Fr. Jose T. Villarin, S.J.’s joke about Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits

Years ago, the Physics department had a Planning Session in one of the hotels in Marikina.  Along the way, we stopped in a restaurant and ordered some coffee and snacks.  Fr. Jose T. Villarin, S.J. and I was seated in the same table.  Fr. Jett told me a little joke:

There are three impossible things in the world: a Franciscan who is poor, a Dominican who can preach, and a Jesuit who believes in God.

I laughed.  But thinking about it now, this little joke may provide an insight on why the religious orders are dwindling today: they abandoned their original charism.  So maybe the only way for the old religious orders to increase their numbers is to return to their original charism.

The Franciscans’ charism is evangelical poverty.  St. Francis of Assisi gave up his wealth and followed Christ in poverty.  “Look at the birds in the air, they neither saw nor reap yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”  “Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  The Franciscans of the Immaculate lived this Franciscan ideal.  They begged for food and their necessities.  They use the money given to them for propagating the word of God and the devotion to the Immaculata through their magazines and websites.  They weir their mendicant habit.  And their numbers increase.

The Dominicans’ charism is preaching the Gospel.  St. Dominic preached against the heresy of the Cathars.  These are not ignorant fanatics but well-trained and cultured men.  Dominic said:

It is not by the display of power and pomp, cavalcades of retainers, and richly-houseled palfreys, or by gorgeous apparel, that the heretics win proselytes; it is by zealous preaching, by apostolic humility, by austerity, by seeming, it is true, but by seeming holiness. Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching truth.(Wikepedia)

In the Philippines today, we have all these sects winning new converts among Catholics: Iglesia ni Cristo, Ang Dating Daan, Born Again, Mormons, etc. It is time for the Dominicans to dust off St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae, gird themselves with the rosary, set off the streets, and wage war with heretics.

The Jesuit’s charism obedience–obedience to the Holy Father, to be more precise.  No other religious order makes a special vow of obedience to the Pope, to go where the Pope wishes them to go.  Whenever a new Jesuit superior general is elected, it is customary that he renewed in writing his obedience to the Pope, as done in 2008 by Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J. to Pope Benedict XVI (Zenit).  Pope Benedict told the Jesuits what he wants them to do:

It could prove extremely useful that the General Congregation reaffirm, in the spirit of St. Ignatius, its own total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in particular on those neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked by secular culture, as for example, the relationship between Christ and religions; some aspects of the theology of liberation; and various points of sexual morality, especially as regards the indissolubility of marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons. (Zenit)

Let us pray that the Jesuits obey.

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J, quotes Popes Benedict XVI and Paul VI in his Keynote Address at the Ateneo de Manila University

Last 13 July 2009, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., the Jesuit Superior General, made a keynote address on the Challenges and Issues in Jesuit Education held at the Ateneo de Manila University.  The full text is available at the Philippine Jesuits website here.

My interest is only on the paragraphs where the Father Superior General quotes Pope Benedict XVI.  It is heartwarming to know that the Father General is doing his best to lead the Jesuit army under the banner of the Pope, as St. Ignatius envisioned the Society of Jesus.  Here are my excerpts:

(9) I think the key to understanding the word “Frontiers” is to return to what the Holy Father said when he addressed us Jesuits during the recent 35th General Congregation. Many of you are very familiar with this wonderful speech, when Pope Benedict XVI said to us, and by extension, to all of you: “The Church needs you, counts on you, and continues to turn to you with confidence, particularly to reach the geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach or find it difficult to reach.” (Allocution, No. 2) “The geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach or find it difficult to reach”: these places are our “frontiers.”

(37) Perhaps I can best explain by referring to some concrete ideas taken from the recent and very rich new encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate.

(38) First, the Holy Father, reflecting on Pope Paul VI’s teaching in Populorum Progressio in the light of our present globalized world of inter-connection, makes this striking statement: “As the society grows ever more globalized, it makes us neighbors but it does not make us brothers. ” (CiV, 19). Reason, he says, can grasp “the essential of equality” of people, our disciplines and technologies can help us control our “civic coexistence,” but the felt sense and conviction that others are really my family, my brothers and sisters, for whom I am responsible, can only come with an experience in the heart of God’s fatherly love for all. How deeply do we reach the young people entrusted to us, so that as we give them rigorous intellectual and professional training, we go further and touch them “at the level of the heart,” to use the Holy Father’s words? (CiV, 20)

(39) Second, Pope Benedict quotes Paul VI, who said very truly: “the world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking.” (CiV53). This is one of the convictions of the Holy Father throughout his encyclical: the present world economic crisis and the continued suffering of millions reveals to us that many of our old solutions do not work, and require new solutions based on deeper, more adequate, more creative ways of understanding the many complex realities of human life and the world: business, finance, culture, the role of the State and politics, the environment, the family, migration, international relations and cooperation, human rights and duties, the very meaning of what it means to be human. Here is a clear call to depth: How can our universities, with all the gifted and highly trained intellectuals, teachers and researchers in them, promote still deeper reflection and research into these crucial areas on which the creation of a better future for the world depends?

(40) Finally, in this encyclical in which the Holy Father memorably describes globalization as the “explosion of worldwide interdependence,” (CiV 33), it is not surprising that he calls for a similar kind of inter-dependence and cooperation in the search for truth in love. “In view of the complexity of the issues,” he writes, “it is obvious that the various disciplines have to work together through an orderly interdisciplinary exchange. . . in a collaborative effort to serve humanity.” (CiV 30, 31) How can our Jesuit universities—the word “university” itself shares the same root as “universal”—heed this practical call to universality, breaking out of parochial enclaves of disciplines, departments, universities, and even countries to engage in the kind of collaborative work that is a service of the future of our people and our world? How can the Jesuit universities in the Philippines, for example, deepen their commitment to the very promising, but still fragile collaborative efforts, for example, of AJCU-EAO?

(41) If our universities can deepen formation and intellectual work, and make more truly collaborative and universal our work together, our universities will truly serve the Church’s mission of integral human development, and at the same time, give a convincing witness in today’s secularized world of the presence of the life-giving love and truth at work in the Church.

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., Superior General of the Jesuit Order, visits Ateneo de Manila University: Schedule of activities

The  Very Reverend Father Adolfo Nicolas, the Superior General of the Jesuit Order, will be on campus starting this weekend.  Being the source of unity in the universal body of the Society of Jesus, the Superior General’s visit to the Philippines will hopefully foster greater union among collaborators within the various Jesuit apostolate in the Philippines. The Father General, as he is commonly called, will be seen and heard in the following special gatherings:

Date Time Event Venue Attendees
12 July 3 PM Anticipated St. Ignatius Mass High School Courts, Ateneo de Manila University Campus Open to the public
13 July 8 PM Jesuit Basic Education Congress Irwin Theatre Only representatives endorsed by the Jesuit Schools
14 July 10 AM Meeting with Delegations from the Jesuit’s Non-Education Units Cardinal Sin Center, Loyola School of Theology Only representatives endorsed Non-Academic Institutions
14 July 3:30 PM ADMU’s Special Academic Convocation Irwin Theatre ADMU Administrative and Academic Community


As a backgrounder, the Father General is the head of the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church, with 18,815 members—13,305 priests, 2,295 scholastic students, 1,758 brothers and 827 novices.  He was Director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Quezon City from 1978 to 1984, and later served as rector of the theologate in Tokyo from 1991 to 1993, when he was appointed Provincial of the Jesuit Province of Japan.  In 2004 he returned to the Philippines after he was named Moderator of the Jesuit Conference for Eastern Asia and Oceania.  On January 19, 2008, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas was elected by General Congregation (GC 35) as the Order’s thirtieth Superior General and was promptly confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI.

In his homily to mark the closure of GC 35 in Rome, Fr, Nicolas emphasized the need to ‘have as a way of life, collaboration and mutual help’, but warned that ‘this cannot happen unless everyone remains in love’.  Indeed, a timely exhortation for all of us to reflect on.

In connection to the Fr. General’s visit, the Manila Observatory will play host to a delegation, consisting of six administrative staff and faculty members, from the Xavier University in Cagayan De Oro City. The visitors from CDO will be billeted at the third floor of the Main Building from July 11 to 14, 2009. Your show of genuine hospitality to our fellow lay collaborators will be very much appreciated.

Thank you.


Raul Luis D. Manaligod


Manila Observatory