True to her word, Sonya, along with Luis and Marvin, rose at 3 am to make tamales, and made enough noise to wake me too.I have a blurry memory of their conversation and what sounded like furniture being dragged as I slipped in and out of sleep.
I woke again when the fireworks started to explode.They lasted until 5 am, tugging me through half-dreams that tried to incorporate explosions of color and sound.Then roosters began to crow, a cow mooed, and I dragged myself out of bed at 6:45, not quite sure where the night had gone.Sonya served me two chicken tamales for breakfast.
Leo, Marvin, Samuel, and a cousin were working with Alfonso to fix the engine on his largest truck.Alfonso barked out commands to Leo, pausing to spit or change his tool, but then quickly resuming to telling Leo what to do, and yelling at him from across the yard if he was taking to long to retrieve something.I watched for a few minutes and then walked back to the kitchen to be with Sonya.
As part of the weekend celebration, Carasque was to host an all-day soccer tournament that had a roster of over forty teams.Sonya would sell tamales and other foods on the side amidst many other food vendors.After the work with the truck, I saw Marvin and Leo preparing the ingredients for these foods.Cabbage was chopped to make vegetable pasteles—stuffed pieces of fried dough.Oranges, already peeled, were put into plastic bags that were tied shut.Sonya hoped she would sell everything.
The soccer field was right next to the community school; the Honduran mountains towered behind it.The cement spectator benches were completely filled with members of Carasque and neighboring communities.And as a form of what I could only guess was crowd control, members of the military stood by, casually holding M-4s and staring at the field without even a trace of a smile.The soccer games were ten minutes long—if no one scored, the teams did penalty kicks.If the score was still even after the kicks, the game was ludicrously determined by flipping a coin.The crowd was fairly indifferent as to who won any given game—they just wanted to see people play soccer.
I walked back to Sonya’s house at 1:45, hoping to say goodbye to Marvin before he left for San Salvador at 2pm.When I arrived, I saw Alfonso.He told me that Marvin had already left, and then sat down with me to eat two tamales for lunch.He told me that he had worked in the Denver, Colorado as a cook for the “Chili’s” chain restaurant for three-year intervals, coming back home for several years before leaving again.At home, he delivered supplies to construction sites and worked in the milpa.He bought the trucks with his own money and installed the toilet and shower in his home because he had grown so accustomed to them in the U.S.
“Was it hard to leave your family behind for so long?”I asked him.
“Very hard.Very hard,” he said, pulling a bone out of his tamale.“But I did it so that we could have enough money to live somewhat comfortably.It’s getting harder to find work here, especially with more roads being paved.There’s less dirt to deliver and less road to repair.”When the dog, Black, walked under the table, Alfonso straightened up and forcibly yelled “Chucho!Get out of here!”(Chucho is slang for “dog,” and while it usually refers to a stray, the people of Carasque used it to describe all dogs.)
It was moments like this that made me question his true character.Nice to me one instant, lashing out to Black in the next, and then smiling and talking to me again.I wondered who he really was.
He finished his last tamale and pulled the chicken’s head out of the last bite.He sucked it dry and threw it to Black, who devoured it immediately along with all the other chicken bones.With that, Alfonso excused himself and left for the soccer tournament.
Alone in the house, I stood at the edge of the family’s property, looking at the mountains.There existed a light blue haze on them that gently swabbed the furthest farmland and houses with a watercolor wash that didn’t quite obscure the range of greens and browns that lead down to the distant current of a full river.Aside from a few birds, it was completely silent.I have written in my journal that “in this moment, I am at peace.”
Later at night, we prepared for the 7 pm mass.I wore jeans and a white t-shirt and my normal shoes, which were among the few articles of clothing I’d packed for the week.As I waited in the patio area for the family, Luis came out of his room and looked at me curiously.
“Is that what you’re going to wear?”He asked.
“Don’t you have something nicer?”
“…This is what I have.”
I came to the campo with the intention of living “simply,” and for me, a part of this meant to wear basic clothing and intentionally leave articles such as my button-down shirt behind.But in this moment, I wished I had something nicer to wear.While I felt like I was “roughing it,” these people were accustomed to their reality of concrete houses and walking on dirt roads.They were not “roughing it”—they were simply living, and took great pride in presenting themselves in finer clothes and shined shoes for one of their biggest masses of the year.And here I was, dressed in a way that perhaps showed both ignorance and disrespect to the community.Did I really think this was a dirtier town, or one in which it was senseless to wear anything other than jeans and a shirt, or anything else that the dirt could settle on without too much worry on my part?In the end, no one said anything, and I highly doubt that anyone was offended.But it was Luis’s simple question which reminded me that people are allowed to—and do—take pride in themselves no matter where they live.
Inexplicably, we left our house at 7:30 for the 7 pm mass, slowly marching under the fireflies and the stars with what I perceived as a complete disregard to time.At this rate, we’ll just make it to communion, I thought.The outskirts of the church property were flooded with people, and I saw Alfonso (Sonya’s husband), standing with his friends very close to the walkway.Sonya walked right by without even glancing at him, and he continued to talk and laugh with the men he stood by, acting as if Sonya was a complete stranger.I tried to wave at him out of politeness, but the crowd was too overwhelming and Sonya was walking too quickly. The church was packed when we arrived, and the congregation was singing in their customary screaming voices, backed by the same miserable band that they and I had endured the night before.I sat down and realized that mass hadn’t started.The priest was still traveling from a different celebration.The congregation, with nothing to do, rehearsed all the music again and again until the mass finally started nearly one hour late. I looked around in my seat and saw other Casa students who had traveled from other towns to go to this mass, and knew they had been rehearsing for the entire time.Suddenly, my heart swelled with pride and in thanksgiving for Sonya and her firm grasp of “Salvadoran time.”
Sonya, Luis, and I had to sit in separate seats due to the crowds.I checked my watch after a few minutes of the rehearsal and turned around to an old man sitting behind me.
“¿A qué hora empieza la misa usualmente?” “What time does mass usually start?”I asked him.
He shook his head vigorously.“Yes.”
Maybe he didn’t hear me. I repeated my question slowly and with a louder voice.
“Um…what time…does the mass…start?”
“Ok, thank you.”I turned around.
Because of the congregation, the mass overflowed with energy.I had never seen a group of people so focused and invested in the celebration of the word—they weren’t going to mass out of obligation or to simply to make sure they pleased God—they were there because they truly believed in a God that listened to their cries, felt their pain, and walked with them.It was a faith I had heard of, but one I hadn’t witnessed or felt until that night.
I noticed Alfonso walking around the outer walls of the church with a video camera, documenting the mass.He never actually stepped inside, only poking his camera through the metal bars on the windows.Again, Sonya did not acknowledge him—she didn’t even turn to look at him.In this space, they were complete strangers.I didn’t know what was going on between them, but I knew that there was something very wrong in their relationship.
Outside the church, people shot off fireworks every time we sang a song (How courteous that they waited until then).During the communion song, two fireworks exploded so close to us that I felt like they were inside the church.My eardrums rang and my heart jumped.Immediately after the blast, I felt a small particle hit me in the back.“What was that?” I thought, looking behind me.Sure enough, the firework had landed on the roof and exploded, blowing a modest hole in the house of God and leaving the tile to shatter on the ground.The people right underneath the blast noticed.I noticed.The rest of the loud, crowded congregation—priest included—saw and heard nothing as they continued with the celebration as normal.After the mass, Drew and Alicia (two of the Casa students) said that they had turned around to look at me during one of the keyboard player’s “finer” moments, and that I had a look of shocked anger on my face.
“Alicia tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, ‘Look how mad Chris looks,’” Drew told me.And they had laughed together as I sat on my bench surrounded by Salvadorans, patiently waiting for the mass to carry on, oblivious to the fact that my face was painted with more terror than I had wanted to reveal.
Immediately after mass was a dance that the Carasquen people had awaited all year with great anticipation.Before we arrived, the Casa students visited one of the host homes to learn one or two dance moves that came from merengue.Before our practice, I was given my eighth and ninth tamales of the day
If the Salvadorans were eagerly anticipating this dance, they didn’t show it.
The DJ blared a bass heavy remix of a song from the United States while most of the people stood on the sides and watched about ten people awkwardly step around the dance floor.
Eventually, as the night drew on, more people came in, as did we.
No one really knew how to dance, so I fit right in.
At the end of the night, we said goodbye to the Casa students who were to go back to the neighboring towns and we went our separate ways.
I went to sleep several minutes before midnight.
* Published on Chris' blog 'Walkging in Faith: A Journey Through El Salvador'
Last Saturday, our students participated in the activities commemorating the lives and commitments of the six Jesuit and their housekeeper and her daughter at the University of Central America (UCA) who killed at the UCA back in 1989. Every year this event draws thousands of people from El Salvador and other countries.
The anniversary is always an important celebration for la Casa de la Solidaridad. Throughout its history, the program has drawn inspiration from the Jesuit martyrs.
This year’s Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice (IFTJ) will be held in Washington DC at Georgetown’s Conference Center from Nov. 13-15, 2010. The theme of this year’s Teach-in is Prophetic Lives. Caminando Juntos.
Mark Ravizza S.J. (Jesuit in Resident, Casa Bayanihan) and Heidi Kallen (Co-Director of Casa Bayanihan) will be representing the Casa Educational Network at the IFTJ this year.
There will be a breakout session held Saturday Nov. 13, at 8pm. Those interested in exploring the option of studying abroad with Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador or Casa Bayanihan in the Philippines are encouraged to come to the session to learn more about our program.
In addition, Mark Ravizza S.J. will be giving one of the main stage talks at the Teach-in Saturday evening at 5:30pm. His talk is titled, How Does the Death of the UCA Martyrs Call Us to a New Life?
More information regarding the Teach-in schedule of activities, speakers, breakout sessions, Advocacy Day etc., can be found at:
The Jesuit conference last April in Mexico City, “Networking Jesuit Higher Education for the Globalizing World: Shaping the Future for a Humane, Just, Sustainable Globe,” provided a fitting setting for the birth of the Casa Educational Network, a new initiative in building a global network among Jesuit universities of praxis-based educational opportunities grounded in accompanying the poor and marginalized.
During the conference, the presidents of the University of San Francisco, Santa Clara University, and the Ateneo de Manila University signed a memorandum of understanding of cross-university collaboration to develop and run a new study abroad program, Casa Bayanihan in Manila. The first cohort of students will start in the Philippines in August 2011. Those three Jesuit universities, along with the Universidad Centroamericano, which is involved with the Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador, comprise the new Casa Educational Network.
“The hope of the Casa Educational Network is to be able to take the successful program of Casa de la Solidaridad and make that kind of praxis-based education available to more students,” says Mark Ravizza, SJ, an associate professor of philosophy at Santa Clara University who will serve as Jesuit-in-Residence at Casa Bayanihan. The plan, he says, is to continue to find partners in different countries around the globe for additional Casa programs.
Through the Casa Educational Network, students from across the US who want to partake of the Casa experience of solidarity with the poor can choose from a variety of programs in different countries, while universities can share resources and expertise to provide those educational opportunities.
“One of the things that I think is so promising about the Casa network is that we can enter into collaborative partnerships that allow us to share our expertise across borders,” Ravizza says.
The collegial nature and goodwill among the participants shows that “universities from the developed world can work with those from the rest of the world, that we all benefit from each other,” notes Gerardo Marin, vice provost at USF, who oversees international programs. “That ability to speak the same language in a sense, the shared values [of the Jesuit mission and identity], makes it much easier to understand each other, to contribute and to collaborate.”
He emphasizes that the relationships involve sharing back and forth among participants. “This is not us taking over a program, or exporting our program,” he says. “We’re all learning from each other and our experiences, which are very different. So everyone is learning in the process.”
Kevin Yonkers-Talz agrees. He and his wife Trena have served as co-directors of the Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador for the past 11 years. They will relocate to Manila in January to help launch Casa Bayanihan.
“We were very impressed with the Ateneo,” he says of his trip to the Philippines last February with Ravizza and Marin to investigate the feasibility of developing a partnership with the university. “I knew the university was committed to academic excellence, but what surprised me was their extensive formation program. They immerse a large percentage of students into local reality, local communities. We have learned a great deal about praxis-based education here in El Salvador and the trip to Manila made it clear to me that in partnering with them we would learn even more. This is going to be a really dynamic process.”
As they continue the process of putting the program in place, Trena Yonkers-Talz notes, they will be considering how to share resources and expertise and yet be flexible enough to respond to the differences in the universities and the differences in cultures and context. The model developed in El Salvador “is going to look different there in ways that we can’t yet imagine. We look forward to seeing how Casa Bayanihan takes on its unique identity in a different cultural context.”
That model is built on the pillars of accompaniment, academics, community and spirituality. Students spend two days a week accompanying people within the local community, allowing genuine relationships with the poor and facilitating an understanding of the realities of their lives. “We are clear with the students when they arrive that we do not talk about their experiences in the communities in terms of volunteering,” she says. “When they are here, it isn’t about solving problems. It’s about accompanying people on the margins. These experiences of accompaniment are then intentionally interwoven with their academic, community and spiritual life."
Over 500 students have gone through the Casa de la Solidaridad in the last two decades. Two alumni, Grace Carlson and Heidi Kallen, will direct the new Casa Bayanihan beginning in January 2012, when the Yonkers-Talz family returns to El Salvador.
“With the Casa Bayanihan, there seems to be a recognition of the potential to unite the expansive network of institutions of Jesuit education, focusing more on greater interdependence rather than isolated pockets of cooperation,” Carlson says. “Programs like the Casa have the potential to plant seeds for continued work in service of others. Perhaps there has also been recognition that an education that ties academics closely to a difficult reality of people we have grown to love will have the power to move people towards justice.”
Although the Casa Education Network itself may be new, the fundamental principles behind it are firmly rooted in the Ignatian identity, Ravizza says. “That’s what’s exciting about it. In many ways, we are being faithful to a long tradition of Jesuit education, but we are adapting this old tradition in new ways for the globalized world of the 21st century.”
As the Santa Clara University community continues to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Paul Locatelli, S.J., we wish to express our solidarity from El Salvador.
Over the years, we have been fortunate that Paul took time out of his busy schedule to regularly visit us here in El Salvador. About once a year he would come down and give a talk to the Casa students during the final retreat of the semester and celebrate the despedida (going away) mass. The students always appreciated his presence. Honestly, however, I don't think Paul came for the students. He came because the people of El Salvador somehow filled him.
Moved to Tears
Every time Paul visited, he made it a point to visit the Quintanilla family. The 'Quints' as we call them are a remarkable family who, during the war, had to flee their home in Suchitoto to escape the wrath of the military. They suffered greatly during the war, losing two children, and having to live in the basement of a church for two years. Rosa, the mom, is the cornerstone of the family. One night, while drinking hot chocolate in their humble home, Rosa told Paul her story. Paul listened attentively for two hours as Rosita shared the joys and hardships in her life. Trena and I remember very vividly. Paul's eyes filled with tears as he listened to Rosa's life story.
Paul was always generous with his time when it came to our four daughters (Sophia, Grace, Hannah, and Emma). Whenever we visited SCU, he would always make time to visit with them. He especially enjoyed escorting them to the bookstore so they could pick out a special gift. The love our family shared with Paul was a grace. When we told our girls he was sick and was going to die, they were very sad.
Sophia asked if she could see him one last time. Nine days before he died, Mark (Ravizza) and Trena went to visit Paul in the hospital. He was asking about the girls. They told him that Sophia wanted to see him. He said that he wanted to see her and encouraged us to break the hospital rules and sneak her in. We did, and Sophia and I had the chance to say goodbye to Paul and let him know how much we loved him. For Paul's generosity, we are grateful.
Casa de la Solidaridad
On April 4, 1999, Trena and I met Paul Locatelli, S.J. for the first time. We had recently been hired to start Casa de la Solidaridad and were invited to Easter dinner at the Jesuit community. Of course, we were a little nervous to meet the 'president' but he laid our fears to rest as we talked about how both he and Trena came from rural beginnings. Any new initiative, like Casa, is vulnerable. There were times over the past 11 years (especially in the early years) where the whole program could have been dismantled. If it weren't for Paul's commitment to the Casa model of education, the Casa certainly would not be here today.
We give thanks to God for the gift of Paul Locatelli, S.J.
This speech was given during the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the founding of Casa de la Solidaridad.
"Sisters and brothers, for me this is a day to give thanks to God, for the opportunity to be here together again, after 10, 9, 8, 7 years….Or maybe it’s only been one year, with all of the young students from the Casa de Solidaridad. They have passed through different communities, experiencing a closeness with our humble people, with our culture, with our faith and hope that each one of the families has offered to them. What is for us, for our Christian base community, Pueblo de Dios en Camino, solidarity?
In the current global moment, solidarity should be understood not only as the capacity to respond effectively to the needs of those who suffer most, but also as the commitment to denounce those conditions that create the inequalities that victimize these people who need our help.
Solidarity means to create an integrated and permanent proposal in order to overcome, little by little, this way of life that dehumanizes us and tears down our dignity as people. In this context, the Casa de la Solidaridad is, and must continue to be, a privileged space to foster the following aspects:
To enable an open and fraternal cultural encounter that allows us to overcome the vision of racial, cultural, and technological inequality that inculcates us in this system.
To promote within the participating youth that 'solidarity' is something more than a stage in their formation, that it is a value and a practice that takes a lifetime.
To question those attitudes and anti-values that link us to this unjust and exclusionary system.
To give the communities that welcome the youth a more prominent role, allowing them to offer their particular support in the formation and the experience of a practice of an encounter in solidarity.
We thank those responsible for this program at Santa Clara University in the US , the directors here, of the Casa de la Solidaridad: Kevin, Trena, and their collaborating team, for the opportunity that they give us to share an experience of life with the young students.
Thank you to the teachers, to those responsible for the house, and to the youth who have come to celebrate this twentieth anniversary. Thank you for passing through our great country, for our people who struggle for life, for the spirit of faith that our communities transmit to the students, for the challenges and strength that our martyrs draw to them.
Thank you for getting to know us as we are and that both, you and we, leave our mark."
-Anita Landaverde from El pueblo de Dios en camino
We are proud to announce that for the second straight year, two Casa alums have received the prestigious Fulbright scholarship here in El Salvador. That puts the total of Casa alums earning a Fulbright scholarship to eight!
Here are our eight Fulbright scholars, and some information about their research:
Steve Hege (Fall 2001)
Mike McMahon (Spring 2005)
My Fulbright Teaching Assistantship took me to Madrid, Spain. In addition to conducting social research, I also worked part time as an English Teaching Assistant in a bilingual program in a secondary school. I trained my students in Model United Nations (MUN) rules and procedures, formal writing and debate skills, and research methods in preparation for the city-wide MUN conference that took place at the end of the term.
Students researched and debated such topics as Global Warming, Genocide in Darfur, and the UN Millennium Development Goal of achieving Universal Primary Education. One of my students was selected to participate in the International MUN Conference in New York City.
The research component of my Fulbright Grant was aimed at studying the social effects of globalization in Spain. I focused on current immigration trends and the response of the government and Spanish society at large. I took courses on globalization and immigration at La Universidad Complutense in Madrid, interviewed Spanish and American professors about current trends, participated in various seminars throughout the country, interviewed dozens of undocumented immigrants in Madrid and compiled their personal narratives, and presented my research at La Escola d'Orient's annual conference on globalization in Mallorca, Spain.
Maggie Hargrave (Fall 2005)
My Fulbright Research Grant provided me with the wonderful opportunity to study and live in Sucre, Bolivia. My research looked at the effects of rural to urban migration amongst Quechua women and children in the department of Chuquisaca, Bolivia. As a point of focus, I explored the use of traditional medicines and the practice of ritual healing in an urban setting. The idea was to get to the heart of what it means to live within the Quechua cosmovision in an increasingly urbanized and westernized space. On the flip side of that is the question of what it means for the city of Sucre and those that identify as non-indigenous to have such a strong indigenous influence in their urban/non-indigenous culture and tradition. I worked closely with women in the market place and children at a Quechua cultural center for child workers (lustrabotas, chicleros, lavanderos).
My Casa experience was very important to my research. Casa -- and the thinking that I was inspired to do by my many Casa-mates -- helped me to view academic research in a comfortable and productive way; I began to view 'research' in the language of conversation and understanding.
Allison Ramirez (Fall 2005)
Allison Ramirez returned to El Salvador on a Fulbright grant from 2007-2008. Along with another Fulbright researcher, she produced a documentary entitled The Safety Valve: Understanding Contemporary Salvadoran Society, which focused on the economic, social, and cultural impacts of the civil war, the phenomenon of migration, and the growing epidemic of gang violence on El Salvador. Allison did research both within El Salvador, and along the route Central American migrants take through southern Mexico. Additionally, Allison has been involved with COFAMIDE, the Committee of Family Members of Migrants who have Died or Disappeared, since 2006. As part of her Fulbright year, she created a proposal to help fundraise for the group to travel to Mexico on a 'Journey of Hope,' to search for their family members and demand respect for the human rights of migrants. Allison continues to collaborate with COFAMIDE and plans to continue working in this area.
Christopher Hallberg (Spring 2007)
Lower respiratory tract infections are the leading cause of death in low-income countries. Nebulizers are medical devices used to treat a wide variety of respiratory ailments, but traditional nebulizers require electricity to operate and are cost-prohibitive in developing contexts. Lars Olson, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, invented a low-cost nebulizer that doesn't require electricity. Chris Hallberg worked with the Ministry of Health to implement the nebulizer in rural El Salvador.
Beth Tellman (Fall 2007)
Beth divided her time between disaster relief and disaster research after devastating rains following Hurricane Ida in November 2009. Her research focuses on community resilience to 'climate shock' in the context of deadly landslides due to Ida in the municipality of Santiago Texacuangos. She presented her work at UN University Institute for Environment's Protecting Environmental Migrants Summer Academy (July 2010). Her research inspired the founding of Colectivo CEIBA, an NGO working to reduce social vulnerability to disasters (see www.ceibasalvador.org or www.friendsofsantamaria.blogspot.com to donate via PayPal). After raising $30,000 with the help of other Casa alums, CEIBA was able to implement programs in trauma therapy, art therapy, organic gardening for food security, and community organizing focusing on disaster prevention. She decided to stay in El Salvador for another two years with the support of VMM (Volunteer Missionary Movement) to coordinate and fundraise for CEIBA.
Jenna Knapp (Spring 2008)
I will be researching the effectiveness of the gang violence prevention and rehabilitation programs that Catholic Relief Services affiliate Quetzalcoatl runs in San Salvador. I aim to explore the effects of the increasingly hard-line political approach toward gang violence on the work of grassroots violence-prevention NGOs like Quetzalcoatl. Additionally, I hope to assess the successes and challenges of restorative justice programs given the shortcomings of the current corrupt, punitive justice system.
Olivia Holdsworth (Spring 2009)
I will spend this year working with Probusqueda and accompanying mothers of the disappeared. Probusqueda is a human rights organization which promotes the the search, reencounter, and reintegration into families of disappeared children. It also works to reestablish the victims' right to identity and promotes their moral and material repair. I think this will be an exciting and challenging opportunity for me to collaborate with an NGO doing work unique to El Salvador, to create a space for these mothers to tell their stories, and hopefully to design a study that looks at the psycho-social effects these disappearances have on women that can be useful to the organization in the future.
Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope in history. When I heard his name announced, after shouting aloud, my first thought was how improbable it all was. But why? Why was a Jesuit pope so hard for people (including me) to imagine? And what would St. Ignatius Loyola, the 16th-century founder of the Jesuit Order (more formally known as the Society of Jesus), have thought?
Let’s take that first question first. Why was it so improbable? For two reasons.
First, most cardinals come from the ranks of the diocesan clergy. That is, most study in diocesan seminaries and are trained to work in the more familiar Catholic settings of parishes - celebrating Masses, baptizing children, presiding at marriages and working closely with families in their parish. Their lives are perhaps more easily understood by the public at large. They begin as parish priests, and later are appointed bishops and archbishops and, later, are named cardinals by the pope.
Members of religious orders, like the Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits, live a different life. We take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and live in communities with one another. (By contrast, parish priests receive salaries.) We are also not as focused on parish life. In this country, for example, the Jesuits are known mainly for their educational institutions: middle schools, high schools and colleges and universities like Boston College, Georgetown, Fordham and all the schools named “Loyola.” So our lives are different from those of the diocesan clergy; not better or worse, just different. So members of religious orders may seem more “unfamiliar” to cardinals. Thus, not many popes in recent history have been from religious orders. When choosing a leader, then, the cardinals naturally prefer someone from their “world.”
But not this time. Perhaps they felt it was time for a change. A big one.
Also, the Jesuits were sometimes viewed with suspicion in a few quarters of the Vatican. There are a number of reasons for that, some of them complex. The first is, as I mentioned, our “differentness.” Second, our work with the poor and people on the margins sometimes struck some as too experimental, radical and even dangerous. “When you work on the margins,” an old Jesuit said, “you sometimes step out of bounds.”
In the early 1980s, because of tensions between the Jesuits and the Vatican, Pope John Paul II “intervened” in our internal governance. After a stroke felled our superior general, the pope appointed his own representative as our leader (rather than allowing the normal procedure, which was for us to elect a successor). That was his right as pope, but it still discouraged many Jesuits. A few years later, we elected a new superior general and the warm relations were restored. Still, the cloud persisted in some quarters of the Vatican, which meant that a Jesuit pope was too far-fetched to even imagine.
With a Jesuit pope, that cloud has been if not removed then lifted much higher.
What does it mean to have a Jesuit pope? Several things.
First, the new vicar of Christ is thoroughly steeped in the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola, who founded the Jesuits in 1540. Pope Francis has twice in his life, as all “fully formed” Jesuits do, participated in the Spiritual Exercises, the monthlong silent retreat that focuses on the life of Jesus Christ. The Exercises call on you to use your imagination to enter into the life of Jesus in prayer. So Pope Francis, we can assume, is an intensely spiritual man who has plumbed the depths of the life of Christ in a particularly Jesuit way. Since his election Wednesday, I have heard at least a dozen Jesuits say, “Well, I don’t know much about him, but I know he made the Exercises.”
Second, Jesuit training is extremely long. Pope Francis entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1958, at the age of 22, and was not ordained until in 1969. (That’s about the average length of time of training for a Jesuit priest. I entered in 1988 and was ordained in 1999.) So the new pope is an educated man who also has experience in a variety of ministries, which he would have been assigned to during his long training. Typically, a Jesuit in training is asked to do work with the poor, tend to patients in hospitals, teach in schools, and all the while perform what St. Ignatius called “low and humble tasks,” for example, like scrubbing out toilets and mopping floors.
Third, the new supreme pontiff knows poverty. Jesuits are supposed to take our vows of poverty seriously. This means in the novitiate living on a pittance, working with the poor and having nothing to call your own. The already-famous stories of Cardinal Bergoglio using public transportation and cooking for himself may find their foundations in St. Ignatius Loyola, who said we should love poverty “as a mother.” We Jesuits are asked to follow “Christ poor” - that is, to emulate Christ in his poverty on earth - and live as simply as possible. Some of us do that better than others, and once he was appointed bishop and archbishop, he was released from his vow of poverty, but it is an essential goal in the life of a Jesuit, and most likely deeply embedded in his spiritual life.
Pope Francis’ name has been remarked on, and I was overjoyed that he chose to honor St. Francis of Assisi, perhaps the world’s most beloved saint. It signals a great desire to help the poor. But I couldn’t help wondering if as devoted as he was to Francis, his first experiences of ministering to the poor came when he was, as Jesuits say, a “Son of Ignatius.”
Fourth, Jesuits are asked to be, in St. Ignatius' Spanish tongue, disponible: available, open, free, ready to go anywhere. The Jesuit ideal is to be free enough to go where God wants you to, from the favela in Latin America to the Papal Palace in Vatican City. We are also, likewise, to be “indifferent”; that is, free enough to flourish in either place; to do anything at all that is ad majorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of God.
Fifth, we are not supposed to be “climbers.” Now here’s a terrific irony. When Jesuit priests and brothers complete their training, they make vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and a special vow to the pope “with regard to missions”; that is, with regard to places the pope wishes to send us. But we also make an unusual promise, alone among religious orders as far as I know, not to “strive or ambition” for high office.
St. Ignatius was appalled by the clerical climbing that he saw around him in the late Renaissance, so he required us to make that unique promise against “climbing.” Sometimes, the pope will ask a Jesuit, as he did with Jorge Bergoglio, to assume the role of bishop or archbishop. But this is not the norm. Now, however, a Jesuit who had once promised not to “strive or ambition” for high office holds the highest office in the church.
On that second question: What would St. Ignatius Loyola have thought?
St. Ignatius famously did not want his men to become bishops and even resisted the Vatican at times to prevent that from happening. On the other hand, he was disponible enough to know that rigid rules needed to be broken. Plus he was also devoted to doing anything he could for the church, and to ask his Jesuits to do the same. In one of the founding documents of the Jesuits, Ignatius announces his intention to “serve the Lord alone and the Church, his spouse, under the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth.”
Anything for the “Greater Glory of God,” as our motto goes, and for the service of the church, Ignatius would say. So, frankly, I think St. Ignatius would be smiling at one of his Sons not only serving the Roman Pontiff, but being one.
The world's happiest people aren't in Qatar, the richest country by most measures. They aren't in Japan, the nation with the highest life expectancy. Canada, with its chart-topping percentage of college graduates, doesn't make the top 10. A poll released recently of nearly 150,000 people around the world says seven of the world's 10 countries with the most upbeat attitudes are in Latin America.
Many of the seven do poorly in traditional measures of well-being, like Guatemala, a country torn by decades of civil war followed by waves of gang-driven criminality that give it one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Guatemala sits just above Iraq on the United Nations' Human Development Index, a composite of life expectancy, education and per capita income. But it ranks seventh in positive emotions.
"In Guatemala, it's a culture of friendly people who are always smiling," said Luz Castillo, a 30-year-oldsurfing instructor. "Despite all the problems that we're facing, we're surrounded by natural beauty that lets usget away from it all."
Gallup Inc. asked about 1,000 people in each of 148 countries last year if they were well-rested, had beentreated with respect, smiled or laughed a lot, learned or did something interesting and felt feelings ofenjoyment the previous day.
In Panama and Paraguay, 85 percent of those polled said yes to all five, putting those countries at the top ofthe list. They were followed closely by El Salvador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Guatemala,the Philippines, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
The people least likely to report positive emotions lived in Singapore, the wealthy and orderly city-state thatranks among the most developed in the world. Other wealthy countries also sat surprisingly low on the list.Germany and France tied with the poor African state of Somaliland for 47th place.
Prosperous nations can be deeply unhappy ones. And poverty-stricken ones are often awash in positivity, or at least a close approximation of it.
It's a paradox with serious implications for a relatively new and controversial field called happiness economics that seeks to improve governmentperformance by adding people's perceptions of their satisfaction to traditional metrics such as life expectancy, per capita income and graduation rates.
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan famously measures policies by their impact on a concept called Gross National Happiness. British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a national wellbeing program in 2010 as part of a pledge to improve Britons' lives in the wake of the global recession. A household survey sent to 200,000 Britons asks questions like "How satisfied are you with your life nowadays?"
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which unites 34 of the world's most advanced countries, recently created a Better Life Index allowing the public to compare countries based on quality of life in addition to material well-being. Some experts say that's a dangerous path that could allow governments to use positive public perceptions as an excuse to ignore problems. As an example of the risks, some said, the Gallup poll may have been skewed by a Latin American cultural proclivity to avoid negative statements regardless of how one actually feels.
"My immediate reaction is that this influenced by cultural biases," said Eduardo Lora, who studied the statistical measurement of happiness as the former chief economist of the Inter-American Development Bank
"What the empirical literature says is that some cultures tend to respond to any type of question in a more positive way," said Lora, a native of Colombia, the 11th most-positive country. For the nine least positive countries, some were not surprising, like Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Haiti. For others at the bottom, Armenia at the second lowest spot, Georgia and Lithuania, misery is something a little more ephemeral.
"Feeling unhappy is part of the national mentality here," said Agaron Adibekian, a sociologist in the Armenian capital, Yerevan. "Armenians like being mournful? there have been so many upheavals in the nation's history. The Americans keep their smiles on and avoid sharing their problems with others. And the Armenians feel ashamed about being successful."
The United States was No. 33 in positive outlook. Latin America's biggest economies, Mexico and Brazil, sat more than 20 places further down the list.
Jon Clifton, a partner at Gallup, acknowledged the poll partly measured cultures' overall tendency to express emotions, positive or negative. But he said skeptics shouldn't undervalue the expression of positive emotion as an important phenomenon in and of itself.
"Those expressions are a reality, and that's exactly what we're trying to quantify," he said. "I think there is higher positive emotionality in these countries."
Some Latin Americans said the poll hit something fundamental about their countries: a habit of focusing on posivites such as friends, family and religion despite daily lives that can be grindingly difficult.
Carlos Martinez sat around a table with 11 fellow construction workers in a Panama City restaurant sharing a breakfast of corn empanadas, fried chicken and coffee before heading to work on one of the hundreds of new buildings that have sprouted during a yearslong economic boom driven in large part by the success of the Panama Canal. The boom has sent unemployment plunging, but also increased traffic and crime.
Martinez pronounced himself unhappy with rising crime but "happy about my family."
"Overall, I'm happy because this is a country with many natural resources, a country that plays an important role in the world," he said. "We're Caribbean people, we're people who like to celebrate, to eat well and live as well as we can. There are a lot of possibilities here, you just have to sacrifice a little more."
Singapore sits 32 places higher than Panama on the Human Development Index, but at the opposite end of the happiness list. And things weren't looking good Wednesday to Richard Low, a 33-year-old businessman in the prosperous Asian metropolis.
"We work like dogs and get paid peanuts. There's hardly any time for holidays or just to relax in general because you're always thinking ahead: when the next deadline or meeting is. There is hardly a fair sense of work-life balance here," he said.
In Paraguay, tied with Panama as the most-positive country while doing far worse than Panama by objective measures, street vendor Maria Solis said tough economic conditions were no reason to despair.
"Life is short and there are no reasons to be sad because even if we were rich, there would still be problems," she said while selling herbs used for making tea. "We have to laugh at ourselves."