This post has nothing to do with the relationship between John Paul II and the Jesuits during his Papacy. Quite the opposite, this has to do with Jesuits during times before John Paul's papcy.
This post was inspired by George Weigel's comment that, "Against the cultural conventions of his time, John Paul demonstrated that young people want to be challenged to live lives of heroism.”
The truth of that comment struck me something fierce.
My family is a Jesuit family. My father's father attended and graduated from Xavier High School in New York City. My father attended and graduated from the same High School when it was his turn. My father has always had a lifelong appreciation for the Jesuits because of his experiences there. In fact, the Jesuits made such an impression that my father's given middle name and his chosen confirmation name taken together are Francis Xavier.
While none of my father's sons could attend Xavier, nor any other Jesuit High School, the love of the Jesuits eventually became a sort of family tradition. Much like our experience of American history is largely viewed through the lens of the Marine Corps' heritage (my father' is a Marine too, go figure), our experience of the 16th-18th century in Church History was almost exclusively gotten through the history of the Jesuit Saints.
The Jesuit saints made such an impression on me while growing up that whenever I imagined the possibility of being a priest, it was always as a Jesuit missionary in some far away country.
The desire to lose fingers, or one's life like Saint Isaac Jogues, or to evangelize tirelessly like Saint Francis Xavier, was a very strong and real desire throughout almost my entire youth. It was a frequent day dream, imagining an expeditionary environment of a faraway heathen land, and coping with the hardships and danger for the greater glory of God.
After all, whether they were conquering the souls in North America, or seditiously celebrating Mass in Elizabethan England, they always represented adventure and manly virtue. And if there were ever Saints to look to in this age of anti-authoritarian rock and roll, and Romanish (the Empire, not the Church) sexual license, if there were ever an example of a friend of Christ who could well represent the obedient opposition to the non serviam of modern man, it would be the Jesuit Saints.
THE OTHER GUYS
Sure, there have been many other great Christian Saints, and martyrs throughout the ages of the Church. And yes, the Dominicans and Franciscans have their numbers of awesome canonized personages.
Let's be real though.
Saint Francis of Asissi, an awesome Saint to be sure, frequently gets stolen by the fru-fru crowd. Justly stolen? No, but stolen nontheless. And St. Dominic was an intense evangelizer, maybe, but his sons are considered the picture of "bookish nerdism" today. No thanks. (Note the many Jesuit scientists, and yet they still maintain the image of God's Marines, and not God's librarians).
On the other hand, no neutered man would ever claim Ignatius de Loyola as a representative of his way of life. Why? Because there is no confusion. Everyone knows Saint Ignatius was a hard ass. Reading about his retreat, and the Jesuit saints it reminds one of Thucydides, who told us that “we must remember that one man is much the same as another, and that he is best who is trained in the severest school.”
Honestly, what order has quite matched the evangelical energy and influence of the Jesuits?
When you think of Edmond Campion, you think gusto. When you think of Saint Isaac Jogues, you think adventure. And Saint Ignatius? Severity, and who doesn't love that? Finally, Saint Francis Xavier? One of my two favorite saints. Everyone knows that he was the greatest missionary since the Apostles! A superlative example of a ferocious love of God, and an intense obedience to that love. He was also a Jesuit.