11 Facta non Verba - Deeds, not Words - Philip Dias

posted Jul 25, 2018, 11:03 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jul 25, 2018, 11:04 AM ]
The Society of Jesus started by St Ignatius is, perhaps, the first Order to undertake officially, and by virtue of its Constitutions, active works such as the education of youth of all classes, the instruction of the ignorant and the poor, ministering to the sick, to prisoners, etc. This was a notable and significant movement away from the contemporary monastic type of living that had come to be identified with religious life. Therefore, 'action' is the hallmark of Jesuit spirituality. While prayer, piety and religious devotion are an essential part of our lives, noticeable in Jesuit parishes is 'action-oriented' spirituality, with a constant effort to translate our spirituality into a tool for 'reaching out' and putting into action St Ignatius' words, "Love ought to consist of deeds more than of words."

A simple study of the works of St Ignatius points to a basic Christian teaching that love of God cannot be separated from love for others; the two will always go hand in hand. Piety must be accompanied by acts of reaching out to our neighbour. In one of his letters, this is what St Ignatius has to say, "Friendship with the poor makes us friends of the eternal King. Love of poverty makes kings even on earth; kings not of earth, but of heaven."

The Ignatian spirit of praxis seeks to combine reflection and action, and to put theory into action. St Ignatius himself performed his healing work, not by standing detached from the poor, but by dispensing support to those who needed it in a very practical way. St Ignatius' teachings have given a great thrust to the empowerment of the marginalised – uneducated, tribals and women. Missionaries have faced the wrath of landlords and of the land mafia, but the zeal of mission has been a driving force against odds and obstacles.

In our parishes, also, there is a constant effort to live by the Ignatian spirit of mission. In my own parish, over the last few years, we have adopted an Outreach Programme that has been very successful. The programme starts with stalls that are set up in the parish to generate funds for the work intended. Each community, around the season of Advent, visits rehabilitation homes, large slums, homes for orphans, for old age, for destitute women, for street children, and so on. While talking to them and entertaining them over a few hours is a given, this programme goes beyond. Needs of the groups are identified through dialogue and discussion, and such needs are met through healthy financial assistance, and sometimes through repeat visits. The communities do not limit themselves to Christian groups, but any one in need, especially neglected groups. What is most gladdening is that the entire programme happens at the level of lay persons, under the guidance of the Parish Priest. And this is evidence that Ignatian Spirituality is not just a domain of the Parish team, but has percolated down to the Community and individual levels, and is bearing fruit.