Obedience is a practical blessing. I got a doctorate in political science because the provincial encouraged me to try it. And, when his successor opined that he was finding it harder to supply Jesuit colleges with doctorally-qualified administrators than faculty members, my 37 years as an administrator at Denver’s Regis University were under way.
Another factor was Vatican II. It happened in the 1960’s, when I was in Jesuit training. Although there were no changes of doctrine, there was a huge shift from directives and rules to a Catholicism which provides a strong framework of beliefs, then trusts people to make up their own minds about how to handle most concrete situations.
There was a down side. Reacting against the heady days of the Council, lots of bishops and cardinals tried to keep the control Vatican II had turned away from. For priests like me, and for many laypeople, these were hard years. We were sometimes dismissed as a hidden threat lurking inside the Church.
In my prayer, I told God that it was pretty tedious waiting for Him to finally implement Vatican II. I wondered whether I would die before He decided it was finally time.
Then came Francis, the Jesuit Pope. Suddenly, here was a Pope who didn’t change official teaching, but did change the Church’s style. Suddenly, we saw what it’s like to have a Church that invites rather than commands, that trusts listeners to think for themselves. My own new job of reinforcing American Jesuit universities has a huge burst of optimism, but also a growing realization of how serious is the Jesuit mission to teach our students to embrace core Catholic wisdom as they consider the ever-changing challenges of their lives.
How grateful I am that I’ve seen Vatican II come into its own.