Key features of the Society of Jesus
Ignatius and his early companions wanted a priestly religious order whose members were completely dedicated and available to the apostolic mission. For this reason, from the beginning, they wanted the Society to have some peculiar characteristics that still distinguish it from other religious orders.
Our way of sharing
Ignatius had insisted on obtaining a release from the obligation of having a fixed time for common prayer: a revolutionary novelty in the ecclesial world. By definition a religious order is characterised by its members meeting regularly to recite common prayers. Our way of being a community is based on the informal and spontaneous sharing of our spiritual experience. The shared moments together (lunch, supper, free time) are the moments we devote to friendship, to discussing projects and to the sharing of ideas.
We live in the midst of people. Our houses are usually in the city centres as opposed to being situated in the open countryside or in isolated places. We call our residences “houses” because in fact they are neither convents nor monasteries. Even on the inside they resemble normal homes, with living areas and private bedrooms. Our homes are generally kept simple.
Without a fixed religious habit
Even our way of dressing is unusual: in most countries, we do not wear a specific habit that identifies us. Depending on the circumstances, we assess what style of clothing to wear among the people in that country. Our mission arises from the careful and discreet listening to the social context within which we find ourselves from time to time, to find where and how the Spirit is moving in that particular context.
Obedience to the Pope
Some of us take a special vow of obedience to the Pope. Having a universal view of the Church, he knows more than anyone else which are the frontiers where we most need to be sent.
In the course of various general congregations (the highest organ of the Society’s government), a number of popes have intervened with speeches that are marked in history. Here you may read the most famous ones.