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‘Companions!’: Ex-Jesuits and Ignatian life

/ 04:03 AM May 25, 2021

As San Anselmo Press published “Companions! XJ Narratives” on the eve of the launching of the Ignatian Year that marks the 500th anniversary since the conversion of the soldier-saint Iñigo de Loyola, another book hit the stands worldwide.

Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, the superior general of the Jesuits, has put out “En Camino Con Ignacio” (Walking with Ignatius), a book published by Loyola Press and translated into nine languages. Based on 12 interviews totaling 24 hours done with the Spanish journalist Dario Menor, Father General Sosa explores the future of the Society of Jesus by looking back at its history and the founder’s charism. He also discusses his relationship with the Jesuit Pope Francis and the current global situation in the light of the pandemic, as well as the response of the Jesuit order to the times given its “preferential option for the poor,” its commitment to the youth and the marginalized, the care for the earth, and the search for a God who gives meaning to our upended lives in the midst of a world that nowadays seems disjointed.

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“To see all things new in Christ,” the phrase chosen by the organizers of the Ignatian Year and which “Companions!” also employs in its summation of the narratives compiled by three editors and more than 30 co-authors working across the seas and through different time-zones, seems most apt. While the world battles a para-pandemic, what people of good faith and of diverse origins now seek together is to create a world that is better and different from the past—more unified perhaps, and in closer touch with its more vulnerable parts.

Consisting of three sections, “Companions!” begins by providing readers with stories from 25 former Jesuits who reflect on the origins of their desire to belong to the Jesuits, on their life as former novices, scholastics, or priests in the Company of Jesus, and the aftermath of their respective decisions to leave the Jesuit order.

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No matter how diverse their stories, a number of common themes stand out, unfolding across more than 400 pages: the impact of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola which each novice undergoes for 30 days and later annually for eight days; the companionship among those who lived together at different stages of Jesuit formation; the influence of values such as magis, ad majorem Dei gloriam, “finding God in all things,” “being all things to all men,” and the prayers of generosity and the Suscipe (Take O Lord, and Receive); as well as their loyalty to the Society of Jesus and what it stands for.

The second part of the book brings together contributions from family and friends of some 10 departed former Jesuits who are remembered for their exemplary lives, leaving behind a legacy of love and service to others.

The final part of the volume, the Appendix, though consisting of just less than 20 pages, required much research and painstaking effort. It tracks down records and recollections of those who became novices of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus from 1907 to 2020, a labor initially undertaken by Emy Rodil with assistance from then Father Socius Bill Abbott, SJ, who corroborated, checked, and completed the lists of Jesuit novices for over a century.

In one of the interviews conducted by the Jesuit Radyo Katipunan as a virtual launch of “Companions!”, the former Jesuits were baptized as the XMen of the Society of Jesus.

Archbishop Emeritus of Cagayan de Oro, Antonio Ledesma, SJ, in his Foreword to the book, mentioned that St. Ignatius described his first companions as “Friends in the Lord.” He then continued: “This exceptional collection of narratives by former Jesuits (proudly calling themselves XJs) could be subtitled, ‘More Friends in the Lord.’” He ended by citing one of the co-authors: “Truly no bond could be deeper than the bond of friendship forged by the ‘companions of Jesus.’”

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Ed Garcia is one of the co-editors of “Companions! XJ Narratives,” along with Jimmy Abad and Ruben Habito.

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TAGS: Commentary, Ed Garcia, Jesuits
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