An archeological report in the form of an autobiography from a Catholic world long gone. The text of a book published in 1981.

Ours: The Making and Unmaking of a Jesuit

It pleases the Jesuits to call themselves “Ours.” “Ours” were not to own property, were to regard the Superior as the instrument of the will of God and were to have as little as possible to do with Externs, all those who were not “One of Ours.” I am an Extern of long standing now, but for nine years I was “One of Ours” and dwelled in that remote country where Jesuits trained and planned for their assault on the World.

I presently live in the World, a forbidding and yet enormously attractive place from which there is no return. There are still some of Ours about, not as many as there used to be, and presumably the assault goes on as planned, though with what success I do not know. We chat about other things, I and Ours, when we chance to meet, without acrimony and often in that winning worldly style that Jesuits cultivate to charm the hell out of Externs and win their Immortal Souls. They are ambivalent but satisg conversations, those random moments here and there, because I was schooled in the same discourse, and the rich ambiguity of encounter between the Worldly Jesuit and the Jesuit Worldling gives pleasure to both.

Vow Day, St. Andrews on the Hudson

I can only speak of the past. Ours loved to be Ours. Their rules refer to the Jesuits as “this least Society,” an expression almost paralyzed with irony. If there is a “least Society” in the bosom of Mother Church, it was assuredly not, on the Jesuits own reckoning, the Society of Jesus. It must be some other confraternity pursuing its own imperfect vision of the religious life. Some were fitfully admired by Ours in the manner of a connoisseur smiling upon a picturesque ruin, once glorious things like the Benedictines or Dominicans that had fallen into decay. The more remote the ruin, the greater the pretended respect: Carthusians, whom no one had ever seen, were thought to be obscurely worthwhile, but the Franciscans, whatever their imagined service to the Church in the past, were by now unspeakable. Others were mere cartoons: the dimly single-minded like the Passionists; shamelessly self-promoting entrepreneurs like the Maryknollers; the unnumbered hordes of helot brutes posing as Brothers, Christian, Irish Christian, Marist, or whatever; and your parish priest who at least owned up to his inferior status and so won from Ours the same grudging respect that the physician grants to the dentist but withholds from the insolent chiropractor.
Whoever they were, they were not to be compared to Ours. We were the Major Leagues, and the unanimously shared opinion was that everyone recognized it, even the Pope and, more importantly, even the World. Years later, long after turning in my pinstriped uniform with “Ours” emblazoned across the chest, the most modest and casual allusion to a Jesuit past still brings the shamelessly satisfying acknowledgment that this guy had once carried a bat to the plate in the Bigs.

It is a world long gone. St. Andrew on Hudson is now the Culinary Institute of America, and for all I know Loyola Villa may be a Club Med. Nor am I entirely sure what Ours are doing these days by way of keeping themselves up to the mark, but it likely has little to do with what I experienced or thought about during those nine years among Ours. A contemporary Jesuit would doubtless find much of it quaint or perhaps even barbarous or scarifying. No matter. It was there long enough for me to enjoy it and even to feast upon it. I too loved being One of Ours, and in the only way that was then possible. I am not certain I would still love it. Too worldly. Them, not me.

 

 

Photo (front row) Coleman, Latella, Fisher; (rear) Gallagher*, Peters, Healy, Cloney

*Lifetime BA .417 (Society record)

Ours….(is) possibly the most important Jesuit document since Regimini militantis ecclesiae.”…..Edward Oakes, S.J.

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