Saturday, February 19, 2011

How Jesuits serve the Church.

On the website of the Jesuit Conference of the United States, one may view a series of video interviews with Father John Padberg, a respected Jesuit historian and longtime director of the Institute of Jesuit Sources in St. Louis. I decided to share one of these videos here, simply because I believe that Father Padberg's cogent yet concise explanation of the Society's commitment to the intellectual apostolate deserves to be heard.

Though I encourage you to watch the video and listen to all of what Father Padberg has to say, here are some of the key paragraphs in his reflection on how Jesuits serve the Church:
Can all kinds of religious orders serve the Church in a variety of ways? Of course they can. Can some religious orders serve the Church in ways that either we can't or we don't? Of course they can. Are there ways in which the Society of Jesus itself can serve the Church that others indeed may be able to do but that we can do with a particular élan or characteristic?

The Society, by God's grace and out of its history right from the very beginning, has had a reputation for and an inclination toward serious intellectual work, asking serious questions on the highest level of abstraction and investigation - historical, theological, philosophical, scientific, whatever the ways are.

We got into that by the choice that Ignatius made very early to get into schools, and by the very fact [that] we got into schools we had to begin getting involved in learning that we never otherwise would have done. Most religious orders - in fact, all religious orders before the Society of Jesus came along - may well have had a training, more or less lengthy, in theology, certainly some in philosophy, but no other religious order almost from the beginning put people into mathematics, or astronomy, or philology.

That charism, that particular attitude, is one that I think the Society of Jesus can give to the Church in a way that no other religious order can. Are there people as intelligent, as scholarly, in other religious orders? Of course there are - but the Society as a whole has an attitude within itself that the things of the mind are good, that it's seriously important not only that we give answers to questions, but much more importantly, we ask the hard questions.
Father Padberg says a lot here that I have tried to express myself in various contexts, though he puts it better - and with greater authority - than I possibly could. In response to his words, then, I'll offer just one of my own: "Amen!" AMDG.


At 2/22/2011 10:52 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

When I attended grad school at SLU (way back in the late 60's), Fr. Padberg was one of the iconic Jesuits on campus. It was wonderful to hear him speaking.

At 2/23/2011 11:07 AM, Blogger Joe said...


Thanks for sharing that memory - as you can see, he's still going strong four decades later!

At 2/26/2011 2:24 PM, Blogger Maria said...

"And the more educated people become, the more academically sophisticated their minds become through years of education, the more they had better keep their minds in humble submission to the Mind of Christ".

John Hardon SJ

At 2/26/2011 11:02 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Thanks for that, Maria - I had not seen those lines of Father Hardon's before, and the point he makes is one that I hope we can all take to heart.


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