Preludes to General Congregation 35

Wisconsin Province Days
Marquette University
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
June 8, 2007

John W. Padberg, S.J.
The Institute of Jesuit Sources

            I am going to speak about Jesuit general congregations. So let me start by saying that I would not wish on anyone the task of being a member of a general congregation. At the same time, I wish every Jesuit would have the opportunity to be such a member. From experience as a delegate at two congregations and from work as an historian of congregations let me briefly say why. On the one hand, a congregation is hard work. It is carried on in none-too-familiar circumstances in multiple languages. It involves long hours, complicated meetings, differing outlooks, and slow progress. On the other hand, it is an extraordinary experience of the Society of Jesus, its union, the diversity of its membership and personalities, the variety of its activities and emphases, joined with the extraordinary experience of its universality. A congregation brings out our basic unity of minds and hearts, our love for the Society, and a faith in Jesus and in the church that is both deep and realistic as was that of Ignatius. In a word, to be a member of a general congregation is both frustrating and wonderful!

             My remarks will have four parts. First I shall say something about the Constitutions and the general congregations. Secondly, I shall comment briefly on congregations that took place before the 31st to the 34th congregations. Third, I shall give more detailed comments on those last four general congregations. And fourth I shall present some reflections on the coming 35th general congregation. In that last part, I shall try to avoid the greatest temptation of any historian, and that is to turn into a prophet. Also, you will see that much of what I say has to do with the past. What else would you expect of an historian? But I do so especially because the 35th congregation is part of a long line of such gatherings that have conditioned the Society of Jesus, involved the Constitutions, and changed our lives, especially in the last generation. In so doing they will have influenced the gathering that begins next January, 2008.

                        And if in the course of these remarks I tell a few stories to illustrate a point, they are all true stories, no matter how unlikely some of them may seem. I do not have a vivid enough imagination to make them up.

            To turn now to the Constitutions and the general congregations. The Constitutions are, of course, to a certain extent a legal document in the sense that they set down particular norms for action. But that is the very least that they are. More importantly, they are a source of the values that the Society of Jesus professes. The enactments of congregations, in turn, are an expression of the way Jesuits live and work to put those values into practice.

            There are many ways, of course, to understand the Constitutions. One way is to see in them the four elements of wisdom, pilgrimage, service and contemplative action. [1] Wisdom is the inspiration of the Constitutions. Ignatius insists that it is divine wisdom that begins, sustains, judges and rewards Jesuit life. That is obvious in the Constitutions, and in that light the work of congregations is to be evaluated. Pilgrimage is the structure of the Constitutions. One need only look at the ten parts thereof to recognize that, from admissions in Part I, to the preservation and well-being of the Society in Part X. The Constitutions help lead us in our pilgrimage search for God. So too, do congregations. Service is the reason for being of the Constitutions and of the Society. One need only recall its words: "The aim and end of the Society is, by traveling through the various regions of the world . . . to preach, hear confessions, and use all the other means it can with the grace of God to help souls." [2] Congregations are meant to help us to do this. Finally, contemplative action is the fourth element in the Jesuit way that arises from the Constitutions as a corporate continuation of the graces and processes of the Spiritual Exercises, . . .  So too is a general congregation insofar as it particularizes or specifies that contemplative action.

            All of this is an ideal. It is what we strive for and, at our best, what we sometimes, perhaps often, attain. It is important to keep that clearly in mind when we deal with the real.

            Now, for the real, the reality of the general congregation as it has taken place. In this second part of my presentation, I make one brief comment on the general congregations before the last four. All of them, from the first one in 1558, through the restored Society and its first congregation in 1820, right up to the 30th congregation in 1957, just fifty years ago now, all of them were more than anything else legislative assemblies. What they produced were usually short, legal-sounding decrees, with all the charm of canon law, that regulated the internal life of the Society and/or its external activities.

            Of course, some of those meetings were more unusual in what happened and some had greater influence than others. Let me illustrate that remark by an example of such an unusual and influential congregation. In 1820 the first post-Restoration congregation took place. One might well have expected peace and unity. Think again. Its story would take up a whole other talk such as this one. But suffice it to say that even before it started serious disagreements arose about the constitutional structure of the restored Society. Two groups of delegates each appealed to its favorite cardinal in the Vatican Curia. For one group the Cardinal Vicar of Rome forbade the congregation members even to enter the city of Rome to start the meeting until those disagreements were cleared up. The other group trumped that by having the Cardinal Secretary of State persuade Pope Pius VII to let the congregation come on in and start and deal with its own problems. Then the vicar general and one of the assistants contested the legitimacy of the congregation; on one day the vicar resigned and on the next day withdrew his resignation. At that point the congregation itself deposed the vicar general, declared him and the vice provincial of Italy incapable of voting or being voted for, and expelled from the Society one priest and one scholastic. (That is probably the first time that officially the Society took the scholastics seriously.) And only then did it go on to elect the general, Luigi Fortis.

            As for long lasting influence, the congregation passed among its very first decrees one intended "to allay every anxiety and to dispel the obstinacy of any malcontents." Quite understandably, it said that back into full force and vigor came the Constitutions. But then it said the same of the Common Rules, the rules particular to individual offices, (down to the excitator who woke people up in the morning and the refectorian who was in charge of the dining room), the Ratio Studiorum, all the ordinances of all the generals, all the rules of procedure for congregations, and whatever pertained to the legislation of the Society. This was one of the early indications of what has been described as the tone or sense of "rigid anxiety" that much Society governance exhibited through the 19th and on into the 20th century.

            Now move fast forward more than a century to a congregation without much influence. In 1957, exactly fifty years ago, the 30th congregation was summoned by Father Janssens to take stock of what had happened in the Society in the decade since right after World War II in 1946. It took place at the edge of problems that Father Janssens apparently saw looming and that he wanted, if possible, to address. Unfortunately, the congregation really could not do so in any sustained way because Pope Pius XII said effectively in the coded language of papal Rome that the congregation should really change nothing. His address to the delegates seems to have brought either puzzlement or dismay or both. As a result, the congregation reaffirmed basic principles in the Society and made some changes in practice.

            Here are two examples, two indications of how much the congregation itself was out of touch with practice and took no long-range, in-depth look at Jesuit life and works.  First, it almost curtly acknowledged that "there had been a postulate to admit parishes among the ministries of the Society. But since this was contrary to the Constitutions, . . .  the congregation was unwilling to act upon this request." [3] It is difficult to square this statement with the obvious existence, worldwide, of hundreds of parishes whose pastors and assistants were Jesuits. Even more out of touch with reality was its comment on the employment of women." If there is pressing need, . . . the practice of employing sisters or other females to perform domestic service in our houses or secretarial services for our works can be tolerated, provided that propriety and decency suffer no injury, due precautions are taken, and the express permission of the superior general has been asked for and obtained." [4] Fortunately, that statement remained unknown to the many women who had already for so long been working with Jesuits in Jesuit institutions with such great generosity and effectiveness.  Could the congregation have acted less cautiously and begun a process of aggiornamento such as Vatican II later called for? At present, the answers elude historians.

            Less than a year and a half after that meeting ended, John XXIII announced a ecumenical council to begin in 1962. The four years of Vatican II, 1962 to 1965 were such that the church and the Society would never be the same.

            That changed world of church and Society is where most us here have lived most or all of our lives. How many here were born after 1962? Most of the people here have lived most of their lives only in that world of Vatican II and the four general congregations that took place in that world. They have produced a history beyond what any other such gatherings could have imagined. Their decrees were much less legal in form and tone than those of any previous congregation. They were much more pastoral and invocative of the ideals that brought about the foundation of the Society itself.

            Let me turn now to the third part of this presentation, those four last congregations. Yes, they were different, but they were also similar in what most fundamentally they dealt with. Over the centuries four matters overwhelming have occupied a congregation's attention. First, how to preserve and deepen the religious life of Jesuits; secondly, how to form of its younger members for that life; third, how best to carry on the apostolates of the Society, especially education; fourth, how to run congregations themselves, this last item at times dealt with to the level of navel gazing. All of those concerns are really very much about putting into practical effect the principles of the Constitutions themselves.

            One last general remark before the specifics of each of those four congregations. And here, as Samuel Johnson, the great English writer once wrote, I rise to the grandeur of generalizations. The thirty-first congregation dealt most vividly with the internal life of the Society. The thirty-second congregation dealt most vividly with the external life or the apostolates of the Society. The thirty-third congregation dealt mainly with one thing, getting a general elected. The thirty-fourth congregation dealt most vividly with the interrelationship of faith, justice, inculturation and interreligious dialogue, and most importantly with clarifying the text of the Constitutions and putting into place its complementary norms.

            The 31st congregation began on May 7, 1965, between the 3rd and 4th sessions of Vatican II. It was unusual in many respects. First, it was the last congregation whose members were chosen under the old rules for province congregations. Under those rules, membership consisted of the provincial, the rectors and the forty oldest solemnly professed members of a province. Some wags commented that with longer life expectancy if it went on that way, future congregations would have to be held in hospital operating rooms with the delegates each attended by a personal physician. It is all the more remarkable that the delegates selected under such an inherently conservative set of rules would turn out to be so open to change.

            The first order of business of course, was the election of a new superior general. On May 22, 1965 the congregation elected Pedro Arrupe, fifty-seven years old, first Basque general since Ignatius himself. An utterly unprecedented almost two thousand postulates, formal requests for action that came from the provinces, inundated the delegates; previous congregations had about four to five hundred. Even more unusual, this congregation, as never before, took place in two sessions.

            Perhaps one statement best expresses its work and the spirit. It is a daunting program. "Thus it has been determined that the entire government of the Society must be adapted to modern necessities in ways of living; that our whole training in spirituality and studies  . . . must be changed; that religious and apostolic life itself is to be renewed; that our ministries are to be weighed in relation to the pastoral spirit of the council according to the criteria of the greater and more universal service of God in the modern world; and that the very spiritual heritage of our institute, containing both new and old elements, is be purified and enriched anew according to the necessities of our times." [5]

            To mention only a few of the subjects that were dealt with: First, the distinction of grades between the professed and the coadjutors, occasioned more spirited discussion then almost any other subject. One delegate even adopted and adapted the famous remark with which the Roman senator, Cato ended every speech, "Carthago delenda est," "Carthage must be destroyed." He said, "Distinctio graduum delenda est," The distinction of grades must be destroyed." Finally the members deferred a decision to the next congregation.

            Secondly, on religious life, the most heated questions dealt with the then obligatory full-hour of prayer which dated from the fourth congregation in 1581. The debates were ardent; the revisions were detailed; the discussions were involved; the amendments were many; the formal appeals were vigorous. Some maintained that that obligation was in the Constitutions. Despite all the evidence that St. Ignatius had not introduced such a provision into the Constitutions, some seemingly maintained that even if it was not there, he should have put it there. The result was a carefully and clearly nuanced decree, the congregation said that it "wishes to remind every Jesuit that personal daily prayer is an absolute necessity. But the congregation, recognizing the value of current developments in the spiritual life does not intend to impose upon all indiscriminately a precisely defined universal norm for the manner and length of prayer. A rule of an hour's prayer is therefore to be adapted so that each Jesuit, guided by his superior, takes into account his particular circumstances and needs, in the light of the discerning love which St. Ignatius clearly presupposed in the Constitutions." [6]

            Third, there were seventeen decrees on apostolic activities such as mission service, ecumenism, residences and parishes, education, and two decrees that were first in the Society's history, on scholarly work and research and on cultivating the arts in the Society. All of them in a sense broke new ground in the way they intermingled inspiration and legislation.

            Congregations themselves provoked several questions. Most important was how to repeal the "gerontocracy" at a province congregation, occasioned by that automatic presence of most of the oldest province members as delegates. The response was to institute for the very first time the formal election of delegates to a province congregation.

            What most distinguished this meeting from any previous such gatherings was that it worked in the context and atmosphere of reform and renewal called by Vatican II. The council had unleashed the imagination of its members. In so doing it unleashed the imagination of the delegates to the congregation. In some senses, 1965-66 were the real "restoration" of the Society, not 1814.

            The exhilaration of spirit among its members may perhaps best be expressed in one sentence from the decree on the mission of the Society: "Our Lord, with whose name our Society has been signed and under the standard of whose cross it desires to serve the kingdom of his love, is himself the goal of human history, the point to which desires of history and civilization converged, the center of the human race, the joy of all hearts and the fulfillment of all seeking." [7]

            By no means did the next congregation conclude in such an atmosphere of hopefulness and joy. The 32nd was an "extraordinary" congregation, called not for the election of a general but to see how the Society was faring nine years after the previous meeting and in the light of all that had happened in the world and the church and the Society since Vatican II.  That included for example, the social and political upheavals of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Humanae Vitae and the reaction to it, and those who thought that both Vatican II and congregation thirty-one had been huge mistakes.

            For three years, from 1971 on, all over the Society preparations took place. Nearly one thousand postulates had rained down on Rome when the meeting began in

December, 1974. They dealt especially with the following items: The question again of the fourth vow and "grades" in the Society", formation and studies, community life and obedience, the apostolates, poverty, and governance. At its beginning the pope addressed the members. It immediately drew headlines more sensational than accurate, such as "Pope warns questioning Jesuits." The prize for imagination went to one hilarious account which said that among the subjects of discussion would be the Pope's resignation and that the Jesuit general, could be expected to put forward his candidacy for the papacy.

            Very early, an unexpected warning light flashed. On December 16, the general told the members that he had received on behalf of the Holy See a letter from the Cardinal Secretary of State, that any change to extend to all the members of the Society the fourth vow "in the light of more careful examination seems to present grave difficulties which would impede the approval necessary on the part of the Holy See." This was the first mixed message and missed signal that became a feature of the congregation. Some of the members, conversant with Vatican language and style, said the letter absolutely prohibited any further treatment of the question. Others thought that there were clear and obvious ways to say that. In using such words as "seems" and "would" the Holy See supposedly had not absolutely wished to forbid any further discussion. In the long run, the first opinion was correct. The congregation had received from the Society a green light on the subject in a great number of postulata from fifty-four out of eighty-five province congregations. It now saw an amber light from the Holy See and proceeded forward with great caution. Later it learned the Vatican light had flashed red.

            In the time we have here I cannot go into the details of those mixed messages and missed signals. You can read about them, for instances in Together As a Companionship, a brief history of congregation 31 through 33. [8] Suffice it to say that the votes on the subject, including the straw vote to abolish grades, were so overwhelmingly favorable that they surprised everyone. The congregation immediately informed Pope Paul VI of these straw votes. They greatly upset him. In a letter the next day the general was blamed for not forbidding any discussion of grades. He did not think he had been told to do so. In any case the pope thought that the congregation had deliberately disobeyed his wishes. That was simply not true. For the members of the congregation, the weeks after the papal reaction were a very hard time. Contributing to this mood of dejection and difficult to understand was that the decision on a matter so important to the Society had obviously been arrived at by the papacy even before the Society's representatives had gathered to discuss the matter.

            The other really neuralgic point was a set of two interlocking preoccupations. One was the connection between the gospel and justice; the other was the specifically priestly character of the Society and its work. Complicating all of this was an ambiguity about the meaning of justice. For whatever reason and with whatever advice still unknown, the discussion on justice seemed to become for Pope Paul VI intimately linked with the question of grades and the Society and the diminishment of its nature as a religious order. As a matter of fact, there was absolutely no such inclination among the delegates. But that was not the way matters seemingly were presented to the Holy See.

            Meanwhile work on other material derived from the postulates was going forward. For example, the congregation eventually produced documents on the formation of Jesuits especially with regard to the apostolate and studies, on tertianship, on the union of minds and hearts, and on poverty. Then, of course, the congregation had to deal with its own life too. There was, for example, a commission on governance. For my sins I was appointed the chairperson of its subcommittee on membership in the general congregation. To put it bluntly, how to produce some kind of proportionality between the number of delegates from a province and the size of the province itself was, I assure you, like doing long division with Roman numerals. Somewhere, somehow, sometime, some provinces were going to lose some delegates. Whenever our subcommittee made a specific proposal, some one of the delegates would arise and began by praising the perspicacity, intelligence, piety, zeal and love of the Society that Fr. Padberg so obviously exhibited. I then knew what he was going to say; it could then only be an unintentional oversight that in our proposal such and such province, (his own), which had deserved so well of the Society, which was founded centuries ago, which had given saints and martyrs to the Society, might lose one of its delegates. Since I was such a model of piety and learning, it was clear that I had not realized such a tragedy. He was sure that in the next proposal the Society would not suffer irreparable damage.

            All the while the work of several committees together on the contemporary Jesuit mission went on. Central to its final long text, the famous "Decree 4," was the simple statement at its beginning that "the mission of the Society of Jesus today is the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement. For reconciliation with God demands the reconciliation of people with one another." [9] That statement really said essentially what international Synods of Bishops, Vatican-called had said in 1971 and 1974. But it loosed a hailstorm of criticism and recrimination on the Society. In the minds of its most ardent opponents, the Society, under at least Marxist if not Communist inspiration, was renouncing its fundamental character and turning itself into a social service organization for justice. That simply was not true. One could appeal to the text over and over but that made no difference to its opponents. On the other hand, truth to tell, the decree had its inconsistencies and incoherencies, especially in the lack of an adequately clear understanding and definition or description of justice.

            Finally, let me call attention to almost the shortest decree of the congregation. It dealt with inculturation and contained only two paragraphs. [10] Yet it turned out to foreshadow the thought of the 34th congregation and much of today's theology. Congregations thirty-one and thirty-two gave Jesuits individually and collectively the opportunity to return full-circle and in contemporary ways back to the élan and imagination of the early Society. But at the same time the delegates went home from thirty-two disturbed at the misunderstanding with the Holy See and uncertain of the implications of the decree, as it came to be known, on faith and justice.

            Already in 1980 Fr. Arrupe intended to summon a general congregation to receive his resignation as general because he thought his increasing age was going to impede his heading the Society effectively. The pope asked him to defer the congregation until it could be prepared in greater depth. Then on August 7, 1981, Fr. Arrupe suffered a stroke. Two months later, to the astonishment of both Jesuits and others, Pope John Paul II intervened by appointing Fr. Paolo Dezza of Italy as his delegate in the Society to preside over its ordinary government and its preparation for a congregation. Normally it would have fallen to a vicar general designated by the general to carry out these functions. Fr. Arrupe had named Fr. Vincent O'Keefe, one of his general assistants to that post. I do not intend here to go into all the details of what happened to occasion that intervention.

            As a matter of fact, the 33rd congregation took place more rapidly than anyone had foreseen. Its first order of business in September 1983 was to accept the resignation of Fr. Arrupe. During his presence on that occasion there was not a dry eye in the place. On September 23, the delegates elected Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach general on the first ballot. It became clear that the congregation then wanted a single unified document that would be ideally brief. In this case "brief" turned out to be thirty-two pages. Its two parts were entitled "Companions of Jesus" and "Sent into Today's World." [11] It dealt in succinct form with many of the same themes that were treated at congregations 31 and 32. Most importantly it confirmed for the Society their orientations and emphases, to the disappointment of some who still thought that those congregations had been an aberration.

            In the twelve years between 1983 and 1995, the world had again changed greatly, most vividly with the ripping apart of the Iron Curtain. Almost three years of preparation preceded the 34th congregation, including especially the preparation of material for the revision of the Society's law. Almost six hundred postulata awaited the delegates. For the first time in the history of the Society seven brothers participated whom the general called to be among its members. And for the first in almost sixty years, since the 28th congregation in 1938, every province of the Society was represented. That had not been the case in all those intervening decades because of the II World War and the Communist takeover of many countries. The congregation produced two major sets of material. The first included twenty-six decrees or documents for the orientation and inspiration and governance of the Society. The second was the revised text of the Constitutions and the norms complementary to the Constitutions.

            I am not going to go into the institutional and editorial details that are part of producing any decree. It could drive a delegate, or you yourselves, up the wall. Let me, rather, give several examples of the human details that inevitably also enter into any congregation. You will recall that the theme of the very first decree of GC 34 was that the Society was united with Christ on mission. Four decrees followed on how we were called by the risen Christ as servants of Christ's mission. [12] They wove together in complementary terms the Society's mission and faith, its mission and justice, its mission and culture, and its mission and interreligious dialogue. They often mention the "risen Christ." At this point let me tell you a story. Members of the congregation were obviously concerned with the poor and suffering in the world, but some seemingly wanted mention of Christ suffering and crucified in the congregation documents at almost every possible point. On one occasion one of those delegates argued that it was "not the glorious and risen Christ" but the "suffering and crucified Christ" who was seated at the right hand of the Father. Another delegate, a very good theologian of very direct expression, perhaps weary and/or exasperated, replied that while all such statements are metaphors, a concern for the poor and a passion for justice did not substitute for good theology, and that the suffering and crucified Christ was no more seated at the right hand of the Father than was the baby Jesus in diapers. That was, I assure you, one of the more memorable phrases that did not get into the text of a decree.

            A different kind of personal intervention occurred during work on the decree on cooperation with the laity, one of the most important documents of the meeting. Several rewrites on how best to express the cooperation of the laity with the Jesuits were quite unsatisfactory to the full assembly. Finally, at one point, at a committee meeting during and after dinner one day someone saw that the text of the decree ought to be turned around. It helped that at dinner there was a decent pasta and a decent wine! The document should treat not of how the laity cooperated with the Society but of how the Society cooperated with the work of the laity. As the decree finally said, "The Society the Jesus places itself at the service of the mission of the laity by offering what we are and have received: Our spiritual and apostolic inheritance, our educational resources, and our friendship." [13] That presented a wholly different attitude toward the way in which laity and Jesuits work together and was gladly accepted by the congregation. You see some of the results right here and now, at his gathering.

            What perhaps gained the greatest publicity around the world was the document on Jesuits and the situation of women in the church and civil society. [14] The subject was not originally part of any postulate nor of any preliminary material. While discussing in an early session what subjects the congregation should take up, one delegate said that we could hardly talk of justice without some attention to the circumstances of women in today's world. Many thought such a decree had little chance. De facto, it received resounding approval. But here is an example of different perceptions, to say the least. In general terms, delegates from Western Europe, the United States and Canada certainly favored such a decree. The Latin Americans exhibited a somewhat macho response. Africans seemed to think that there was no need for it. The Eastern Europeans, coming out of forty years of isolation under the Communists, did not know what to make of it. The Asians were also puzzled, except for the Indian delegates who were very much for the decree.  Now comes the most vivid example of another perception. One Eastern European delegate, heartily opposed to the decree, offered one amendment after another as texts were presented. In the final round of discussion on the final text, he rose to note that the congregation had from the beginning wanted decrees to be as succinct and brief as possible. Here, he said, in the document at hand was a perfectly useless paragraph. It should be deleted; what it said was already obvious. That particular paragraph began, as it finally appears, "In the first place, we invite all Jesuits to listen carefully and courageously to the experience of women. Many women feel that men simply do not listen to them. There is no substitute for such listening." [15] The delegate repeated that the paragraph was needless. "After all," he said, "we all listen to women. You listen to women. I listen to women. I hear their confessions." Laughter immediately ran through the whole place. Even he joined in. My guess is that that remark gained at least ten positive votes for the decree.

            In the material on governance in the Society, a few brief sentences brought about an important and historic change in the composition of general congregations. From now on, all Jesuits with final vows, priest and brothers alike, can be chosen as delegates to a province congregation and can be chosen as delegates to a general congregation. [16] This is the culmination of thirty years of slow movement from one congregation to another, gradually opening up its membership.

            Ultimately the most far ranging accomplishment of the congregation came in its revision of the Society's law. Ignatius did not wish to bequeath to the Society the Constitutions as a finished product. He wanted to leave to his successors and to the general congregation the right to modify them. The first congregation explicitly asked whether it was "expedient to change anything in the Constitutions," and replied that "they . . . are to be observed as presented in the original copy of our Father Ignatius." [17] Through the centuries various, sometimes awkward, notes have been appended to the text.

            Now, at this point the 34th congregation did two things. First, as Father Kolvenbach explained in his preface to the combined edition of the Constitution and Complementary Norms, it wanted to make clear that the Constitutions "should occupy a central and real place in our law and, through that law, should serve to inspire and govern our entire present day lives." But to do so, it had to be clear what points were obsolete or had been abrogated, for instance by the general law of the church, and what points had in the course of time been modified or authoritatively interpreted. So, without making any changes in the original text itself, it did this in accompanying notes "Secondly, it said that those things that . . . had been decreed by subsequent general congregations and that seemed appropriate to retain in a modern renewal of our life and apostolate as a genuine and real expression of the spirit contained in the Constitutions [were to be] . . . reformulated and arranged according to the order of the Constitutions themselves." [18] These are the Complementary Norms that bear a permanent relationship to the Constitutions. In the future, both these parts of the Society's law are to be published in one and the same volume. I suspect you all know that volume, the "Big Blue," that the Institute of Jesuit Sources put out in its English translation. The whole project took years of preparation before the general congregation itself. Two stories are important in that whole process. Individual Assistancy meetings of the delegates to the congregation received a draft of all that material for whatever comments they wished to make. That draft was written too much in dry, legal, canonical terms that would do nothing at all to move the minds and hearts of the brethren. Two such meetings of delegates spoke out vigorously against that way of presenting such norms. Both of them asked that the draft be utterly revised to the tone and tenor of our spirituality and our experience that congregations 31 through 33 had adopted in their legislation. The drafters in Rome took those objections and suggestions very much to heart. What we received when we got to Rome was no longer a list of legal enactments but basically what you see as the present complementary norms. To their honor, those two delegate groups were from Brazil and the United States.

            At the congregation itself, week by week we discussed and voted on each of the ten parts of the complementary norms. Finally, almost at the very end of the congregation, the whole set altogether was voted on. After that last vote something utterly unusual happened. Fr. Urbano Valero, who over many, many years had shepherded the project to that day was presented in thanks on behalf of the whole Society a bouquet of ten beautiful, long-stemmed red roses, one for each part of the Constitutions and Complementary Norms. He was deeply moved; we were even more moved by what he then did quite spontaneously. He picked up the bouquet, thanked the members of the congregation, walked across the front of the room and laid the roses at the feet of the statue of Ignatius that stood there.

            Now, finally, what about the 35th congregation? As I said earlier, I do not wish nor do I have the charism to play the prophet, either in the sense of predicting the future or of uttering divinely inspired revelations about that meeting. But one can suggest a certain number of possibilities from what we know as its purpose and its preparation.

            First, its most important task obviously is to elect a general. As to the characteristics to be sought in that general, sometime read over and certainly pray over chapter two of the ninth part of the Constitutions, and then pray for whoever is the man chosen for the job. Let me summarize the six qualities that according to Ignatius in that chapter the general of the Society ought to have. [19] First, "he should be closely united with God our Lord and intimate with him in prayer and all his actions. . . ." Secondly, he should "be a person whose example in the practice of all virtues is a help to the other members of the Society." Then Ignatius goes on to detail such virtues. As a third quality  "he ought to be endowed with great understanding and judgment. . ." with ability at discernment and the giving of advice. Fourth, he should "have a care to undertake enterprises and carry them to successful completion." Fifth, as Ignatius says, "has reference to the body, in regard to health, appearance and age along with the physical energies needed to fulfill his office." Sixth 'he ought to have extrinsic endowments . . .  such as reputation, high esteem and whatever else aids toward prestige with those within and without the Society." And then, after all of these Ignatius ends up by saying "finally he ought to be one of those most outstanding in every virtue, most deserving in the Society, and known as such for a considerable time. If any of the previously mentioned qualities should be wanting, there should at least be no lack of great probity and of love for the Society nor of good judgment accompanied by sound learning." What more could you want?

            One wonders if the four days of "murmuratio," the seeking of information among the members of the congregation about who might best be suited as general, is sufficient to find such a paragon of virtue and learning as described there.

            I think we have had such generals in the past. It is no secret, however, that we have had generals less than endowed with those qualities, especially one in particular who was forced on the Society by Pope Innocent XI in the seventeenth century. That action set the Society onto eighteen years of severe stress and tension.

            So far we know something about the backgrounds of the delegates. There are 219 total electors as they are officially known. Seventeen of them are involved at present in some form of governance in the Society. Thirty-nine are involved in formation, eight of them as directors of novices. Twenty-five list education as their primary responsibility, ten list spirituality, ten list the social apostolate, two list administration and seven do not specify their primary responsibility. If you were rapidly adding up those numbers, you will note that they come only to two hundred and ten. Where the other nine are, I do not know.

            As you well know, a general congregation is very much driven by the postulates that it receives. The Curia has grouped the current ones under twelve categories. They are: promotion of justice, ecology, governance, Jesuit-lay collaboration, formation, grades-brothers, interreligious dialogue, community life, our mission today, spiritual life- vows,  the apostolates, and simply the term, varia . Under the first category, promotion of justice, there are 42 postulates, the largest number in any category. Surprisingly, the second largest number of postulates concerns ecology, 41 of them. Under governance there are 36 postulates. Under Jesuit-lay collaboration there are 32. None of the other categories reach 20 postulates. If this is the total number of postulates that have come from province congregations, its small number is surprising, a total of two hundred and sixty two. That would be the least such postulates to a general congregation in many and many a year. The "Coetus Praevius," the preliminary screening and arranging committee for those postulates has already met in Rome. Interestingly, it seems to have become clear, I presume through a conversation of the pope with the general, that the pope, does not want the question of grades to be discussed. I make no comment thereon if such is really the case.

            As I come near the end of my comments, let me somewhat summarize. Throughout most of our history general congregations have responded to what was going on in the Society of Jesus itself, but not that often in response to the larger society around it. Their decrees were most often laws expressed in brief, simple, dry and juridical language. They were seldom prophetic in the sense of pointing out a new way to think or a new way to act. All of this changed with congregations 31 through 34 and that, in part, is why they matter so much. They too indeed responded to the inner life of the Society but also much more than ever before to the outer activities of the world. Most importantly, they set the Society in its service of the Lord, the church and the world on the paths traced out by Vatican II. Their enactments were no longer simply brief and simple decrees but also documents of inspiration and orientation for the Society. They relied very greatly, much more than ever before, and explicitly on the Spiritual Exercises, and on the charism of the Society. This was expressed not only in its documents but also in the activities and experiences of its members and of the people they served. The 31st congregation started a process of invigorating the life and work of the Society as a body and of Jesuits and as individuals. The 32nd confirmed those judgments and activities and turned to expressing the fundamental apostolic initiative of the Society as the service of faith of which the promotion of justice was an inevitable part. The 33rd congregation came out of stormy weather, and held to the course. The 34th congregation, out of the experiences of thirty years from 1965 to 1995 saw further the implications of those earlier congregations and broadened and deepened and confirmed those decisions yet again. Most importantly it rooted its current decisions in the Constitutions themselves. Then, in the complementary norms it expressed both charism and institution, law and life, past and present. It confirmed the Constitutions, the Complementary Norms and the congregations in their four elements of wisdom, pilgrimage, service and contemplative action.

            Now, finally, what Pedro Ribadeneira said in the preface to the first printed edition of the Constitutions is, I hope, true also of the expectations we have of our general congregations; "That our name will be matched by our lives and our profession made manifest in deed." [20] If the 35th congregation does the same, it will surely matter to each of us. What better then could we hope for and pray for from that gathering, than that our name will be matched by our lives and our profession will be manifest in deed?

[1] I am indebted to an article by Howard J. Gray, S.J., for the use of these four elements. See "What Kind of Document," in The Way Supplement: The Ignatian Constitutions Today. No. 61, Spring, 1988, pp. 21-34.

[2] The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. Translated, with an Introduction and a Commentary by George E. Ganss, S.J. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1970, [308].

[3] Padberg, John W., S.J. et al. For Matters of Greater Moment: The First Thirty Jesuit General Congregation, A Brief History and a Translation of the Decrees. St Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1994, GC30, d.25.5, p.661.

[4] Ibid., GC 30, d.20.2a, p. 657.

[5] Padberg, John W., S.J. (Editor), Documents of the 31st and 32nd General Congregations of the Society of Jesus: An English Translation of the Official Latin Texts. . . .  St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1977, GC 31, d.2, n.3 (21), p. 74.

[6] Ibid., GC 31, d.14, n.11 (225-227), p.143.

[7] Ibid., GC 31, d.1, n.6 (16), p.71.

[8] Padberg, John W., S.J. Together as a Companionship: A History of the Thirty-First, Thirty-Second and Thirty-Third General Congregations of the Society of Jesus. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1994.

[9] Documents of the 31st and 32nd General Congregations, GC 32, d.4, n.2 (48), p. 411.

[10] Ibid., d.5, nn.1-2, (131-132), pp. 439-440.

[11] Campion, Donald R., S.J. and Albert C. Louapre, S.J., (Editors) Documents of the 33rd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1984.

[12] McCarthy, John L., S.J., (Editor) Documents of the Thirty-Fourth General Congregation of the Society of Jesus. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1995, dd. 1-5, (1-157), pp. 17-81.

[13] Ibid., d. 13, n.7 (337), p. 161.

[14] Ibid., d. 14, (361-384), pp. 171-178.

[15] Ibid., d. 14, n. 12 (372), p. 175.

[16] Ibid., d. 23, nn. 1-3 (467-474), pp. 219-220.

[17] For Matters of Greater Moment, GC 1, d. 15, p. 76.

[18] Padberg, John W., S.J. (Editor) The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and Their Complementary Norms: A Complete English Translation of the Official Latin Texts. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996, p. xii.

[19] Constitutions, [723-735].

[20] Constitutions and Norms, Foreword, p.x.