Sharing the Experience of the Congregation
David Schultenover, S.J.
January 21, 2008

Mass of Thanksgiving
Sunday, January 20th

Fr. Don Doll, S.J. took the photo
in this reflection.

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Dave Schultenover, S.J. is a delegate to the Congregation from the Wisconsin Province, in the US Assistancy.

He is a Consultor to the Provincial of the Wisconsin Province and a professor of historical theology at Marquette University.

He is the editor in chief of THEOLOGICAL STUDIES, A Jesuit Sponsored Journal of Theology.


The Mass of Thanksgiving for the election of Very Reverend Adolfo Nicolás as the 30th Superior General of the Society of Jesus was scheduled to begin in the Gesu Church at 4:00 PM.

Earlier that day, I had attended Pope Benedict’s Sunday audience in the Piazza di San Pietro, during which, from his apartment window high above the Piazza, he greets the faithful, delivers a brief homily on the Sunday readings, leads the throng in the Angelus, and then recognizes various groups, saying a few words to each in their own language. This Sunday, the Piazza was especially crowded (I would estimate ca. 200,000 people) because many had come to support the Pope who felt it prudent to cancel a scheduled talk at La Sapienza University, a very large public institution, because of protests organized against his speaking there (for more on this affair, see John Allen’s interesting comments at [scroll to the end of his article and also follow the link there]). The Pope, speaking in Italian, reminded us that we are in the octave dedicated to prayer for church unity. Having concluded his homily and the Angelus, he warmly recognized the students and faculty of La Sapienza who had come to support him. There were, of course, a few who had come to protest — carrying a banner that read in Italian, “Neither the Pope nor the Taliban!”

At 3:30 PM all the electors of our new superior general gathered, vested in albs and stoles, in the long corridor paralleling the apse of the Gesu Church. Just before we began our entrance procession, a Jesuit scholastic studying in Rome and, for this occasion, in charge of the altar assistants came into the corridor and in several locations along the string of concelebrants demonstrated virtuosity by repeating instructions to the concelebrants in four languages: Italian, Spanish, English, and French. When he finished, we all applauded. He’s on our list of future generabliles.

Father General began his homily (delivered in good, clear Italian) with a disclaimer. He was not intending his words as a message to the whole world, but simply as a reflection on the readings of the day by a fellow Christian. He also made it clear that the popular reference to the Jesuit general as the black pope vis-à-vis the white pope was both superficial and unreal. He then reminded us, as did Benedict in his noon-time homily, that we are in the octave of church unity. His jumping off point was the first verse of the reading from Isaiah, “The Lord said to me: You are my servant.” We are all servants of the word, he said, and as such we are to welcome all people to the dialogue essential to forging unity, especially by embracing the millions of the voiceless—the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized in our cultures. Certainly it is too early to say what will be the hallmark of Adolfo Nicolás’s generalate, but this theme has been close to his heart for many years. I have no doubt that he will emphasize it.

Many Jesuits present asked for a copy of his homily. Turns out there is none. Adolfo (or Nico, as he is affectionately called) had prepared only an outline in English, and then delivered his homily in Italian. All is not lost, however. The homily was recorded. It is now being transcribed and translated into various languages for distribution (look for it on this site). I for one found it a wonderful, inspiring homily—and a message for the whole world, despite Nico’s disclaimer.

David G. Schultenover, S.J.
Residenza San Pietro Canisio
Via dei Penitenzieri 20 – 1
00193 Rome

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