By Michael Rossmann, SJ
While I have coincidentally watched both announcements of new popes in my lifetime while in east Africa, this was a very different experience for me compared with the election of Pope Benedict XVI eight years ago. Then, I was a college student studying abroad, certainly interested in the new pope but without any deep connection with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
This time, I stared with expectation at that balcony in St. Peter’s Square while huddled around the television with the other Jesuits in my community. When Bergoglio was announced, our first reaction was one of complete disbelief; we had always heard that we would never have a Jesuit pope. After this initial shock, the mood was greatly celebratory, which was only deepened by the bombardment of congratulatory calls, emails, texts and tweets we all received because of our Jesuit brother. It was a moment I will never forget.
While in one sense I knew very little about Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio before the announcement — though, like many, I was soon reading absolutely everything I could about him — I also feel like I understand him in a significant way. The Jesuits are in over 100 countries, and while I experience on a daily basis how different cultures can be, there is so much that we share. Just like the pope, I started as a Jesuit novice and made the Spiritual Exercises, a 30-day silent retreat designed by St. Ignatius, and then studied philosophy before teaching. Because of so much common experience, a Jesuit can spot another Jesuit a mile away.
This is a special moment for me as a Jesuit, but it’s not about the Jesuits. A Jesuit serves the Church, and while the Vicar of Christ is now an SJ from Latin America, he is a pope for us all.
(Michael Rossmann is a Jesuit scholastic currently teaching at Loyola High School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He is a 2003 graduate of Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City).
By Andrew Hanson
What excites me about Pope Francis is the fact that he is “a man of the Exercises.” Having completed the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (the 30-day silent retreat which is the heart of Jesuit spirituality) this past January, I have a deeper understanding of how transformational these exercises are to people of faith. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises allow people to discern the way God is moving them interiorly and translate those movements exteriorly into love-in-action. I’m inspired by the hope that the Ignatian spirituality of a “contemplative in action” combined with the Franciscan charism of simplicity and peace — both of which lead one to be in solidarity with the poor — will characterize Pope Francis’ papacy and lead our Church into a new chapter ad majorem Dei gloriam; for the greater glory of God (the Jesuit motto).
(Andrew Hanson is a novice for the Wisconsin Province of the Jesuits and a former member of St. Patrick Parish in Ottumwa.)