Photos by Father Roy Sebastian, S.J., Jesuit Curia
Pope Francis celebrated the feast of St. Ignatius on July 31 with more than 200 of his fellow Jesuits at Mass in Rome’s Church of the Gesù, where St. Ignatius is buried. The pope prayed that he and his fellow Jesuits would receive “the grace of shame” for their failures and the humility to recognize that whatever good they accomplish is really done by the Lord.
During his homily, Pope Francis said that Jesus told his disciples never to be ashamed of following him, but Jesuits are taught to look upon the crucifix and “feel that very human and very noble sentiment which is shame for not measuring up.”
Jesuit Father James E. Grummer, assistant for the USA Assistancy and General Counselor at the Jesuit Curia in Rome, was one of the U.S. Jesuits in attendance and said one of the most moving parts of the Mass was during the homily when Pope Francis mentioned two images about the end of life that “sum up our vocation for him: Francis Xavier and Pedro Arrupe. Francis was within reach of his dream but unable to reach it; Pedro was slowly stripped of everything the world holds important as he found himself entirely in the hands of God.”
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the Mass was “very beautiful and very familial.”
In his spirituality and spiritual tradition, Fr. Lombardi said the pope sees himself as a “son of St. Ignatius” and feels “very close to the Society of Jesus.”
The pope’s homily was filled with references to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, meditations and instructions for a 30-day retreat that form the basis of Ignatian spirituality.
The exercises, Pope Francis said, are designed to remind Jesuits that Christ and the church must be at the center of all they do; that they must allow themselves to be conquered by Christ in order to serve; and that they must feel shame in order to be humble before God and other people.
Father General Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, prayed for “Francis our brother, the bishop of Rome” during the Eucharistic Prayer.
“The phrase articulated the way the liturgy felt,” said Fr. Grummer. “Francis may be Supreme Pontiff, but he thinks of himself as our brother and wants us to think of him that way too.”
At the end of the Mass, the pope prayed at the tomb of St. Ignatius, before a relic of St. Francis Xavier and at the tomb of Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, superior of the Society from 1965 to 1983.
“The pope placed a bouquet of flowers in front of the memorial plaque [where Arrupe is buried], prayed there and reverently touched the plaque before making the sign of the cross,” said Fr. Grummer.
Other U.S. Jesuits in attendance included Fathers Anthony Sholander, vice rector, minister and treasurer of Collegio Internazionale del Gesù in Rome, and Kenneth Gavin, assistant international director of Jesuit Refugee Service in Rome — who both helped distribute communion — and scholastic Eric Ramirez, who served as an acolyte. [Catholic News Service]