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‘Simple, solemn, beautiful’.

Jesuits were called on to be courageous in their deliberations during the 36th General Congregation, according to John Guiney SJ, who is the elected delegate from Ireland attending the congregation in Rome with Irish Jesuit Provincial, Tom Layden SJ. They were among a number of other Irish Jesuits joining their fellow Jesuits in the Gesù Church in Rome for the opening Mass at 5pm on Sunday 1 October. The Gesù Church is the mother Church of the Society of Jesus and holds the tomb of the founder, St Ignatius of Loyola.

According to Gerry Whelan SJ, who lectures in the Jesuit Gregorian University in Rome and was also at the Mass, “The liturgy took over an hour and a half; yet it was simple, solemn and beautiful. A a Jesuit-related choir travelled especially from Slovakia to animate the liturgy. Scholastics and brothers, representatives from each of the continents,  took part in various stages of the liturgy in the packed Gesù Church and it was inspiring to see the delegates processing in, including our three men, Tom Layden, John Guiney, and John Dardis. One realised that, in all probability, the next time we attend a Mass like this, one of these delegates will be presiding as the new Fr. General.”

Over 300 concelebrants took part and Fr. Bruno Cadore OP,  the Master General of the Dominican Order was the chief celebrant and homilist, on the invitation of Fr Adolfo Nicolás SJ. Taking the Sunday readings of 2 October 2016,  Fr Cadore singled out the apostles’ request in the Gospel where they asked Jesus, “Lord increase our faith’.  He noted that this pressing request to the Lord is the most beautiful prayer one can imagine to open the celebration of the General Congregation.

He said the prayer was so apt because faith is necessary, even if it remains as modest in appearance as a mustard seed, because it is about daring to aim for the improbable. So the Society of Jesus is constantly is being called to have the audacity to believe in the the improbable and do so with the humility of those who know that, in this service where the human engages all his energy, everything depends on God.

After communion Fr. General, together with a representative from each congregation, made a special prayer after communion. John Dardis represented Europe. “His prayer was in Irish! He has a lovely fluency, it was moving for us Irish to hear it,” said Gerry.

According to John Guiney the call to be courageous and audacious in believing the improbable is an important one for Jesuits to hear as they move into the deliberation process tomorrow. His prayer is that they may all be filled with the Holy Spirit and with the gift of courage.