I’ve just finished this inspirational book by theologian Ronald Modras. It’s taken me about six weeks, but don’t let that guide your possible opinion of the work. This is a book that has accompanied me during my online experience of the Spiritual Exercises. One of the early weeks sparked me into thinking of looking to the lived example of others. Modras explores the Ignatian tradition as a spirituality for the 21st century. He uses the life witness of five prominent Jesuits. Two of them, Matteo Ricci and Friederich Spee are from the first century of the Ignatian tradition. Three others (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner, and Pedro Arrupe) are of the latest century.
Dr Modras argues for a reclamation of “humanism.” The author acknowledges this to be a “puzzling” term. But I was convinced by his argument that the first humanists were eminently Christian. In the 15th and 16th centuries, there was a deep interest in the pagan scholars of Rome and Greece. Christians found inspiration in the “classics,” and that struck me as not unlike Thomas Aquinas adopting Aristotle.
Dr Modras argues that Saint Ignatius was influenced by this emphasis of early humanists on the whole person. The intellect, yes, but also the heart and the spirit. The Jesuit founder was formed by this holistic approach. And embracing such an approach has consequences.
If Christians could adopt (or coopt) Aristotle, then why not other pagans? And if heroes like Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci and Roberto de Nobili were struck by the problem of Asians who had never heard of Christ, and were willing to listen to such cultures as they had absorbed the Western classics, does that not have significance for today’s world? Christians learning from atheists, scientists, post-Christians, and others who do not agree with us.
I most enjoyed the sketches of five Jesuits who exemplified the ideals of humanism, Ignatian culture, and a deep discipleship associated with Jesus Christ. As biographical pieces, they were personally inspirational for me. I needed less convincing of the intellectual proposition of humanism reclaimed for Christ.
Highly recommended, especially to people curious about Ignatian matters, Jesuits, or even the pope. You can catch a four part video interview with the author that begins here.