I happened to have a conversation with an aunty after she attended the orientation programs in a Jesuit educational institution. She was so upset that the name of Jesus was never mentioned even though they had an inter-faith prayer service. I haven’t attended the program, even I didn’t speak about it to anyone. Just some comments as I am also a Jesuit.
Jesuits follow Ignatian Spirituality, which is one among the many spiritualities available in the church. Many people would say that Jesuits are so different, but this spirituality is something that unites them. The most important formation we all undergo is the 30-day Ignatian retreat (atleast twice in our life time), which is the launching pad for all Jesuits.
There are mainly 4 weeks (divisions) in the long retreat. On first week, we become conscious of God’s love and our own sinfulness. Second week is a time to contemplate about the birth, hidden and public life of Jesus. The third week is connected to the passion and death of Jesus, and the fourth week regarding the resurrection of Jesus. Now most of the retreat is an encounter with the person of Jesus, to become more like Jesus. Now there are the last set of meditations which is called the contemplation to attain love. Here we become conscious of God acting in the world and be grateful towards God. We see the labouring God. The authentic Jesuit spirituality is an attempt to sense the presence of that labouring God and to work with him.
Definitely, this type of Spirituality encourages every type of work for the betterment of world. Any such act is acting along with God in his creative work. That is exactly the reason why — Pierre dielhard Chardin tried to understand human beings, God by incorporating the understanding of the theory of evolution; innumerable Jesuit scientists working to unravel the beauty of creation; people like Rutilio Grande (inspiration of Oscar Romero), A.T. Thomas (Hazaribag province of Jesuits in India) working against all forms of injustice; people like Matheo Ricci, Michael Amaladoss and liberation theologians from South America (there were non-Jesuit priests and lay leaders too) working to have an inculturated theology. The best living example is definitely Pope Francis. Here the world is as sacred as the chapel because God is equally present there.
[I also remember a professor saying to me that there are very few (if there are) Jesuits with stigmata which saints like Francis of Assisi had. Definitely it is a grace, but connected to some styles of spirituality].
All these could be summed up in one phrase, Finding God in All Things. In such an atmosphere, the examination of consciousness (which helps to become conscious of God acting in my day to day life situations) become very important. It is probably the most important prayer of the day (along with the Eucharist).
Now if you ask, is this the best spirituality? I would say, it is the best for a few, may not be for others. Now whether all Jesuits follow it fully — definitely No, but they attempt to do it — some with greater efficacy and some lesser.
I am not a scholar on Ignatian Spirituality; been a Jesuit only for a short period. But this short write-up could give a rough understanding on why Jesuits do things in a particular way. In the same way, the understanding of different people and their spiritualities/traditions could be helpful to see why they do things in a particular way.
[Definitely any wrongs if ever done shouldn’t be justified on the name of spirituality or anything].
For those interested to know, there a lot of online sources available. We could have a discussion too].