Fr. Tony Moreno SJ, the President of the Jesuit Conference for Asia Pacific shares a message in light of St. Ignatius Day.
One can associate St Ignatius with many things. He is known for his bravery and courage in the battle of Pamplona (1521). Others see him as the principal founder of the Jesuits, the first Superior General of the Order. He is also credited for initiating a brand of spirituality that is apostolic, discerning and engaged in the world. Arguably, however, it can be said that discernment of spirits is the single most important contribution of St Ignatius to the Church. Through the Spiritual Exercises, he writes the guidelines for discernment leading to one’s discovery of God’s will. Discernment is not about choosing between good and evil since the choice is clear. When one discerns what can lead more (magis) to God, then discernment of spirits becomes a crucial exercise. This discernment is not only between me and my God (vertical). It also is done in the context of the community searching for the will of God (horizontal). The second one is now increasingly known as discernment in common following the experience of the founding fathers in Venice in 1537 as they pursued the will of God for them. We are very familiar with personal discernment, but only recently started to rediscover the import of the communal mode of discernment.
The Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs), launched on February 19, 2019, are a result of 16 months of prayerful discernment in common at all levels of the Society of Jesus including the companions in mission. The UAPs after receiving approval and blessing from Pope Francis are in effect missions entrusted by the Church to the Society. These preferences hope to structure and orient our life and mission in the next 10 years. The preferences are the following: to show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment; to walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated in a mission of reconciliation and justice; to accompany the young people in the creation of a hope-filled future; and to collaborate in the care of our Common Home. If assimilated and implemented fully, the preferences could engender a conversion experience for the Society, a profound renewal that could be a refounding moment of Jesuits and companions in mission.
Currently, Fr General Arturo Sosa is visiting Asia Pacific, particularly the Korean, Chinese and Japanese provinces. In his address to the major superiors assembly in Hong Kong on July 22, Fr General speaks of a “moment of transition”. He challenges us against being “accustomed” or even “proud” of our current style of life-mission. The UAPs are a call to radical changes in that “these are new wineskins to which we are called to pour the Good News of Jesus Christ through our life-mission profoundly transformed by the experience of encounter with the Lord”.
As we celebrate the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, we give thanks to the Lord for his many gifts to the Church, particularly his method of finding God in all things, his discernment of spirits as a pathway to God. May we not only grow in our relationship with the same Lord who called Ignatius, but in our familiarity with God through personal and communal discernment to accomplish with courage and zeal the missions entrusted to us.
Happy feast day to one and all!
Tony Moreno SJ
President, Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific