It is evening in the valley of Azpeitia, a fine rain blesses the orchards surrounding the Tower-House of the Loyola family, today commonly known as "the Holy House". A few meters away, in the spirituality center, the day's work is coming to an end. The directors of the different university centers of the Society of Jesus of the Province of Spain have gathered, animated by the spirit of the magis, to share those good practices that will help us all to promote a governance and organizational culture in an Ignatian key that will be a witness and catalyst of the Universal Apostolic Preferences.
We began the morning by letting ourselves be guided by the preparatory prayer so carefully prepared in the Spiritual Exercises. We dispose our whole being, asking God for grace and lucidity to have an inner knowledge of things [Ex 104], from feeling and tasting the various motions [Ex 313] that this time of shared discernment will arouse in each one of us.
Often, there are so many concerns and tasks to carry out... that we forget to prepare and dispose ourselves so that all our intentions, actions and operations are purely ordered to the service and praise of his divine Majesty [Ex 46]. As St. Ignatius asked himself on so many occasions, we too take a few minutes to ask ourselves about the meaning of our mission: What is the end that summons us? What is the purpose for which we are here? What is our principle and foundation?
As Universities of the Society of Jesus, our way of proceeding is not neutral. It is energized by a spirituality that must be reflected in the way we govern and exercise leadership in our ministries, as well as in each and every one of the activities that make up our educational apostolate. Although each university has its own idiosyncrasies, we all feel called to build a body for the mission. As Fr. General Arturo Sosa, S.J., pointed out in his speech at the constitution of the IAJU, all of us who are part of a Jesuit University are invited to be sources of reconciled life and reconciliation for this world so wounded by lack of love.
Feeling called to be agents of social transformation, we begin our reflection by contemplating the reality in which we live today. Ignatian spirituality is a spirituality committed to reality and incarnated in the world. It is here and now, where the God of Life is present, patiently waiting for us to feel invited to collaborate with Him in the construction of the Kingdom by creating a more just, dignified, and fraternal social order.
As Pope Francis reiterates, the globalization of inequality and the socio-environmental crisis is seriously fracturing society. We are facing an era whose digital eco-system and technological revolution is generating a profound change in the human cultural paradigm and a new axiological system. This change is so dizzying that to a greater or lesser extent it is making it difficult for all of us to integrate it and know what is best for us.
The new generations that we hope will feel called to be citizens committed to the common good, men and women "for and with others", are generations that are being educated in a context radically different from the one experienced by those of us who are currently leading and energizing the university communities. Many of our students have learned to live without God in contexts that increasingly lack true discourses of meaning, solid and lasting family and/or social bonds, and a culture of good treatment and protection and safeguarding of vulnerable people.
This new era that is taking place, far from favoring conditions of greater justice and reconciliation, is generating a world that is increasingly fragmented, broken and divided. The socio-environmental crisis, exacerbated by this terrible pandemic, is leading to greater inequality, violence, exclusion, human and environmental degradation.
Faced with this situation, it is urgent to promote a committed citizenship that feels co-responsible for the life of others, as well as to develop an intellectual and ecclesial apostolate that is sensitive to and understands this emerging anthropology inherent in youth. Do we know what the youth of our time think, feel and live? How much do we dedicate to listen and empathize with their culture and narratives? Do we really know what they need, what motivates them, what they are passionate about, what their horizons of meaning are for them?
We are all aware of how much is at stake for our students during their university years. During these years, they are not only preparing themselves to become competent professionals, but at this stage they have the great challenge of taking life in their hands and developing a responsible exercise of their freedom. How do we place the integral development of our students at the center of all our educational endeavors? Do we allow them to be the protagonists of their own learning? Do we offer them paths, languages and dynamics that generate proposals of meaning, an awareness of responsible citizenship and processes that help them to personalize their faith?
What style of leadership do our students and colleagues perceive in our way of proceeding? Does our way of leading reflect the values that St. Ignatius learned from the Gospel, having as a model the humble and poor Christ? Are we witnesses of an integral, coherent, compassionate, humble, transforming, collaborative and discerning leadership? In our words and above all in our way of behaving, of deciding, of being, do others feel helped in their learning to live, do we help them to grow in fullness? How does the Ignatian maxim "in all things love and serve" [Ex 233] become present in us?
As Ecclesiastes expresses it, everything has its time and has its eagerness. Ignatius knew well how human nature is vulnerable, fragile, fallible. His conversion process, his ability to "see all things new in Christ" was not a one-day thing, it was a slow process, with ups and downs... It took him time to feel and taste the unconditional and merciful love of God and to allow himself to be led and transformed by the Spirit.
If we allow ourselves to be affected by the Universal Apostolic Preferences, what does God want and dream for our institutions? From what logic does He invite us to carry out our teaching, research, and social transfer? Where are we playing our apostolic fruitfulness?
In the distance, the bells of the Basilica of the Shrine ring out, calling for rest and prayer. The day has been intense, and we end the day with a visit to the Holy House. Upon arriving at the conversion chapel, we all spent a few minutes in silence remembering how on a day like today, 500 years ago, Iñigo López de Loyola arrived at the Tower-House seriously wounded from the battle of Pamplona. With one leg broken and another badly wounded, he was taken to the tower room on the third floor, which is now the conversion chapel. It is a moment that overwhelms us and fills us with gratitude. We are all united by a deep gratitude for this precious legacy. A legacy that calls us "to the greatest divine service and universal good". A legacy that needs all of us to make this world a fraternal, just, humane, and humanizing place.