Jesuitology: The Top Ten Terms You Need to Know 

Peter Ely, S.J., vice president for Mission and Ministry, has composed a list of terms frequently used by Jesuits. Immediately following are the top 10 terms with which all newbies to Jesuit education should be familiar. Further down are additional terms that are also important in Jesuit circles.

A.M.D.G.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (Latin), meaning "For the greater glory of God." It is the motto of the Society of Jesus.

Contemplatives in action

A phrase that embodies the creative tension between Jesuits’ full embrace of concrete action and their attentiveness to where God may call them next. Lay organizations, such as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, have also adopted this spiritual stance. In The Active Life, Parker Palmer writes, “Contemplation-and-action are integrated at the root, and their root is our ceaseless desire to be fully alive.”

Cura personalis

(Latin), meaning care of the whole person. This fundamental value of the Society of Jesus involves three concepts, according to Brian McDermott, S.J.: Treating people as individuals and honoring their unique worth; caring for the “whole” person (including physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health); and taking into account people’s backgrounds, including their family life, nationality, and culture.

Discernment

A process of discovering God’s direction and guidance in the concrete reality of our day-to-day lives. . . Discernment is a prayerful “pondering” or “mulling over” of the options facing you. Your goal is to understand them in your heart: to see them, as it were, as God might see them. In one sense, there is no limit to how long you might wish to continue this. Yet as you continue the process, some options should of their own account fall by the wayside while others should gain clarity and focus. It is a process that should move inexorably toward a decision. (Brother Charles J. Jackson, S.J.)

Ignatian

Refers to the defining characteristics and ethos of the Jesuits (or Society of Jesus), which was founded by Ignatius of Loyola.

IHS

The first three letters, in Greek, of the name Jesus. These letters appear as a symbol on the official seal of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.

Magis

(Latin), meaning more. The term traditionally used by St. Ignatius and the Jesuits to suggest the spirit of generous excellence--striving for the greater good--that drive our ministries.

Province

A regional organization for the care of Jesuits within its boundaries and for the governance of affiliated ministries and work, a province usually comprises several contiguous states. The California Province is one of 10 comprising the federated body, the United States Assistancy. Related Term: Provincial  A Father Provincial leads each province, overseeing the spiritual needs of Jesuits and matters of governance, aided by a group of consultors and consultants. In the California Province, Jesuit and lay assistants are responsible for a variety of programs, from development and communications to secondary education and international ministries.

Rector

A type of superior, the rector is appointed by Father General. Rectors are usually the superiors of larger communities. A superior can be appointed by the local provincial.

The Spiritual Exercises

(Capital S and E) An organized series of spiritual exercises put together by Ignatius of Loyola out of his own personal spiritual experience and that of others to whom he listened. Ignatius set all of this down in the book of the Spiritual Exercises as a handbook to help the guide who coached a person engaged in "making the Exercises.” Related term: spiritual exercises (small s and e) Any of a variety of methods or activities for opening oneself to God's spirit and allowing one's whole being, not just the mind, to be affected. The methods might include vocal prayer, meditation, journaling or other kind of writing, reading of scripture, painting or molding with clay, playing or listening to music, working or walking in the midst of nature.

More Jesuit Terms

Apostolate

A mission endeavor or activity

Apostolic

Related to spreading the Gospel message

Conversion

Defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “a radical reorientation of the whole life away from sin and evil, and toward God.” Bernard Lonergran, S.J., writes, “It is not the substitution of a new self-image, no matter how upright, for an old one. It reaches down into the roots of an individual’s affections, images, dreams, and choices….”

Father General

The Superior General of the Society of Jesus is addressed as Father General, a term that hearkens backs to the early military career of Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society.

Formation

The education and training of Jesuits, called formation, is a multifaceted process, typically taking 10 to 12 years and involving seven stages: novitiate, first studies, regency, theology, special studies, tertianship, and final vows. The goal of formation is the holistic integration of education, experience, and values so that a Jesuit priest or brother will be prepared to serve where the need is greatest and where he can make the greatest contribution. A “formed” Jesuit is one whose life is grounded in his relationship to Jesus; freed by his vows to serve; committed to partnering with laypersons; immersed in our contemporary culture; and dedicated to the faith that does justice.

Gospel

(Literally "good news") The good news or glad tidings about Jesus. Plural. The first four works of the Christian scriptures (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) that tell the story of Jesus.

Inculturation

A modern theological concept, which expresses that God is already present and active in a culture, and so our presentation of the Gospel to any given culture should be allowed to flourish in the “soil” of that culture.

Jesuit

A member of the Society of Jesus.

Laity

(Layperson, laymen, laywomen) The people of a religious faith as distinguished from its clergy.

Our way of proceeding

“Certain attitudes, values, and patterns of behavior join together to become what has been called the Jesuit way of proceeding. The characteristics of our way of proceeding were born in the life of St. Ignatius and shared by his first companions.” Jerome Nadal writes that “the form of the Society is in the life of Ignatius [and they include] a deep personal love for Jesus Christ.”
--Society of Jesus, General Congregation 34

Scholastic

A Jesuit seminarian who has taken first vows and declared his intention to seek ordination as a priest.

Socius

The executive assistant or “second-in-command” to the provincial at each province’s administrative center, commonly known as the curia.