Fulfilling Christ’s Final Command
- Ignatians are called to be on a permanent convert-outreach footing. How could it be otherwise? He, the Lord of the Universe, “who wills all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4), made it quite clear: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned…” (Mark 16:15-16)
- Thus, the Ignatian, by his Catholic identity is called to propose the Catholic Faith to non-Catholics, inviting them to enter within the one and only Church of Christ, the “ark of salvation” (Pope Pius IX). By fulfilling Christ’s missionary mandate, a mandate upheld by popes and saints throughout 2,000 years, we act out of love of every man and woman since we are offering the greatest gift of the most vitally necessary reality a man can make to another.
- In this outreach we will be empowered by the Lord’s grace enlightening and invigorating us just as He promised: “I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).
Bringing the Greatest and Most Vitally Urgent Reality to Men
- In the Catholic Faith, men will find the way out of the labyrinth of the post-modern crisis of civilization, with its emptiness and evil, through the discovery of Him who is “the Way and the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6).
- Journeying on “the Way”, guided by the North Star of Catholic Truth, they will come to know and love Catholicism as no mere “institution” or moral code but, above all else, as the new supernatural vitality instilled in man’s soul through sanctifying grace whereby he is deified (2 Peter 1:4) unto utter fulfillment beyond his highest and noblest aspirations and, ultimately, for undying salvation.
- Thus, they will view Catholicism as one intellectual viewed it after his return to the Faith: “Catholicism is the law of life, the life of the intelligence, the solution of all problems. Catholicism is the truth, and everything that departs from it one iota is disorder, deception, and error” (Juan Donosco Cortes).
To Every Man and Woman, of Every Race and Nation, on Every Continent
The first American archbishop of New York, John Hughes, (1842 -1864) spelled out what that means in a sermon in 1850 when Catholics were still only a harassed 13% of the population in the USA. Leaving aside the rhetorical flourish characteristic of his personality and epoch, at the heart of the ideas expressed by the archbishop is the burning desire of Catholics to make the greatest gift possible to non-Catholics.
“To convert all pagan nations, and all Protestant nations, even England…. Everybody should know that we have for our mission to convert the world – including the inhabitants of the United States – the people of the cities, and the people of the country….” (Archbishop John J. Hughes, sermon, 1850)
What Occurred in the Twentieth Century can Occur in the Twenty-First!
Lay Catholics, led by their priests, until recent decades were alert to the importance of the conversion of non-Catholics. Thus, in the nineteenth and continuing into the twentieth century up to the 1960s, the numbers of non-Catholic converts in the English-speaking world was growing.
Among these converts, it is impressive to note the significant number of intellectuals. Joseph Pearce in his book Literary Converts has examined the stories of some of the leading writers among them: J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, Evelyn Waugh, Malcolm Muggeridge, Graham Greene, Edith Sitwell, Siegfried Sassoon, Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, Sheila Kaye-Smith, Compton MacKenzie, Alfred Noyes, Ronald Knox, Christopher Dawson, Hugh Ross Williamson.
Others included the actor Sir Alec Guinness, Christopher Dawson, Hugh Ross Williamson.
Not forgetting John Henry Newman, Frederick William Faber, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Elsewhere in Western Europe, leaders of the European intelligentsia such as Léon Bloy, Charles Péguy, François Mauriac, Jacques Maritain, Henri Ghéon, Giovanni Papini, Sigrid Undset, and Gertrud von le Fort.
And the highly respected Jewish scriptural scholar and Chief Rabbi in Rome, Rabbi Israel Zolli, who converted in 1945, taking the baptismal name of Eugenio as a token of his veneration for Pope Pius XII.
Pearce narrates how Hilaire Belloc reacted to the news of the conversion of Maurice Baring in a 1904 letter: “They are coming in like a gathering army from all manner of directions, all manner of men each bringing some new force: that of Maurice is his amazing accuracy of mind which proceeds from his great virtue of truth.”