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Posted: February 5

Fat Tuesday on a Diet

(Rome) In New Orleans the crewes of Mardi Gras organizations are parading through the city, throwing plastic dubloons and beads to shouting crowds. In Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, Brazil, people in elaborate costumes parade through crowds of revelers dancing to a samba beat. Here in Rome, Mardi Gras (ie, Fat Tuesday) is just another Tuesday of the general congregation. True, the New Orleans provincial is providing authentic music for a modest pre-dinner party for those who do not attend the dinner that the East Asia and Oceanea assistancy is hosting to celebrate the beginning of the New Year, the Year of the Rat. (Actually, Mardi Gras sounds pretty good by comparison.) But the day itself is business as usual, with presentations, questions and comments made on a variety of topics important to the life of the Society of Jesus.

It is hard for me to believe that Lent will start tomorrow. We hardly finished Christmas, and Epiphany, the actual start of the congregation, was just yesterday it seems. Now the Church is doing its sudden transition from one logic (remembering the human cycle of birth of Jesus) to another (the annual movement from spring to growth to harvest). The second logic is the more ancient and looks to Lent as the real start of the year. In the northern hemisphere, we have had enough of winter to begin to dream of springtime and rebirth, of the earth returning to green growth. That first growth leads eventually to harvest as the end of the year, which the Church mirrors with the final harvest of the end time. Just as our world goes through this annual cycle, so we repeat it year after year remembering the fundamental cycle of our salvation history.

Jesuits go through cycles as well. In some parts of the world, we are getting older and approaching the end of the useful life of certain kinds of apostolic work. In other areas, however, there is so much growth that finding places for all the young Jesuits becomes a major preoccupation. We did an audio interview of Father David Smolira last week. He is the former British provincial and was part of the pre-planning group that met before the congregation began. We asked for his reflections about what has happened so far, and he focused immediately on the idea that he thinks the Society is full of life; being part of the congregation and going through the process of electing Father Adolfo Nicolás as superior general only reinforced that sense of liveliness. His comments made me think that this is all part of our own cycle of renewal. Spring sounds good; let the trees blossom out and the bitter winds of winter pass on. Let this congregation be part of our own renewal.

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