Blog di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA – Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa MISSIONARY ONGOING FORMATION – A missionary look on the life of the world and the church
Antonio Spadaro, SJ
Published Date: 5 September 2020
After seven years of this pontificate, what is its driving force? Some commentators and analysts have wondered if Francis’ drive still exists; others have tried to reflect on its substance. The question could be re-phrased as follows: What kind of government does Francis exercise, and how do we interpret it in the light of these seven years? I intend to address this question here, examining the meaning of his way of governing, which comes from his personality, his own life and formation.
Francis is a Jesuit. His idea of reforming the Church corresponds to the Ignatian vision. Clearly the styles of government – at various levels – of the Jesuits have also been very different in the history of the Society and the Church. Francis embodies a distinctive situation, becoming for the first time in history a Jesuit who has been elected as Pope.
For this reason, apart from any other reflection on this situation, one thing is clear and derives from the spiritual charisma that shaped Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Those who want to theorize, in Francis’ pontificate, an opposition between spiritual, pastoral and structural conversion show that they do not understand its core. Reform is a truly spiritual process, which changes – now slowly and now quickly – even the forms, what we call “structures.” But it changes them by “connaturality”, as litmus paper changes color naturally, because the level of acidity or alkalinity changes in the liquid in which it is immersed. So aiming at conversion is not an ineffective spiritually pious project, but an act of radical government.
If the models of spiritual governance in the Society of Jesus are more than one, Bergoglio’s great inspiring model is that of the Jesuit St. Peter Faber (1506-46), whom Michel de Certeau simply describes as the “reformed priest.” For him inner experience, dogmatic expression and structural reform are intimately linked. Just like prayer for St. Ignatius, it involves the heart and mind, but also the body, which is called to take a suitable role. The one that emphasizes “asceticism, silence and penance,” said the pope in the interview he gave me for La Civiltà Cattolica in August 2013, “is a deformed current that even spread in the Society, especially in the Spanish context. Instead, I am close to the mystical current, that of Louis Lallemant and Jean-Joseph Surin. And Faber was a mystic.” It is to this kind of reform that Pope Francis aspires.