1.2-1.3 THE JESUITS and

 St. Ignatius celebrates Mass

[adapted from Chadwick, The Reformation, ch 7, "The Counter-Reformation"]



Ignatius Loyola appears first in the pages of history during 1515, at Pamplona in Navarre, accused of ‘great crimes’ in Guipuzcoa in the company of a clergyman. He claimed be­fore the court that he was an ecclesiastic, but the court found that he was not upon the list of the vicar-general and that he was usually observed to be wearing a leather cuirass and breastplate and to be carrying sword, dagger, musket, and various other weapons. We do not know what he had done, but evidently he was not yet aspiring to sanctity.

On 21 May 1521, while he was defending a breach in the castle wall of Pamplona against French invaders, a cannon ball shattered his right leg and wounded his left. The ensuing surgery almost killed him. The leg, which was set wrongly and had to be broken again, was set wrongly a second time, and the same process was repeated. He was left with a misshapen right leg, and knew that he would not fight again.

During his long convalescence (1521; age 30) the Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian and the devotional literature which were the only books near his bed, brooding or day-dreaming gloomily over his future, and once seeing a vision in the night of the Madonna with her Child, he determined to become a saint. ‘Suppose I did what St Francis or St Dominic did?’ He would begin by undertaking a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

At the sanctuary of Montserrat he hung his sword and his dagger by the statue of the Virgin and watched all night before her altar, like a knight dedicating himself anew in chivalrous vigil. He made a general confession and exchanged clothes with a beggar. [the Benedictine abbot of Montserrat, GARCÍA de CISNEROS, O.S.B. 1455-1510, had written a popular spiritual book entitled, The Spiritual Exercises, that would have been available to Ignatius during his retreat at the abbey]

Continuing on his way towards Jerusalem, he was pre­vented from entering Barcelona by a plague which was devastating the town. He therefore halted at Manresa, intending to stay a few days, and remained for nearly a year (1522–3; age 31-32). During the weary months he devoted himself to austerity, praying for seven hours a day, flagellating himself three times a day, rising at midnight for prayer, leaving his hair and nails uncut, begging his bread.

Luther found that such endeavours failed to bring peace of mind.

Ignatius found the same.

His conscience began to torture itself; he felt bound in his confession to go over and over the same sins, he harassed his mind to find what he had forgotten to confess, he fell into a condition of scruples.

Luther discovered the way of escape by reading the Epistle to the Romans.

Ignatius discerned his way of escape through a concentration of his iron will upon obedience to the suffering Christ, an obedience formed by obedience to the precepts of his Church.

It was his confessor who ordered him to eat, and so he abandoned the resolution to eat nothing till exhaustion supervened.

  Note also:

For Luther the saints could be a dangerous snare:
[1] models of unattainable sanctity,
[2] supposed intercessors,
[3] and purveyors of excess grace that could be applied to the spiritual accounts of the needy.

For Ignatius the saints were brilliant examples of moral excellence, whose lives inspired long-lasting feelings of enthusiasm for God, unlike chivalric romances that inspired only short-lived satisfaction.


Luther broke his self-will by subjecting it to the grace of God [as he personally found it in the Scriptures] .

Ignatius broke his self-will by forcing himself to obey the representatives of the Church.

If faith [as he personally found it in the Scriptures] was the ground of all Luther’s work,

obedience [as he experienced in the Church's ministers] was the key to Loyola’s.

While his body was suffering and his mind fermenting at Manresa, he wrote the first sketch of The Spiritual Exercises, a book which reached its final form at Rome in 1541. (The manuscript of 1541 has survived, with his corrections, but it was not printed till after papal approval of the Latin translation in 1548.) It is not a book to be read. If it is not used experimentally, it is nothing. There is no style, nothing to attract. Ignatius was never articulate about religion. The book contains a series of exercises in prayer — described without ornament, but with Spanish realism. By subjecting a person to these exercises he aimed to train him to master his will. The subject is to enter a solitary cell for a retreat of a month in silence, interrupted only by the liturgy and by communications with his director. He is to consider himself and his corruption and foulness, to look upon himself as an ulcer poisoning society, to see with the eye of imagination the length and breadth and depth of hell; and in imagining he is to use every sense, to hear men screaming, to smell them burning, he is to ask to feel in himself the pain which the damned suffer. Then he is to turn to the grace and mercy of God, to Bethlehem and Nazareth and Calvary, with the same near-physical imaginings.... And so the month of discipline is to pass, driving the subject to feel the terrible consequences of self-will, his helplessness without the mercy of Christ and his Mother — the Christ of beauty and of kindness, who has delivered him from these torments though he has not deserved it, lifting him little by little from the proximity of agonies to contemplate the peace and the glory of Mount Sion, from living upon Calvary to living with the Resurrection.

The month was planned to lead to an act of will — the choice of a new way of life. This new way is to be lived by obedience to the teaching and the ordinances of the Church. Obedience to a superior is the condition of a soldierly service of God and of a total self-abnegation in the individual. The soul undertook to obey the Church, as the bride of Christ, and to sacrifice its own judgement; to practise confession, frequent communion, the recitation of the hours of prayer; to maintain such institutions of the Church as monasteries, the celibacy of the clergy, relics, fasting, indulgences, pilgrimages; and to defend the scholastic theol­ogy, the Church’s tradition and the decrees of the Popes.

The book ends with ‘Rules for Thinking with the Church’. In these rules comes the celebrated hyperbole that he is to be ready to believe that what seems to him white is black, if the Church declares it to be so. (Contrary to a common opinion, however, it has been shown that for many years there was no regularity about the practice of these exercises by Loyola’s disciples.)

In 1523 Loyola went as a pilgrim to Jerusalem. In 1526 he was a student at Alcalá preparing himself for ordination. His rigours and his little groups of prayerful friends made the Spanish Inquisition suspicious of him, and for a time he was imprisoned. He preached as a layman about religion and his Exercises, furthering suspicions.  He tried again at Salamanca and was imprisoned. In 1528 he tried again at the University of Paris, where he was again denounced to the Inquisition and was forbidden to discuss religious matters for three years. He had begun at last to learn wisdom and prudence in picking his disciples. At Paris in 1534, his first six men joined him in a brotherhood — Francis Xavier, also from Pamplona, Faber (Pierre Le Fèvre), Lainez, Salmerón, Bobadilla, and Rodriguez.

In a chapel on Montmartre (15 August 1534) the little band vowed to go to Palestine to work for the conversion of the Turks; or if this proved to be impossible, to offer themselves to the Pope to be sent on any work which he chose, even if it were a mission to the Turks or other persecuting powers.

By 1538 it was dear that Palestine was impossible; and though the mind of Xavier was already turning towards the Indies, they offered themselves to the Pope. They had become aware of the crying needs of Italian parishes, and became known as educators of children, as conductors of missions or retreats, as popular preachers, as chaplains to hospitals. At Rome in the spring of 1539 they formed a ‘Company of Jesus’ which was to instruct the children and the illiterate in the commandments of God. Its members were to take a special view of obedience to the Pope, to go wherever the Pope should send them. The priests of the Company, though bound to recite the hours of prayer, were not to do so in choir, that they might not be withdrawn from the works of charity.

It was not a good time for founding new orders. In the Papal court, reform made a stumbling beginning under Pope Adrian VI (1522-3), remained quiescent or worse under Clement VII (1523-34) and by 1539, with Paul III as Pope, began markedly to influence public opinion in Rome. Persons with revolutionary ideas could be found in high places. The canonist Guidiccioni, whom the Pope consulted about the Jesuits, believed that all the existing male orders except four (perhaps except one) should be suppressed. At last, on 27 September 1540, the Society was established by a Bull entitled Regimini militantis ecclesiae.

The Society was in no sense designed to be a weapon for fighting the Protestants. Nor at first had it any reputation for intransigence. The Bull of 1540 declared its object to be the propagation of the faith, and the phrase ‘propagation and defence’ of the faith was not added till 1550. Nor was it in origin an autocratic society. Ignatius himself was less autocratic by temperament than John Wesley. But between 1540 and 1555 the Society grew so rapidly in numbers, influence, and range of activities that it could only be directed, perhaps could only have been held together, by a strong hand at the centre. And while Ignatius was not temperamentally an autocrat, and would probably have been content if another had governed the society which he had founded, he stamped it with his own religious ideals and therefore with the virtue of obedience at the centre of its devotional life.

The rule of obedience taught in The Spiritual Exercises was not new. It may be paralleled in the rules of St Francis of Assisi, and its origins go back to the Rule of St Benedict and beyond. Yet he succeeded in imparting into his Society an atmosphere of religious obedience which easily fitted the autocratic constitution desirable for practical reasons, and which culminated in the special promise of obedience made to the Pope by fully professed members of the Society.

They intended to be a society of priests ministering to the heathen and the poor, and especially educating the children or the illiterate. Ignatius spent much energy in resisting the tendency of his more devotional followers to turn the society into a conventional, even amore contemplative, order. They established orphanages, houses for prostitutes, schools, centres of poor relief; in Sicily even a kind of banking institute for destitute peasants. Others among the new orders modified the obligation of the religious to say the offices in choir, but Ignatius carried this to a revolutionary abolition. There should be no common recitation of the office; thus the oldest obligation of the monastic community disappeared.

It is interesting to observe the balance with which the mature Ignatius, once a zealot and ascetic extremist, ruled his order. Though he maintained a severe and austere life for himself; he would allow no one to practise discipline so strenuously as to harm his health. He would even force some young ascetic, discovered to have been fasting beyond the rule, to eat a meal in his presence. His men were to be fit for hard work in the world. The success of the Jesuits sprang largely from this readiness to adjust the old ideals of the monks to the needs of the new generation.

The hierarchy of the order was complex.

The novitiate lasted two years instead of one, and was different from the old enclosed novitiates in containing a period of work in a hospital and a barefoot pilgrimage.

Then the novice took the simple vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity, and passed into the ‘scholasticate’, where he received a severe course of higher education, and might be received at the end into full profession of vows and membership of the Society.

If received, he could later be allowed to take a fourth vow, that of personal obedience to the Pope; and those ‘professed of the fourth vow’ were the governing body of the Society.

They were not numerous — in 1556 they were only 43 in number, out of 1,000 members. This governing body was summoned only to elect a General or at the will of the General (except in exceptional circumstances where the General was insane or incapable), and the General held office for life, restricted only by the advice of four elected assistants. The constitution in theory attributed no more power to the General, and exacted no more obedience from the fathers, than some medieval orders. But the old abbot had been limited by custom and enclosure and a body of tradition and a written rule, whereas the Jesuit General was administering a new body which needed strong government to control its rapid expansion and harmonize its various activities.

Their work became diverse as their numbers grew. The mission to the heathen was not allowed to drop — perhaps, indeed, it always remained as primary to the Society as were the struggles against the heretics. On 7 April 1541 Francis Xavier, with three Jesuit companions, embarked at Lisbon for the Indies. He was the first of a long line of missionaries to the Indies and the Americas.

In 1540 the Society was still a little group, primarily for education and pastoral work among the poor. By 1556, when Ignatius died, it had more than 1,000 members and had become one of the powerful forces in the Catholic world, by its ministry not to the poor but to the upper ranks.

This happened chiefly through its commitment to and hold upon higher education. It began by teaching the urchins of the Roman slums. It ended by teaching princes and princesses.

The Franciscans had begun by a ministry to the poor and had soon produced professors at the university. The parallel extension of the Jesuit work was less of a change than among the Franciscans. Education of children, to be effective, must lead them upwards. The primary school cannot be efficient unless the secondary school is efficient, and the secondary school will not be efficient unless the university is efficient.

The first Jesuit secondary school was opened at Messina in 1548. The good sense of Ignatius exacted modern methods, fresh air and exercise, admirable teaching of Latin in the spirit of the Renaissance, care of good manners. Soon they were educating the upper classes of Catholic Europe. And meanwhile, colleges were founded in university after uni­versity, the first at Padua in 1542, the chief at Rome in I 551. The Company of Jesus became a teaching order, the leading body engaged in the higher education of Catholics. And since its educational methods were effective, more effective than any other methods in contemporary Europe, it found itself educating aristocrats and kings. The association of the Jesuit with the Catholic court, an association to be perilous to both sides, was founded upon intelligent schoolmastering.


[1.3] The Jesuits in Germany

Teaching the Catholic faith in the universities, they were brought into direct controversy with the swiftly spreading influence of the Protestant divines. Their own plan of reform encountered notions of Reform, and those notions in absolute conflict with their ideals of obedience to the Holy Roman Church. Their study of theology was first for pastoral uses, then for controversial uses, and finally it became an end in itself, an academic discipline. Ignatius, despite painful diligence, was never a scholar. But two of his original six, Lainez and Salmerón, rapidly gained a place among the leading theologians of Catholic Europe and were among the Pope’s more stalwart defenders at the Council of Trent. And from the moment (1542) that Jesuit Fathers were summoned by Catholic bishops to work in Southern Germany, they found that they were at once leading resistance to Protestant thought and seeking to confute Protestant theologians. In 1549 they began to teach at the Bavarian University of Ingolstadt, henceforth their German base. In 1552 the German college was founded in Rome; and from that time Ignatius regarded the battle against heresy as a primary task of his Company. He was succeeded as General by Lainez, the ablest theologian and contro­versialist among the early members.

For in 1555 sober men thought that the conservative cause in Germany was lost. Protestantism was still spreading in the Catholic lands like Austria, Bavaria, and Bohemia.

It had been difficult for the old theologians to resist the new theologians, except at the most superficial level of controversy. John Eck, by his cleverness, produced little handbooks which scored points against the Protestants. But at a deeper level the learned divines had been on the side of Reform. The universal belief that reform was necessary, the aridity and staleness of the older scholastic tradition, its fruitlessness in a world dominated by the insights of human­ism, the second-rate quality of many of the defenders — these rendered the traditionalist apologetic scanty and uncon­vincing, during the first forty years of reform. There were exceptions; Spanish friars like Alfonso a Castro or Dominic Soto were already in the forties and fifties creating a new apologetic towards Protestantism. But as scholarship im­proved and confidence returned, as the theologians found much common ground with the Protestants in the study of the Bible and of the ancient Church, the controversy be­came less unequal. The conservatives discovered how in the new world they could defend the old ways, and were some­times surprised to find that the old Ways were defensible.

In Germany the Catechism of the Jesuit Peter Canisius (published in 1555) is a mark of this changing atmosphere. It was written in a style to be understood, it was lucid and attractive and supported by Biblical texts, it was not (as a catechism by Eck would have been) armed to the teeth against assailants. It was an uncontroversial statement of the Catholic faith, and won praise even among Protestant divines. Canisius toured the Catholic south, stirring the princes to the defence of their religion, disputing and preach­ing, founding colleges and institutions. For much of the century even informed Germans supposed that the founder of the Jesuits was Canisius.

It should not be forgotten that controversial disputations or pamphlets formed one of the least important parts of the battle against the Protestants. The only way to counter the Protestants was to reform the Church. In the Bavaria of 1550, for example, all the old abuses were continuing, and continuing in spite of a pious prince. The clergy were often illiterate, the monasteries often like country inns, the vicar­ages commonly contained a concubine and numerous progeny, there were many drunken priests. This was the condition which. invited the Reforming ideals from the north to spread southward, and some of the Bavarian middle class were already affected by the teaching of the Lutherans or of the Anabaptists. The only way to stem the tide was to reform the Church. It was pastoral endeavour as well as militant antagonism which was at the base of the Counter-Reformation advance in South Germany. ‘The best way to fight the heretics is not to deserve their criticisms,’ said the nuncio Bonomi in 1585. But this pastoral endeavour was an action of the state. In Bavaria the pious prince Albert sum­moned Jesuits t0 his aid and reformed the parishes of his duchy with a soldierly severity. And to expel heretics or destroy Anabaptists or burn false books was for every Cath­olic sovereign a part of his endeavours to reform his parishes.

xcxxcxxc  F ” “ This Webpage was created for a workshop held at Saint Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, California in 1990....x....   “”.