What Do Jesuits and Vincentians Have in Common?

Jesuits and Vincentians. I have written elsewhere asking whether Pope Francis is a Jesuit, Franciscan or Vincentian.

In his recent post “For the Greater Glory of God,” Fr. Pat Griffin of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission zeroes in on the Jesuit motto, “For the greater glory of God.” He points out how God is glorified in the offer of a good education, in the care of the sick, in the support of the marginalized. Jesuits and Vincentians have these ministries in common. He also reminds us of how this motto ought to apply to each of us.

He writes…

A week or so ago, I had the opportunity to preach on the memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola. As might be expected, I began to think about the Jesuits and then I toyed with the idea of how many Jesuits I could list. Some I know through personal contact; many more I know through their actions and writings. I began with the Holy Father, and then worked my way back through my experiences, reading, and education. A name which emerged prominently from my high school and college days was Daniel Berrigan.

Many of us will remember the Berrigan brothers—one a Josephite priest and one a Jesuit. Their fame in my teen years was connected up with their acts of civil disobedience as they protested against the Viet Nam conflict and promoted the ways of peace.

I remember a number of stories about Daniel Berrigan. One which easily comes to mind deals with an account of his arrest. As the Federal Officer was taking him into custody, the story goes that he whispered into Berrigan’s ear, “ad maiorem Dei gloriam,” which translates “For the greater glory of God.” This, of course, is the motto of the Jesuits. The initials AMDG appear often in their symbols and publications. These letters let people know that they are dealing with the Society of Jesus and its focus.

I imagine the Federal Officer being Jesuit educated and familiar with a motto which he had often seen and heard. I imagine him speaking these words with sincerity and integrity. He carried out his responsibility for the greater glory of God. Daniel Berrigan would, of course, say the same words about his actions. And both would be speaking the truth. I remember thinking at the time that if I were a Jesuit, I would understand the intent of both of these products of Jesuit training.

Not being a Jesuit, I still hear the lesson in the story as a Vincentian. It requires no invention to envision Vincent constantly calling his friends and followers to do what they do for the greater glory of God. He uses the phrase often as he encourages people to work for the good of the Church, the growth of the congregation, and the humble service of the neighbor. That reason explains why we serve our brothers and sisters who have the greatest needs. One can imagine how God is glorified in the offer of a good education, in the care of the sick, in the support of the marginalized.

St. Paul provides the basis for this attitude. He teaches:

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”(1 Cor 10:31)

Both Ignatius and Vincent could respond “Amen” to that encouragement.

Thanks Pat for the reminder and the challenge.

Fr. Patrick J. Griffin, CM is the Executive Director of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society at St. John’s University. Learn more about him and his work.

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