Dushan Croos SJ
The Jesuits I first encountered in books worked in seemingly neglected fields of the Church’s life. From the twentieth century, they were the French Jesuit palaeontologist, Teilhard de Chardin who also reflected on how his scientific understanding was woven into his faith and his experience of God; Cardinal Augustin Bea helped Pope John XXIII develop the Church’s ecumenical dialogue to renew our friendship with Christians separated from the Catholic Church; Rutilio Grande, martyred by the rich families and the military in San Salvador because he was an advocate for the rights of the poor among whom he ministered the sacraments and who was instrumental in the conversion of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Before them in the 17th and 18th century, the Jesuits in the Paraguay Reductions protected the indigenous Guarani from the greed and tyranny of the Spanish and Portuguese Colonists. They all showed me that our witness to our faith must be engaged with the needs of the world because God himself had done that when he became human among us. They also showed that one cannot live or witness to Christ on one’s own – it is only possible in communion with others. My Jesuit life shows me that likewise, I can try to live the Gospel only in community and with the support of my brother Jesuits and I can minister as a priest only through the prayers and work of many lay people who also work in the Lord’s vineyard.
The first live Jesuits I met, outside the captivity of books or films, were Chaplains to the University of Manchester. They spoke about God not as “an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person”  Jesus Christ, as Pope Benedict would put it twenty years later. They spoke about God as a friend they knew intimately. I learned from them a way of praying which introduced me directly to that deep personal encounter with the Lord, not just telling me that I ought to pray. Although one Jesuit is very different from another, (we say that where there are three Jesuits, there will be four or five opinions), and Jesuits more readily identify ourselves as “redeemed sinners” than as plaster saints, all the Jesuits I know have a deep trust that God is at work in the lives of all, usually in hidden and unexpected ways, revealing God’s sense of humour.
When I first heard of St Ignatius of Loyola, at the end of Sunday evening Mass in Manchester’s Holy Name Church, what inspired me was that despite the manifest and admitted vanity of Inigo de Loyola, God had been able to straighten out not just his leg, but his whole person so that Ignatius lived “for the Greater Glory of God and the salvation of the world”: presumably God could do the same for me. My life has turned almost a full circle and I hope that I can hand on something of that deep personal encounter with the Lord’s mercy and friendship.
I am immensely grateful that God did not leave me to follow my superficial desires, which were fairly good and normal, and instead drew me against my superficial desires to serve him and follow him in the Society of Jesus. It reflects my experience of Jesuit obedience through which I have found deep joy in missions which I would not have chosen for myself.
 Benedict XVI Deus Caritas Est, 1