By Fr. Dan Corrou, SJ
December 4, 2019 — “I vow before the entire heavenly court (shouts from outside “Revolution, Revolution...”) perpetual poverty, chastity and obedience in the Society of Jesus...”
Ramez Kamel, SJ, and Christian Georges, SJ, Jesuits in the Province of the Near East, took their first vows in the Society in Beirut, Lebanon, on Nov. 16, 2019. As they were speaking the words, kneeling before the body and blood of Christ, there erupted a huge cry from outside: “Thowra, Thowra (Revolution, Revolution).” Revolutionary cries for freedom and justice erupted from the crowds just down the street from the Jesuit residence.
Throughout the last month, Lebanon has experienced an awakening of political and social consciousness that is calling into question the status quo of the political elite. Tens of thousands of people are regularly protesting in every part of Lebanon, blocking major roads and striking in major sectors of the economy. These protests occur regularly, and we are all accustomed to the crowds and the chants. However, the confluence of these chants and the vows made a tremendous impact. Singing the Arabic translations of “Here I Am, Lord” and "Nada Te Turbe,” allowed us to savor the activity of the Spirit in that moment.
I found myself praying with St. Ignatius and the UCA Martyrs of El Salvador (whose anniversary was the same day as these vows). With them, I found myself deeply consoled that vows were offered in the middle of this complex mix of deep social longing, joy, chaos and uncertainty.
In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius invites us to consider the Trinity in their decision to send the Christ to linger among us. The Trinity does not consider the world as it ought to be. It considers the messy, chaotic, unjust and broken reality.
David Fleming, SJ, writes in "Draw Me Into Your Friendship": “With God, I can hear people laughing and crying, some shouting and screaming, some praying, others cursing.”
The Trinity longs to be fully incorporated into that imperfection and to accompany it into the fullness of life. This is our Christian and Ignatian vocation. The body of Christ is not present only when everything is perfect. Christ is present in the messy in-between. It is from this messiness that our vocation emerges.
During our celebration for Ramez and Christian, I wondered whether it was, perhaps, more appropriate for Jesuits to take their vows amid a noisy revolution than in some serene chapel. We vow to be free to love the world as God loves. We vow to be free in order to be fully incorporated into the messy body of Christ. We vow to be instruments of creative instability in any time or place. We vow to live in solidarity and reconciliation with courage and love.
There is something revolutionary about the freedom of the vows. Rarely has it been made as clear to me as it was last weekend.
From the Jesuit Vow Formula: "As you have freely given me the desire to make this offering, so may you also give me the abundant grace to fulfill it."
Fr. Dan Corrou, SJ, currently serves in Beirut, Lebanon. You can hear more of his story on our AMDG podcast.