This is the fifth reflection commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of Cardinal Augustin Bea.

The monks of Pluscarden Abbey sing the Benedictus: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel! He has visited his people and redeemed them. He has raised up for us a mighty saviour in the house of David his servant, as he promised by the lips of holy men, those who were his prophets from of old. A saviour who would free us from our foes, from the hands of all who hate us.

So his love for our ancestors is fulfilled and his holy covenant remembered. He swore to Abraham our father to grant us, that free from fear, and saved from the hands of our foes, we might serve him in holiness and justice all the days of our life in his presence.”

Augustin Bea was a German Jesuit, born in 1881, who through his in-depth reflection on scripture became a pioneer of the ecumenical movement in the Catholic Church and of dialogue with the Jews. He joined the German Jesuit Province in 1902 and became provincial in 1921 after which he was sent to Rome to teach scripture. He assisted Pope Pius XII with drafting his encyclical letters on liturgy (Mediator Dei), and the Bible (Divino Afflante Spiritu). In 1959 Pope John XXIII made Bea a cardinal and appointed him as the first President of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. At Vatican II, Bea was central in helping to draft the revolutionary document on the Church's Relation to Non-Christian Religions, (Nostra Aetate), and the Constitution on Scripture (Dei Verbum). After the Council he dedicated the rest of his life to ecumenism and interfaith matters. On his death in 1968, he asked permission for his body to be buried in his small village birthplace in the Black Forest, not in Rome as was the tradition: “There are many Cardinals buried in Rome, but in my village there will be only one and passers-by will notice and pray for my soul.”

The gradual realisation over many thousands of years of God’s plan for the union and salvation of all humankind in Christ is shrouded in mystery. The strange call to one man out of a polytheistic people to worship the one true God and to be led out of his own country and away from his own people towards an uncertain future in an unknown land; the magnificent promise that his children would be as numerous as the stars of heaven, that he would become the head of many nations, all of which would be blessed in him – all this sounds like a beautiful eastern fable devoid of any real meaning.

Yet, as it happens, hundreds of millions of Christians look upon this man as their spiritual ancestor and the father of their faith. And hundreds of millions of Moslems also draw their inspiration for their loyal submission to God from the faith of Abraham.

The truth that the chosen people of the New Testament is spiritually related to Abraham is one of the chief tenets of Christianity. … We find the story told in the book of Genesis. ‘Now the Lord said to Abraham, “Go from your country and your kindred and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation”.’

This first calling is repeatedly confirmed in connection with important events in Abraham’s life and is finally ratified in a formal pact. … “I will make a covenant between me and you and I will multiply you exceedingly so that you will be the father of a multitude of nations.”
On the basis of this promise St Paul does not hesitate to say in the Epistle to the Romans that Abraham is ‘the father of many nations’. Evidently we are not dealing here with descent according to the flesh but according to an entirely new principle – faith, like that of Abraham. As St Paul says in the Epistle to the Galatians: ‘Those who are people of faith are blessed with Abraham who had faith’.

Elsewhere he furnishes a further explanation of the extent of God’s promise. According to the Epistle to the Ephesians, God’s hidden design for humankind is to ‘unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and on things on earth.’ … The secret of this mystery is that ‘the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel’.

As a scholar, Augustin Bea had studied the texts of scripture deeply; he was able to move easily between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and see the great connections between the two. But what made him such a great communicator – with the ability to break down barriers – was, very simply, that he loved the Word of God. God’s call to human beings to listen attentively, to take heart, to be courageous, was the centre of his life. Do you love the Word of God? Are you able to place it at the centre of your life?

At its heart, this text is a reflection on the unity of God’s Word. Bea starts with ‘mystery’ and he ends with ‘mystery’. The link is Abraham, our father in faith. Why was Abraham chosen? There’s no set answer to that, really. Except that he is an example to all – Jews and Christians, and Muslims too - of faith: hearing the promise, trusting the promise, and setting out in confidence to penetrate deeply into the mystery of God. Can you understand Abraham as a good example to follow? Or is his life to distant and abstract? Can you see Abraham as a focus of unity between people?

Think for a moment about Abraham’s first hearing of God’s Word. It’s a dramatic event; get up and go, leave it all behind. When was the point in your life you heard God’s Word for the first time? Maybe not as dramatic. But just a sense that something or someone was pointing you in another direction.

Abraham finds the Word gets clearer. It becomes a Covenant; God binds himself to Abraham. When did that Word – heard at first indistinctly – build a real confidence in you? Can you hear it again now – and follow it?

As you listen again, can you perhaps pick up the idea that faith is something universal, for all people?

As this time of prayer come to an end, ask the Lord to reveal his word to you now. Where is it spoken to you now, at this moment? In family, in friends, in small moments of peace – or even in great moments of crisis? Do you have the faith to listen and accept the promptings of the Word that calls you out of yourself – and into the great mystery of God?

This is the second reflection, commemorating the two hundredth
anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection
on the life of Pedro Arrupe. 
 
The St Thomas Music Group sing Mysterium Amoris by Margaret Rizza, from
a text by John Main: The meaning of life is the mystery of Love. Just as the
roots of trees hold firm in the soil, so it is the roots of love that hold the
ground of our being together.
 
Pedro Arrupe was born in 1907, and was the first Basque since St
Ignatius to be superior General of the Jesuits. He trained as a
doctor before entering the Society and became a member of the
Japanese Province. When the atomic bomb was dropped in August
1945 he was novice master at the community on the edge of
Hiroshima and he organised for the care of many of the victims in
the city. He became Provincial in Japan, and was elected General of
the Jesuits in 1965. He was an inspirational leader and was widely
respected as a ‘re-founder’ of the Society of Jesus in the light of
Vatican II. He became a vocal advocate of peace and justice being
an integral part of the preaching of the Good News in the modern
world. Just before he was incapacitated by a stroke in 1981, he
established the Jesuit Refugee Service, now at work today in more
than 50 countries worldwide. He resigned as Superior General in
1983 and spent the remaining seven years of his life in the
infirmary of the Jesuit Mother House in Rome, where he died on the
5th of February, 1991.
 
This is a short, but very famous extract from his writings on falling in love with God.
 
Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you
are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of
bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom
you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
 
What are you in love with at this present moment in your life? It could be
anything – family, friends, a partner. What does that feel like? Pedro Arrupe
says that it will even affect how you spend your time. Have you
experienced this?
 
What fills you with joy and gratitude? Can you see your relationship with God reflected in what gives you joy and gratitude?
What breaks your heart now? Can you see how God might be working in this?
 
Listen again to the reading and pay special attention to what Pedro Arrupe
says about "How to say in love ?" 
 
Now enter into conversation with God whose very nature is love, and who is
present in all love. Ask God how you might communicate all of this to other
people in your daily life.
This is the first reflection commemorating the two hundredth
anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection
on the life of Teilhard de Chardin. 
 
‘Christ be near at either hand’. Let me make these simple words my prayer 
today. Let me know Christ’s presence in my life, Christ’s closeness to me in every
moment of this day, and let me welcome that presence with an open heart.
 
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was born in 1881 and became famous as
a philosopher, palaeontologist and geologist, who worked
extensively in Africa and Asia and was part of the scientific
investigation that discovered ‘Peking Man’ in China. He brought the
experiences of science, religion and spirituality together, and
reflected on what he described as the ‘cosmic’ nature of Christ, to
sit alongside Christ’s human and divine natures. Teilhard reflected
deeply on ecology and he looked to human history for the
trajectory of the human race in times to come. As he once said, “I
am a pilgrim of the future on my way back from a journey made
entirely in the past.” Although Teilhard was largely forbidden to
formally publish his spiritual reflections during his own lifetime, his
writings were circulated widely among friends and colleagues and
became influential in the shaping of the Church’s dialogue with
science and religion at Vatican II. “We are not human beings having
a spiritual experience,” he used to say, “we are spiritual beings
having a human experience.” He died in 1955.
 
What aspect of Teilhard’s life surprises you or invites you to find God in a
new way? What pilgrimage do you need to begin in order to do this? 
 
How does his invitation to trust and patience contrast with the urgency of
his scientific enquiry and what are the equivalent contrasts in your own life?
 
With what are you excessively impatient in your life? In what part of your life
do you need to increase your trust in God? 
 
As you listen again to Teilhard’s invitation, ask yourself what is maturing
gradually in your own life? How can you cultivate patience and live through
life’s instability, while the Lord leads you into the new and unknown?
 
Ask the Lord to show you how to meet him through the matter of the world
he has created for us. Where is the Lord waiting for you in your life? Where
is He trying to welcome you into your tomorrow? 

This is the eighth Pray as you go reflection, commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of St Alberto Hurtado.

Joanne Boyce sings You are my Hands. As I listen to this music can I put myself entirely at Gods’ mercy?

This month we are reflecting on the life of St Alberto Hurtado. Born in 1901, Alberto was a Chilean priest, lawyer and social worker, who in 1944 became the founder of the ground breaking charitable organization ‘Hogar de Cristo’, which aimed to provide homes and shelter to assist poor and abandoned young people in Chile. He was dedicated to making Catholic Social Teaching more widely known and understood. He published a number of important books and founded the journal ‘Mensaje’ and in 1947 he helped establish the Chilean Trade Union Association. He was much sought-after as an inspirational preacher and retreat director for young people. He died of cancer aged 51 and was widely revered throughout Chile for his saintliness. He was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

I hold that every poor man, every vagrant, every beggar is Christ carrying his cross. And as Christ, we must love and help him. We must treat him as a brother, a human being like ourselves. If we were to start a campaign of love for the poor and homeless, we would, in a short time, do away with depressing scenes of begging, children sleeping in doorways and women with babies in their arms fainting in our streets.
There are many sufferings to heal. Christ stumbles through our streets in the person of so many poor who are hungry, thrown out of their miserable lodgings because of sickness and destitution. Christ has no home! And we who have the good fortune to have one and have food to satisfy our hunger, what are we doing about it?

St Alberto has in mind real faces he has actually seen with his own eyes around the city he lives in, the faces of the poor, the hungry and the destitute. For sure, the faces you know will be different ones. See if you can bring to mind the times and places when you have encountered the homeless where you live. Can you picture their faces?

And now, notice how you reacted to the people you saw. Did you turn away from them or move towards them? Did you feel disgust, or fear, or tenderness, sympathy…? Don’t judge yourself: just take a moment to remember and to deepen your awareness.

How would you like to react the next time? Put aside your hesitations and inhibitions… if St Alberto is right, if people in need are nothing less than Christ in our midst, how do you want to respond to Him, standing in front of you, needing your help?

Finding Christ in the poor is not as easy as it sounds. We need the help of deep prayer and we can count on the support of our friends in the communion of saints. Let’s listen once again to the words of St Alberto Hurtado to see if his vision and his passion are infectious.

Finally, ask the Lord to help you to go deeper. He is always happy to receive the doubts and dreams of his followers. When we talk freely and openly to him about our lives, He offers us His healing, his insight and his power. Take a moment to open your heart to Him now; sharing with Him anything you need to say and asking Him to help you respond lovingly and generously to the needs of the poor.

This is the tenth reflection, commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of Bl Miguel Pro.

The nuns of Mary, Queen of Apostles, sing the hymn Jesu dulcis mermoria. Sweet is the very thought of Jesus; giving true joy to the heart. But sweeter than the sweetest honey, is his very Presence.

Miguel Pro was martyred in 1927 having been arrested and executed for the crime of being a priest at a time which was described by the English author, Graham Greene, as the “fiercest persecution of religion anywhere since the reign of Elizabeth”. Born in 1891, he was forced by anti-clerical laws to leave Mexico in 1914, Pro studied for the priesthood in California, Spain, Nicaragua, and Belgium, but in 1925 he returned to Mexico to help establish an ‘underground’ Church. For two years, with great imagination, energy and joyful good humour he moved from house to house, often in disguise, and brought comfort to the beleaguered Catholics by his preaching and the celebrating of mass and the sacraments. Following his arrest in 1927, he was accused of involvement in a bombing, and was convicted without trial. As a public lesson the President of Mexico invited many diplomats and journalists to witness the execution by firing squad, but this move rebounded badly as images of the execution of the priest were published around the world and drew wide-spread condemnation of the regime. Pro’s final words of ‘Viva Cristo Rey!’ (Long Live Christ the King!) became a rallying cry for opposition. Miguel Pro was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

In the inadequate light he could just see two men kneeling with their arms stretched out in the shape of a cross – they would keep that position until the consecration was over, one more mortification squeezed out of their harsh and painful lives.

He began the prayer for the living: the long list of the Apostles and Martyrs fell like footsteps – Cornelii, Cypriani, Laurentii, Chrysogoni – soon the police would reach the clearing where his mule had sat down under him and he had washed in the pool. The Latin words ran into each other on his hasty tongue: he could feel impatience all around him. He began the Consecration of the Host (he had finished the wafers long ago – this was a piece of bread from Maria’s oven); impatience abruptly died away: everything in time became a routine but this – ‘Who the day before he suffered took Bread into his holy and venerable hands . . .’ Whoever moved outside on the forest path, there was no movement here – ‘Hoc est enim Corpus Meum.’ He could hear the sigh of breaths released: God was here in the body for the first time in six years. When he raised the Host he could imagine the faces lifted like famished dogs. He began the Consecration of the Wine – in a chipped cup. That was one more surrender – for two years he had carried a chalice around with him; once it would have cost him his life, if the police officer who opened his case had not been a Catholic. It may very well have cost the officer his life, if anybody had discovered the evasion – he didn’t know; you went round making God knew what martyrs – in Concepcion or elsewhere – when you yourself were without grace enough to die.

The Consecration was in silence: no bell rang. He knelt by the packing-case exhausted, without a prayer. Somebody opened the door: a voice whispered urgently, ‘They’re here.’ They couldn’t have come on foot then, he thought vaguely. Somewhere in the absolute stillness of the dawn – it couldn’t have been more than a quarter of a mile away – a horse whinnied.

He got up to his feet – Maria stood at his elbow. She said, ‘The cloth, father, give me the cloth.’ He put the Host hurriedly into his mouth and drank the wine: one had to avoid profanation: the cloth was whipped away from the packing-case. She nipped the candles, so that the wuck should not leave a smell . . . The room was already cleared, only the owner hung by the entrance waiting to kiss his hand. Through the door the world was faintly visible, and a cock in the village crowed.

Maria said, ‘Come to the hut quickly.’

‘I’d better go.’ He was without a plan. ‘ Not be found here.’

‘They are all around the village.’

Was this the end at last, he wondered?

The reading describes the final mass of a martyr priest isolated and vulnerable yet acting with courage to serve his people. What did you feel as you listened to it, did any word or phrase particularly strike you, or any image make an impact on you?

The words 'the day before he suffered he took bread into his holy and venerable hands' are at the heart of the reading. Can you think of a time when you faced the uncertainty of suffering, or of isolation or vulnerability. What thoughts or emotions now come to mind about such a time.

At his execution by firing squad Blessed Miguel Pro smiled and held his arms out in the form of a cross. In the reading some at mass make the same gesture. What possible value has such pain and suffering in our lives today?

The extract ends with a cock crowing and the dawn of a new day. What echoes do these images have for you or for your future?

Listen now to the reading again in the light of your reaction to these questions
Speak to the Lord about any feelings or responses you have, and listen quietly to what he might want to say in return.

This is the eleventh reflection commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of Blessed Rupert Mayer.

The Community of Taizé sing “The Kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Come, Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.”

Rupert Mayer was born in 1876 and became a Jesuit in 1900. He was known as ‘The Apostle of Munich’. In the First World War, he was an Army Chaplain working courageously in the trenches from where he used to crawl out into no-man’s-land moving among the wounded administering the sacraments; “My life is in God’s hands,” he used to say. He was the first German chaplain ever to be awarded the Iron Cross for bravery. In 1916 a grenade caused the loss of his leg and forced him to leave the front lines. Upon the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, Mayer became a fearless and outspoken critic of the evil of Fascism or National Socialism. He was banned by the Gestapo from public speaking, but he continued to preach in Church against the activities of the Nazi party until he was finally arrested and imprisoned in 1940 – the painting illustrates the profile photos taken of him by the police. He was moved between various prisons and concentration camps for the remainder of the war. He was so famous and well thought of that the Nazis were frightened to kill him and turn him into a martyr. On 1st November 1945, while preaching in Munich he suffered a stroke and died. Facing the congregation his last words were, ‘The Lord, The Lord, The Lord’. Parents of the future Pope Benedict had a great devotion to Fr Mayer; he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987.

Lord, let happen whatever you will; and as you will, so will I walk; help me only to know your will!

Lord, whenever you will, then is the time; today and always.

Lord, whatever you will, I wish to accept, and whatever you will for me is gain; enough that I belong to you. Lord, because you will it, it is right; and because you will it, I have courage. My heart rests safely in your hands!

The saints are ordinary people who let God do extraordinary things with their lives. We are challenged to be like them by allowing God to work through our ordinariness. In what way would you desire to be like Rupert Mayer?

Who are the ordinary saints in your own life? Maybe they are amidst your friends, or in your family? How do they inspire you – through their words and deeds? Picture them now and give thanks to God for them.

Evil flourishes when good people do nothing. If we are honest it is fear that often stops us from speaking out. Jesus knows our fears…. and as he greets the disciples, so he greets us saying ‘Do Not be Afraid’. What fears would you like to tell Jesus about – what fears can you hand over to Him?

Rupert Mayer was a man of incredible courage. But as he reminds us his courage comes from God’s will. What is God’s will for you – here and now – not in the future, but here and now, what is God’s will for you?

In what areas of your life do you need more courage? Where or how, do you need God’s courage to flow through you? Ask the Lord to be close to you there, that you can know his will and feel your courage grow.