What are the delegates at the General Congregation looking for when it comes to electing a new General?
Actually, that's an easy question to answer (even if it's not as easy to find someone with all of the necessary qualities). In Part Nine of the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius Loyola offers his notion of the ideal General. After he had written it, many Jesuits of the time noted that it was unintentionally an accurate description of the saint himself. It's also a model for what makes the ideal Jesuit. This summary is from a talk by John Padberg, S.J., director of the Institute of Jesuit Sources, from Creighton University's website. Father Padberg writes...
First, "he should be closely united with God our Lord and intimate with him in prayer and all his actions. . . ." Secondly, he should "be a person whose example in the practice of all virtues is a help to the other members of the Society." Then Ignatius goes on to detail such virtues. As a third quality "he ought to be endowed with great understanding and judgment. . ." with ability at discernment and the giving of advice. Fourth, he should "have a care to undertake enterprises and carry them to successful completion." Fifth, as Ignatius says, "has reference to the body, in regard to health, appearance and age along with the physical energies needed to fulfill his office." Sixth, "he ought to have extrinsic endowments . . . such as reputation, high esteem and whatever else aids toward prestige with those within and without the Society."
And then, after all of these Ignatius ends up by saying "finally he ought to be one of those most outstanding in every virtue, most deserving in the Society, and known as such for a considerable time. If any of the previously mentioned qualities should be wanting, there should at least be no lack of great probity and of love for the Society nor of good judgment accompanied by sound learning."
Father Padberg's full talk is here: " Padberg lecture"
James Martin, SJ
Saturday, January 19, 2008
The Continuing Counter Reformation: Qualities We're Looking For in A Superior General
What Becomes a General Most?