Xavier’s apostleship in the East, with its real and with its romantic and exaggerated glories, was a fund upon which the society at home allowed itself to draw without limit.
Continuing Founding of the Jesuits,
our selection from Loyola, and Jesuitism in Its Rediments by Isaac Taylor published in 1849. The selection is presented in five easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Founding of the Jesuits.
Place: Church of the Gesu, Rome
During the interval between the concerted organization of the order and the formal recognition of Loyola as the general he found several occasions highly favorable for extending and for enhancing his influence, as well among the common people as among ecclesiastical dignitaries. One such opportunity was afforded, soon after the above-mentioned exculpation of the fathers, by the occurrence of a famine during an unusually severe winter. The streets of Rome presented the spectacle of hundreds of half-naked and starving wretches who fruitlessly implored aid or who silently expired unaided. Loyola and his colleagues, themselves subsisting from day to day on alms, felt often — we are told — the nip of hunger, yet they needed no incitement which these scenes of woe did not spontaneously supply. They were at once alive to the claims of humanity and to the requirements of Christian duty. They begged for the perishing, took them to such shelter as was at their command, carefully and tenderly ministered to the sick, and, withal, used the advantage which these offices of kindness afforded them for purposes of religious instruction. Hundreds, rescued from death through cold and hunger, were thus brought to repentance on the path which the Church prescribes. A great impression in favor of the Jesuit fathers was made upon all classes by this course of conduct. In humanity, self-denying assiduity, and Christian zeal they had immeasurably surpassed any who might have pretended rivalry with them.
It was now, therefore, that Loyola sought from the Pontiff that formal recognition which his personal assurances of regard and approval seemed to show he could not refuse. Paul III was, however, cautious in this instance, and seemed unwilling to commit himself and the Church at this critical moment, except so far as he knew himself to be supported by the feeling and opinion of those of the cardinals whom he most regarded. He referred Loyola’s petition to three of them. The first of these was Barthelemi Guidiccioni, who had often declared himself to be decisively opposed to the multiplication of religious orders. The Church, he thought, had too many of these excrescences already, and, instead of adding another to the number, he would gladly have reduced them all to four. His two colleagues were easily induced to concur with him in this opinion, and thus it appeared as if the infant society, notwithstanding the advances it had lately made in securing the good opinion of persons of high rank, as well as in winning popular applause, was little likely to receive what was indispensable to its permanent establishment — a papal bull in its favor.
Personally, however, the Pope did not conceal his cordial feeling toward Loyola and his companions. He seems to have perceived clearly that these men, resolute in their punctilious adherence to the doctrine and ritual of the Church, and committed by the most solemn engagements to its service — deep-purposed as they were, full of a well-governed energy, resolute in the performance of the most arduous duties, and, moreover, highly accomplished in secular and sacred learning — were the very instruments which the Church had need of in this crisis of its fate. Northern Europe was irrecoverably lost; Germany and Switzerland were held to Catholicism at points only; while France and Northern Italy were listening to the seductions of heresy. Scarcely could it be said, even of Spain, that it was clear of the same infection. The Church ought then, at such a moment, to embrace cordially, and by all means to favor, the efforts of men like Loyola and his distinguished companions.
It was with this feeling that Paul III, while held back by his advisers from the course he would have adopted, went as far as he could in promoting and extending the influence of the society. At the same moment application had been made, on the part of several potentates, for the services of the fathers, who had already gained a high reputation at the courts near to which they had exercised their ministry. It was seen and understood by princes that these were the men — and these almost alone — to whom might be confided those arduous tasks which the perils of the times continually presented: none so well furnished as these fathers; none so self-denying and laborious; none so uncompromising in the maintenance of their principles. They were, therefore, dispatched in various directions, and with the papal sanction, to undertake offices more or less spiritual, and in some instances purely secular. It was thus that a commencement was made in that course which has thrown unlimited power into the hands of the society, and which again has brought upon it suspicion, hatred, and reiterated ruin.
But the most noted of these appointments was that which, in sending, as by an accident, Francis Xavier to India, detached from the Jesuit society the man who, had he remained at home, must have imparted his own character to its constitutions, and have guided its movements, and who probably would have dislodged Loyola from the generalship, and have held Lainez and Faber in a subordinate position. Not merely did Xavier’s departure allow Jesuitism to take its form from the hands of these three, but it conferred upon the society, from a very early date, the incalculable advantage of that reflected power and reputation which the Indian missions secured for it. Xavier’s apostleship in the East, with its real and with its romantic and exaggerated glories, was a fund upon which the society at home allowed itself to draw without limit. If it be admitted that Xavier effected something real for Christianity in pagan India, it may be affirmed that he accomplished at the same time, though indirectly, far more for Jesuitism throughout Europe. This course of events, so signal in its consequences as favoring the development and rapid extension of the Jesuit scheme throughout Christendom, and which yet could not be attributed to any forethought or machination on the part of Loyola, is well deserving of a distinct notice.
The train of circumstances, as related and affirmed by the Jesuit writers, excludes the supposition of its taking its rise in any plot or intention. John III of Portugal — a religious prince — had long entertained the project of stretching the empire of the Church over those regions which his valiant and enterprising people were subjecting to his secular sway. In modern phraseology, he piously desired to consecrate his military triumphs in the East by spreading the Gospel among the subjugated heathen. His royal wish and intention had become known to Loyola’s friend Govea, who wrote to him from Paris on the subject. This letter was as a spark at contact with which Loyola’s zeal burst forth in a flame. He replied, however, that, as he and his companions had now solemnly surrendered themselves to the absolute and unconditional disposal of the Vicar of Christ, they could attempt nothing spontaneously. It is easy to imagine how speedily this declaration, conveyed to Govea, would produce its effect, would come round to its destination, and would assume the form of a pontifical injunction addressed to Loyola to dispatch some of the fathers to the court of John, there to await the pleasure of so religious a prince. Six missionaries had been asked for. Loyola, with the consent of the Pope, assigned two — Rodriquez and Bobadilla — to his service. The latter, however, falling ill — so it is affirmed — Francis Xavier was appointed in his place. Xavier, it is said, leaped for joy when summoned, at a moment, to set out toward Portugal commissioned to convert India to the Christian faith. A few hours sufficed for his preparations; by noon of the next day he had sewed the tatters of his attire with his own hand, had packed his bundle, had bid adieu to his friends, and was forward on the road to Lisbon. Upon this desperate enterprise he set forward with his eye steadily fixed upon objects far more remote and more dazzling than the sunny plains of Hindostan.
|Ignatius of Loyola and the Founding of the Society of Jesus|
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