Pope Francis visited us during the morning of October 24th. We received him with hope, joy and concern. We wanted to know how his words would reverberate in our hearts. His talk came first, then the questions, and finally a personal greeting from each one of us. At the end of the morning the Pope’s visit had aroused in me this sentiment: “…with the poor of the earth I want to lay down my lot…” (Jose Martí); and a personality: Bishop Romero (The Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero.). This was the melody that ran through me when Pope Francis spoke to us of “letting the Lord of the Cross move us”: let us be touched and excited by His presence in so many of our brothers and sisters who are suffering – the great majority of humanity!… – because mercy is not an abstract word, but a way of life which places before the word concrete gestures that touch the flesh of the neighbor…”. We do not want to be enclosed with legalism that annihilates the living force of mercy, watering it down into abstract formulations.
The Holy Father encouraged us, without mentioning him, to imitate the prophetic audacity of Bishop Romero, who knew how to lay down his lot with the poor and leave his comfort zone to continue walking, accompanying, consoling, and involving others and giving them opportunities.
The Society of Jesus is trying to reinforce its presence in the world and in the Church, refreshing the triptych: Identity (who we are) – Life (how do we live) – Mission (what do we do). Where and how we live and what we do gives us identity: what we really are and not what we say we are. And the Pope reminded us of what we want to be, citing the 32nd General Congregation: Let us remove the fear to be upset by the immensity of suffering of our brothers and sisters and set out to walk patiently with our people, learning from them the best way to help, accompany, console, and serve them. (Cfr. GC32, d.4 n.50)”.
We asked him if he wanted a Society with the poor and for the poor… And he threw the ball back into our court. Ah! poverty, Mother and Wall! It nourishes us, it is the cornerstone of apostolic fruitfulness and it defends us from pride and clericalism, which are the evils that most distance us from poverty and the poor. In a refined way he alerted us to these evils of clericalism and pride in our Church and our Society. Our unresolved matter! Pope Francis urged us to let ourselves be “moved by the Crucified Christ” (with the excluded of history) and to petition constantly for “Consolation” (don’t we have the joy of the Gospel?) and to do good by the Church and with others (accompany, serve and transform). These are the criteria of our discernment.
Finally we went to greet him. One by one. I took a book under my arm, Pieces of a Portrait, the Life of Bishop Romero, by María Lόpez Vigil. We had been told that we could only mention our name and smile on this occasion. But Maria had given me his dedicated book to give to the Pope personally, to thank him for everything… I couldn’t lose the opportunity, but I had to break the norm. Francis thanked me. The Society has to transgress some and many of its rules and traditions if it wants to have the prophetic audacity “to lay down its lot with the poor”.
by Francisco Iznardo, SJ (CAM)