General Congregation 36 concludes

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The 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus concluded on November 12 with a Mass of Thanksgiving at St Ignatius Church, a parish run by the Society of Jesus in Rome.

That morning, after a contemplative examination of the six weeks of work, the 215 delegates voted to close the General Congregation that had begun on October 2. In the closing session, Father General Arturo Sosa thanked the Congregation for its work, using the text of Mark 4:26-29 to emphasise that it is the Lord who will grow the seed they planted.

GC 36 delegates vote to pass a decreeThe day before (November 11), the delegates had evaluated the Congregation in Conference groups but the final evaluation will be done with an online survey.  The official text of the decrees resulting from General Congregation 36 are being finalised and will be released in a few weeks.

At the Thanksgiving Mass, Fr Sosa invoked Mary, under the title of Our Lady of the Way, as is traditional in the Society and prayed for her intercession as she accompanied the “friends in the Lord” on their journey home after their travails at the General Congregation. He also asked Mary to help all Jesuits to be true and authentic witnesses of the message of Christ, that they might credibly reflect his face to the world.

The Scripture readings for the Liturgy of the Word were chosen for the occasion. From the First Letter of Saint John (4:7-16), the delegates heard the insistence on mutual love, a reflection of the love of God, which should motivate all our relations, not only among Jesuits, but also with those whom they serve and to whom they are sent. The Gospel was also from St John (Ch 16). It was about the sending out of the disciples at the Ascension “to preach the Gospel to all creatures”. The evangelist ends by underlining that this commission bore fruit: “They went everywhere, the Lord working through them and confirming the Word with the signs that accompanied it.” Even though these signs described by John – facing serpents and deadly poison – may be different through changing centuries and contexts, their healing and liberating character is always relevant, and can certainly ground witness to the Gospel today.

GC 36 Thanksgiving Mass after the closing sessionThe English translation of Father General’s homily, which he preached in Italian, is available on the GC36 website, and we invite you to read it, to find food for your meditation and support for your apostolic involvement.

The prayers of the faithful were announced in Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Japanese, French, Sinhalese and Arabic.  The offertory procession was accompanied by a Congolese liturgical dance – another way in which the Jesuits emphasised the universal nature of their service, which should be always moving, evolving, according to the needs of the times and the peoples. Similarly, an Indian rite, with flowers and incense, was used at the end of the Eucharistic prayer.

At the end of the Mass, the congregation sang the Latin-American Marian hymn Maria del camino, followed by a new expression of the Te Deum. During this canticle, Father General and some members of the assembly – representatives of the Assistancies, some brothers, scholastics and lay people – offered incense to symbolise the prayer ascending to heaven from the whole Society spread all around the world ‘to love and to serve’.

Finally, the congregation sang the hymn that is characteristic of the spirituality of the Society: “Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, understanding and my entire will, everything I have and possess. You have given all to me. Now I return it. All is yours, dispose of it entirely according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me.” [gc36.org]