GC36: the ship of the Society of Jesus

The logo of the 36th General Congregation
The logo of the 36th General Congregation

It was an exhortation of Pope Francis himself which inspired the logo for General Congregation 36 (GC 36). Speaking on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus on 27 September 2014, he referred to the passage from St Luke’s Gospel in which Jesus told his disciples to “Row out into the deep water” (Lk 5:4). The IHS monogram with the blue green waves, cross and flame for GC36 represent many of the challenges the Society – and the Church – face today.

In just three weeks’ time, Jesuits from across the world will be arriving in Rome for GC36. The delegates – including the Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain, Fr Dermot Preston SJ, the Elector from the British Province, Fr Damian Howard SJ, and Br Stephen Power SJ who was elected to represent the Brothers of the European provinces – will be meeting firstly to elect a new Superior General and then to discuss the future direction and priorities for the international Society of Jesus.

“The ship of the Society has been tossed around by the waves and there is nothing surprising in this,” the Pope told Jesuits in the Church of the Gesú in Rome at their Restoration Liturgy. “Even the boat of Peter can be tossed about today. The night and the powers of darkness are always near. It is tiring to row.” He then went on to quote Pope Pius VII in his encyclical Sollecitudo omnium ecclesiarum, saying that the Jesuits needed to be “brave and expert rowers”, supported by hope, prayer and trust in the Lord to save us.

Towards horizons and frontiersPope Francis addresses the Jesuits at the Gesù, September 2014

 In designing the logo for GC36, Pablo Fernández SJ from Chile and Spaniard Elías López SJ took their inspiration from Pope Francis’ encouragement to row together: “Row, be strong, even with the headwind!” he said. “Let us row together in the service of the Church! Let us row together!” So the IHS monogram represents the boat of the Society of Jesus within the Church; while the waves characterise the sea that invites us to explore deeply, rowing out into the deep water, towards horizons and frontiers.  Standing high above the waves is the cross, which, according to the designers, represents the sails where the Spirit blows to help us row.

There is further symbolism in the maroon colour of the IHS, which references the seal that Saint Ignatius used during the foundational period, rooting us in the tradition of our original charism. And the flame over the cross represents “a fire that kindles other fires” referred to in the 35th General Congregation, which continues to burn upon the mast to illuminate how to discern the direction - how to row out into the deep water within our actual context.

The GC36 bulletin is providing news and information before and during the Congregation; and you are invited to pray for the success of GC36 via an online oratory. With confidence, we pray for the Society that bears the name of Jesus: Grant the 36th General Congregation openness to hear your Spirit so that we may live for the greater glory of your name, faithful to our history and the example of the saints who have gone before us.