Jesuit Novitiate
Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus


Realities are more important than ideas

22 Nov 2017

In the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis outlines four principles to inspire our actions to pursue the common good, to obtain and maintain social peace. The third of these states that realities are more important than ideas (EG 231). The Pope wants to warn us of the risk of looking at reality through the distorted lenses of our conceptual categories, often the result of our imagination rather than of direct experience.

At the Novitiate last Monday we had the opportunity to remember the goodness of this teaching thanks to a visit from Father Antuan, a Turkish Jesuit engaged in interreligious dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters. Born into a family of Islamic faith and converted to Christianity, Father Antuan experienced in person the difficulty of this dialogue. The words we heard were those of one who, despite being aware of the obstacles to a peaceful coexistence, commits himself to the pursuit of a fruitful dialogue between the two faiths.

Father Antuan discussed with us the role that a shared devotion to Mary can play to bridge the two faiths. Even in the Quran, Mary is presented as a holy woman. Further possibilities of convergence seem to open up in the field of morality, where both religions can recognize in God the Creator’s gaze on the world the foundation of the dignity of every man. In this area lies the doctoral research of Father Antuan: a study on disability from the Muslim and Catholic points of view.

Father Antuan finally invited us to consider a multiethnic society as a resource and living in a context of religious pluralism as a gift. We must not be afraid to confront the sacred texts of other religious traditions since, as the documents of the councils Lumen Gentium and Ad Gentes remind us, the seeds of the Word are hidden in them. Through a shared journey with other faiths, we can better understand our religious experience. Whilst conducting our community spiritual retreat, our guest put forward a concrete example of this possibility by  inviting us to meditate on the passage of the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke and to compare it with the account of the same episode in Sura III Al Imran.

The meeting with Father Antuan was an opportunity to experience the Jesuits’ commitment to go to the peripheries of existence and an invitation to be men of frontiers, both in human and intellectual spheres. His life story was a testimony of what it means to be “apostles on a journey and not ‘stay-at-home Christians’”; even these are words of Francis. Might it be that he too is a Jesuit?


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