Spirituality occupies a primary role in the project of missionary reform promoted by Pope Francis. As early as in his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, in which he set out his priorities, he called attention to the urgent task of our time, namely, that the entire people of God prepare to undertake “in the Spirit” a new stage of evangelization.
Pope Francis’ Ignatian roots: ‘Our way of proceeding’
These pages aim to trace the spiritual roots of the reforming work that Jorge Mario Bergoglio has sustained over time, first as a simple Jesuit, then as a provincial superior, then as a pastor in a megalopolis like Buenos Aires, and finally as bishop of Rome. Undoubtedly, the Spiritual Exercises (SE) of St. Ignatius are the foundation of this work. In 2006, the then-Cardinal Bergoglio gave the Spiritual Exercises to the Spanish bishops. His meditations were later published in a book entitled En Èl solo la esperanza [In Him alone is hope] which we will refer to in order to assess his specific way of making Ignatian spirituality his own. In the book, Bergoglio wrote, “The Lord sends us to a spiritual combat, a fight to the death that He carries on. We are invited to find our definitive role in the battle, aware that the war is God’s. The war is against the ‘mortal enemy of our human nature,’ as Ignatius calls the Devil. Therefore it is the war of the ‘friend of our human nature,’ of the Lord Jesus who wants to conquer us for God and recapitulate in himself all the good of creation to offer it to the Father, for his glory.”
This passage summarizes Francis’ Ignatian heritage in line with one of the most characteristic contemplations of the Spiritual Exercises, that of the Two Standards (cf. SE 137-147). In this article we will try to show how Bergoglio the Jesuit has received and assimilated the spiritual legacy of Saint Ignatius since the years of his theological formation. As we will see, his process of appropriation of the main source of the Ignatian charism has been marked by three great teachers: Hugo Rahner, Miguel Ángel Fiorito and Gaston Fessard.