Father Miguel Ángel Fiorito: Pope Francis’ spiritual director

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Pope Francis

 Pope Francis / Free Articles / Published Date:22 December 2019/Last Updated Date:19 February 2020

On the evening of December 13, 2019, Pope Francis went to the General Curia of the Society of Jesus to launch the five-volume work dedicated to the Writings of Father Miguel Ángel Fiorito (1916-2005), Jesuit priest and spiritual director of Pope Francis, edited by Father José Luis Narvaja, SJ, and published by La Civilità Cattolica.

The Holy Father’s Speech

When Father Spadaro gave me the five volumes of the Escritos of Master Fiorito – as we Argentine and Uruguayan Jesuits called him among ourselves – he mentioned a possible presentation. I felt the desire to present in person this Civiltà Cattolica edition put together by Father José Luis Narvaja.  So I told him, “And why not have one of his disciples present it?” “Who could that be?” Spadaro asked. “Me!” I told him. So here we are!

La Civilta Cattolica

In his introduction José Luis explores the figure of Father Fiorito as a “master of dialogue.” I liked that title because it captures the paradox of the Maestro : Fiorito spoke little, but had a great capacity for listening, a discerning listening, which is one of the pillars of dialogue.

I’d refer you, first, to that opening study, which deals with all aspects of dialogue as Father Fiorito practiced and taught it: dialogue between teacher and disciples in the shared spirit of the School: a dialogue with authors and texts, dialogue with history and with God. I want to take up two points in particular that have helped me to shape this presentation, expanding on some of the reflections I make in the prologue contained in the first volume.

One of those points is an expression that Fiorito uses in an article entitled “Plato’s Academy as an Ideal School.” The expression is Magister dixerit, “The Master would say….”[1] If a difficulty arises that is not specifically foreseen by what “the Master said,” the good disciple, who has a sense of responsibility for the doctrine he has received, and who knows how to refashion it in order to defend it, can assert: “The Master would say ….”[2]

As I reread various articles, I thought about what the Master would say on an occasion like this. Not so much what he would say, but rather how he would say it. In this I was inspired by something else that Narvaja highlights, namely, that Fiorito liked to think of himself as a commentator, in the literal sense of the word: one who “comments thinking alike” (“com-mentum”); that is to say, thinking together with the (other) author.”[3]

What I want to do today is precisely such a commentary: thinking with Fiorito, with Narvaja, about some things that have done me a very great deal of good and can help others. I move through the texts freely, for that is the grace that is afforded by the texts being published all together with an appropriate critical apparatus.

What would Fiorito think about an edition of his Escritos like this? Perhaps in the first place he might ask if it is worth it; he is not a well-known author, except perhaps in the limited field of students of Saint Ignatius. But I think he would agree that his Writings could be of interest to those who spiritually accompany and give the Exercises, for such people are always on the lookout for practical help in guiding others and in giving the Exercises more fruitfully.

Fiorito did not do much to make himself known, but as a good teacher he introduced his disciples to many good authors. I’d go further, and say that he made us taste the best of the best, selecting the texts and commenting on them in the Boletín de espiritualidad of the Argentine province of the Society of Jesus, which he published every month. He was a man always in search of the signs of the times, attentive to what the Spirit says to the Church for the good of all people, through the voice of a great variety of authors, both contemporary and classical. The texts he commented on responded to concerns – not only those of the moment, but also deeper ones – and awakened new, creative proposals, and in this way he continued to make known to us whatever he had discovered of value.

I think I mentioned his name for the first time in a meeting with the Jesuits of Myanmar and Bangladesh. One of them, a formator, had asked me what model I had to propose to a young Jesuit. I came up with two images. One was not very positive, the other was, and that was Fiorito. “He was an engineer by training and then he joined the Society. He was Professor of Philosophy and Dean of the Faculty, but he loved spirituality. He taught us students the spirituality of Saint Ignatius. He taught us the way of discernment”[4]. I remember adding that I was pleased to name him right there, in Myanmar, because I thought he could never have imagined his name being cited in such far away places.

Even less could he have imagined an event like today’s. Yet I’m sure he would be delighted to see his Escritos being published by one of his disciples and presented today by another of them. The true teacher in the Gospel sense is happy to see his disciples also becoming teachers, and always preserves his own place as a disciple.

As Narvaja shows, this was what Fiorito passed on to us: the “spirit of the School” in which “intellectual property belongs to the community,” and according to which “no disciple can claim ownership of his master’s legacy to the point of denying it to others. On the contrary, he wants to communicate it, multiplying the happy owners of the same spiritual treasure. What is more, he wants to communicate its very communicability.” Here Fiorito quoted Augustine’s luminous expression on the subject in De Doctrina Christiana: “Everything, in fact, is not exhausted when one gives it because if one possesses it without distributing it, one does not possess it as one should possess it.” (I, 1)[5]

The very fact of presenting the Escritos in this hall of the General Curia is a way for me to express my gratitude for all that the Society of Jesus has given me and done for me. In the person of Master Fiorito I include so many Jesuits who were my formators, and here I want to make a special mention of many coadjutor brothers, teachers who give the joyful example of remaining simple servants their whole lives.

At the same time it is also a way of thanking and encouraging so many men and women who, faithful to the charism of spiritual accompaniment, guide, support and encourage their brothers and sisters in that task which in my recent Letter to Priests I described as the way of “the experience of knowing oneself as a disciple.”[6] Not just being a disciple, which is already a great thing, but of knowing ourselves as such — reflecting often on this grace in order to obtain more fruit, as Ignatius says in the Exercises. Indeed, this is the awareness that makes his Word fruitful and multiplies it: the Lord teaches neither alone nor from a distant pulpit, but creates a “School”, surrounded by his disciples who in turn teach others.

As I put it in the prologue: “The edition of the Escritos of Father Miguel Ángel Fiorito is a source of consolation for us who have been and are his disciples and who are nourished by his teachings. They are writings that will do great good for the whole Church.” I’m convinced of that.

A little history

For us Argentine Jesuits, re-reading the texts of these volumes means to re-read our history, one that includes 70 years of our family life. The chronological order in which they appear allows us to evoke their context, not only the immediate and particular one, but also, more broadly, that of the universal Church, which Fiorito, following Hugo Rahner, called “the meta-history of a spirituality.”[7] This is a key word for Fiorito: “meta-history.”

“There exists a meta-history, which is sometimes discovered not directly in the documents, but is rooted in the identity of a mystical intelligence and is due to the continuous action of the same Holy Spirit, invisibly present in the visible Church, and which is the ultimate, but transcendent, reason for this spiritual homogeneity” which is present in different kinds of Christians in various eras. Fiorito makes his own the way of contemplating the Church of a saint I recently canonized, John Henry Newman. “The Catholic Church never loses what it once possessed […]. Rather than moving from one phase of life to another, she carries both her youth and her maturity into the same old age. The Church has not changed her possessions, but has accumulated them and, as circumstance befits, extracts from her treasure-house things old and new.”[8] Gustav Mahler’s beautiful expression comes to mind: “Tradition is not the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire.”

In the context of this dynamic, I will give you an example of some significant dates and publications.

I met Fiorito in 1961 when I returned from my juniorate in Chile. He was Professor of Metaphysics at the Colegio Máximo de San José, our house of formation in San Miguel, in the province of Buenos Aires. From then on I began to confide in him, and to receive his spiritual direction. He underwent at that time a profound process that would lead him to give up teaching philosophy in order to devote himself wholly to writing on spirituality and the giving of the Exercises. Volume II, dealing with the years 1961-62, has just one article: “The Christocentrism of the ‘Principle and Foundation’ of Saint Ignatius.”[9] Just one article, but which was inspirational for me. It was there that I began to become familiar with some of the authors who have accompanied me ever since: Guardini, Hugo Rahner with his book on the historical genesis of the spirituality of Saint Ignatius,[10] Gaston Fessard and his Dialectic of the Exercises.

Fiorito noted at that time “the coincidence between the image of the Lord, especially in Saint Paul, as explained by Guardini, and the image of the Lord as we believe we find it in the Exercises of Saint Ignatius.”[11] Fiorito maintained that the “Principle and Foundation” was not just Christocentric but contained the seed of a whole Christology. And he showed that when Saint Ignatius uses the expression “the Lord our God” he is speaking concretely of Christ, of the Word made flesh, Lord not only of history but also of our practical life.

I would also like to highlight the figure of Hugo Rahner. I cannot resist repeating a passage in which Master Fiorito, who was a man of few words and of even fewer words in speaking of himself, described his conversion to spirituality. The passage defined a whole era in the life of our Province and would shape so much of what in my pontificate is related to discernment and spiritual accompaniment.

Fiorito wrote in 1956: “For my part, I confess that I have long been reflecting on Ignatian spirituality. At least since I did my first real Spiritual Exercises, aware of the ups and downs in myself of contrary spirits, which little by little I became aware were becoming personalized in the terms of a personal choice between two paths.” That reflection continued, he says, until “I read a book that reached my hands in the most trivial and prosaic way: a book of texts for learning German. It was for me not so much the luminous revelation of a possibility of expression, but the fullest expression of that ideal I had for a long time intuited.” Fiorito adds: “What should have been my work over many years was the instantaneous acceptance of the results of the work of others,” particularly that of Hugo Rahner.

In the soul of the Master, and then in that of many others, Hugo Rahner made room for three graces: that of the “Ignatian magis, which was the sign of  the capacious soul of Ignatius and the limitless scope of his desires; that of the discernment of spirits, which allowed the saint to channel this potentiality free of pointless diversions and unnecessary obstacles; and that of charitas discreta, which flowered in the soul of Ignatius as his own contribution to the ongoing struggle between Christ and Satan. Those battle lines were not foreign to the saint, but passed directly through his very soul,  and thus divided it into two I’s that were the only two possible alternatives for the fundamental choice he had made.”[12] From here Fiorito would draw not only the content, but also the style, of his “comments,” as we said at the beginning.

Another date: 1983. It was the year of the 33rd General Congregation, in which we heard the homilies of [Jesuit superior general] Father Arrupe for the last time. Fiorito wrote about “Paternity and Spiritual Discretion.”[13] I take up that article again because it gives you a definition of what he means by the term “spiritual.” I used it when talking about his conversion “to spirituality” and it seems useful to me to recover its definition, because today we often hear this word interpreted in a reductive way. Fiorito took it from Origen, for whom “the spiritual man is the one in whom are brought together both ‘theory’ and ‘practice,’ care for neighbor and  a spiritual charism for the good of neighbor. And among these charisms,” Fiorito showed, “Origen emphasizes above all that charism which he calls diakrisis, or the gift of discerning the variety of spirits.”[14] In the article, Fiorito develops this, showing how vital for discernment are spiritual fatherhood and motherhood. What does it take to enter into these? he asks. “To have two charisms: the discernment of spirits, or discretion, and the ability to be able to communicate this verbally in spiritual conversation.”[15] Discernment is not enough. “You have to know how to express ideas that are right and discerned; if not, they are not at the service of others.”[16] This is the charism of “prophecy,” understood not as knowledge of the future but as communication of a personal spiritual experience.

The last time I saw him – I cannot forget this – was shortly before his death on August 9, 2005. I remember that it was early on a Sunday not long after his birthday on the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, July 22nd. He had been brought to the German Hospital [in Buenos Aires]. He been silent for many years, unable to speak . He just looked. Intensely. And cried. They were gentle tears that communicated the intensity with which he lived every single encounter. Fiorito had the gift of tears, which is an expression of spiritual consolation.[17]

Speaking of the Lord’s gaze in the first week of the Exercises, Fiorito commented on the importance Saint Benedict gave to tears and said that “tears are a small tangible sign of God’s sweetness that barely manifests itself outside, but never ceases to imbue the heart with interior recollection.”[18]

Something comes to my heart at this point that I wrote in Gaudete et Exsultate: “A person who sees things as they truly are and sympathizes with pain and sorrow is capable of touching life’s depths and finding authentic happiness. He or she is consoled, not by the world but by Jesus.” (GE 76).

He also had – this is a nice anecdote — the gift of yawning. In the middle of your manifestation of conscience, the Master would sometimes begin to yawn. He did so openly, without hiding it. It wasn’t that he was getting bored. It just happened to him and he would say that it was the bad spirit being taken out of you. Just as yawning is contagious on the physical level, expanding the soul has the same effect on the spiritual level.

Master of Dialogue

I would like to comment freely on some things that the title “Master of Dialogue” suggests to me. In the Society the term “Master” is a special title. We reserve it for the novice master and the one who directs the tertianship. Father General had named Fiorito a tertian master, a task he performed for many years. He never was a novicemaster, but as provincial I assigned him to live in the novitiate; he was a counselor for the novicemaster and a reference point for the novices.

To be a maestro and to exercise the munus docendi is not just about transmitting the content of the teachings of the Lord in their purity and integrity  but rather transmitting those teachings in the same Spirit in which they were received, to “make disciples.” Transform those who hear them into followers of Jesus, into missionary disciples, who proclaim freely rather than proselytize because they are passionate about receiving, practicing and going out to proclaim the teachings of the one Master as he commanded us, to men and women of all peoples.

The true teacher, in the Gospel sense, is always a disciple: he or she never ceases to be one. In Luke the Lord uses the image of the blind teacher seeking to lead other blind people to illustrate an “anti-teacher,” saying: “A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like the teacher” (Luke 6:40).

I like to read this passage this way: not to put yourself above the teacher is not only not to put yourself above Jesus – our only Master – but also not to place ourselves above our human teachers. The good disciple honors the master, even when as disciples it happens that we go beyond the master in some teaching. Indeed, it is precisely at that point that we are able to make progress in knowledge because the good teacher has sown the seed in us, allowing for that same seed to live, take root and outgrow the master.

And when we discern well what the Spirit tell us, applying the Gospel at the right time and in the right way for the salvation of someone, we are “like the master.” The Lord applies this statement to that kind of teaching made up not only of words, but of works of mercy. It was in the washing of the feet that the Master said that if, knowing these things, we act like Him, we will be like Him (cf. John 13:14-15).

Concerning mercy: Fiorito’s writings distill spiritual mercy: teachings for those who do not know, good advice for those who need it, correction for those who have wandered from the right path, consolation for those who are sad, and helping people to be patient in the time of desolation “without ever making changes,” as Saint Ignatius says. All these graces come together and are synthesized in the great work of spiritual mercy that is discernment. Discernment heals us from the saddest and most disabling disease, one that deserves our compassion: spiritual blindness, which prevents us from recognizing God’s time, the time of his coming.

Some particular characteristics of Maestro Fiorito

One of Fiorito’s outstanding characteristics I would describe in these terms: in spiritual accompaniment, when you told him of your progress in prayer, he “kept out of it.” He reflected back to you what was happening to you and then he gave you freedom; he didn’t tell you what to do, and he didn’t judge. He respected you. He believed in freedom.

When I say that he “kept out of it” I don’t mean that he didn’t care or that he wasn’t moved by your concerns, but that he withheld himself, in the first place, to be able to listen well. Fiorito was a master of dialogue before all else by listening. Keeping out of the problem was his way of giving space to listening, so that one could say everything going on inside, without interruptions, without questions… He let you talk. And he didn’t look at his watch.

He listened by making his heart available so that the other could feel, in the peace that the Master had, whatever it was that disturbed one’s own heart. It was this that made us want to “go and consult Fiorito,” as we used to say, to “go and tell him,” every time you felt a spiritual struggle in your heart, conflicting movements of spirits about some decision you had to face. We knew that he loved listening to these things as much as, or more than, ordinary people loved hearing the latest news. At the Colegio Máximo “go and consult with Fiorito” was an oft-heard phrase. We used to say it to our superiors,  to each other, and we urged it on those in training.

His “keeping out of it,” besides being a question of listening, was how he stayed in charge of conflicts, distancing himself from them so as not to be dragged into them, as often happens when those who should listen and help instead become part of the problem, taking a stand or mixing in their feelings and losing objectivity.

In this sense, without theoretical pretensions, but in a practical way, Fiorito was the great “de-ideologizer” of the Province in a highly ideological era.

He de-ideologized by awakening the passion to dialogue well, with oneself, with others and with the Lord. And by refusing to “dialogue” with temptation, with the bad spirit, with the Evil One. This really stuck with me: you don’t dialogue with the devil. Jesus never dialogued with the devil. He answered him with three verses of the Bible, and then kicked him out. Never! There’s no dialogue with the devil.

Ideology is always a monologue with a single idea. Fiorito helped his interlocutor to distinguish the voices of good and evil from his own voice, and in this way opened the mind because it opened the heart to God and to others.

In his dialogue with others he had, among other things, an ability to “fish” – he was a fisherman! — and to show you the temptation of the bad spirit in a word or in a gesture even in the middle of something apparently reasonable or  well-intentioned that you had said. Fiorito would ask you about “that expression that you used” (which generally showed contempt for others) and would tell you: “You’re tempted!” Showing you the evidence, he would laugh frankly and without being scandalized. In that way he showed you the objective expression you had used, without judging you.

It can be said that the Master cultivated community dialogue in his personal conversation with each one of us. He wasn’t inclined to speak much in public. In the community meetings in which he took part he preferred to take notes, listening in silence. And then he “responded” – the moment we were all waiting for – with the theme of the next Boletín de espiritualidad or in some leaflet of “Study, prayer and action.” In some way this was known and transmitted, and we went to read in the Boletín “what the Master thought” about topics that worried us or were in vogue, reading “between the lines.”

Of course, the Boletín was not always necessarily concerned with what was going on around us. There are writings, such as Fiorito’s article on Plato’s Academy, from which Narvaja drew inspiration for his analysis, which today are topical and allow us to “read” all of our time in the key of the relationship between teacher and disciples according to the spirit of the School.

Fiorito was concerned for there to be a good spirit in the Province and in the community. If there was a good spirit, he didn’t just let it go but wrote something that “invited us to go further.” He opened up horizons.

In the third place, his “keeping out of it” can also be described by showing how it was achieved: “keeping oneself at peace” so as to allow the Lord himself to “move” the other, disturbing them in a good sense, and also who brings them peace when they are acting well.

It is a keeping yourself in an active peace, rejecting temptations against peace in order to help others find their own: their guilt and remorse for the past, their restlessness and distraction in the present, and anxiety about what the future might bring (the futuribles, or “what-ifs”. Fiorito would never let anyone make a decision based on the what-ifs. He would say that “God is not in the what-ifs, nor in the worries and distractions of the present.”) Fiorito calmed you by never being overwhelmed by the present. First he calmed you with his silence, with his total fearlessness, with his wide-ranging listening, until you had said what you had at the bottom of your soul and had learned what the good spirit was saying to you. Then the Master would confirm you, sometimes with a simple “that’s good.” He left you free!

To those who give the Exercises and have to lead others, Ignatius advises that they “do not approach or lean on one or the other side, but remain like the counter-weight on a set of scales, and let the Creator act directly with the creature, and the creature with its Creator and Lord” (ES 15). Although outside the Exercises “moving the other” is appropriate, Fiorito put more value on not leaning toward one side or the other, so that “it is the Creator and Lord himself who communicates to the person, embracing him in his love and praise, and arranging the way in which he can best serve him in the future.” Thanks to this, his “keeping out of it” was a reference for all without the slightest shadow of bias. True, at the appropriate time, when those who were doing Exercises with him needed it – perhaps blocked by some temptation or because on the contrary they were ready to make their “election” – the Master intervened with strength and determination to say what was on his mind and then, again,  he “kept himself out of it,” letting God work in the retreatant.

In that sense, I can say that he knew where to put the emphases. Some of them left a deep impression on us, and became part of the trademark culture of our Province. For example: that the spiritual struggle, the movement of spirits, is a good sign; that proposing “something more” causes the spirits to move whenever there is a suspicious calm; that one must always seek peace in the depths of one’s soul to be able to discern these movements of spirits without stirring the waters. And that “not to let oneself be overwhelmed by great things, and yet to be contained in the smallest thing, this is divine,”[19] is a maxim which characterizes Ignatius, and was always present in his reflections.

A second characteristic: he didn’t tell you what to do. He listened to you in silence and then, instead of talking, gave you a “piece of paper” that he took from his library. Fiorito’s library had this particularity: in addition to the usual elements — shelves and books —  it had another that occupied an entire 13 by 20 foot wall made up of drawers in each of which he classified and placed his “pieces of paper,” study cards, prayer and action, each dedicated to a single theme of the Exercises or Constitutions of the Society. He got up to look for them, sometimes dangerously climbing a ladder, to give them almost wordlessly to those who did the Exercises in response to some concern that they had expressed to him or on which he himself had made some discernment while listening to the exercitant talk about personal things.

There was something about those drawers, each with its own little bits of paper … It was as if that piece of advice you needed, or the medicine you required for some illness of the soul, had long been foreseen. That library had something of the pharmacy about it, and Fiorito was a kind of a wise pharmacist of the soul. But it was more than that, because Fiorito was not a confessor. Of course, he heard confessions. But he had another charism besides that of being a minister of the Lord’s mercy, which is common to every priest. It was that charism of the spiritual man of whom I spoke at the beginning, quoting Origen: the charism of discernment and prophecy, in the sense of communicating well the graces of the Lord that one experiences in one’s own life. For from those little drawers came not just remedies but above all new things, things of the Spirit that had been awaiting the right question, or someone’s fervent desire, who found there the treasure of a discreet formulation that would give it direction and allow it to bear future fruit.

A third feature I remember is that Master Fiorito was not jealous. He was not a jealous man: he wrote and worked with others, published and highlighted the thoughts of others, often limiting his own thoughts to simple notes, which in reality, as we can now see better thanks to this edition of his Escritos, were of the utmost importance, because they showed the essence and the topicality of other people’s thinking. The most complete example of the fruitfulness of this way of working intellectually is, in my opinion, the annotated edition of the Spiritual Memoirs of Peter Faber that Fiorito edited with a commentary together with Jaime Amadeo. A true classic. Without traits of ideology or of that erudition that is only for the erudite, it is a work that puts us in contact with the soul of Faber, with his clarity and sweetness, with his capacity for dialogue with all, the fruit of his spiritual discretion, and with his mastery in giving the Exercises. The Master shared much of Faber’s sensitivity, in polar tension with a mind that was in many ways rather cold and objective, like the engineer that he was.

The fourth characteristic that I think it is necessary to comment on, in this attempt to present his contribution, is that he did not deliver judgements, or only rarely. With me, as I recall, he did it twice. And the way he did it stuck with me. This is how he delivered his judgements. He used to say, “Look, what you say is exactly what the Bible says… about this temptation in the Bible.” And then he’d let you pray and draw the conclusions.

Here I want to emphasize that Fiorito had a particular nose for “sniffing out” the bad spirit; he knew how to recognize its way of acting, its tics, and to unmask it by its bad fruits, by its bitter aftertaste and by the desolation it leaves in its wake. In this sense, we can say that he was a warrior with a single enemy: the evil spirit, Satan, the devil, the tempter, the accuser, the enemy of our human nature. Between the banner of Christ and that of Satan, he made his personal choice for our Lord. In everything else he tried to discern the tantum quantum. And with each person he was a loving father, a patient teacher and – when it happened – a firm opponent, but always respectful and loyal, never an enemy.

Finally, something that was very noticeable in him. He had a lot of patience with the “hard-headed.” In the face of those stubborn cases that unsettled others, he used to remember that Ignatius had been very patient with Simón Rodríguez. If you were stubborn and insisted on your own way, he’d let you go your own way and give you time. He was a Master in not rushing things, in waiting for others to realize things on their own. He respected processes.

And since I mentioned Simón Rodríguez, let’s remember his story. Simón Rodríguez was always a restless person. He didn’t make the whole month of the Exercises alone with the others and delayed making his profession. He was destined to go to India but in the end remained in Portugal, where he did everything possible to stay for ever despite the fact that Ignatius, for his own sake and that of the Jesuits there, wanted to transfer him.

According to Fiorito, in an unpublished manuscript entitled Treatise on the persecutions suffered by the Society of Jesus, Ribadeneyra considered that “one of the most terrible and dangerous storms that the Society went through since its foundation, while our blessed father Ignatius was still alive, was one that had been caused not by its enemies, but by its own children, not by the external winds, but by the intrinsic upheaval of the sea itself, which happened in this way …. While the Society was sailing under favorable winds, the enemy of all goodness disturbed it, tempting Father Simón himself and clouding his vision with the very fruit that God had worked for him, and causing him to want for himself what belonged to his blessed Father Ignatius and the whole Society. So he began to look at things in Portugal not as a work of this body, but as his own creation and work, and he wanted to govern it without obedience to and dependence on its head, believing that  he had such favor with the Kings of Portugal that he could easily do so without recourse to Rome; and since almost all the Jesuits who lived in that kingdom were his children and subjects and he had welcomed and raised them, they knew no other Father and Superior than Master Simón, and they loved and respected him as if he were the principal founder of the Society. This was also due to the fact that he was of a kind and loving disposition and did not usually push his own followers. These were effective things to win the hearts and wills of his subjects, who, through common human weakness, usually want to be granted what they want, and to be led with love.”[21]

Ignatius was very patient. And Fiorito imitated him. Even in these stories he was able to see the good in Simón Rodríguez. He underlined his frankness with Ignatius, how he spoke directly to his face. That patience certainly bore fruit in the long run because in fact the “rebellions” of Simón Rodríguez remained as anecdotes, they were never consolidated or lasted long. And they brought us letters such as that of Saint Ignatius to the Jesuits of Coimbra. This great patience is the fundamental virtue of the true Master, who counts on the action of the Holy Spirit in time, and not on his own self.

Conclusion

A small anecdote. As provincial, I had to hear Father Fiorito’s annual manifestation of conscience. He was a novice! A mature novice. Every time I recall how he recounted things, I feel he was he was the disciple of a father who was in turn his disciple. I don’t quite understand it, but it was a testament to his greatness of soul.

As a Jesuit, my image of Master Miguel Ángel Fiorito is attached to the image of Psalm 1: that of the tree planted by the river, which gives fruit in due season. Like this tree of Scripture, Fiorito was able to let himself be contained in the minimum space of his role at the Colegio Máximo de San José, in San Miguel, Argentina. There he put down his roots and flowered, bearing fruit — as his name, Fiorito, well expresses — in the hearts of those of us who are disciples of the school of the Exercises. I hope that now, thanks to this magnificent edition of his Escritos, which are on the scale of a great dream, he will put down roots and give flowers and fruits in the lives of many people who feed on the same grace that he received and was able to communicate with such discernment, giving and commenting on the Spiritual Exercises.

La Civilità Cattolica is grateful for Austen Ivereigh’s contribution to this translation. Austen is author of  The Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and his Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church


[1] M. A. Fiorito, Escritos I (1952-1959), Rome, La Civiltà Cattolica, 2019, 188. (I will quote Escritos, volume no. and page no.).

[2] Cf. J. L. Narvaja, “Introduction” Escritos I, 16.

[3] Ibid., 20-21.

[4] Cf. Francis, “At the Crossroads of History. Francis’ Conversations with the Jesuits in Myanmar and Bangladesh” in Civiltà Cattolica English Edition, https://www.laciviltacattolica.com/at-the-crossroads-of-history-pope-francis-conversations-with-the-jesuits-in-myanmar-and-bangladesh/

[5] Escritos I, 18.

[6] Letter of the Holy Father Francis to priests on the occasion of the 160th anniversary of the death of the saint Curé d’Ars, August 4, 2019.

[7] Escritos I, op. cit., 165-170.

[8] J. H. Newman, La mission de saint Benoît, Paris, 1909, 10.

[9] Escritos II, 27-51

[10] Escritos I, 164.

[11] Escritos I, 51, footnote 88.

[12] Escritos I, 163-164.

[13] Escritos V, 176-189.

[14] Escritos V, 177.

[15] Escritos V, 179.

[16] Escritos V, 181.

[17] “It is understood by consolation when […] the soul is inflamed by love for its Creator and Lord […] as well as when one sheds tears that lead him to the love of the Lord” (ES 316).

[18] M. A. Fiorito, Buscar y hallar la voluntad de Dios, Buenos Aires, Paulinas, 2000, 209.

[19] Non coerceri a maximo, contineri tamen a minimo, divinum est.

[20]

[21] Escritos V, 157, footnote 85.