segunda-feira, 4 de fevereiro de 2008

A Time for Remembering: Celebrating Our Golden Jubilee of the Philippine Province

Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ shares his recollections of the past 50 years of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus in this homily delivered during our Jubilee Mass
A Jubilee celebration is, among other things, a time for remembering. In his homily last January 1st, Father Provincial recalled the situation of the Province 50 years ago in terms generally of body count and existing apostolates, and compared them with what we have today. As the most senior among the surviving former Provincials, as Mario Francisco emphasized to me when he gave me the assignment, let me also share with you my own remembering, but on a slightly different perspective.In 1958 or fifty years ago I was a Regent teaching Latin and English at the Ateneo High School. We were ten Scholastics then, including Fr. Abesamis, teaching in a much smaller High School. What was our life like in the Jesuit Residence then? It was interesting. The day usually started with First Visit after getting dressed while reciting O Bone Jesu indue me. Meditation and Masses followed with Scholastics or High School students serving in twelve side chapels, of which only three remain today. Concelebrations were still unheard of then. Breakfast was in silence, and in soutana, of course. Scholastics read during lunch and dinner from a pulpit. Only the Rector had a fixed seat. Beside his plate was his symbol of power, a napkin ring. The Scholastics were segregated at a rear table, but happily all ate the same food. Meals ended with a signal from the Rector and thereafter the community filed in white procession into the Main Chapel… When we remember these and compare them with ourselves today, a stranger might ask: Do all these creatures belong to the religious Order St Ignatius founded -- the white robes of fifty years ago and today’s Jesuits in contemporary sartorial elegance? In fact, however, there are pictures stranger than these – of Ricci in China, of de Nobili in India, of black Robes with the Hurons, of men in the reductions of Paraguay and Tamontaka… You have to believe that all of these were and are necessary stages in the continuing evolution of the Order Loyola founded. And we don’t know what it will look like fifty years from now.Ignatius did not found a static organism. He founded a religious Order in medieval Europe, but he armed it with a dynamic spirituality that could respond to the continuing search for meaning and a continuing desire for God while remaining vigorous amid changing circumstances. As Cardinal Newman once wrote, “in a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”During the deliberations of of the 33rd or 34th General Congregation, I do not now recall which, there was brought to the session Aula in the Curia a sculpture of St Ignatius crafted by a Canadian artist. Ignatius was presented as bent forward his cape blowing against the wind. It was an image of Ignatius the resolute Pilgrim. [You can buy copies of that statue now in wood or Mt. Pinatubo ashes.]The story of the Philippine Province, like the story of the Society itself, has been a pilgrimage, sometimes through windy days, at other times through calm weather, leading us to where we are today. And in our fifty year pilgrimage, what was the atmosphere which the Province breathed, what were the forces that influenced our journey, and who were the principal people who mapped out the outlines of our itinerary?The past fifty years were a tumultuous period in Philippine history. The country had not yet recovered from the devastation of war. Meanwhile the Communist insurgency had reached its peak, the secessionist movement was growing stronger in Mindanao, injustice and inequitable distribution of wealth were fueling labor and agrarian unrest, a martial law proclamation ushered in a period of dictatorship, and eventually People Power restored the structures of democracy. But with democratization also came electoral scandals and corruption in high places. Fifty years! And in the last few years, globalization and communication revolution came.What were the factors which helped the Province meet the challenges of the period? We must begin with John XXIII who convened Vatican II in 1962 and challenged the Church to face the modern world. Paul VI closed that Synod in 1965. The Society’s first main response was immediate, the 1965 31st General Congregation which had a second session in 1966. What did the Congregation do? Among other things, it elected Father Pedro Arrupe on fourth ballot as General on fourth ballot, it emphasized the apostolic importance of mass media, it took a fresh look at the intellectual and spiritual formation of Jesuits and ushered in the birth of Loyola School of Theology and new forms of formation experiments. Ten years later Father Arrupe convened the 32nd General Congregation, mostly remembered for its emphasis on the integrality of the promotion of justice with the promotion of the faith. More than anything perhaps, the 32nd General Congregation and the leadership of Father Arrupe and the enthusiastic response of Jesuits were responsible for refashioning what is the Philippine Province today.Crisis visited us when Father Arrupe suffered a debilitating stroke after his Philippine visit, and a concerned John Paul II placed the Society under receivership. For a short time the Society was under Father Paolo Dezza as temporary Superior appointed by the Holy Father. I could only remember Father Dezza as the author of our textbook Metaphysica Generalis. Things settled down to normal in 1983 after the 33rd General Congregation on first ballot elected Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach as General.A little over ten years later Father Kolvenbach himself summoned the 34th General Congregation. The 34th was both a Congregation of consolidation and of advancement. It reaffirmed the major thrusts of the 32nd and 33rd General Congregations, it emphasized mission and culture and inter-religious dialogue as well as co-partnership with the laity, it dealt with the situation of women in our works, and it caused a reexamination of our structures of governance. A final decree called Our Way of Proceeding summed up the spirit of it all.Now we are in the midst of the 35th General Congregation. We still await how the work of this Congregation will impact on our lives and our works.Meanwhile, what more is there to say. For my part, I would not exchange these fifty years with any other time. It was the best of times, sometimes the worst of times. Across these fifty years, we survived eight Provincials, -- Clark, de la Costa, Mayo, Bernas, Nebres, Ocampo, Vasquez, Intengan – four of whom have gone on to greener pastures. And we are now flourishing under our ninth. All told it has been a grace-filled fifty years. And so during this our celebration a joyful Magnificat is most appropriate: “Our hearts magnify the Lord and our Spirits rejoice in the Lord our Savior because He has done marvelous things for us. Holy is his name.”

-Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ

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