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Pope Francis as a young Jesuit in his native Argentina. Pope Francis as a young Jesuit in his native Argentina.  

Pope: Father Fiorito teaches how to be God’s friends

Father Miguel Ángel Fiorito, an Argentine Jesuit who died in 2005, was one of the great masters of spirituality in the Society of Jesus. He formed generations of Latin American Jesuits, including Pope Francis himself. The Jesuit magazine, “La Civiltà Cattolica”, is publishing the “Writings” of the revered priest, and the Pope who has written the preface and will personally launch the collection this week.

By Alessandro De Carolis

It is not the first time that Pope Francis has signed the preface to a publication of Fr. Fiorito, one of the masters of his soul and many young Jesuits from Argentina and Uruguay. In 1985 he accepted to introduce the second of the two books written by the priest, entitled, "Discernment and Spiritual Struggle". "Spiritual discernment,” the Pope observed, “is having the courage to see in our human faces the divine traces". And this is what Father Fiorito has done all his life, "to feel and taste" God's footsteps in his heart and to teach his brethren how to receive them in all their depths, keeping at bay the deceptions of the "evil spirit".

School of the Spirit

Nearly 35 years on, the "student" Bergoglio became the Vicar of Christ but time has not diminished his gratitude for the teaching of the “Maestro Fiorito”, as the Jesuits loved to call him. This is demonstrated by the Pope's decision to personally launch the publication at the Jesuit General Curia on Friday, December 13, the day he celebrates the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination.   

Father Fiorito’s “Writings”, edited by Father José Luis Narvaja, have been organized into 5 volumes. 

The three pages of the preface, signed by the Pope, are the expression of his undying gratitude to the man who, with his "Centre of Spirituality" and his "Bulletin", has contributed in a lucid way to welcome the novelty of the Second Vatican in his Jesuit Province, particularly in developing the so-called "theology of the people", which is woven into the teachings of Pope Francis.

Sensing the "enemy"

According to the Pope, Father Fiorito has internalized a maxim of St. Peter Faber, namely "knowing how to receive and how to communicate are two different things and each requires a grace", things that the Argentine professor was amply blessed with. "His writings”, writes the Pope, “distil spiritual mercy - teachings for those who do not know, good advice for those who need it, correction for those who make mistakes, consolation for the sad and help to have patience in desolation".

The Pope notes that as a good Jesuit, Father Fiorito assiduously practised the art of the Spiritual Exercises - particularly in the second half of his life, recommending them in all its forms, and had developed “a special sense of smell to be able to “sniff” the evil spirit. The priest knew how to identify the action of the evil one, recognize his tics, unmask his bad fruits with their bad aftertaste and the wake of desolation" that Satan leaves behind him.

Pope Francis recalls the image of Father Fiorito dangerously climbing up the stairs of his personal library, an entire wall of 6 by 4 meters, to dig out from one of the many drawers stuffed with slips of paper, study cards, prayers and actions, to find the right one "without many words" to give the brother Jesuit who spoke to him about "some restlessness" or which the priest had sensed listening to him.

The  good of many

Father Miguel Ángel Fiorito, notes the Pope, "was basically a man of dialogue and listening”. “He taught many to pray, to dialogue in friendship with God", trying out everything but retaining only what is good. In short, the Pope explains, he was a "loving father, patient teacher and firm adversary" when needed, "but always respectful and loyal, and never an enemy". He was able to discern "the time of God" in things and teach that discernment itself is the "cure from spiritual blindness", that "sad disease" that acts as a screen for divine action. 

Pope Francis believes the “Writings” of Fr. Fiorito will be of “great good to the whole Church". "They reach the height of a great dream", as they have been in the past, marking the lives of many souls. The thoughts of the "Maestro Fiorito” can strike "roots" and bring "flowers and fruits in the lives of many people”.

09 December 2019, 17:22