“If the entire Ignatian Year helps even a single person to grow closer to Christ, it will have been a success” – says Pascal Calu SJ. The Belgian Jesuit in formation coordinates the whole Saint Ignatius Jubilee Year from Rome, from the center of the Society of Jesus. Péter Pásztor’s interview.
– What inspires you most in the life of St. Ignatius as a Jesuit and as the coordinator of the Jubilee Year? Which life moments of Ignatius help you in your everyday and professional life?
– I became coordinator of the Ignatian Year at the General Curia in Rome in a surprising way. I was supposed to go to Myanmar for my regency, but the pandemic stopped me so an alternative regency had to be found. My provincial sent me to Rome, to work at the Communications Office of the General Curia for the Ignatian Year. Quite a different setting and apostolate than the one initially planned.
It is inspiring to me that something similar happened to Ignatius. He wanted to go to the East, but in Venice the ships were not sailing. So the first companions decided to go to Rome and offer themselves to the Pope. And then, against his desire, Ignatius was elected the first Fr. General which meant he stayed in Rome in an ‘office job’, quite different from his first desires to be close to the people in the mission. For me it is inspiring to think of that part of Ignatius’ life. Like him, I wanted to go to the East and I could not, and came to Rome, ending up in an ‘office job’. From there, Ignatius had a broad view on the worldwide Society, and I am happy to have a similar experience, receiving much information from all over the world, learning a lot about the global Society.
– Ignatius was known to be a strict and tender person at the same time. Is there anything he would reprimand the Jesuits now, and what would he praise them for? What would he ask from the Jesuits now?
– I think Ignatius would ask from the Jesuits of today what Fr. General Sosa is asking: to become more Catholic, that is: more universal.
And to put Christ always in the center and never to forget that. It is easy to get caught in very local issues, losing sight of the universal outlook. And it is easy to put something or someone else in the center instead of Christ. It is a continual conversion, focusing on what really matters.
– At the same time, I think Ignatius would encourage all Jesuits everywhere in the world to continue their apostolates with great zeal. He would trust that Jesuits give it their all, based on this universal outlook, the fraternal bond, and Christ as center, loyal to His Church.
– What would St. Ignatius do in 2021-2022? How would he be present at the various events of the Jubilee Year?
– Ignatius would not like to be in the spotlights. He would only allow it if it would be for the good of souls, if it would help people to grow closer to Christ. He would not be focused on the past, but rather aimed at the present and the future. How can we look at the world, our brothers and sisters, the Church, God, and ourselves in a different way?
Can we try to look with God’s merciful and loving eyes? And if we try to do that, what happens? Do we see things in a new light? In the light of Christ?
If this year does not help people to (re)discover Christ and their own relation with God, then it is not worth putting an effort in.
– Father General said that the Jubilee Year should not be about St. Ignatius himself, but, rather, on Jesus. How could this message be implemented into practice?
– Having Christ in the centre, means fixing our eyes on Him. It means not to get distracted by the past and the great stories of Ignatius and the history of the Society, but to identify where Christ was present in Ignatius’ life and highlight that presence.
It means letting ourselves be inspired by Ignatius to the extent that he was close to Christ, but also to learn from his pilgrimage. To learn that failure is part of our pilgrimage as Christians and that we will lose sight of Christ sometimes. But Ignatius shows us that we can always return to Christ through gently following the Spirit. To do that, we need to discern. Discernment helps us to find where God is really at work in our lives, where He is really the centre and where we are putting ourselves or something else in God’s place.
– The core message of the Jubilee Year is to see all things new in Christ. During your coordinating work have you had the chance to experience the spirit of this message?
To see all things new is quite easy. The crux is to do so ‘in Christ’.
– It is when focusing really on that part, that seeing things new becomes really new. Starting this work, I was afraid of a jubilee year focused on the past. But hearing Fr. General’s insistence on Christ as the centre, and seeing how provinces are trying to offer spiritual experiences to people during this year, was really consoling.
Also, this jubilee year is not only something the Society of Jesus is ‘offering’ to people, it is also for ourselves. It is a great opportunity to rediscover our roots, to rediscover our raison d’être as Society of Jesus. And the Society of Jesus is ‘of Jesus’. Without Him, it does not make sense. We need to be renewed by Christ and let ourselves be renewed. Take some time to take stock and look where we are going.
– Could you highlight one of your favourite programs in the Jubilee Year from each continent?
– There are many projects all over the world and it would be very difficult to choose favourite programmes. But one of my favourite things is the fact that people are trying to collaborate over province and conference borders. We are trying to see what others are doing and adapting it for our own local situations. We do not have to invent everything ourselves. We can simply learn from one another. It is great to see how that is working.
– When would you say in July, 2022 that the Jubilee Year has proved to be successful in the Society of Jesus and in your own life?
– The Ignatian Year will have been successful if we have had an experience of renewal and when we feel more centred on Christ. If we manage to step out of our daily routine, take stock, and reconnect with the foundations of the Society. If we rediscover the inspiration of the First Fathers who were so profoundly touched by the Spirit that they could not not give their lives for this mission.
It will be successful if people discover the richness of Ignatian spirituality for their own faith life. If they discover that God is already at work in their lives and that they can listen to the Spirit guiding them.
The Society of Jesus is founded to help souls, that means: to help people grow closer to God.
If this entire Ignatian Year helps one person to grow closer to Christ, it is a success. But of course, the more people who are inspired by it, the better.