It is widely accepted that traditions, heritage and treasures (memories) of the past are the backbone of any nation, Society, organization or associations. They give a sense of belonging to its citizens/members and adds nostalgic feelings into the lives of people. Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI is known to have referred “Ignatius as being above all a man of God, who gave the first place of his life to God, and a man of profound prayer. He was very active in fighting the Protestant Reformation and promoting the subsequent counter-reformation.” It is Ignatius who has left us a legacy in terms of traditions, heritage and treasures to cherish and assimilate in our lives as Jesuits.
Roots and wings is a summer course that is organized annually by the Secretariat (JIGSA=Jesuits working in Ignatian Spirituality in South Asia). During the past eight years, it has offered a structure of an ongoing formation for the Scholastics and formed in the Ignatian Spirituality in the Assistancy. It stresses on the foundational documents, which are traditions, heritage of Ignatian Spirituality. The word ‘roots, symbolizes and signifies our own Ignatian heritage which are entrenched in us right from the Novitiate to the present times and ‘wings, invigorates in us a desire to fly high by being under the banner of the Cross to labour for the greater glory of God.
Fr. Jossie De Mello along with the ardent, timely help and assistance of Fr. Devadhas Muthiah envisaged the course for the Jesuits of the South Asian Assistancy. Eighteen Jesuits from various age and ministries strata converged at the Sacred Heart College, Shembaganur, Kodaikanal on April 2nd 2017 in order to attend the much-awaited ‘Roots and wings’ programme for a period of 40 days, inclusive of Annual Retreat.
The whole program consisted of the foundational documents and treasures of Ignatian tradition which were well handled by experienced and knowledgeable Jesuits. We began the first week with a deeper input given as an introduction by Fr. William Sequeira on the Autobiography, now commonly known as “Testament and Testimony.” Later, Fr. Jossie D’mello dwelt on the nuances of the Autobiography of St. Ignatius. They unfolded Ignatius to us as a man who saw above and beyond his century, a man of vision and calm hope, who could step comfortably into our era and the Church of our time and show us how to draw closer to Christ. His autobiography spans eighteen very important years of life…from his wounding at Pamplona (1521) through his conversion, his university studies and his journey to Rome in order to place his followers and himself at the disposal of the Pope. These critical years reveal the incredible transformation and spiritual growth in the soul of a great saint and the events that helped to bring about that change in his life.
In the second week, we basked in the ‘Spiritual Diary’ and ‘Letters of St. Ignatius.’ Many a readers and even Jesuits find that the Diary has only reference to tears, consolation, desolation etc., but then Fr. Ignatius Tete stressed on the Spiritual Diary of Ignatius and touched upon the core basics of Ignatius’ spiritual experiences. He brought to our understanding that the Diary is unique among his voluminous works as being one of the very few that survived in their original handwritten form that were written solely by the saint himself without the assistance of his secretary. One might have expected it to provide immediate access to his mind and spirituality. Instead many readers, even those who have some acquaintance with the life and work of the saint, find that the Diary remains hidden in a strange mist of cultural remoteness and unintelligibility.
Fr. Michael Alosonai in his imitable style gave importance to the ‘Letters of St. Ignatius.’ He also motivated us to give a short presentation on the Letters of Ignatius. Moreover, if we delve deeper, much of Ignatius’ spiritual teaching is found in his letters, and these have always been regarded by us and by many ardent lovers of Ignatian Spirituality as an important source of his spirituality. Among Ignatius' many letters, those written to his fellow Jesuits have always had a special place, for in these, the Jesuit of today not only finds Ignatius' teaching on the spiritual life, but he also meets Ignatius the man, expressing his affection for and interest in those to whom he wrote. None of Ignatius' other writings so ably exhibits the love he bore in his heart for those who chose to walk with him along the path toward Christ than do these letters.
In the third week, Fr. Jossie D’mello created in us a desire and love for the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The Spiritual Exercises in themselves are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices to help people deepen their relationship with God. The Exercises grew out of Ignatius’ personal experience as a man seeking to grow in union with God and to discern God’s will. Ignatius wrote that the Exercises, “have as their purpose the conquest of self and the regulation of one’s life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment.” For centuries the Exercises were most commonly given as a “long retreat” of about 30 days in solitude and silence. In recent years, there has been a renewed emphasis on the Spiritual Exercises as a program for laypeople. The most common way of going through the Exercises now is a “retreat in daily life,” which involves a months long program of daily prayer and meetings with a spiritual director. The Exercises have also been adapted in many other ways to meet the needs of modern people.
Moreover in the fourth week, Fr. Anthonysamy gave his valuable inputs on the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. He began by highlighting on the Jesuit Spirituality, which is rooted in the Constitutions, and then delve deeper into the nuances of the Constitutions. The writing of the constitutions was an expression of Ignatius’ overwhelming sense of joy, gratitude, love and commitment to the Lord. It was the Lord who brought them together and they wanted to do everything possible to preserve and develop their union – the body of the Society. They articulated their foundational experience in order to share it with others - to institutionalize their charism. Ignatius gives four reasons for writing the Constitutions: Divine Providence requires human cooperation, Pontifical mandate to write the Constitutions, example of other religious orders, and reason itself demands that a social body cannot be preserved without some legislation….
The wholesome experience of the ‘Roots and Wings,’ culminated and brought to a spiritual conclusion, wherein Fr. A. J Thamburaj led us into an eight days Ignatian Retreat. It is during the retreat that we were able to savor each and every experience of the foundational documents.
Some of the experiences of those who took part in the journey could help us re-ignite our own desire to love the Ignatian heritage, traditions and treasures:
Fr. Mathew Padayatty (Delhi Province): “This course helped me to become more aware of the transformation that took place gradually in Ignatius over the years since his conversion. The self-centered Ignatius became God-centered and began to trust God and God alone. His only desire was to be conformed to Christ totally. He cultivated in himself the ease to find God in all things and at any time. In and through Ignatian prayer, a prayer flows from total surrender to God and His plans for the world, I would like to say: “Lord, help me to be all I can be according to your plan for me.”
Fr. John Froz (Bombay Province): “Roots and Wings is an Ignatian spirituality investigation. Ignatius’ relationship with God, oneself, others and cosmos which led him to be like Christ. Ignatius was enlightened; he became another man with another heart and mind. He could see the divine in everything and everything in the divine. For me, it is Faith experience: a pilgrimage with St. Ignatius, God the Father, Son Jesus, and Mother Mary. We need to continuously go back to our Roots and get in touch with Ignatius’ mind, heart, vision and his enlightenment.”
Fr. Tom Kottackal (Dumka Raiganj Province) affirms, “this programme was an eye opener and an empowering experience for me. Going back to the roots, reflecting and praying over them have helped me to challenge myself for a personal deeper love and commitment to Christ the King and to the Society of Jesus. I feel great that I am in a Society/Order with a greatly rich heritage. I feel very proud to be a Jesuit Priest and want to die in it.”
Fr. Cyril (Ranchi Province) says that ‘roots and wings’ courses are a grace from God. I grew spiritually and mentally with this the given opportunity. I met different Jesuits from all over the country. I feel that my roots have gone deeper than before. In a deeper way, I came to know the spirit of the Society of Jesus.
Fr. Ambrose D’souza (Karnataka Province): it was very good to go back to the roots of our Spirituality. This course has enriched me very much and has deepened my Jesuit vocation of unity in diversity, universality and availability for the Mission of the Lord.
Fr. Marianayagam (Andhra Province): The foundational texts of Ignatius have offered me practical wisdom in my daily life. They have enlightened and empowered me to enhance my Jesuit identity and charism.
Gratitude is the memory of the heart. With a grateful heart we thank the community/co-workers/helpers/well-wishers of Sacred Heart College and to all the resource persons for their filial part in our Ignatian journey. May we as sons of St. Ignatius our founding Father ever work for the greater glory of God with the rich heritage, traditions that he left for us as a legacy. May St. Ignatius lead us on.
By Fr. Joseph Cardozo SJ, Goa Jesuit Province,
currently Director of Pedro Arrupe Institute, Raia – Goa.