Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Rare Jesuit Acknowledgement of Wlodimir Ledochowski

The 1st Jesuit blog article about Wlodimir Ledochowski since that in 2007
by Good Jesuit Bad Jesuit

Why are Jesuits writing about him so infrequently?

Wlodimir Ledochowski
born October 7 1866  
became Superior General February 11, 1915
died December 13, 1942

The First World War began in 1914, with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.  There was a confrontation between Austria and Serbia (he was killed by a Yugoslav nationalist).  This initial confrontation triggered a series of alliances and led to to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Germans against the British, French and Russians.  Thus it was essentially a battle of empires.  Italy was party of the triple alliance with the Germans and the Austrians but chose initially not to enter the war as it understood this as a defensive alliance and saw Austria as the agitators. By 1915 they shifted allegiance and entered the war on the British side.

Meanwhile in Rome Fr Wenz was to die in 1914, famously followed a day later by Pius X, some say of a broken heart as he witnessed Europe disintegrate in spite of his impressive efforts for peace.  Six months later the Jesuits elected their 26th Fr General.  Wlodimir Ledochowski was from an Austrian/Polish  aristocratic family and was to be general from 1915 to 1942. When Italy entered the war against Austria it was untenable for Ledochowski to stay in Rome, so he moved with the curia to Zizers, Switzerland, where he was able to govern with less disruption.

Jesuits were to serve as chaplains during the war on both sides.  The Irish Jesuit Fr Willie Doyle was one who was outstanding, and awarded and commended for his bravery.  He was to die during the Battle of Passchendeale after running here and there on the battlefield as an angel of mercy.  The publication of his spiritual writings and diaries have generated great interest in Ireland, he has been declared a Servant of God and his cause for beatification is open.  There is a blog on his writings here.

For posterity, here is the 2007 article from Good Jesuit Bad Jesuit:

A towering figure in Jesuit circles in the twentieth century was Fr. Wlodimir Ledochowski, SJ, elected 26th general of the Society in February 1915. He served until his death in December 1940. Elected during the turmoil of World War I, he governed the Society from Switzerland for three years to lessen the impact of that war on Jesuit matters. He went to Spain twice during 25 years as general, but hardly ever traveled beyond that.

In those more formal days, "exterior reverence" to the general prevailed. Jesuits kissed the hand of the general, addressing him as "Your Paternity." Other superiors (and even the priests when dealing with scholastics or brothers) were "Your Reverence." Like other superiors, the general had a fixed place in the refectory and in the recreation room. Much less formality exists today.

Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, succeeded Arrupe to became the Society's 29th general in 1983.
An important part of the general's work is communication: gathering information, making appointments, encouraging Jesuits worldwide. Fr. Ledochowski experienced both more rapid communication and a growing number of questions and issues with a world in turmoil. In voluminous correspondence he tried to adjust Jesuit life to rapid technological and political change.

Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the Jesuits' general since 1983, experiences even more rapid means of communication and questions and issues, but he is also able to travel and meet Jesuits all over the world and to invite individuals and groups to come to meet with him. But he still signs something like 17,000 letters a year and has vast amounts of information to absorb

For such a towering figure - Last of the Great Roman Generals - should not the Jesuits be writing about Wlodimir Ledochowski more frequently?

No comments: