Portrait of the Jesuit Father General

(from the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus

written by St Ignatius)


(this can also be seen as the ideal that

all Jesuits should aspire to,

and especially those who are Provincials,

those in charge of communities, or directors of works)

723.  Among the many qualities that one would rightly expect in the General, the first and foremost is that he be intimately united to God and thoroughly at home with the Lord, whether in prayer or when otherwise occupied; so that he may the more abundantly draw from the source of every good gift a large share of graces and blessings for the whole body of the Society of Jesus, and a powerful impulse for whatever is done in the service of humanity.

724.  Next, he must be an inspiring example to the whole Society, in the practice of every virtue and, above all, by a radiant love that embraces the entire human race, but more especially his own Jesuits, with an unfeigned simplicity that makes him amiable in the sight of God and his people.

726.  He should be free of all uncontrolled emotions, having got the better of them through discipline and the grace of God, so that interiorly his judgement is not affected, and externally his bearing is composed, and his speech well considered.  Thus, in word and deed, he will be above reproach in the opinion of the Society of Jesus, for whom he serves as mirror and model, and in the eyes of the world.

727.  Still he must master the art of blending the requisite strictness with kindly and gentle style so that he holds firmly to what he believes to be his duty before God our Lord, while showing the sympathy his men are looking for.  His behavior should be such that, even those who receive a reprimand or a penance, will acknowledge that he acts with justice and love in the Lord though their sensitivity may be ruffled.

728. A generous spirit and strength of character are indispensable if he is to bear with the shortcomings of a great many people, and put his hand to daring enterprises in the divine service, not being cowed by opposition, no matter from what hight quarter, not constrained by any pleading or threat to deflect from the path of reason and fidelity to God.  In fine, he should rise above every situation, without getting carried away by success, or dejected by failure; not flinching in the face of death itself, which he would readily embrace for the good of the Society of Jesus, and in loyalty to Christ Jesus our Lord and our God.

729.  Thirdly, he must have intellectual stature matched with sound judgement, so that he can find his way through both theoretical and practical problems, according to need.   He should be learned too, as the leader of a large number of qualified scholars; but more important for him is prudence and experience in discernment on matters of the spirit, so that he can give advice and provide remedies to those who have trouble an this area.

Discernment will also be required in the management of affairs, for handling a wide ranger of business and a vast variety of personalities, among Jesuits and others.

730.  The fourth quality, and most necessary for getting things done, is alertness and diligence in launching a project and perseverance in seeing it through to a satisfactory conclusion, so that initiatives are not abandoned halfway due to negligence of flagging interest.

731.  The fifth concerns his physical condition.  As regards health, appearance and age, attention must be paid on the one hand to a presence that is agreeable and inspires confidence, and on the other hand to the required stamina, so that he may carry out his duties to the glory of God our Lord.

732.  It would seem that he should not be so old as to find himself unequal to the stresses and strains of his office, nor so young that he may lack experience and moral authority.

733.  The sixth refers to external circumstances, and these must be assessed in terms of what they contribute to a good impression and God's service.  Here being high esteem and reputation, and whatever makes for a healthy influence on Jesuits and others.

735.  In conclusion, the Father General should be chosen fro among those who are most conspicuous in every virtue, have best served the Society of Jesus, and been proven to be worthy over the longest period of time.  If he lacks any of the qualities mentioned above, he must at the very least be a thoroughly upright man, who loves the Society of Jesus, and has good judgement, together with a sufficiency of learning.  For the rest, much can be done with God's grace through the support he gets from those appointed to assist him…

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