Today’s installment concludes Founding of the Jesuits,
our selection from Loyola, and Jesuitism in Its Rediments by Isaac Taylor published in 1849.
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Previously in Founding of the Jesuits.
Place: Church of the Gesu, Rome
The immeasurable difficulty of his mission was to him its excitement; its dangers brightened in his view into martyrdom; its toils were to be his ease; its privations his solace, and despair the aliment of his hope. But at this initial point of his course we must take leave of Francis Xavier — the prince of missionaries. Bobadilla, with Loyola’s consent, remained in Portugal, where his zeal found scope enough.
At length — but it does not appear in what manner this change of opinion had been brought about — Cardinal Guidiccioni professed himself favorable to the suit of Loyola; probably an enhanced conviction that the Romish hierarchy was encountering a peril which called for extraordinary measures, and that the new order was likely to meet the occasion, had prevailed over considerations less urgent and of a more general kind. This opponent gained, no obstacle remained to be overcome. On October 3, 1540 (or September 27th), was issued the bull which gave ecclesiastical existence to the new order under the name of the “Company of Jesus.” At the first the society was forbidden to admit more than sixty professed members, but three years later another bull removed entirely this restriction.
The time was now come when the decisive step must be taken which should enable the new institute to realize its intention, which should render Jesuitism Jesuitism indeed. This was the election of a chief, individually, who thenceforward should be absolute lord of the bodies and souls, the will and well-being, of all the members. Until this election should be made and ratified, the society was a project only; it would then become a dread reality.
Those of the fathers who could leave their functions at foreign courts — and these were three only — were summoned to Rome; those who could not attend there sent forward their votes. But in what manner are we to deal with the account that is presented to us of that which took place on this occasion? How is it to be made to consist either with the straightforwardness and simplicity of intention that are the characteristics of great and noble natures, or how with those maxims of guilelessness which Christianity so much approves? The problem admits of only a partial and unsatisfactory solution; nor can we advance even so far as this unless we make a very large allowance in favor of Loyola personally, on the ground of the ill influence of the system within which he had received his moral and religious training. He conducted himself after the fashion of his Church: this must be his apology.
It was he, unquestionably, who had conceived the primary idea of the society. He was author of the book which constitutes its germ and law, the Spiritual Exercises. He had been principal in digesting the constitutions, or actual code, of the society. It was he, individually, whom the others had always regarded as their leader and teacher. His personal influence was the cement which held the parts in union. It was Loyola who, while his colleagues dispersed themselves throughout Europe, remained in Rome, there to manage the common interests of all, and to carry forward those negotiations with the papal court which were of vital importance and of the highest difficulty. In a word, it was he who had convoked this meeting to elect a chief and who asked the proxies of the absent. Are we then to believe that this bold spirit, this far-seeing mind, this astute, inventive, and politic Ignatius, born to rule other minds, and able always to subjugate his own will; that this contriver of a despotism, after having carried the principle of unconditional obedience, after having won the consent of his companions to the proposal that their master should be their master for life — are we to believe that he had never imagined it as probable (much less wished) that the choice of his compeers should fall upon himself, or that he had peremptorily resolved, in such a case, to reject the proffered sovereignty? Surely those writers — the champions of the society — use us cruelly who demand that we should believe so much as this.
Le Jay, Brouet, Lainez, and Loyola were those who personally appeared on this occasion. The absent members sent their votes in sealed letters. Three days having passed in prayer and silence, the four assembled on the fourth day, when the votes were ascertained. All but Loyola’s own were in his favor; he voted for the one who should carry the majority of votes.
Loyola, we are told, was in an equal degree distressed and amazed in discovering what was in the minds of his colleagues. He, indeed, to be general of the Society of Jesus! — how strange and preposterous a supposition! Positively he could think of no such thing. What a life had he led before his conversion! How abounding in weaknesses had been his course since! How could he aspire to rule others, who so poorly could rule himself? Days of prayer must yet be devoted to the purpose of imploring the divine aid in directing the minds of all toward one who should indeed be qualified for so arduous an office. At the end of this term Loyola was a second time elected, and again refused to comply with the wishes of his friends. He would barely admit their importunities; they could scarcely bring themselves to listen to his contrary reasons. Time passed on, and there seemed a danger lest the society should go adrift upon the rocks even in its first attempt to reach deep water. At length Loyola agreed to submit himself to the direction of his confessor. He might thus, perhaps, find it possible to thrust himself through his scruples by the loophole of passive obedience, for he already held himself bound to comply with the injunctions of his spiritual guide, be they what they might.
This good man, therefore, a father Theodosius of the communion of Minor Brethren, is constituted arbiter of the destinies of the Society of Jesus. To his ear Loyola confides all the reasons, irresistible as they were, which forbade his compliance with the will of his friends. The confessor listens patiently to the long argument, but sets the whole of it at naught. In a word he declares that Loyola, in declining the proffered generalship, is fighting against God. Further resistance would have been a flagrant impiety.
The installation of the general was carried forward in a course of services held in the seven principal churches of Rome, and with extraordinary solemnity in the Church of St. Paul without the city, April 23, 1541. On this occasion the vows of perpetual poverty, chastity, and obedience were renewed before the altar of the Virgin, where Loyola administered the communion to his brethren, they having vowed absolute obedience to him, and he the same to the Pope.
This ends our series of passages on Founding of the Jesuits by Isaac Taylor from his book Loyola, and Jesuitism in Its Rediments published in 1849. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
|Ignatius of Loyola and the Founding of the Society of Jesus|
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