POSA Speaks: Jesuits and Community Life

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Jesuits and Community Life!

The Encyclical ‘Amoris Laetitia’ is a game changer in its approach to moral issues. Rather than starting from principals to application, it begins with the reality of family builds up moral perspectives. This is based on a sound theology of family. “The Bible is full of families, births, love stories and family crisis....The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon.” ‘Family’ is a privileged place, chosen by God, to reveal how he relates to humanity. Hence the church looks at the realities of family life with enthusiasm. Conjugal life and love, or their absence, are part of the reality of family life – matter of the Church to ponder. Hence accompaniment of the family becomes a significant part of the mission of the Church.

One could apply, mutatis mutandis, a similar role for Jesuit Community: it is a privileged place for Jesuits to discover God’s way with us. If the Society is ‘our path way to God’ (Nadal), our companionship in the given community becomes significant. It is through our companionship that we discern and discover God’s way with us.

GC 35 &36 reiterates Community as Mission. Some of us were taken aback with this new found zeal for community life. A few felt we were becoming coenobite monks, others felt mission was getting diluted. Community ad dispersionem was the catchword. Jesuits are called to be on the move, not settled in community. These are genuine concerns.

The new found emphasis on community could be viewed differently in the light of the emerging thinking on discernment in common and the role of spiritual conversation. ‘Active listening and Intentional speaking’ are significant tools for discernment in common. ‘Active Listening’ is an art that we need to cultivate. Non-judgmental, respectful, and reverential listening affirms one another; it makes room for the Spirit to be present. Ordinarily our minds are wired to judge and categorise. Perhaps we need to silence the ‘monkey mind’ and be present to one another in active listening. Intentional speaking refers to our way of communicating from the depth of our interior movements and experiences. Such conversation builds up community.

Community becomes the ‘locale’ where we listen to the Spirit through one another. As Khalil Gibran says, ‘Let there be space between our togetherness’. This is not make community a pious association. It is rather to make it a dynamic space where we celebrate companionship in order to grow in the Spirit; an exciting way of being together in our differences and richness; a space that is open –inviting and enthusing us – Community is Mission.

George Pattery SJ