving up all his possessions and ambitions, he and his six companions took the vows of religious life at Montmartre in Paris , France on 15 Aug 1534. Ignatius and his first companions wanted to work in the Holy Land but later offered to do any work assigned to them by the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope. They were officially approved as a Religious Order on 27 Sept 1540, by Pope Paul III.
Jesuits traveled to all parts of the world to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Realizing the vital role that education plays in humanizing the society, they founded schools and colleges and offered not merely academic education, but also discipline and important human values. Apart from education, they worked in various fields – science, communication, social action, philosophy and theology, spirituality… – all for God’s greater glory.
Today more than 19,000 Jesuits work in 112 countries in six continents, with the aim of moulding, with God’s grace, men and women for others. They see themselves as ‘converted sinners’ or ‘wounded healers’ and understand their mission in the world as ‘service of faith and promotion of justice.’ The charming, serene Jesuit recently elected the Superior General to lead Jesuits everywhere is Fr Adolfo Nicolas, SJ.
For easy administration Jesuits worldwide are divided into regions or what they call Assistancies. India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan come under the South Asian Assistancy, currently the largest in the world, with nearly 21 per cent of the world’s Jesuits working here. It is led by the Provincial of South Asia or POSA, who has his office in New Delhi . Fr Edward Mudavassery, SJ is the present POSA.
Jesuit Life: Ignatius’ way of life, shared by his first companions and the early Jesuits, living in community, gave birth to the Jesuit way of life. St. Ignatius proposed drastic changes in the monastic way of life as lived in his days. His monastery was the world; his prayer was to find God in all things and his work was to serve the Church under the Holy Father in whatever setting most helpful to the people for the greater glory of God. The three vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience would free the Jesuits to be available to go to any part of the world, imitating Christ and bringing his message of love to all.
For over 450 years Jesuit priests and brothers have lived an amazing story of service to the Church in a variety of ways. Jesuit spirituality mirrors that of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. Jesuit priests and brothers are men on the move, ready to change place, occupation, method whatever will best advance the mission given to us by Christ through the Church. We are expected to do anything or go anywhere to teach Jesus Christ and to proclaim the Good News of faith shared by all Christians. We are to work towards the promotion of a just society throughout the world. We are men on the move, ready to change place, occupation, method–whatever will advance our mission in the Church of teaching Jesus Christ and preaching his Good News–a radical service of the implications of faith in a world that respects neither faith itself nor the justice it calls out.Today that “we” has expanded to include lay women and men who share this vision of service to faith and justice. Jesuits and their lay partners work side by side in a common apostolate. And our conversation has expanded to include a dialogue with other religions and a dialogue with the cultures in which we live.
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