July 31 is a significant day in the life of our Diocese as it is the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, after whom our Cathedral Church is named. This week, on July 25, I will formally install the new Rector of our wonderful Cathedral Parish – Father Gavin Badway. We all wish him well in his new ministry as we do Father Thomas Barrett, now Pastor of Holy Cross Church, Vero Beach, who generously served as Rector of the Cathedral for the past fifteen years.
Saint Ignatius is also significant for the life of the Universal Church as our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is a member of the religious congregation founded by Saint Ignatius – the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits. While Pope Francis has chosen Saint Francis of Assisi, both for his name and as a model for his papacy, Saint Ignatius and his spiritual heritage are the foundation of the Pope’s priesthood and spirituality. The Jesuits like to quip, “The Pope may act like Saint Francis, but he thinks like Saint Ignatius!”
Pope Francis celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his priestly ordination on December 13 of this past year. He did so without much fanfare or ceremony and pretty much carried out his usual schedule of activities with private and group audiences. He concluded the day by going to the Jesuit Curia in Rome to be with many Jesuits as well as the Father General of the Society of Jesus and was accompanied by his nephew, another Jesuit, Father José Luis Narvaja. Father Narvaja composed five volumes of the writings of the Jesuit, Father Miguel Ángel Fiorito, who was an influence on the life and ministry of Pope Francis and also served as his spiritual director for many years.
Pope Francis personally desired to give a talk on the spirituality of Father Fiorito as expressed in his writings. He stated that he saw this as “a way to express my gratitude for all of the Society of Jesus has given me and done for me.” In giving a rather lengthy talk, the Pope demonstrated his deep love for his Jesuit vocation and his following of the spirituality of Saint Ignatius, especially as articulated by Father Fiorito.
Pope Francis elaborated on five characteristics of Father Fiorito’s spirituality and dealing with others. They are: he was a “master of dialogue,” while remaining relatively silent; he never told anyone what to do but gave them advice, already written down, from notes taken from Saint Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises or from the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus; he never showed any signs of jealousy; he did not deliver judgments; and he exercised a great deal of patience with the “hardheaded.” The Pope expressed how these characteristics were influential upon him and reflected the Ignatius spirit so much a part of his life.
As we look at the characteristics of the spiritual director of Pope Francis, we can easily see how influential they were upon the Pope. We also see how these characteristics are needed in our world today so much torn by division, political unrest, and distrust of every type. On a personal basis, these characteristics need to be cultivated by all of us in bringing peace to our own lives and that of the world. The Pope expressed that a fundamental principle of Father Fiorito was to warn that there could never be dialogue with the devil. Pope Francis expressed that even Jesus did not dialogue with Satan but only answered him with three verses of the Bible “and then kicked him out.” This certainly is a principal for our world today.
As we celebrate the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, may the spirit of this great Saint be a part of our lives in the Diocese of Palm Beach.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
July 24, 2020