"Wisdom Language for the Frontiers"

Address of Father General, Adolfo Nicolás SJ
CLC General Assembly in Lebanon, 4th August, 2013


1. The need of the present moment

Today, I want to share something that has been on my mind for a while. Let me start with June 25 which is barely a month ago. That morning I was visited by two Religious. Towards the end of the visit they asked me “What do you think are the most urgent needs of the Church today? What should be our priorities? That’s a surprising question when you feel that the conversation is coming to an end, because it starts all over again. This is a question that we ponder over very much in our hearts, in our minds.

That same afternoon I had an appointment with Pope Francis, and we both arrived at the same question “How can the Society of Jesus best help and serve the Church?”

The answer to these questions had in a way already been given three days earlier when the Pope had met Fr. Dumortier, the Rector of the Gregorian University. The Pope had conveyed to the Rector that he expected Jesuits to take the Intellectual Apostolate very seriously. He affirmed his desire that priests should go out to the periphery because it is from there that one gets a better view of the Church and how it is functioning. He continued by saying that the experience of the periphery is very important but it needs to be complemented by reflection at the centre. Without reflection at the centre, the experience of the periphery does not bear the fruits of the gospel that the Lord wants. So this was the Pope’s reflection.

On the other hand, we had a meeting of Jesuit Universities in 2010 in Mexico. A slogan that caught the imagination of those present was ‘The biggest danger today is the Globalization of Superficiality". The message that came through in Mexico is that we Jesuits have to aim and direct our efforts at Depth – depth in our reflections, in our understanding of reality, in our spirituality, etc. This same message had been given to me often by the previous Pope, Benedict XVI. Every time I met him, he would hold my hands and say, “The Church expects depth from the Society of Jesus - depth in study and depth in spirituality”.

So I think there is a concurrence that this is the need of the present moment. In today’s world, we are flooded with information. Just Google a particular topic and you will find thousands of pages telling you something on that topic. But nobody tells you what the truth is, nobody. And Google can’t. There is no sense of the truth, no criteria for finding out how true the facts are. We risk making judgements with mere information and therefore make wrong judgements.

During my flight coming here, I was reading on my Kindle a book “Difficult Conversations”. The book is about the fact that all of us have difficult conversations whether it be in the family, in religious life, in management etc. People have difficult conversations because they disagree on something important. The book goes on to say that there are actually three conversations which keep criss-crossing. The first is the conversation of facts “What is really happening?” The second is the conversation of feelings “Do I feel hurt, neglected, taken for granted?” Finally, there is the conversation of identity which touches on my value and self worth “Who does he think I am?” The book helps us to be aware of these three levels in order to handle the conversations better.

All of this points to the fact that we need depth. We need “to know” with a certain amount of reflection and a certain amount of wisdom.



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