We have a pope... An ex-priest speaks


Saturday, April 20, 2013

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WITH the election of Francis as the first Jesuit pope, my constant prayer of gratitude for 21 years of being in the Society of Jesus becomes more swelled with joy. Why this gratitude?

First and foremost, it comes from having been given a new vision of the world, God and life. The first segment of the Jesuit motto is "Find God in all things". I put these lenses on in August 1978 and have never taken them off. This was the beginning of my "be positive!" imperative of life. Ignatius, the Jesuit founder, encouraged positive interpretation of all events.

I'm grateful for the vision I have in that it brought me to an entire new understanding of reality. I have recently finished a PhD thesis entitled, Incarnation: A Harmony of One Love, One Heart in the Totality of Reality. I use two Jesuits, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Karl Rahner as my most supporting philosophers/theologians.

Besides this vision, the second imperative of Jesuit life, "Do Everything for the Greater Glory of God," instilled in me the desire to be a "man for others", which is, itself, another Jesuit motto.

With my vision and motive of life rooted, the Jesuits then gave me the world of spiritual direction. The very first thing a Jesuit novice receives in Jesuit life is a spiritual director, the person to whom one shares "where God is in your life". Spiritual direction and daily prayer are to become basics in a Jesuit's life. Each year a Jesuit is to do eight day retreats, where one engages with God the elements of Ignatius of Loyola's well-known spiritual exercises.

Ignatian or Jesuit spirituality is a strong incarnational spirituality. "God is in all things", is taken very seriously. As such, I defend the truth of pantheism and its "kernel of truth" as explained by both Teilhard de Chardin and Rahner.

In Jesuit spirituality one learns the movements of life where there is consolation and desolation. With these movements, one is frequently called to the necessity of discernment; reflecting and praying with the continual question of, "Where is God in this?" Jesuits are well known for their spirituality of discernment. (For more information on the Jesuits one can read "The Jesuits! Who are they?" which I published in the Jamaica Gleaner, Tuesday, October 7, 2003).

Besides all these significant reasons behind my gratitude for the 21 years of life as a Jesuit, I thank God for the philosophy of education the Jesuits gave me. As stated, Jesuits find God in all things. Thus their understanding of education sees the entire person, body, soul and mind, in the one student. The Ratio Studiorum of the Jesuits has proved itself historically and globally with the existence of many Jesuit high schools and universities around the world. St George's College and Campion College here in Jamaica are two examples. Jesuit education is based on critical, philosophical thinking, always asking the "why?" question.

Another reason for my gratitude is the strong sense of mission that the Jesuits gave me. Jesuits are known as "men on a mission". Interestingly, I continue to live my Jesuit mission by having brought philosophy and ethics to the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech). I originally came to Jamaica in 1982 to teach philosophy at St Michael's Seminary. I still bring that same Jesuit mission to Jamaica, but now it is in Jamaica's only national university. Philosophical, critical thinking must be instilled in our curricula. It is my mission to live this out.

Another mission in which the Jesuits instilled in me is to break down the division of religions. We humans fight and kill in the name of God and religion. A first major movement of Pope Francis is his urging all religions to unite for peace and justice. This mission is lived out at UTech with our nine years of the Interfaith Awareness Day sponsored by the Faculty of Education and Liberal Studies and the Jamaican Council for Interfaith Fellowship.

Still, another reason for my gratitude is the living a cultural life of communal living. With a world that is mostly capitalistic, all out for their own profit, as a religious order, in comparison to diocesan priesthood, Jesuits live in community. It is a true 'communistic' existence, where the community lives "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need".

So with this strong prayer of gratitude for my life as a Jesuit, why did I leave?

The irony of my vocation is that with the very vision the Jesuits gave me and the motivation behind it, I could no longer limit my God, nor my 'self'. The Jesuits made me the fullest being I could have been, until my point of departure. I was approved by Father General Peter Hans Kolvenback in 1998 to profess solemn vows, but it was time to move on. Being a Jesuit meant being a Roman Catholic, and the limitations of a doctrinal, dogmatic church reached its threshold in my personal life.

My discovery of reality brought me to the fact that all aspects of the universe is dialectical, and therefore is masculine and feminine, having animus and anima. Living with merely a masculine understanding of priesthood and having "authority" only from a male perspective limited my God, my Self and, for me, my church. As a Roman Catholic priest, John Paul II forbade priests to even discuss women priesthood. In my vision and in my theology, God cannot be selective in the call to priesthood. We are all called to this vocation. I find it a travesty of justice that in my church women cannot be priests. As much as Catholic philosophy and theology speak of the equality of all humans, women are still second-class citizens. I could no longer actively minister in an institution which expected blind obedience to such a travesty. The world has seen what happens when those in authority passively sit back and do nothing.

Historically, Jesuits have regularly had their hands slapped by Rome for their theological and social positions. What happens when one speaks out with a new vision? The Jesuit, Roger Haight, SJ, who was my primary mentor in writing my new philosophy and theology has been silenced by Rome; he is not to teach at a Roman Catholic institution and has also been forbidden to teach at any protestant school of theology. It has been deemed that his Christology does not conform with formal Roman Catholic theology in light of the divinity of Jesus the Christ. Oh, how we limit God!

So my gratitude for my life as a Jesuit passes over to my love for the church. If a Jesuit vision could awaken me from my dogmatic slumber, my hope and prayer is that this same Jesuit vision of Pope Francis can awaken the Roman Catholic Church from its dogmatic slumber.

Blessings to Pope Francis, may you truly follow the ways of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscans, and be a true channel of peace, love, faith, hope, light, and joy in the world.

Martin J Schade is a lecturer in the Faculty of Liberal Studies at the University of Technology, Jamaica, and is a former Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest.

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