Au Large avec Ignace — Marseille
An event with a lot of symbolic messages
1521 — the year of the battle of Pamplona, and a soldier was wounded. That soldier had a conversion experience. To his friends, he gave the Spiritual exercises — which were based on his experiences with the Lord. He founded Jesuits. After his death, many religious congregations and movements were founded, who chose Ignatian Spirituality as their base. 2021 — it’s the 500th anniversary of that crucial moment — starting point of the journey of conversion of Ignatius of Loyola.
Ignatian family had a big celebration to commemmorate that event in Marseille. Yes, it was not an event of Jesuits. It was an event of the Ignatian family. Ignatian family includes members of many lay movements along with that of many religious congregations (women and men).
I would rate the three days as one of the best moments in my French experience. A crowd of 7000+ people, which had 2000+ young people. Lots of different activities. More importantly, many symbolic actions, which point to a synodal Church. And that gave me a lot of hope.
What are my takeaways??
- The responsibility of planning, organizing and arranging the entire program was done by the Ignatian family. It was very different from Jesuits organising and others helping out in the events. For me, it was an experiment in collaboration and I would rate it as a great success.
- There was a willingness throughout the meeting to speak about the issues that are important, yet difficult. After a devastating report on the sexual abuse in the Church of France, there was a willingness to listen to victims (it is not always easy for them to speak); to speak about the shame and the horror; to accept the mistakes (instead of being in denial); and to listen to diverse opinions.
- The concluding eucharistic celebration had many symbolic gestures. The entrance procession for the eucharist came from all corners of the hall, which had the representatives of all groups. The concelebrating priests were not on the altar, but in the assembly along with the crowd.
- Superior general of Xaviers (one of the Ignatian congregations) Christine Danel gave the mediatation on the readings, following a short introduction by the Archbishop of Marseille. And it happened in the presence of Apostolic Nuncio of France. This, for me, was the most significant gesture during the event, a real symbol for the synodal church.
- The participation of huge number of young people, and the program did have that orientation, with a lot of fun and frolic.
- There was terrible rains on the first day. The first item on the schedule was visiting the city. But the entire family, including many persons inwheelchairs, went out visiting different churches and other places, interacting with the local people. That spirit is amazing.
- The way Marseille welcomed us is another witness to their great hospitality.
- Encountering God in different people, where the presence of God is present in innumerable and different ways — even in ways, I may not imagine so easily.
To sum up….
- A church which was ready to accept her faults, no denying the aspect that highest resposibility of that fault lies with those in power, especially the priests.
- Collaboration (in every fields).
- Joyful and listening Church, which listens to each other.
- A church looking for a synodal way, without complete route-map, but trusting in the Holy Spirit.
They were hopeful signs and I felt real Joy….