Restlessness, Incompleteness and Imagination

Issue 1904

28 March 2019

On February 9, 2017, on the occasion of the publication of the 4000th edition of La Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis held an audience to receive the Jesuits who work for the magazine. On that occasion he proposed to the “workers” of La Civiltà Cattolica – and here the reference was specifically to “workers” and not “intellectuals” – three guiding words to animate the journal and ensure it is truly Catholic: restlessness, incompleteness and imagination. Last year, a volume came out titled Solo l’inquietudine dà pace (Only Restlessness Gives Peace)  a selection of writings by journalists from different cultural backgrounds reflecting on these words, compiled by Riccardo Cristiano.[1]

The source of the three inspirational words

Why did those words and that speech attract so much attention? Where did they come from? The source is in the spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Pope Francis imbibed restlessness from there, along with his incomplete thought – which is one way of describing discernment – and the imagining of “creative solutions” to current problems. Recalling this source sheds light on how to perceive and become aware of the fact that since the beginning of his pontificate we have been living a synthesis of his 40 years of pastoral leadership: 20 years as a Jesuit superior, and 20 as a bishop.

To shed further light on this, following the spirit of the reflections of those who have commented on these words, we need to call to mind some issues that allow us to get into contact, through some texts, with Bergoglio when he was provincial of the Argentine Jesuits (May 31, 1973 to December 8, 1979) and then rector of the Collegio Massimo di San José di San Miguel, in Buenos Aires (1979-1986).

We begin with a text that is part of a speech given by Bergoglio to the community at the Center for Investigation and Social Action. He chose it to open his first book.[2] It is a reflection on memory[3] and the density of the Ignatian understanding that, for Bergoglio, “contains the possibility of harmonizing opposites, inviting to a shared table concepts that seemingly would not have been able to come together, considering them at a higher level, where they find their synthesis. Historical memory brings the past closer to the present; it can bring up-to-date something that perhaps appeared dead; it can find constancy where only variability seemed to reign; it canonizes as prophecy what in its time most people considered only coincidence. In the depths of crisis, historical memory knows how to discover classic parameters that secure fertile inspiration for a people” (7f).

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