April 2, 2020 — The Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, shared his reflections on a live webinar today with the global Ignatian family in light of COVID-19. His comments emphasized the themes found in the Universal Apostolic Preferences, now more relevant than ever, as a source of direction for Jesuits and their collaborators amid the pandemic.
“My first thought is with the poor and those who are on the margins of our society,” Fr. Sosa said, highlighting that so many have limited access to healthcare, water, even soap for washing their hands.
And for those who still have jobs, many have to decide whether or not to work. “It can seem like a choice between sickness and starvation.
“I say to [you] today: The Society of Jesus does not forget you. We stand with you; we walk with you. Tell us how we can help you and we will do our best.”
Learn more about how the Society of Jesus is continuing to minister to those most in need during these challenging times.
Father Sosa rejected the notion that Jesuits living in infirmaries or retirement homes have no role in this moment.
“You are sent to the infirmary with a mission: to pray for the Society, the Church and the people. I think for those in infirmaries now, you have a very special mission. We need your prayers.
“We need you to help us to be really in touch with God, with suffering. Because many of you are suffering.”
“Community is also mission,” Fr. Sosa explained, responding to the fact that Jesuits aren’t accustomed to spending every moment of every day in the Jesuit community house. “It’s not just to have a room in the same house.”
This moment gives an opportunity to discover new things about your Jesuit brothers. “This is our community,” Fr Sosa said. “Together, we need to provide.”
Read reflections from Fr. Ted Penton, SJ, from his time in community quarantine.
“Obedience is to be led by the Spirit,” Fr. Sosa said, responding to Jesuits feeling torn over directions from civil authorities to remain away from their mission sites.
But Father General noted the role civil authorities are playing in containing the spread of the virus. “Civil authorities have an authority in this moment. We’re not only under the authority of civil authorities, but it’s one element to be considered in our discernment.”
Reflecting on the life of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the young Jesuit who died serving victims of an epidemic in 1591, Fr. Sosa noted: “Our first priority is not to preserve ourselves. We preserve ourselves so we can serve others.”
“I have been following the many creative initiatives that have been taken,” Fr. Sosa said. “And I encourage you to keep discerning together the best way to be close to those in need. I encourage you to keep listening to the gentle voice of the Spirit.”
Noting the need of the People of God to continue living out their faith, Fr. Sosa pointed to social media. “There are so many people praying together on social media — they want to profess their faith.
“We want to live this time as an opportunity. We want to take seriously the invitation.”
He went on: “There are many ways to stay in touch with people; everybody has a mobile phone. We can give a word of courage and invite them to pray.”
Stay in touch with the Ignatian family through our Facebook Group - The Refectory: Jesuits & Friends Online Community.
COVID-19 gives all of us the opportunity to “take the Gospel in your hands,” Fr. Sosa reflected. “The history of Jesus is not the history of one man; it’s the history of humanity and how God is showing us the way to be more human through this suffering.
“If we are able to really contemplate Jesus on the cross, we will find the crucified people today.”
Encounter Christ this Holy Week through this digital retreat, "Into the Cave."
“We need to be guided by audacity,” Fr. Sosa said, echoing the words of Pope Francis. “The grace of Christian life has liberated us from fear.”
As such, we can’t treat this crisis as a nightmare from which we’ll wake up and return to normal life. “No — we have to change, otherwise the next time will be worse.
“The risk is that we get too cautious. I do not want a cautious, a too-careful Society of Jesus. Just as the Holy Father wants the Church to be a field hospital, I dream of a Society that accomplishes great things.”
Learn from the forward-thinking example of St. Joseph Pignatelli, SJ.
“Overcoming a crisis like this one is possible when we become aware of the importance of looking after the common good and taking seriously our responsibility.
“It is showing us that we want to walk together.”
View Fr. Sosa's webinar:
The Ignatian Spirituality Program of Denver offers Ignatian group retreats, individual spiritual direction, the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life, and trains spiritual directors and guides of the Spiritual Exercises.