Promoting discernment and the spiritual exercises

Fr Tony Calleja SJ

We are in transition from a sociological Christianity to faith as a personal choice and commitment to Christ. Ignatian spirituality is centred on Christ and a deep personal relationship with Him. 

The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola are a powerful tool for discovering and living out the following of Christ, and the training of lay persons, priests and religious sisters who desire to live out their faith to the full.

They can help committed Christians develop a robust spiritual life. They offer the practise of discernment, for those seeking growth in faith and commitment. This would normally lead to a deeper sense of mission, with serious involvement in the care of our common home, the struggle for justice and equity, and serving vulnerable and excluded people in our society.

The four-year course in spirituality and spiritual accompaniment offered by the Centre for Ignatian Spirituality has been particularly helpful in this sense.

Spiritual exercises as well as Ignatian methods in personal prayer are in demand, as are different styles of prayer and recollection.

Fr Tony Calleja is director of the Jesuit Centre for Ignatian Spirituality.


Walking with the excluded

Fr Edgar Busuttil SJ

I am very happy and encouraged that the Society of Jesus has taken this priority. The Maltese Jesuits’ experience of the insertion community in Żejtun, which was open for 26 years, was a very important grace for the ex-Maltese province. It was an experience of living close to the poor and excluded. I know first-hand that through this experience we have learnt a great deal from them. Their attitudes and vision of life have often inspired us.

Through this experience we have come closer to Jesus and have been able to understand his Beatitudes much more deeply. It has also helped us to understand our vocation as Jesuits to be at the frontiers, building bridges in society and fostering social dialogue.

In Malta there are divisions and prejudices built on class and political allegiances. Living close to the people on both sides of the divide has helped us to discover this very important aspect of our call to be followers of Christ fostering social dialogue and reconciliation.

It was through living close to the people that we learned of important social challenges such as illiteracy, and through a bottom-up approach we set up the Paulo Freire Institute as an instrument to foster literacy and empowerment among the poor and emarginated, thus striving to work for a more just society. This would never have been possible without living close to the people and listening to the cry of the poor.

Prejudices in Maltese society do not only exist between different areas, social classes and political beliefs. There is a strong racial prejudice towards irregular migrants from Africa. The Jesuit Refugee Service in Malta was set up more than 30 years ago to accompany, serve and defend the rights of asylum seekers and forcibly displaced people who arrive in Malta.

Walking alongside asylum seekers has helped Jesuits in Malta to get to know them as human beings (surely not as burdens). It has also meant sharing in their pain, defending their rights, empowering them, receiving insults and even suffering arson attacks. This has surely helped us come closer to Christ and share in his joy and love for all of humanity.

Fr Edgar Busuttil is director of the Paulo Freire Institute, Żejtun.


Caring for our common home

Fr Mark Cachia SJ

All those who are familiar with Ignatian spirituality know that Ignatius found God everywhere: in the poor, in prayer, in Mass, in his mission, but also on a balcony of the Jesuit house in Rome, where he used to spend hours looking out silently at the stars at night. 

During these times he would shed tears both in wonder and adoration.

I believe that the first step in our journey of reconciliation with creation is the rediscovery of a sense of awe in front of the gift of creation. 

We are so immersed in our busy and hectic lives that we often fail to look up and become aware of the beauty around us. 

In the encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis stresses that caring for our common home cannot happen without a personal and communal conversion. 

The word conversion entails not only a recognition of what is wrong with our habitual way of doing things, but also a serious and radical change of direction in our way of life.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the local context, a ‘business as usual’ attitude in the way we travel, consume, live and make money will result in huge ecological loss. 

But so will cosmetic changes which are not far reaching and drastic enough. 

In fact, the ecological challenge in front of us might seem to be daunting and overwhelming. But as people of faith, we cannot lose hope and just give up. In the words of Pope Francis, our responsibility within creation, and our duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of our faith (Laudato Si’, par 64).

And our faith is always a faith of hope and never of despair, of light in darkness but not of destructive passivity or cynicism. 

We believe in a God who provides water from a dry rock (Ex 17, 6) and in this time of ecological crises, we pray that He will provide us with the strength we require to work, with Gospel depth, for the protection and renewal of God’s Creation.

Fr Mark Cachia works at JRS Malta and is coordinator of the Euro-Mediterranean Province team for the establishment of integral ecological ways of proceeding.


Journeying with youth

Fr Patrick Magro SJ

In the Maltese context, we Jesuits mainly work with youth at St Aloysius’ College, at the University Chaplaincy and in Christian Life Communities. We are blessed with the presence of many young people whom we accompany every day and many adults who grew up close to us and who support our mission.

As a direct answer to the invitation of Pope Francis during the Synod of Bishops on youth and in line with Fr General’s choice of ‘journeying with youth’ as an Apostolic Preference for the Jesuits today, the Jesuit residence next to the University of Malta, Dar Manuel Magri, is being refurbished so as to offer a place where young people at University, members of the Christian Life Communities and others can meet up in a place where they will feel welcome and supported. 

One of the greatest challenges in working with young people is to create spaces where they feel comfortable, where they can express their talents and opinions, and where they can meet up with others.

My hope is that we, as Jesuits, can continue to find joy in spending time with young people and sharing their lives, dreams and hopes for the future.

Fr Patrick Magro is chaplain at the University of Malta.

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