The time was now come for effecting a permanent organization of the society and for installing a chief at its head.
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
The Pope and the court having been absent for some time from Rome, this disguised heresiarch had seized the opportunity for gaining the ear of the populace by inveighing against the vices of ecclesiastics, and insinuating opinions to which he gave a color of truth by citations from Scripture and the early fathers. Two of Loyola’s colleagues, Salmeron and Lainez, who in their passage through Germany had become skilled in detecting Lutheran pravity, were deputed to listen to this noisy preacher; they did so, and reported that the audacious man was, under some disguise of terms, broaching rank Lutheranism in the very heart of Rome. Loyola, however, determined to treat the heresiarch courteously, and therefore sent him privately an admonition to abstain from a course which occasioned so much scandal, and which could not but afflict Catholic ears. The preacher took fire at this remonstrance, and openly attacked those who had dared thus to rebuke him.
Thus attacked, Loyola and his colleagues, on their side, loudly maintained the great points of Catholic doctrine impugned by this preacher, such as the merit and necessity of good works, the validity of religious vows, and the supreme authority of the Church; and in consequence it became extremely difficult on his part to ward off the imputation of Lutheranism or to make it appear that he was anything else than a self-condemned heretic. He, however, so far commanded the popular mind that he maintained his reputation and his influence, and actually succeeded in rendering his accusers the objects of almost universal suspicion or hatred. Their powerful friends forsook them; all stood aloof, or all but a Spaniard named Garzonio, who, having lodged Loyola and some of his companions under his roof, knew well their soundness in the faith and their personal piety. Through his timely intervention the cardinal-dean of the sacred college was induced to inform himself, by a personal interview, of their doctrine and life.
This dignitary was satisfied, and more than satisfied, of the innocence and piety of the fathers. Nevertheless, Loyola, looking far forward, and knowing well what detriment to his order might arise in remote quarters from slanders not authoritatively refuted and disallowed, demanded to be confronted with his accusers before the ecclesiastical authorities. He would be content with no vague and irregular expression of approval — he would accept no half acquittal. He sought, and at length obtained, an official exculpation in the amplest terms, with an acknowledgment of his orthodoxy on the part of the highest authority on earth, and this was granted under circumstances that gave it universal notoriety.
In court the principal witness was confounded by proof, under his own hand, of the falseness of the allegation he had advanced; and at the same time testimonials from the highest quarters in favor of the fathers, severally and individually, arrived opportunely; in a word, the society, in this early and signal instance, triumphed over its assailants, and thenceforward it occupied a position the most lofty and commanding in the view of the Catholic world. Loyola and his colleagues saw the ruin of their adversaries, two of whom, falling into the hands of the inquisitors, were burned as heretics.
The time was now come for effecting a permanent organization of the society and for installing a chief at its head. With these purposes in view, Loyola summoned his colleagues to Rome from the cities of Italy where they were severally laboring. The fathers being assembled, he commended to them anew the proposal which they had already accepted, but which he seemed anxious to fix irrevocably upon their consciences by often-repeated challenges of the most solemn kind. To impart the more solemnity to this repetition of their mutual engagements, and to preclude, by all means, the possibility of retraction, he advised that several days should be devoted to preliminary prayer and fasting, during which season each should, with an absolute surrender of himself to the will of God, await passively the manifestation of that will.
“Heaven,” said Loyola to his companions, “heaven has forbidden Palestine to our zeal — nevertheless that zeal burns with increasing intensity from day to day. Should we not hence infer that God has called us — not, indeed, to undertake the conversion of one nation or of a country, but of all the people and of all the kingdoms of the world?”
Such was the founder’s profession and such the limits of his ambition. The spiritual mechanism which he had devised, and which he was now putting in movement, intends nothing that is partial or circumscribed; its very purport is universality; it is absolutism carried out until it has embraced the human family and has brought every human spirit into its toils.
But so small a band could hope for no success that should be indicative of ultimate triumph unless they would surrender themselves individually to a common will, which should be to each of them as the will of God, articulately pronounced. After renewing, therefore, the vows of poverty, of chastity, and of unconditional obedience to the Pope, the fathers assented to the proposal that one of their number should, by the suffrages of all, be constituted the superior or general of the order, and as such be invested with an authority as absolute as it was possible for man to exercise or for men to submit to. Yet to whose hands should be assigned — and for life — this irresponsible power over the bodies, souls, and understandings of his companions?
It had not been until after a lengthened preparation of fasting, prayer, and night-watching that a resolution so appalling had been formed. Yet it was easier to consent to the proposal, abstractedly placed before them, than to yield themselves to all its undefined and irrevocable consequences, when the awful surrender of what is most precious to man — his individuality — was to be made, not to a chief unnamed, but to this or that one among themselves. To whose hands could the ten consign the irresponsible disposal of their souls and bodies? They had, however, already advanced too far to recede. They had, as they believed, in humble imitation of Christ the Lord, offered themselves as a living sacrifice to God — so far as concerned the body — by the vow of poverty and the vow of chastity. They had thus immolated the flesh, and had reserved to themselves nothing of worldly possessions, nothing of earthly solaces; all had been laid upon the altar. They, had, moreover professed their willingness to deposit there their very souls. The vow of unconditional obedience, as thus understood, was a holocaust of the immortal well-being. Each now, as an offering acceptable to God, was to pawn his interest in time and eternity, putting the pledge into the hands of one to be chosen by themselves. It was debated whether this absolute power should be conferred upon the holder of it for life or for a term of years only, and whether in the fullest sense it should be without conditions, or whether it should be limited by constitutional forms. At length, however, the election of a general for life was assented to, and especially for this reason — and it is well to note it — that the new society had been devised and formed for the very purpose of carrying forward vast designs which must demand a long course of years for their development and execution; and that no one who must look forward to the probable termination of his generalship at the expiration of a few years could be expected to undertake, or to prosecute with energy, any such far-reaching project. On the contrary, he should be allowed to believe that the limits of his life alone need be thought of as bounding his holy ambition. Provisions were made, however, for holding some sort of control over the individual to whom so much power was to be entrusted. The actual election of Loyola to the generalship did not formally take place until after the time when the order had received pontifical authentication. Meantime, all implicitly regarded him as their master; from him emanated the acts of the body; and to him was assigned the task — aided by Lainez — of preparing what should be the constitutions of the society.
|Ignatius of Loyola and the Founding of the Society of Jesus|
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