Yesterday was the Titular Feast of the Society of Jesus. ‘The most Holy Name of Jesus’. The Jesuit ‘mother-church’ in Rome is the Church of the Gesu. Originally here in Manchester the founding fathers of the mission wished to call our church the Gesu – but the bishop of Salford, Bishop Turner, rightly intervened and said it would sound a bit weird. We have to remember that in 1870′s Catholicism was only just re-emerging into British public life and there was an acute sensibility to how we would be re-established. So following his advice, the Gesu became the Holy Name. Yesterday Pope Francis celebrated the feast of the Holy Name with Jesuits in the Gesu. It was a great occasion – and a double celebration of the Holy Name and the canonisation of the Jesuit Peter Faber.
In his homily, Pope Francis praised Faber’s “restlessness” to his brother Jesuits: “This is the restlessness that Peter Faber had, a man of great dreams.” He was, said the Pope, a “modest man, sensitive, with a deep inner life and endowed with the gift of making friends with people of all kinds…… However, he was also a restless spirit, indecisive, never satisfied…He was a man of great desires, and he took charge of his desires, recognized them….. An authentic faith always implies a deep desire to change the world. Here’s the question we must ask ourselves: Do we also have great vision and momentum? Are we too bold? Do our dreams aim high? Does our zeal devour us (cf. Ps 69.10) or are we mediocre and are satisfied?”
At the end of mass a gift (seen on the right) was presented to Pope Francis by the postulator of the cause of St. Peter Faber, Father Anton Witwer, SJ, and the Vice-Postulator Father Marc Lindeijer, SJ. It is a facsimile of the Final Vows of St. Peter Faber in 1541. Final Vows represent the full incorporation of a man into the Society of Jesus – often taking place 20 or so years after you entered as a novice. Every Jesuit takes simple and perpetual vows after two years in the Novitiate. One way of looking at it that at First Vows, you accept the Society; at Final Vows, the Society accepts you, “for better or worse.” Final Vows included a Fourth Vow of obedience to the Pope – to be available to be sent anywhere on Mission. At end of the final vow mass – the now fully professed Jesuit will take 5 Private Vows in the Sacristy – surrounded by his fellow Jesuits. These vows show how well St. Ignatius understood human nature and are described very well by James Martin – First, there is a vow never to change anything in the Jesuit Constitutions about poverty–unless to make it “more strict.” Second, a vow never to “strive or ambition” for any dignity in the church, like becoming a bishop. Third, never to “strive or ambition” for any high office in the Jesuits. Fourth, if we find out that someone is striving for these things, we are to “communicate his name” to the Society. (A friend calls this the vow to rat out someone, but it’s another indication of how much Ignatius wanted to eliminate ambition, as far as possible, from the Jesuits.) Finally, we take a vow that, if we are somehow made bishop, we will still listen to the superior general.