Some successful experiences

Hermann Rodríguez Osorio, SJ

Lima, 11 April 2018

"Of gods and men"

The French film, directed by Xavier Beauvois, is well known and deals with the life of a community of Trappist monks living in Algeria in the midst of the civil war that that country experienced in the 1990s. Seven of them were kidnapped and later killed. This group of martyrs of Tibhirine has been recognized for their fidelity to the end.

Beauvois' film focuses on the process of discernment in this contemplative community. From the experience of prayer and personal search, they recognize what God is asking of them in community. They build, with the contribution of all, the final decision taken by the prior, and which everyone assumes with great generosity.

"The film unrolls the events, eliminates some facts, and cleans up the story, focusing in detail on the last days of the life of that monastery and on its routine of working with the community, locking the viewer inside the walls and facing an important question: must the monks leave everything to save the life, or will they resist until the end?

We all know the decision they made and the consequences for each of them, for the Church and for the world. Shared searches to face dilemmas and questions that do not always allow for full clarity. In the midst of lights and shadows, the believing community is discovering what God is asking of it.

The first parents

During Lent 1539, a group of students of theology proposed two questions concerning their future. They lived in a small, poor house in Viccenza, northern Italy. With dispersion imminent, they split into opposing views on what to do. Should they remain a group with affective and legal ties, despite the geographical dispersion in which they would have to live in the years to come? If the answer is yes, they would have to answer a second question: Should they appoint a superior within the group?

They were already clear about their full adherence to God and their desire to place themselves at the service of the Supreme Pontiff, so that he could send them where there was most need in the Church. This allowed them to arrive at a shared response. Thus was born the Society of Jesus. The document that gathers this experience concludes: "Similarly preserving the same order of discussion and procedure in the remaining things, always deliberating for and against each other, we stopped on these and other matters for almost three months, from the middle of Lent until the feast of St. John the Baptist inclusive. On that day we completed and concluded all matters with softness and profound agreement, not without great vigils, prayers and works of soul and body, before we determined and decided"[2].

[1] Daniel Jándula. https://www.entrelineas.org/revista/de-dioses-y-hombres. Accessed April 11, 2018.

[2] Deliberation of the first parents, 1:9.