One of the primary reasons for looking into the Jesuit order is that I am fascinated about how different the Pope Francis is from those who proceeded him. That is, at least those in my lifetime. He just seems so focused on Jesus, and I wonder why? Since he is the first Jesuit to become pope, I thought I might gain insight into him by studying the order he came from.
One of the first things I discovered from other sources is how massive the Roman Catholic Church organization is. I never dreamed that the hierarchy was so complicated. They call organizations like the Jesuits, orders. Different orders are for purposes of being. The below chart gives you an idea of the complexity. If you look down the list you will find the Jesuits among the “Clerics Regular” with an identifier of “S.J.” .
I googled about everything imaginable to try to find just how big the hierarchy is, but to no avail. I suspect it rivals our federal government in size and complexity. I know there are around 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, that is second only to Islam. About 20% of US citizens are Catholics.
They call the unique purposes of each order their “spirituality”. They see orders as different ways of living in a relationship with God. All spiritualities within the Christian tradition have the same primary focus of a personal union with God. Each order has an emphasis on love and charity, and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God. It’s too bad that this type of tradition was not carried over to the Protestant Reformation. But that is another story. The reason for the different orders, as shown above, is that each emphasize a different aspect of service.
To finally come to the point of this post, it ended up that the book I chose to start out this discovery did not provide the evidence I was looking for. Instead it was mostly an invitation to join the church. There was info about the Jesuit’s founder but not that much about the order in general.
So, moving forward I have decided to do a direct study of Pope Francis to try to determine what he is about. The main thing I have learned so far is the he has got a lot of conservative Catholics upset with his non-conventional ways. There are a lot of books out there about that. I did finally find one that is more balanced than the others and that is where I will start the next time. The book is entitled To Change the Church – Pope Francis and the future of Catholicism by Ross Douthat. The author is a columnist for The New York Times. More about him on the next post in this series.