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Indeed, though the number of Jesuits may have dropped drastically, superiors round the world widely agree that the quality of the new recruits is generally better and the number of vocations seems to be stabilizing. Moreover, there remains a special fraternity about the Jesuits that smaller numbers cannot destroy. "In my work around the world," says Philip Land, a Jesuit priest on the Vatican's Commission for Justice and Peace, "I run into a network of our people everywhere, people in whom I have total confidence."
Many former Jesuits preserve that kind of family feeling and regard themselves as Jesuits years after they have left the order, even if they left long before ordination. Author George Riemer (The New Jesuits) studied as a Jesuit for only seven years in the 1940s, but he continued to think of himself as a Jesuit until his death from cancer two weeks ago. "When I'm confronted with my own death," he said a few days before he died, "I believe I'm still a Jesuit, because the core of the Jesuit is still the Spiritual Exercises."
Many Jesuits see an instauration of Ignatian spirit. Father Lyndon Farwell, a recently ordained California Jesuit, would in fact like to see the upcoming general congregation focus on that ideal by conducting its meeting as a spiritual retreat, with no agenda. It would be "a great witness to the faith of the Jesuits−coming together to see what God wants them to do next. I would like to see them define the spirit and priorities of the society, but it should be a religious, not a legislative, thing."
However they go about it, of course, the society will have−as is appropriate to Jesuits−some important this-worldly decisions to make. A number of Jesuits within the order and admirers without would like to see some way developed for interested men to become sort of Jesuit reserve officers−taking temporary vows, perhaps, for three or five years at a time. There is growing support for the order to find a way for dedicated married couples to affiliate with it, perhaps along the lines of the successful Jesuit Volunteer Corps run by the Oregon province, which has some 250 laymen in domestic and foreign assignments. Fraςois Cardinal Marty, the Archbishop of Paris, wants to see Jesuits engaged in resolving the "metaphysical crisis" in modern society. "Jesuits are needed in the intellectual world," he says. "Alienation is their specialty." Some Jesuits want to discuss issues that are harder to nail down−a return, for instance, to more heroic poverty within the order, a goal Arrupe heartily favors.
Many Jesuits, including Superior General Pedro Arrupe, would like to see the general congregation put some kind of cap on the Jesuit gusher, pushing the very visible turmoil back underground for a while. It may be a vain hope. The Jesuits are certainly settling back a bit these days, resting from the traumatic departures and heady changes in the