MISSION MATTERS: Come and Go
Ties of faith and unity in their mission to serve the greater good of God kept Ignatius close to his companions even as they traveled to regions far around the world.
With deployment becoming more part of our daily vocabulary, in a military sense, it seems appropriate to consider Ignatius and the early companions — young men, generally — he deployed to the far reaches of the world. In his young Society of Jesus, Ignatius understood his vision, his purpose and that of his companions: to serve the world, to go where they sensed the greatest need, to serve where they could realize the greater good for the glory of God.
Ignatius faced the difficult decisions of deploying his good friends, his companions, to lands far away, to people unknown, to cultures unfamiliar. He knew, as did the men he sent, that they probably would never see each other again in this life. He missioned them for greater apostolic service and they remained close, though personally and spiritually.
It wasn't merely a matter of Ignatius and his personal charismatic nature — significant, but not the sole reason — or the countless long letters he wrote, and they wrote to him; but the deeper tie of their shared faith, their commitment to a shared mission, their companionship, in the deepest sense, the relationships they developed with each other and the people they served. Without Skype, email or Twitter, Ignatius and his early companions, and those who were later drawn to the mission he and the companions represented, maintained a relationship deep in quality, intense in content, focused in faith in God whom they served in whatever job they did.
So, faith, apostolic work, commitment to ideals larger than themselves and the binding tie of a shared journey kept the early companions, pilgrims as Ignatius considered himself, together ... focused on the relationships they were called to develop as they deployed on mission.
Now none of this is to say that it was all Kumbaya and Rice Krispie treats. Stories abound of the early Jesuits, motivated and committed to be sure, but still chafing at directions sometimes not their own, at a focus sometimes not familiar, at a mission not always understood. These early companions were like each and all of us, with all the frailties and human failings, the doubts and concerns, the questions and resistance we all have. Their binding relationship, their loyalty and probably a more-than-healthy dose of the Holy Spirit, some say, kept them all together, able to rise above, more often than not, the temptation to go off on their own, to have a better idea or their own idea or sometimes anything but Ignatius' idea. His clear mission and purpose, though, called them back to their purpose, their reason for uniting in relationship as companions in the first place.
Through the Spiritual Exercises, regular prayer, the examen, retreats, spiritual direction and, yes, very importantly, the people they served, the people they accompanied, the people with whom they were in relationship in the apostolates and places to which they were sent — near or far away — these companions in the 1500s and now even were and are able to maintain a unity in service, to the greater glory of God not the greater glory of themselves.
They understood — sometimes easily, sometimes not — the value of unity of purpose overcoming the temptations of division. Despite being united in religion, more often than not, and a shared sense of purpose, more frequently than not, the early Society was made up of human beings susceptible to the failings and limitations of us all. Yet they, like us, were called to work through, to rise above, to live beyond this particular moment and to understand and enter into the greater good we're all called to create, to serve, to desire. Some do it with prayer, some through simple faith, some through forging ahead with hard work, but all with an understanding of a purpose and direction larger and far beyond themselves. They are sustained by the purpose, nourished by their pilgrimage beyond the moment, encouraged by the relationships they develop, lifted up by the people with whom they work and live — the people they accompany and who accompany them.
So from the early 1500s, when this least Society first captured the hearts and minds of the first companions, through the centuries and up until to this day, the mission has maintained and remained; the purpose has not wavered. While people change and apostolic opportunities refine and shift, the purpose, the direction, the mission remains: certainly Ad majorem Dei gloriam, certainly the service of faith and the promotion of justice, certainly, for all who serve in the higher education apostolate of Saint Louis University — Jesuit and lay alike — the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity and the various ways our University Mission, in subsequent sentences, frees us all to incarnate that mission, here with each other, in the classrooms and residence halls, in the arena and research center, in the hospital - with all we live, work and serve.
We can all serve our Mission ... we're all called to serve our Mission as companions in our time companions in mission, deployed in a sense, to Saint Louis University to serve.
Thank you for your service,
for your companionship.
A. M. D. G.
P. Stark, S.J.
D. Highberger, S.J.