HomeCommentaryIgnatius Loyola:  A Noble Knight who fought for a better inner and...

Ignatius Loyola:  A Noble Knight who fought for a better inner and outer world

Every year the Jesuits gather the church and religious in this church to celebrate the sense of gratitude for all graces they shared with the church and people of Myanmar. 

The Jesuits, like Pope Francis, a Jesuit are trailblazers everywhere. Some may say, the Pope is a secret Salesian, since he was brought up by Salesians, most of his talks reflect the simplicity of Don Bosco’s compassion and he made more Salesians Cardinals. 

Recently we ‘happily’ lost our Salesian Rector Major, who was surprisingly elevated to the Cardinal hat. 

But we must confess,  with this Pope the Jesuit brand has gained worldwide popularity and Ignatius Loyola is known to more people now.  But for the moment, following the Ignatian spirit of generosity, praise them wholeheartedly and profusely.

The history of the Myanmar church is intertwined with the history of the Jesuits. Even Francis Xavier was interested in the ‘Pegu’ mission. 

Missionaries followed from Goa. The first Christian communities were formed around these missionaries and lived in Syria and other places.

When persecution broke, they fled to central Burma with the Christians. Some were in the dry zones of central Burma there are Jesuits buried there, which become part of history and part of the soil of this country.  

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Their second coming in the 1960s was in response to the national church’s request to run the seminary. The Americans left an indelible and unforgettable memory of love, fellowship and deep love for knowledge among the Seminarians.  Like all missionaries, they were also expelled.   

The lingering memory of their love made three of their students who became bishops go to Rome in the 90s when the country opened up and request the Jesuits to return with the promise of providing local vocation.

This third came when in 1997, two hesitant Jesuits entered and started living discretely in Taunggyi, the Jesuit mission has blossomed today.

Its robust growth is marked by multiple ministries: the Campion Institute, SAG Taunggyi, Myanmar Leadership Institute and the network of Community colleges cater to more than a thousand students showing that Jesuits can work wonders where others would be stuck by challenges. 

The Jesuits magnanimously responded to the natural and man-made disasters of the country, generously supporting the local church. They have participated in the animation of most of the dioceses of Myanmar, helping many congregations in their mission planning, and supporting the works of CRCM. Magis, the international Jesuit youth movement with deep appreciation collaborated with the Myanmar unit of Magis.

Your best achievement is your enhanced human resource. More than 40 local vocations among them there are 18 young priests, from a wide spectrum of the Myanmar Catholic community.

Some more will be ordained soon. Most of them are recipients of quality training in Manila and Rome, thus fortifying the intellectual vigour of the congregation and the local church. 

Your multicultural lifestyle – of foreigners and the mosaic of the local cultures – is a soothing example not only for the church but for the nation. From a non-descript discrete presence in Taunggyi, you have become a Jesuit Region, putting Myanmar on the scintillating map of the global Jesuits. 

God walked with you; his Grace brought you back to this nation. Our prayerful congratulations and wishes.

Let us have reflections on today’s readings. Today’s readings hovered over the spiritual quest of Ignatius. He was a typical middle age reckless warrior, violence and valour defined his character, till a cannonball shattered him and brought him to an astounding conversion.  His conversion started the great movement.  

Today’s readings reflect the  two great legacies  Ignatius left to the church and the world :

1.    The Spiritual Exercise  for Winning the inner warfare  of the Soul

2.    Establishing the Society of Jesus for waging war against the principalities of this world to establish God’s Kingdom of justice and reconciliation on Earth.

Having praised you profusely let me take liberties to challenge you, the young Society of Jesus in Myanmar.  Your task is cut out in the two legacies of Ignatius.  Spiritual exercises and establishing the Kingdom of God of justice and reconciliation.

As you are aware, in these two quests, Ignatius was animated by a direct call of Jesus.  In the famous vision at La Strota,  where Ignatius experienced a great Mount Taber moment when he saw God the Father with the Jesus carrying the Cross,  calling him to follow Jesus in his mission. 

This intense experience would prove to be the centrifugal force in his life and mission. Spiritual Exercises that are Experienced are vital for Ignatius. A personal encounter with the person of Jesus.

That is the first challenge.  In a country of intense Buddhist spiritual practice of Vipassana, and mindfulness, can the Jesuits show the way to God, not through dogmas and rituals but a real experience-based Spirituality? 

Many of our good-hearted countrymen have shown great hesitation in encountering Christianity since to them it looked like a great explanation of some Western categories of faith rather than personal experience. This is a country in quest of sincere experience, not robust and scholarly explanations.

I am personally grateful for your spirituality centre in Taunggyi, where many religious have an opportunity to experience the retreats. This country needs to experience an enabling spiritual tradition that fortifies the inner fortress of human beings. 

In plain terms, we are looking for more spiritual teachers and quiet and sober spaces for spiritual nourishment, not only for the Christians but for all the people of this nation.

The second mandate is urgent in this country. 

To reconcile all things in Christ Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God of Justice and peace.  

Ignatius urged his sons to have a perspective, that is deeply Christological, Christo Centric.  You are the Society of Jesus.  Jesuits are asked to pray for the grace to see all things new in that Jesus Christ.  That was the experience and vision of Ignatius in La Strota. 

But you modified this perspective much further bringing in the poignant truth. “ to see all things new through the eyes of the “crucified and wounded” Jesus. This is very significant.  The concept of “wounded healer”. 

Ignatius himself met his grace when he was a wounded soldier, wallowing in excruciating pain. His spiritual quest started from a wound to healing.

That is the great need for this nation and our people. The multi-dimensional crises have viscerally wounded our people. The youth have lost hope and narratives of hatred gain in the spaces of despair. 

Pope Francis has been desperately trying to get the Youth back to the church. Despite his age and ailments, he will be travelling to the Lisbon Youth Festival. Investing in the young generation is a theme closer to the Pope’s heart and as a Salesian that was an uncompromising option of our Father Don Bosco.

Your schools, your community colleges, your leadership institute and the Magis Innovation have brought great solace to youth.  But a Jesuit never says enough. Jesuit is defined by his ability to push boundaries and work miracles where others saw only nightmares. You need to expand to many other areas and provide great spaces for the youth to re-generate their dreams. 

As a young priest, I visited first time Manila Jesuit institutions. It was an astounding experience. Jesuits think big. Not big. MEGA!! 

Standing at the portals of EAPI, I was shocked by the majestic vision of Jesuits, the big Ateneo Manila University arrogantly perched on the Loyola hills, contributing to the nation and the church.

I understood that day when we build institutions, we build dreams for the youth, and we build the next generation, which will work for justice and peace for all. I must admit I am more than slightly disappointed in seeing your institution-building capacities are not maximized. 

As a Salesian and as a citizen of a nation blessed with more than 40 per cent of youth, I strongly believe change will come only through youth.

And if the Jesuits want to fulfil the second mandate of ‘establishing the Kingdom of God on earth’ better invest your great energies in the dreams of the youth.

Throughout the last few years, you have asked for the grace to see all things new in Christ. It is the gaze of the Crucified-Risen One that makes us sensitive to the unjust suffering of so many individuals and entire peoples.

At the same time, it is a gaze that helps renew Jesuits’ hope in the fulfilment of the promises of the Lord of Life. Falling in love with Jesus, building communities and accompanying Jesus carrying the cross are three themes of the readings of today’s liturgy. I am sure this is also your action plan in this country.

Ignatius Loyola will be praising God for your presence and work in this country saying “ all for the greater glory of  God” ( Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam-AMDG)  but in the spirit of Magis,  he will also be asking you the simple question: If in “all things love and serve” is your motto in Myanmar, “what more can you do” for the love of Christ for the youth of Myanmar?  

I leave you to answer that question before we come together next year.

Till then, have a great feast of Ignatius Loyola.

Homily of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon on the Feast Day of St. Ignatius on July 29 in St. Augustine’s Church Yangon, Myanmar.

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