BY birth Father Hugo Rahner is a native of Baden (Germany) where he was born in May 1900. At the age of nineteen he entered the Upper German Province of the Society of Jesus. For many years, both as a student and as a professor of Patrology and Church History, his name has been closely linked with Innsbruck in the Austrian Tyrol, where in addition to his teaching he has held two important administrative posts, that of Rector of the University, and Dean of the Faculty of Theology.
In scholarly circles, both in Europe and in America, Fr. Rahner's reputation is one of wide and genuine esteem. The books, the many monographs and articles which have appeared under his name have solidly established him as a theological thinker of originality of depth.
Because of the close parentage in thought between Fr. Hugo Rahner and his younger brother, Fr. Karl Rahner, also a Jesuit, and a renowned professor of Dogmatic Theology at Innsbruck, one is some-times mistaken for the other.
Father Hugo Rahner's Ignatius von Loyola und das geshichtliche Werden seiner Frommigkeit, available to English readers under the title of "The Spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola", has been held as a masterly contribution to Ignatian studies. It is his competence as an historian and as a master of Ignatian spirituality that makes the worth of the present study on the Sodality spirit.
MANY pamphlets have been published on Sodality matters. Many articles in various Sodality magazines, especially after the publication of Pope Pius XII's Magna Charta of the Sodalities, have dealt with the essential features of the true Sodality in modern times, from a manifold standpoint; historical, theological, canonical, spiritual and technical. Many of these have contributed much towards the contemporary Sodality revival.
Towering above all these, is Fr. Hugo Rahner's present essay on the "TRUE SOURCE OF THE SODALITY SPIRIT", which does not only stir up some artificial enthusiasm from without, but recaptures its inner meaning from within, by re-sourcing it in its true source, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
That the spirit of the Sodality is the very spirit of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, Fr. Rahner shows convincingly, stressing five salient features on the make-up of the Exercises. Their basic inspiration is the loftiest ideal of always seeking for the 'more' and the 'better'; this spirit, so typical of St. Ignatius, admirably suits the Sodality, which appeals to the spiritual elite. In that search for the 'greater' glory of God, like St. Ignatius, the Sodalist must make his quick decision in the war of the spirits. Having taken sides with Christ, the Sodalist's life, like the first Manresa retreatant's, is one of generosity, a crucified one in the likeness and the service of Christ. Out of this generosity is born in the Sodalist and in the retreatant alike the burning itch to conquer the world with Christ that makes all apostles. This zeal, however, according to the practical Ignatian spirit, does not burn itself out in empty enthusiasm, but materializes in sober, humble service in the Church of Christ, under the hierarchy. These five features are not only essential to the Exercises, but they also constitute the true youthful and Marian spirit. That is why the Sodality, like the Exercises, is primarily appealing to youth for generosity in the following of Christ, under Mary's mantle. This explains why the true Sodality, no less than the true Spiritual Exercises, is meant for the elite only.
No wonder then that both the Bis Saeculari and the Common Rules of the Sodality insist so much on the Sodalists making the Spiritual Exercises. Rule 9 states: "There shall be a retreat every year of some days, closing with a general Communion...Certainly the most fruitful retreat is the kind called 'closed'. If this cannot be done, and if not even the entire day can be given to the Exercises, it is well to have the retreat last 6 days, with as least two periods daily, morning and evening, with spiritual reading, meditation, conference, Holy Mass and Beads as the principal exercises." And Pope Pius XII ranks first, among the most useful helps to form perfect and wholehearted followers of Christ, the Spiritual Exercises and the practice of daily meditation. It is from the observance of the Rules, much more than from the increase in its membership, that he expects the Sodality to provide the Church with "tireless heralds of the Virgin Mother of God and fully trained propagators of the kingdom of Christ".
Would Sodality Directors, for whom Fr. Rahner's study should prove particularly inspiring, under stand that there is not question here simply of faithful observance of just one more rule among many, but that the very life of their Sodality is at stake! Both historically and spiritually the Sodality depends on the Spiritual Exercises.
There can be no more true Sodality without the retreat, than there can be an Ignatius without Manresa. The spirit of the Sodality is the spirit of the Spiritual Exercises. In any Sodality, therefore, renewal can be had only at the spring, through closed retreats.
Facts prove that this is not an Utopian ideal. In November 1952 the Sodality Rally of Wurtzburg University students patronized the closed retreat of no less than 5 days. In 1953 a group of 76 student Sodalists from John Carroll University of Cleveland (Ohio, U.S.A.) made an 8-day retreat in complete silence, after which a good many asked for the privilege of making the full 30-day-long retreat! Austria, Switzerland and Canada are now emulating with them. Besides, for many years past, Sodalities in various countries proved the best promoters of the Retreat Movement. The Retreat Section of the Young Men's Sodality, Bombay, shines as an example in India.
Here, therefore, lies the secret of the revitalization of all Sodalities, by re-sourcing them to their true Spring: The Spiritual Exercises. Allow Fr. Rahner to convince you of this.
We are greatly indebted to the West Baden Sodality Academy (U.S.A.) for having given us the free use of the English translation prepared by their members.