Mass of the Holy Spirit Homily
Church of the Holy Spirit, next to the Jesuit Headquarter, Rome
Prior to the Election of the New Superior General

Fr. Frank Case, S.J., Secretary of the Society of Jesus
January 19, 2008

Photos by Don Doll, S.J.

Fr. Frank Case, S.J., Secretary of the Society:  Photo by Don Doll, S.J.These days the General Congregation, in the persons of the Electors, is passing through a moment of profound obedience on behalf of the entire Society of Jesus. It has been and will be for many one of the most meaningful and memorable acts of obedience of your Jesuit lives. The word “obedience” comes from the Latin root audire, to hear or to listen. You have been listening to the Spirit of the Lord, both in personal prayer and in your conversations with one another. The election of a new Superior General today is a key fruit of this listening. It takes place here in Rome in the context of and in solid continuity with the Society’s founding over four and a half centuries ago, so that we might “serve the Lord alone and the church, his spouse, under the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth.” It takes place also in the context of today’s first reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians describing the gifts of the Spirit to the Church we serve, gifts packaged in a variety of mixes in the men you have been considering these past four days.

In today’s gospel we see Jesus, after his resurrection, breathing on his apostles, giving them the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. This Holy Spirit, whom Jesus gives, will abide in the Church to remind us of who Jesus was and of what he said and did, and to guide us in carrying His message faithfully to all the cultures and historical epochs where the gospel has been preached and is being preached today. In reminding us of who Jesus was and what he said and did, the Spirit keeps the Church faithful to her traditional roots in the revelation of God through the incarnation of his Son. The Spirit guarantees the Church’s fidelity to its original inspiration and mission. In guiding us through diverse historical situations and cultures the Spirit instills the Church’s mission of evangelization with a creativity that puts the gospel in words and images appropriate to so many diverse settings. This is the Church’s mission under the Vicar of Christ, inspired by the Spirit.

The Spirit raised up the Society through Ignatius and his companions to serve this mission under the Vicar of Christ. Therefore what the Electors will do today, and what the Congregation will do in the following weeks, is squarely within the obedience we proclaim, an obedience of listening to the Spirit who reminds and guides, who inspires us to discern our paths in creative fidelity to our founding as articulated in the Formula of the Institute, “to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the cross…and to serve the Lord alone and the church, his spouse, under the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth”. If we listen to and follow the Spirit speaking in the Church and in our superiors, we can trust that our creativity will be faithful and our fidelity will be creative.

Besides reminding and guiding the Church in its spread of the gospel, the Spirit also holds the followers of Christ in unity with one another. For our part, in electing a Superior General today, you will give the Society a new point of union of minds and hearts and of obedience to the Spirit as servants of Christ’s mission at the core of His Church.

In the words of today’s Eucharist Prayer we pray the Lord: “through the power of your Spirit of love include us now and for ever among the members of your Son, whose body and blood we share.”

Church of the Holy Spirit:  Photo by Don Doll, S.J.“When the four days are over on the following day, which is election day, the Vicar is to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit, and all Electors are to concelebrate or attend. When Mass is completed all the Electors are to go to the election place. Throughout the entire time of the election prayers are to be offered to entrust the election process to God.” Paragraph 73 of the Formula.

Thus we gather here in the Church of the Holy Spirit, next to the hospital in which St. Ignatius and his companions ministered. They also contributed their alms to this Church for the benefit of pilgrims.

United with St. Ignatius and all others who have gone before us, we place ourselves once again in the loving hands of a merciful Father.

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