This May and June saw the heavenly birthday of two Jesuits who were born in Europe, but embraced Japan as their second home. On the 20th of May 2020 the Spanish Adolfo Nicolás, former superior general of the Society of Jesus, passed away in Tokyo, shortly followed by his Hungarian master and professor, Péter Nemeshegyi on the 13th of June in Budapest at the age of 97. The two Jesuits, like many of their predecessors throughout the history, spent decades in Japan in missionary work, bringing the Gospel to thousands of locals. While doing so, they were both intermediators as well, enriching the Christian notion of life with the values of the Japanese way of thinking. Born in 1923 in Budapest, capital of Hungary, Péter Nemeshegyi attended a Lutheran high school. Having finished his legal studies at university, first he worked as a bank clerk. However, he soon felt the call of God, so he entered the Society of Jesus in 1944. He became a Jesuit in times of turmoil. After World War II drew to its end, the reconstruction of Hungary hardly began when the Communist party commanded an increasingly harsh campaign against all the churches. His superiors advised him and his associates to leave the country before it was too late, and the religious orders would be banned, as it did took place in 1950; he did so with many of his fellow Jesuits, and first escaped to Austria, and later went to Italy. It was in Rome where he became a doctor of theology at Pontifical Gregorian University and was ordained a priest in 1952. Then he was sent to missionary work to Japan, where he spent more than 40 years. At Sophia University in Tokyo he taught theology and was professor of patristic studies; he was appointed a dean of the faculty of theology for six years, in which capacity he did a lot for the inculturation of the Catholic teaching and the formation of the Japanese theological and liturgical language. He oversaw the Japanese translation of the Bible and the Church Fathers, authored more than two dozen books and essays in Japanese. Between 1969 and 1974 Pope Paul VI. appointed him as member of the International Theological Commission, and also worked in the Society of Japanese Christian Scholars. He launched the series of the local Catholic Encyclopaedia and held university lectures on various subjects, including the morals and lessons of Mozart’s music. Besides his scientific activity, he was involved in apostolic work, too, bringing the Christian faith to hundreds of Japanese believers. He returned to Hungary in 1993 for “missionary work”, and did more or less the same as he had done in Japan, but this time in his native land. He worked as professor at theology, published several books, guided spiritual retreats, soon becoming a spiritual authority, especially with his famous sermons at the Jesuit church in Budapest. He remained active even when he was well above 90 years of age and lived in a home for the elderly, using wheelchair to fulfil his duties. He was a person for whom the words “a living legend” are neither a banal commonplace nor undeserved exaggeration. What is more, he has always been a man of God and a friend of Jesus, who was able to be a distinguished scholar and to convey the Christian message with simple and expressive words for anyone to understand. And a man whose death does not bear only grief and mourning, but first of all deep gratitude for a rich and fruitful life of someone with whom we were privileged to be contemporaries. Szőnyi Szilárd
A month ago Hungarian Jesuits and their friends were full of hope about organizing this year’s Saint Ignatian youth festival, Magis Europe 2020, despite the current global pandemic. Although their enthusiasm is the same, and the situation seems to start getting better slowly, the central team of Magis 2020, in accordance with the experiment leaders of the meeting, decided to cancel – or rather, postpone – the event. There are many reasons behind this decision, like concerns about international travelling and insecurities about mass events. Probably one of the most determining reasons is that Pope Francis has just recently changed the dates of the largest international gatherings for Catholics: the World Youth Day will be in 2023 instead of 2022, and the International Eucharistic Congress 2020 is also rescheduled to 2021. Since Magis 2020 was planned to focus on the Eucharist as well, the central team is happy to announce that ‘21 is the new ‘20: according to their plans, Magis Central Europe will take place in Hungary and the neighbouring countries in the summer of 2021. So as to provide some Magis experience this year as well, this August will see a short online substitute meeting – the central team will reveal details as soon as they are figured out. As far as the application process is concerned, registration to Magis 2020 is, most evidently, no longer possible, and those who have already paid their fee will receive a detailed letter about the refund. Yet, the registrations made this year will be valid for next year, so it will not be necessary to start the process all over again. The organizers will announce in due time when the new registration process commences (some time at the beginning of 2021), and what you will need to do only is to affirm your intention to participate in Magis Europe. In case if any questions, the central team is happy to help at hello@magis.jesuits.eu. For up-to-date news check out Magis website and Facebook page.
Hungarian Jesuits have been offering a wide variety of online initiatives since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Beside a full-scale range of Eucharist broadcasts, there are digital prayer sheets, audio examens and other materials also available, encouraging individuals, couples and families to look upon their home as a sanctuary, and lead prayers on their own. However, living behind closed doors for weeks, maybe months at length, is not at all easy. The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic gave a special touch to this year’s lent period: it has made us halt, revise our daily life and face our boundaries. What is more, all that is happening to us may cause a turmoil in our soul, existential questions may arise and we might also have uncertainties. This has made the Hungarian Jesuits and their companions – religious and lay people alike –, trained at the Ignatian Spiritual Centre Manréza in Dobogókő, offer online spiritual direction and support for anyone who seeks to find God in these special circumstances, would find stillness or ask guidance for their prayers. In our Online Port, the dates and times available are listed in an online calendar; once you have registered to one of the spiritual guides, he or she will contact you in order to arrange how – via Skype, Zoom, Hangouts, etc. – the talk will take place. This initiative goes hand in hand with a similar one offered by Oasis Pastoral Care and Mental Health Service, supported by the Hungarian Province of the Society of Jesus. Face-to-face counselling being unavailable amidst the pandemic, they also offer online opportunities to those who are in need of supportive listening, accompaniment and pastoral counselling.
Are you between 18 and 35 years of age? Would you spend a meaningful week between the 1st and 9th of August, 2020, among youths, Jesuits and their friends from various countries? Are you ready to go beyond your comfort zone and try yourself in practical experiments? Are you into pilgrimage, the spirituality of Saint Ignatius and charity, or arts and ecology? Do you happen to speak English? If your answers are yes, there is nothing else to do then to check out the details of Magis Europe 2020, held in Hungary, and register between the 1st of March and 15th of May. You may do it via our new website »magis.jesuits.eu«, where you may also find the background and all the details of the meeting. In Ignatian spirituality, magis marks one’s effort to find what is according to the will and to the greater glory of God. With this is mind, the upcoming event, dating back to more than two decades, has two parts: Ignatian experiments and the closing event. During the experiments you will be encouraged to experience yourself, others and God in a new way. You’ll find yourself in unusual situations, and probably realize that teamwork is essential while making friends with people from various countries, and discovering that we all belong to one international community of human beings. This is also manifest in the venues of the experiments: besides Hungary, it is neighbouring Slovakia, Austria and Romania that welcome participants, all of them finally gathering in Miskolc, Northern-Hungary, for the closing event. The central theme of Magis 2020 will be the Eucharist under the motto: “You are my Bread, my Life, my Love”. One month after our event, the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress will be held in Budapest, Hungary – a fact that inspired the choice of this year’s focus. Plus, the first Universal Apostolic Preference of the Jesuits is “to show the way to God”. Magis aims to do this by exploring in depth the Eucharistic aspect of Ignatian spirituality through the pillars of the daily schedule with morning prayers, noon or evening examens, holy mass, experiments and Magis circles. Though next August may seem to be in the distant future, and there is also time until the registration and check-in, the new website is already worth browsing. Our aim was to create an online platform where you may get an insight into what will await you if you make up your mind to dedicate one week of your next summer to Magis Europe 2020. Be it a retreat in the Mediterranean-like mountains in Southern-Hungary; a pilgrimage in the footsteps of Pope Francis to a famous shrine in Romania dwelled by Hungarians; a spiritual bike tour around Lake Balaton; evangelization by means of Slovakian wooden churches; learning English through fun and spirituality; spending one week as a Jesuit – the aim is the very same: to find ways to make the most and the best of ourselves, of one another, and then to render it to the greater glory of our common God.
Take a dozen Jesuits. Make them stand at seven stations on a route between a shrine near Budapest and their community house in the capital of Hungary. Ask them to describe each step of the Jesuit formation at the consecutive stops. Add them a hundred friends, and get the whole lot of people run or walk the 9 kilometre distance amidst the woods. Fill the sporting activity with spiritual content, and encourage the participants to dedicate every joy and pain the physical exercise has to offer to the present and future members of the Society of Jesus. After crossing the finish line, cook goulash for more than a hundred in the garden of the Jesuit community. Draught beer and fine lemonade is also a must. Blend it with nice jazz music. Finally serve it in bright autumn sunshine, and there you have the recipe of the first Hungarian Jesuit community run/walk. This unique occasion took place on the last Saturday of September as one of the major events in the Year of Vocations proclaimed by the Hungarian Jesuit province at the beginning of 2019. The members and friends of the Society of Jesus in Hungary have a long history of joining foot races, but this time they – implementing vocation promoter Bálint Nagy SJ’s concept – decided to organise a fun run of their own. What is more, it was not actually a competition, but an event where the spiritual aspect was at least as important as physical activity. The entire day was given a frame story, in which the participants, as if “wannabe” Jesuits themselves, followed the stations of the formation step by step from the noviciate to the final vows and ordination, halting for two minutes at the stops and listening to the Jesuits there presenting their actual studies in a nutshell. The venue of the event was also telling. The popular hiking destination used to be the „spiritual port” of the Jesuits before the transition in 1990, when in Communist times the shrine dedicated to Virgin Mary housed their noviciate. It was also in this church where a Jesuit general paid his first visit ever to Hungary in 1978. Pedro Arrupe met with the Hungarian Jesuits working half illegally in the country, and presented them a chalice to encourage his persecuted companions to keep their faith and commitment. It was a touching moment at the mass celebrated prior to the run when socius Zoltán Koronkai SJ told the participants: the silver grail they can see standing on the altar is the very same one that Father Arrupe gave the Hungarian Jesuits nearly half a century before.
This September saw a unique occasion in the history of their main church, a double jubilee and a final vow, thus altogether four reasons to celebrate for the Hungarian Jesuits. It was on the 7th day of the month that the province became independent 110 years ago. On the holy mass celebrated by P. Elemér Vízi SJ for the occasion, the provincial recalled the ancestors of the present day Jesuits and praised them for their persistence throughout the hard times of the 20th century and onwards. Another roundly anniversary was the martyrdom of three Catholic priests – two Jesuits and one former Jesuit student – 400 years ago. The “martyrs of Kassa”, as they are widely known, are the patron saints of the Hungarian province (Kassa referring to their city now belonging to Slovakia and called Kosice). They sacrificed their life for their Catholic faith when in the 17th century war of religions each of them refused to convert to Protestantism. Since today the various denominations live peacefully in the Carpathian Basin, the three martyrs presently are not so much remembered as outstanding figures of resistance in an era full religious tensions, but rather as examples of adherence and fidelity. The two jubilees were celebrated in the church of the Hungarian Jesuits dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Budapest. The building has gone through an extensive renovation inside and outside, its organ was restored and its altar from the 1970s was replaced by a modern, cubic one, more representing the sacrificial aspect of the holy mass. It was at the foot of this new altar where P. Tibor Bartók SJ took his final vow in the Society of Jesus. P. Bartók is a professor of theology, currently based in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University.