In the early moments of Paris, the Founders had vowed to leave Europe and travel to the Holy Land and make the place of Jesus’ birth the home of their apostolic activity. Due to threats from the Turks, this venture to Palestine was cancelled and the Founders found themselves in the heart of Rome putting themselves at the service of the Holy Father and his universal perspective. What eventually emerged was the ‘flying community’ where the men would disperse toward apostolic ventures and then return together ‘to rest and to deliberate.’ The heart of a Jesuit beats with this sense of mission and the openness that appears not only in the first vow of obedience but echoes in the Final Vow of “special obedience to the souvereign pontiff in regard to the missions," It’s a missionary zeal that leads us to ponder a universal perspective.
The perspective of the Universal Society is one of tension. On one side, the Jesuit is a man who lives in a specific place surrounded by friends and loved ones with names and faces, swimming through a particular culture with foods, music, and ways of going things. This 'specific' Jesuit with a specific location roots himself deeply, falling in love with the people of God and his work. On the other side of the perspective is the International Society which covers the globe, finds it heart not in any one local culture, but through the common experience of the Exercises and the Constitutions. The International Society, in a real sense is nameless and faceless. To keep, then, the universal perspective reaches to fill the tension between the lived experience of the ‘specific’ and a mysterious openness toward the ‘abstract.’
The Universal perspective is one of being pulled. At one end, the Jesuit is pulled to alway grow deeper and deeper where he is, to enrich his life and the life of others he encounters. At the other end of the pull this sense of the magis. That beyond my time and my place, there is more to the apostolic work of the Society. It is to know - although I have not encountered my brothers by name who live on the other side of the planet, I know they are there. I know they can carry a similar missionary zeal. I hope they are thinking and praying for me. Further still is the knowledge that the Universal Society can call me to somewhere new. Call me to leave friends I have made. Call me to pull up my roots. Further tensions grow between my desire to stay where I am and the knowledge that at anytime, in the name of mission, I may have to leave all that behind. Yet, where there is tension, there is grace. The Universal Perspective of the Society of Jesus is one that constantly pushes the internal horizons not only of the whole Society but of its individual members as well. And these expanded horizons only fuel further the zeal for Christ and his mission. It calls me to love ever more deeply where I am and to stretch my heart to the very ends of the Earth.
Eric Ramirez SJ is studying at Gregorian in Rome and living in the community of the Gesu