This series has five easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Loyola’s Vision and Its Consequences.
The most influential group within the Catholic Church in modern times has been the Jesuits. Founded during the Protestant Reformation they spear-headed the Catholic Counter-Reformation. In the centuries since then, the head of the Jesuits has been nicknamed “The Black Pope” because of the robes the Jesuits wear and the influence he wields. Nicknames are no longer necessary. Pope Francis is a Jesuit. This is the story of how it all got started.
This selection is from Loyola, and Jesuitism in Its Rediments by Isaac Taylor published in 1849. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Isaac Taylor (1787 – 1865) was an English philosophical and historical writer, artist, and inventor.
Place: Church of the Gesu, Rome
Toward the middle of the sixteenth century definite utterance began to be given to a widespread feeling in the Church that the old monastic orders were no longer fulfilling their purpose. Suggestions of new orders were entertained by the church authorities, and plans for their formation — not to supersede but to supplement the old — began to assume shape.
Meanwhile an enthusiastic Spanish soldier, who had renounced the profession of arms, independently gathered about himself the nucleus of what was to be one of the most famous orders in the history of the Church. This organization, called the Company (or Society) of Jesus, but better known to many as the Order of Jesuits, owes its foundation primarily to Ignatius de Loyola (Inigo Lopez de Recalde), who was born at the castle of Loyola, Guipuzcoa, Spain, in 1491. After being educated as a page at the court of Ferdinand, he joined the army, and during his recovery from a wound received at Pamplona in 1521, he became imbued with spiritual ardor and dedicated himself to the service of the Virgin. Henceforth the “fiery Ignatius” devoted himself to the pursuit and, as he believed, the purification of religion.
In 1528 he entered the University of Paris, and there, with a few associates, in 1534 he projected the new religious order, which in 1540 was confirmed by the Pope. The Constitution of the Order and Spiritual Exercises were written by him in Spanish. The object of these comrades was to battle for the Church in that time of religious warfare, to stop the spread of heresy, and especially to stay the progress of Protestantism and win back those who had abandoned the old faith. Exempting themselves from the routine of monastic duties, the members of the new order were to have freedom for preaching, hearing confessions, and educating the young.
After considering and abandoning various plans for work abroad, the band of fathers at last decided to devote themselves to serving the Church within its own domains, and the first step was a visit of some members of the fraternity to Rome for the purpose of obtaining papal confirmation.
Loyola himself, with his chosen colleagues, Faber and Lainez, undertook the mission to Rome, while the eight others were to disperse themselves throughout Northern Italy, and especially to gain a footing, if they could, and to acquire influence at those seats of learning where the youth of Italy were to be met with; such as Padua, Ferrara, Bologna, Siena, and Vicenza. Surprising effects resulted, it is said, from these labors; but we turn toward the three fathers, Ignatius, Lainez, and Faber, who were now making their way on foot to Rome.
If Loyola’s course of secular study, and if his various engagements as evangelist and as chief of a society, had at all chilled his devotional ardor, or had drawn his thoughts away from the unseen world, this fervor and this upward direction of the mind now returned to him in full force: we are assured that, on this pilgrimage, and “through favor of the Virgin,” his days and nights were passed in a sort of continuous ecstasy. As they drew toward the city, and while upon the Siena road, he turned aside to a chapel, then in a ruinous condition, and which he entered alone. Here ecstasy became more ecstatic still; and, in a trance, he believed himself very distinctly to see Him whom, as holy Scripture affirms, “no man hath seen at any time.” By the side of this vision of the invisible appeared Jesus, bearing a huge cross. The Father presents Ignatius to the Son, who utters the words, so full of meaning, “I will be favorable to you at Rome.”
It is no agreeable task thus to compromise the awful realities of religion, and thus to perplex the distinctions which a religious mind wishes to observe between truth and illusion; yet it seems inevitable to narrate that which comes before us, as an integral and important portion of the history we have to do with. And yet incidents such as these, while they will be very far from availing to bring us over as converts to the system which they are supposed supernaturally to authenticate, need not generate any extreme revulsion of feeling in an opposite direction. Good men, ill-trained, or trained under a system which to so great an extent is factitious, demand from us often, we do not say that which an enlightened Christian charity does not include, but a something which is logically distinguishable from it; we mean a philosophic habit of mind, accustomed to deal with human nature, and with its wonderful inconsistencies, on the broadest principles.
Some diversities of language present themselves in the narratives that have come down to us of this vision. In that which, perhaps, is worthy of the most regard, the phraseology is such as to suggest the belief that its exact meaning should not easily be gathered from the words. Loyola had asked of the blessed Virgin, “ut eum cum filio suo poneret“; and during this trance this request, whatever it might mean, was manifestly granted.
From this vision, and from the memorable words “Ego vobis Romæ propitius ero,” the society may be said to have taken its formal commencement, and to have drawn its appellation. Henceforward it was the “Society of Jesus,” for its founder, introduced to the Son of God by the eternal Father, had been orally assured of the divine favor — favor consequent upon his present visit to Rome. Here, then, we have exposed to our view the inner economy or divine machinery of the Jesuit Institute. The Mother of God is the primary mediatrix; the Father, at her intercession, obtains for the founder an auspicious audience of the Son; and the Son authenticates the use to be made of his name in this instance; and so it is that the inchoate order is to be the “Society of Jesus.”
An inquiry, to which in fact no certain reply could be given, obtrudes itself upon the mind on an occasion like this; namely, how far the infidelity and atheism which pervaded Europe in the next and the following century sprung directly out of profanation such as this? Merely to narrate them, and to do so in the briefest manner, does violence to every genuine sentiment of piety. What must have been the effect produced upon frivolous and skeptical tempers when with sedulous art such things were put forward as solemn verities not to be distinguished from the primary truths of religion, and entitled to the same reverential regard in our minds!
|Ignatius of Loyola and the Founding of the Society of Jesus|
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