What Makes a Jesuit?

by Vinita Hampton Wright

What qualities of Jesuit training might prepare a man to be a good pope in 2013? Given the difficult challenges of our time, what enduring practices might help Pope Francis lead in an exceptional way?

Pope Francis was educated and formed in the Jesuit tradition. There are four key pillars in the mindset and formation of each Jesuit which make for a strong foundation but are not easy to build, whether in an individual life or an institutional life.


The Church is in need of a leader who is not afraid to look honestly at the difficulties and challenges facing the Catholic community. This self-assessment can lead to understanding and healing. Self-awareness will also help the Church see its gifts and abilities and celebrate them.


he Jesuits are well-known for innovation, for adapting to change in a heartbeat, for solving problems seemingly too complex or big to solve. We need a good problem solver at the head of the Catholic family, someone who does not shrink away from advances in technology, medicine, philosophy, and consciousness. A wise pope will teach us how to become more flexible, more willing to learn, more courageous to enter new realms of knowledge and ministry.


Nothing heals better than love. Nothing supports or helps more than love does. We are motivated by God’s infinite love for us; because we are loved we can love others. God’s grace makes us capable of loving the outcast, the criminal, the stranger, the person or culture we do not yet understand. Love teaches us how to forgive and keep the world moving forward. Love teaches us to put down our weapons and embrace the world rather than stoke our fear.


Jesuits are always after magis—something greater, more beneficial, more efficient, more wonderful. The hero is the person who pushes farther, dreams bigger, tries harder, and takes bigger risks, all for the sake of the greater glory of God. The hero tenaciously looks for ways to make a good thing even more brilliant and effective. Heroism in the Church will not give up until solutions are found and better systems are up and running.

 Vinita Hampton Wright

Vinita Hampton Wright

Vinita Hampton Wright is a Loyola Press editor and writer of many books, including Days of Deepening Friendship and Simple Acts of Moving Forward.

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