For the 50th anniversary of a Jesuit college in Rome, Pope Francis challenged members of the college community to reflect on the origins of the Society of Jesus as they seek spiritual fruit.
“I would like to advise you to return to the discussion on service to be like Jesus, to imitate Jesus, Who emptied Himself, Who annihilated Himself and obeyed unto death,” he said.
The pope met with students and staff from the Jesuit International College of the Gesù of Rome. The college was begun in 1968 by Father Pedro Arrupe, a former Superior General of the order, whose canonization cause is open.
The Holy Father pointed to the jubilee in the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament, and encouraged the Jesuits to return to the foundations of the order, focusing on an imitation of Christ.
“This Jubilee is a moment of grace for remembering and feeling you are with the Church, in a Company and with a belonging that have a name: Jesus,” he said.
The Holy Father emphasized three steps to help the Jesuits in their mission and in the Christian life – to root themselves in a firm foundation, to grow, and to mature.
Drawing attention to today’s feast day, he referred to a quote from St. Francis Xavier, a co-founder to the Jesuit order and missionary in Asia. He said, “I beg you, in all your matters, to base yourselves totally in God.”
Pope Francis said the residents of the college, who reside where the Jesuits’ founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola, had lived and the order’s constitutions were written, must reinforce the foundation of the order.
Secondly, the pope highlighted the need for growth – an internal development of the heart and a willingness to preach the Gospel. He said a “well-grafted heart” in God is able to expand, but it will decay if it becomes stagnant.
“The heart, if is not open, atrophies. Do not forget this. If it does not grow, it wilts,” he said.
Growth requires pruning, he continued, saying it is necessary to struggle against worldliness. In this fight, there can be no compromise, but there must be consistent victory against one’s ego, he said.
“If the worldliness affects the roots, goodbye fruit and goodbye plant,” he said. “This is the greatest danger in this time: spiritual worldliness, which leads you to clericalism and so on.”
The Pope highlighted two positive signs of growth – obedience and freedom. The devotion to the mission cannot be stemmed from servitude but the dedication of a free son, he said, noting if there is a consistent fight against the spirit of the world then there will be fruit.
“The friendly Spirit will gently encourage you in goodness, to grow in humble docility, going forward, without wrenching and without dissatisfaction, with that serenity that comes from God alone.”
Lastly, Pope Francis said there must be maturity. He said this will be determined by the fruits “which fertilize the earth with new seeds.” He said it is favorable to combine the Ministry of the Word with the Ministry of Consolation.
“There you touch the flesh that the Word has assumed: by caressing the suffering members of Christ, you increase your familiarity with the incarnate Word. The sufferings you see do not frighten you. Bring them before the Crucified.”
Pope Francis concluded his address with a blessing and asked those present to promise to pray for him as he will pray for them.
“May the blessing I give you also reach your countries and be of help to you in basing yourselves, growing and maturing to the greater glory of God. I thank you, and I ask you to pray for me.”