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Emersonian Self-Reliance and Jesuit Spirituality

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) March 18, 2014: Around a year ago, the cardinal-electors of the Roman Catholic Church elected a new pope. For the first time in history, they elected a pope from the New World: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina became Pope Francis, the first pope to choose the name Francis -- in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.

 

Cardinal Bergoglio was also the first Jesuit to be elected pope. The Jesuit order was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, who is also the compiler/editor of the Spiritual Exercises. Early Jesuit missionaries were sent to China, India, North America, and South America. The Jesuit missionaries to South America were commemorated in the 1986 movie The Mission, starring Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons. I wonder how many, if any, of the cardinal-electors saw that movie.

 

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Unfortunately for the Jesuits, Pope Clement XIV officially suppressed the Jesuit order in 1773. However, subsequently, Pope Pius VII restored the Jesuit order in 1814. I am reasonably sure that the cardinal-electors knew about this history of the Jesuit order when they elected Cardinal Bergoglio to be the first Jesuit pope.

 

 

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LAWRENCE BUELL'S BOOK EMERSON

 

 

I was reminded of all of these events recently as I read Lawrence Buell's book Emerson (2003). No, Buell does not mention the Jesuits. But he devotes considerable space to discussing Emerson's famous idea of Self-Reliance (Buell's capitalizations) and Emerson's theorizing about greatness (pages 87, 89).

 

Of course it still remains to be seen if Pope Francis will achieve any lasting greatness as pope.

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But certain early Jesuit missionaries achieved a measure of greatness that Emerson would probably give them credit for.

 

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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