I am tempted to return home so that I would scream like crazy in the Sorbonne and the other universities of Europe that thousands upon thousands and millions upon millions are waiting to hear God's Word - and I felt that not one student was willing to say as Samuel did: “Here I am Lord. What do you want me to do?”A Jesuit friend tells me that the local province of the Society now has more young scholastics then they have had for decades.
- St. Francis Xavier in a letter to St. Ignatius Loyola
Gracious God, give to the Society of Jesus men who are on fire for Christ and desire in all things to love and to serve.
The Jesuits were the premier religious order of the Counter-Reformation. The Society of Jesus ought to be better understood as the Company of Jesus, with ‘company’ being a military unit. So in its original charism, the Society was very much a part of the Church Militant. Their evangelization was typically aimed at the top of society, evangelizing Kings and the ruling class, both in Europe and worldwide, and in this mission the Society founded many universities. And Jesuits proved themselves with great courage, risking their lives in evangelization much as a soldier risks his life in battle.
But the Counter-Reformation ended with the Second Vatican Council, and so the Jesuits went into decline as confusion developed about their charism. The Counter-Reformation was aimed against Protestantism, but the pro-life movement, unforeseen by the Council, proved that faithful Protestants could be allies with Catholics in the world; however the Council was indeed prescient in that it foresaw that that the greatest challenge to the Gospel was not small heretical sects, but rather the widespread secularization of society. This next phase in the evangelization of the world has yet to get a name, but certainly the Jesuits can forcefully participate, even as the Benedictines have thrived beyond the Dark Ages.
Here are characteristics of Jesuit life:
— They take vows of poverty and obedience but not stability; an individual Jesuit owns nothing, and lives and works where he is told.
— They live in community, but do not pray in community. The Divine Office is prayed privately and there is no distinctive Jesuit ritual or liturgy.
— No distinctive habit. They wear the dress of the local diocesan clergy.
— Jesuits take vows of chastity and cannot marry, and must not form romantic relationships; however, they are not cloistered and instead live in the world.
— Jesuits are typically learned professionals and are assigned work by their superior.