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by Dushan Croos SJ
All booklets are published thanks to the generous support of the members of the Catholic Truth Society
CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY publishers to the holy see
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Contents Conversion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Childhood and Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 The Society of Jesus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Jesuit Provincial in Argentina, 1973-1979 . . . . . . . . . . 16 Rector of the Colegio Máximo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Bishop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Archbishop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 In his own words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
All rights reserved. First published 2013 by The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, 40-46 Harleyford Road London SE11 5AY Tel: 020 7640 0042 Fax: 020 7640 0046. This edition © 2013 The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society. ISBN 978 1 86082 870 6
Conversion It was the feast of St Matthew, 21st September 1953. It was a spring evening in the Argentine, and the seventeen-year-old Jorge Mario Bergoglio was en route to a night of celebrations to mark National Student Day. Passing his parish church, he went in and made his confession. That detour was to become a turning point in his life. This was no routine confession, but a graced moment when his faith awoke, his religious vocation became clear and the mercy of God became apparent. “We think we are looking for him, but God is looking for us first”, he would later say. That night he decided against the celebrations and returned home with a firm conviction that he wanted - indeed, needed - to be a priest. When he became a bishop, that moment and that experience of mercy inspired his motto of miserando atque eligendo (“looking at him with pity and choosing him”), taken from St Bede’s Homily on St Matthew’s Gospel, used in the Office of Readings for the feast of St Matthew: “He saw a tax collector, and since he looked at him in pity and choosing him as a disciple, he said ‘Follow me’”. This motto underlines the central experience of his life, which emerges in all his actions and words. Discovering
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that one is a forgiven sinner is also the central experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola and of the Society of Jesus - the Jesuits - which Jorge Mario Bergoglio entered at the age of twenty-one. As we discover the past life of Pope Francis, when he was Jorge Mario Bergoglio, we will also look at the background of his Jesuit life and of the situation in Argentina, better to understand the significance of how his experiences have formed him.
Childhood and Education His father, Mario José Bergoglio, and his grandmother, Rosa, arrived in Buenos Aires in 1929, fleeing the Fascist Italy of Mussolini, carrying all their wealth with them in the lining of Rosa’s coat. They joined other relatives who had already moved to Argentina in 1922 and were working in the railways. The family came from a small village in the Asti Province of the Piedmont region of Italy, some forty miles from Turin. To this day, Jorge Bergoglio speaks some Piedmontese dialect, as well as speaking Italian with great fluency. The family almost never arrived in Argentina: they were originally booked to sail on the Principessa Mafalda, whose voyage ended in a shipwreck north of Brazil in which hundreds died. Instead, a few days later, they sailed on the Giulio Cesare. His mother, Regina María Sívori, was born in Argentina, to a family originally from Piedmont and Genoa. She married Mario Bergoglio on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12th December 1935. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the eldest of five children, was born on 17th December 1936. He first went to school in the Salesian College of Wilfrid Barón de los Santos Ángeles in the city of
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Ramos Mejía and then in Buenos Aires for his secondary education in a technical school. He qualified as a chemical technician, making him probably the first scientist Pope since the beginning of the modern era. The family was not rich, and his mother was temporarily paralysed after the birth of her youngest child, so when Jorge came back from school, under her directions, he would cook ingredients previously prepared by her. Although they did not lack for the necessities of life, they had few luxuries either, so his father asked him aged thirteen to begin part-time work in a clothes factory alongside his studies. After a few years, he began to work in the mornings at the Hickethier-Bachmann chemical laboratory, controlling food hygiene, while he attended afternoon classes till 8pm. In his interviews with Sergio Rubín and Francesca Ambrogetti, published as El jesuita, he speaks of his gratitude for what he learnt through this work, especially concerning the importance of the quality of one’s work, of the dignity given by work and of the social consequences of good work and leisure. His own experiences of suffering, especially during a grave illness when he was twenty-one, in which he lost a lung, have formed his compassion in his ministry. It was only when Sr Dolores, who had prepared him for first communion, said “you are imitating Jesus”, that he found peace and could make sense of his suffering. In the light of this experience he says:
“Suffering is not a virtue in itself, but the way we accept it can lead to virtue. We are called to fullness and happiness, in search of which, suffering is the limit. Because of this, we fully understand the sense of suffering only through the suffering of God made Christ.”1 Aged twelve, he grew fond of Amalia, a schoolfriend who, now happily married and a grandmother, still lives in the Flores district of Buenos Aires where they grew up. She says that of course they were too young then for serious love, and it was a very innocent friendship, but that he had told her that if she didn’t marry him, he would become a priest, although later, it was because the vocation to priesthood took first place in his life that he did not get married. He loves the tango, and when younger, knew how to dance it well in its two successive styles, although he prefers the Argentine milonga2. He is also a passionate fan of Buenos Aires’s San Lorenzo de Almagro soccer team, and on one occasion reproved their star striker for leaving the field before they had won the match.
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The Society of Jesus In 1958, the last year of the papacy of Pius XII, Jorge Bergoglio, aged twenty-one, entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. The Jesuits are a male religious order of priests, brothers and men in formation as priests formally approved by Pope Paul III on 27th September 1540. They were originally a group of students, including Francis Xavier and Pierre Favre, who gathered around St Ignatius Loyola at the University of Paris, and who wanted to be with Christ by going to Jerusalem. On 15th August 1534, at the crypt of St Denis at Montmartre in Paris, they vowed to make the journey and if unable to do so, to offer themselves to the Pope to be sent wherever he thought they were most needed. The new Society of Jesus shocked many in the sixteenth and subsequent centuries, because it did not fit the pattern of previous religious orders. The Jesuits did not sing office in choir, because instead they were preaching in town squares, catechising, visiting hospitals or prisons. They had no distinctive habit, dressing instead “like honest priests”. They moved easily from city to city as needed which led Jerome Nadal, an early companion of St Ignatius, to declare “our cloister is the road”. They would do any
ministry that would help people bodily or spiritually, and rapidly found themselves as missionaries, mapmakers, teachers, university lecturers, prison chaplains, confessors, “and, indeed, perform[ing] any other works of charity, according to what seem[s] expedient for the glory of God and the common good”.3 The founding experience of the Society of Jesus, known as the Spiritual Exercises, is the distillation of St Ignatius’s own experience of conversion and pilgrimage after he had been injured by a cannonball in a battle at Pamplona in 1521. Already, Jesuits are recognising those themes in the preaching and action of Pope Francis because it is at the core of how each Jesuit follows Christ, having made the full Exercises once in the novitiate and again, a couple of decades later, at the end of formation, in preparation for final vows, as well as for a week every year. The Exercises consist of thirty days of prayer, and during these thirty days, which are divided into four “weeks”, one spends four or five hours in silent meditation each day. In the First Week, one prays about God’s gift of creation, our sinful response to it and God’s astonishing forgiveness and love for us, discovering that a Christian is a forgiven sinner, who asks “What have I done for Christ, what am I doing for Christ, what ought I to do for Christ?” [SpEx 53] In the Second Week, one asks to know intimately Christ who became human for us, so that one may love him more intensely and more closely follow him, as our King. To
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make a free choice, one has to let go of what holds us back from following Christ; St Ignatius invites us to free ourselves from the cycle of seeking riches, honour and pride, so that we freely choose the Lord’s path of poverty, insults and humility. St Ignatius also provides three ways of discerning a good choice, underlining that “whatever I choose must help me towards the end for which I have been created, and I must not make the end fit the means, but subordinate the means to the end” [SpEx 169], meaning that our true joy comes from following God, not from first deciding what we cannot dare to lose and later fitting God into the leftover space of those unbalanced choices. In the Third Week, one follows the Lord Jesus in his Passion, to suffer with him, thus testing the decision just made, by entering with all the senses into his suffering and death, perhaps paradoxically revealing that however much we love him, we cannot suffer on his behalf, but we can carry our own sufferings as we follow him. In the Fourth Week, one is consoled by the great joy of the Risen Lord, discovering how we slowly come to appreciate the effects of the Resurrection in our own lives. One concludes the Spiritual Exercises by contemplating God’s love for us and our response to it, now purified by our following of Christ, Crucified and Risen. St Ignatius originally intended that the person praying the Spiritual Exercises would be personally guided by someone who had already made them. The book of the
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Spiritual Exercises is not meant as spiritual reading; it is, and reads like, an instruction manual for the guide, and is almost incomprehensible to one who has not already had the experience. Between the novitiate of Jorge Mario Bergoglio and his time as novice master, there was amongst Jesuits a return to the original practice of St Ignatius, by which a guide, who has already made the Exercises, gives them personally by meeting daily each person making the Exercises, so as to help them see how God has been working in their prayer and life, rather than (as had previously been the usual practice) preaching a series of long homilies on the themes to a larger group. The Exercises are now also given to lay people and even to other Christians who are not Catholic and are adapted according to the recommendation of St Ignatius so that people can make them while they continue their daily life, perhaps over thirty weeks. Novitiate Jorge Mario entered the Jesuit novitiate in Cordoba, Argentina, on 11th March 1958, fifty-five years and two days before he was elected Pope. He made his first vows two years later on the anniversary of the canonisation of St Ignatius Loyola, St Francis Xavier, St Teresa of Avila, St Isidore the worker and St Philip Neri, of which Italian wits commented that â€œthey canonised four Spaniards and a Saintâ€?.
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The two year novitiate was in Cordoba, where the Society of Jesus had first arrived in 1599 and had founded the countryâ€™s first university. The Italian Jesuit composer Domenico Zipoli studied there and composed music to be sung by indigenous choirs for liturgies in the Reductions, settlements administered by the Jesuits. In addition to making the Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius asked Jesuit novices to make a pilgrimage for a month, walking, without money, asking for food and lodging each day. For another month the novice should work in a hospital helping with whatever simple services are needed. He should also help in the kitchen, doing whatever the cook asks of him. As the world has come to know Pope Francis we can see how these experiences have formed him, although when he was a novice, he did not experience them in the way St Ignatius had asked, because the novitiate had become much more monastic. When he served as novice master, from 1971-3, Jesuit religious life and novitiate were returning to their sources, as asked by Vatican II, and the experiences set down by St Ignatius were being restored. Formation in the Society of Jesus St Ignatius realised the usefulness to the Church of learned priests, so Jesuits who have not studied at university level do so after the novitiate, often using those studies later to teach in secondary schools. For this reason, Jorge
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Published on May 10, 2013
A short biography of the new Holy Father. Amidst the many media reports on the newly elected bishop of Rome and his possible effect on the...