'Black Conclave' 2008

On the heels of my last (perhaps somewhat unimpressive) post concerning the Jesuits, I felt obligated to put up something a little more positive. To be honest, of all the religious orders out there, I’ve consistently found the Jesuits to be one of the best—certainly there are some less-than-zealous ones, but you’ll have that anywhere. Here at the North American College, I am proud to say, we have a few of the finest members of the Society of Jesus that I’ve met thus far. Again and again I am reminded that what St. Ignatius of Loyola founded almost 500 years ago is an organization not prone to failure, and always one reassessing its place in the Church.

That being said, this month of January 2008 is a particularly important time for the S.J.’s as they gather here in Rome for their 35th General Congregation. The main purpose: elect a new superior general of the order. The secondary purpose: to discuss the direction their order is taking and determine what they can do to augment the recent drop in new vocations happening throughout the world. Needless to say, this month (and this week even, as they are preparing for the election next Sunday) is a pivotal moment in the history of the order.

To be quite blunt, a new superior general could truly change the recognizable face of the Society—for the better or the worse. Thankfully, His Holiness Benedict XVI has his hand pretty far into all of this (as the ultimate shot-caller in the whole process) and we can be sure that the former prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will be looking to approve a new general who is strongly committed to leading the order in the direction of both orthodoxy and growth. In other words, something good is most definitely about to happen.

The election of the new superior general—or ‘Black Pope’ as he is sometimes humorously called—is actually quite a unique occurrence this time around. While the Congregation always elects the new leader, the upcoming election will provide the replacement for Fr. Kolvenbach, the current superior who is resigning his post in an unprecedented manner. The expectation has always been that generals would be such for life, but Kolvenbach, who has been in the spot for over twenty years, has realized that his age and vision for the order have reached their limits; because of his affection for the Society of Jesus, he has realized the need to step down and let a younger successor take up the reigns… and a hard fight it will be that lies ahead.

I could write much more on all this, but for now it is simply important to pray that the upcoming election provides a new superior general who has a keen desire to follow the Will of God, both in his own life and for the life of the order. More on the results of the ‘Black Conclave’ as they occur…