In an ever-changing and unpredictable world, Ignatius wanted Jesuits to be alert to the needs of people in the concrete circumstances of their lives, and to be free to respond appropriately. Rooted in the practice of discernment and united through the vow of obedience, the Jesuits were to be flexible and creative, going wherever there was ‘the greater need’, always keeping in mind ‘the greater service of God and the more universal good’.
This little book tries to encapsulate some of the responses the Jesuits have made through the ages, by focusing on the lives of a few remarkable individuals. The variety is suggestive of the Jesuits’ range of activities: from the hidden ministry of John Sullivan to the public protests of Dan Berrigan; from the unimaginable journeys of Francis Xavier to the theological insights of Karl Rahner; from the heroism of Edmund Campion to the inspiring leadership of Pedro Arrupe. There are many other striking stories that need to be told, of course, that are not included here: the mission to Ethiopia in the sixteenth century; the initiatives of the Jesuits in China, the South America and present-day Canada in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the vast educational network that made the Jesuits ‘the schoolmasters of Europe’; and the numerous Jesuit astronomers, scientists, artists and poets who have enriched human learning and culture down to the present day.