Thursday 2 April 2015

“A Cutting-Edge Tradition”

In his enormously detailed Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, pored over for so many years, Ignatius Loyola seemed to leave nothing to chance. He was exactingly specific, comprehensive, and watertight. Yet, at the end of each tight rule or expectation, he would often add a rider like this: “However let the local superior adapt, according to times, places and circumstances”. Adaptation, accommodation, enculturation – these encouragements to evolution were the leitmotifs of his text. Of all Jesuit works.

That is why our College community should not be surprised to see within our Strategic Directions document, launched this week, that quote of our esteemed former General, Dom Pedro Arrupe:

“If our schools are to perform as they should, they will live in a continual tension between the old and the new, the comfortable past and the uneasy present.”

That was penned almost a half century ago. Arrupe knew how our schools and colleges were to grow if they were to be true to both their heritage and their times. If they were to hone that cutting-edge tradition. Tensions can so often be generative. In the Second Vatican Council, the Church described herself, at its best, as semper reformanda (“always in need of reform”). And the Jesuit educational ministry is a dimension of that Church. Our new-born strategic directions are true to that overarching spirit.

On Wednesday we invited God’s blessing upon our endeavour and asked Ignatius’ and Pedro’s prayers for the enterprise. The prayer we offered has an interesting history. Sir Francis Drake, naval hero and favourite of the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I, would seem to have little in common with the Jesuits. In fact, according to Wylie’s History of Protestantism, those Spanish ships of the Armada, so decisively despatched by Drake, were “were filled with fanatical Jesuits … and racks, pulleys, thumbscrews, gridirons and other diabolical instruments of torture to be used once the Spanish Inquisition was set up in England!”. But a decade or so before the triumph of that crushing Armada defeat, Drake penned the following prayer. At the time, he was about to circumnavigate the globe. It is a prayer about boldness and about trust when striking into new waters. Drake may be very surprised to know that a number of Jesuits are now much drawn to his prayer. I think it is so apposite for the occasion of the launch of such a vision in our Strategic Directions. The prayer is called Disturb us, Lord.

Disturb us, Lord,

when we are too well pleased with ourselves,

when our dreams have come true

because we have dreamed too little –

when we arrived safely

because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord,

when with the abundance of things we possess

we have lost our thirst

for the waters of life;

or, having fallen in love with life,

we have ceased to dream of eternity,

or in our efforts to build a new earth,

we have allowed our vision

of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord,

to dare more boldly,

to venture on wider seas

where storms will show us Your mastery;

where, in losing sight of land,

we shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back

the horizons of our hopes;

and to push into the future with us –

in strength, courage, hope, and love.


May we regularly be disturbed from our comfort and complacency – but always faithfully and always fruitfully.

Fr Ross Jones, SJ