This has been an interesting week for Jesuits and their friends.
Many Jesuit commentators have been bragging justifiably because their founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, was cited in an essay by Phil Klay in The New York Times. Inigo Lopez, as he was known in the town of Loyola, was a soldier, a bully who got into violent fights and, let us face it, a bit of a jerk. Both his legs were injured in battle and he endured several surgeries at a time when there was no such thing as anesthesia. During a long and painful convalescence, he read several religious books that changed him.
Klay, who is a Marine Corps veteran, does not make the case that all suffering automatically leads to conversion. He points out that to Ignatius and to the rest of us, suffering was and is a mystery. It is not something God sends to try people. God does not play such cruel games. And why God allows it is a mystery, too. But God does offer us the grace to deal with it. Perhaps an act of God’s grace was the recognition by the medical community of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD and the development of therapies for it.
Another friend of the Jesuits made the media this week, too. Ennio Morricone, the composer, died. For years he was known as the man who wrote those quirky soundtracks for Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns. Then, in 1986, he created the music for The Mission, a film based on the Jesuits in Latin America. This soundtrack, particularly the oboe solo, is much beloved by members and friends of the Order.
As we continue to cope with Covid-19 and pray that New York’s success in “flattening the curve” continues, we surely ask ourselves why God allows such suffering. Why didn’t God stop this disease if God loves us so much? Well, as Klay points out, when Jesus in Gethsemane asked his Father to take away the cup of suffering, the Bible records no answer from the Father. So, Jesus accepted his mission: to suffer, to die and to rise from the dead to save us. That is our clue. God gives us the grace and the wisdom to accept our mission: to learn from this pandemic, to cooperate with the rest of the world to save our planet’s ecology, and to prevent future calamities.