Arrived in Rome they did not at once ask audience with the Pope, for Paul III was immersed in critical diplomacy. They took service in the Spanish hospital, tended the sick, taught the young. Early in 1538 Paul received them, and was impressed by their desire to go to Palestine and live there as exemplary monks; he and some cardinals contributed 210 crowns ($5,-250?) to pay the passage of the band When the devotees had to abandon the idea as impracticable, they returned the money to the donors.36 Those members who had remained in the north were summoned to Rome, and the company now numbered eleven. Paul appointed Faber and Laynez to professorships in the Sapienza (the University of Rome), while Ignatius and the rest devoted themselves to works of charity and education. Loyola made a special mission of converting prostitutes; with funds collected from his supporters he founded the House of Martha to receive such women; and his fervent preaching against sexual transgressions made him many enemies in Rome.

As new candidates were received into the company, it became desirable to define its principles and rule. The vow of obedience was added to those of chastity and poverty; the “general” chosen by them was to be obeyed only next to the Pope. A fourth vow was taken: to “serve the Roman Pontiff as God’s vicar on earth,” and “to execute immediately and without hesitation or excuse all that the reigning Pope or his successors may enjoin upon them for the benefit of souls or for the propagation of the faith” anywhere in the world. In 1539 Loyola asked Cardinal Contarini to submit these articles of organization to Paul III, and to request the papal confirmation of the company as a new order. The Pope was favorable; some cardinals dissented, thinking the group to be unmanageable extremists; but Paul overcame their objections, and by the bull Regimini militantis ecclesiae (“For the rule of the Church Militant”) he formally established what the bull called Societas Jesú:, the “Society of Jesus” (September 27,1540). The members were properly called “Clerks Regular of the Society of Jesus”; the name “Jesuit” did not appear till 1544, and then chiefly as a satirical term used by Calvin and other critics;37 it was never used by Ignatius himself. After his death the success of the new order deprived the term of its early sting, and in the sixteenth century it was a badge of honor.

On April 17, 1541, Ignatius was elected general. For several days thereafter he washed dishes and discharged the humblest offices.38 During his remaining years (he was now fifty) he made Rome his home, and the city became the permanent headquarters of the society. Between 1547 and 1552, after much thought and experiment, he drew up the Constitutions which, with minor changes, are the Jesuit rule today. The ultimate authority in the order was to lie in the fully “professed” members. These would choose two delegates from each province, and these delegates—together with the provincial heads, the general, and his aides—were to compose the “General Congregation.” This would, when occasion required, elect a new general, and then it would delegate its authority to him as long as he should commit no grave offense. He was given an “admonitor” and four assistants, who were to watch his every act, warn him of any serious fault, and, if need appeared, convene the General Congregation to depose him.

Candidates for admission were required to pass through two years of novitiate, in which they would be trained in the purpose and discipline of the society, go through the spiritual exercises, perform menial duties, and submit to the superiors in absolute “holy obedience.” They must put aside their own individual wills, and allow themselves to be ordered like soldiers and moved about “like corpses”;39 they must learn to feel that in obeying their superiors they are obeying God. They must agree to report the faults of their associates to their superiors, and to harbor no resentment against being reported themselves.40 This discipline was rigorous but discriminating and flexible; rarely did it break the will or destroy initiative. Apparently the willingness to obey is the first step in learning to command, for this training produced a great number of able and enterprising men.

Those who survived this trying novitiate would take “simple”—revocable—vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and would enter the ‘’second class.” Some of these would remain in that status as lay brothers; some, as “formed scholastics,” aspiring to the priesthood, would study mathematics, the classics, philosophy, and theology, and would teach in schools and colleges. Those who passed further tests would enter the third class—“formed coadjutors”; and some of these might rise into the fourth class—the “professed”—all priests, and specially pledged to undertake any task or mission assigned them by the Pope. The “professed” were usually a small minority—sometimes hardly more than a tenth—of the entire society.41 All four classes were to live in common like monks, but in view of their many administrative and pedagogical duties they were exempted from the monastic obligation to recite the canonical hours. No ascetic practices were required, though they might on occasion be advised. There was to be moderation in eating and drinking, but no stringent fasting; body as well as mind was to be kept fit for all tasks. A member might retain title to such property as he owned when entering the order, but all income from it was to go to the society, which hoped to be the ultimate heir. Every Jesuit possession and action must be dedicated ad majorem Dei gloriam—to the greater glory of God.

Seldom has an institution borne so definitely the stamp of one personality. Loyola lived long enough to revise the Constitutions into a successfully functioning rule. From his small, bare room he guided with severe authority and great skill the movements of his little army in every quarter of Europe, and many other parts of the globe. The task of governing the society, and of establishing and administering two colleges and several charitable foundations in Rome, proved too much for his temper as he aged; and though kind to the weak he became cruelly harsh to his closest subordinates.42 He was severest on himself. He made many a meal from a handful of nuts, a piece of bread, and a cup of water. Often he left but four hours of the day for sleep, and even restricted to a daily half-hour the period that he allowed himself for celestial visions and illumination.43 When he died (1556) many Romans felt that a sharp wind had ceased to blow, and perhaps some of his followers mingled relief with grief. Men could not realize, so soon, that this indomitable Spaniard would prove to be one of the most influential men in modern history.

At his death the society had approximately a thousand members, of whom some thirty-five were “professed.” 44 After disputes that showed considerable will to power in Jesuits supposedly broken in will, Diego Laynez was chosen general (1558); the fact that he had Jewish ancestors four generations back made him unacceptable to some Spanish grandees who had some influence in the order.45 Pope Paul IV, fearful that the office of Jesuit general, because of its life tenure, might grow to rival the papacy, ordered the Constitutions revised to limit the general’s term to three years; but Pius IV revoked the order, and the general became (as later generations would call him from his black cassock) the “Black Pope.” After Francis Borgia, Duke of Gandia, joined the order and dowered it with his wealth, the society grew rapidly in size and power. When he became its third general (1565) it had 3,500 members, living in 130 houses in eighteen provinces or countries.

Europe was but a small sector of its activities. It sent missionaries to India, China, Japan, and the New World. In North America they were venturesome and undiscourageable explorers, suffering every tribulation as a gift of God. In South America they did more than any other group to develop education and scientific agriculture. In 1541 St. Francis Xavier left Lisbon on a Portuguese vessel, and after a year of travel and travail reached Goa. There he walked up and down the streets ringing a hand bell to gather an audience; this accomplished, he expounded the Christian creed with such sincerity and eloquence, and illustrated the Christian ethic with such cheerful sharing of his poorest listeners’ life, that he made thousands of converts among Hindus and Moslems, and even convinced some hardship-hardened expatriated Portuguese Christians. His cures were probably caused by his contagious confidence or his incidental knowledge of medicine; miracles were later ascribed to him, but he himself claimed none. The papal bull that canonized him (1622) credited him with the “gift of tongues”—the ability to speak any language at need; but in truth the heroic saint was a poor linguist, who spent hours memorizing sermons in Tamil, Malay, or Japanese. Sometimes his faith was too strong for his humanity. He urged John III of Portugal to establish the Inquisition in Goa,46 and recommended that no Hindu should be ordained unless he had several generations of Christian ancestors; he could not bear the thought of a Portuguese confessing to a native.47 He finally left Goa as too polyglot for his purposes. “I want to be where there are no Moslems or Jews. Give me out-and-out pagans!”48—these, he felt, were more open to conversion, as being less ingrained in another faith. In 1549 he set out for Japan, studying Japanese on the way. Landing at Kagoshima, he and his associates preached in the streets, and were courteously heard by the people. Two years later he returned to Goa; he settled some disorder that had arisen among the Christians there, and then sailed off to convert China (1552). After much suffering he stopped on the island of Chang-Tschouen, below the mouth of the Canton River. The Chinese emperor had made it a capital crime for a European to enter China; yet Xavier would have dared it, had he been able to find passage. While he waited he fell sick. He died on December 2,1552, crying, “In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me not be confounded forever.”49 He was forty-six years old.

The same devotion which the Jesuits showed in foreign missions was displayed in their work in Europe. They kept to their posts, and tended the sick, in times of plague.50 They preached to all classes, and accommodated their language to every situation. Their superior education and good manners made them the favorite confessors of women and nobles, finally of kings. They mingled actively in the affairs of the world, but with prudence and tact; Ignatius advised them that more prudence and less piety were better than more piety and less prudence.51 Usually they were men of high moral quality; the faults charged against them in a later period hardly appeared in this age.52 Though they corporately approved of the Inquisition,53 they stood aside from it, preferring to work through education. Their limited number compelled them to leave to others the instruction of children; they concentrated on secondary education; and finding the universities preempted by other orders, or the secular or Protestant clergy, they organized their own colleges, and sought to train selected youths who would be centers of influence in the next generation. They became the greatest educators of their time.

At important points in Europe they established studia inferiora—corresponding to the German Gymnasien and the French lycées—and studia superiora—colleges. Sometimes, as at Coimbra and Louvain, they were able to take over existing universities. They shocked their competitors by giving instruction gratis. The curriculum probably owed something to the schools set up in Holland and Germany by the Brethren of the Common Life, something to the Gymnasium of Sturm at Strasbourg, something to the humanist academies of Germany and Italy. It was based on the classics and was given in Latin; the use of the vernacular was forbidden to the students except on holidays.54 In the higher grades the Scholastic philosophy was restored. The education of character—of morals and manners—was given fresh emphasis, and was bound up anew with religious belief. The traditional faith was inculcated daily, and a regimen of prayer, meditation, confession, communion, Mass, and theology so imbued the students with orthodoxy that few of them, in the sixteenth century, ever strayed from that beaten path. Humanism was turned back from paganism to Christianity. The system had serious defects: it relied too much on memory, and discouraged originality. Like the other curricula of the time it was deficient in the sciences, and expurgated history to control the present. And yet so independent a thinker as Francis Bacon would soon say of the Jesuit schools, “Such as they are, would that they were ours.”55 In the next two centuries their graduates would excel in almost every walk of life except scientific research.

By the time of Loyola’s death there were a hundred Jesuit colleges. Through education, diplomacy, and devotion, through fervor directed by discipline, through co-ordination of purposes and skillful variation of means, the Jesuits turned back the Protestant tide, and recaptured much of Germany, most of Hungary and Bohemia, all of Christian Poland, for the Church. Rarely has so small a group achieved so much so rapidly. Year by year its prestige and influence grew, until, within twenty years of its formal establishment, it was recognized as the most brilliant product of the Catholic Reform. When at last the Church dared to call that general council to which all Europe had so long looked for the quieting of its theological strife and the healing of its religious wounds, it was to a handful of Jesuits—to their learning, loyalty, discretion, resourcefulness, and eloquence—that the popes entrusted the defense of their own challenged authority, and the undiminished preservation of the ancient faith.

You can support our site by clicking on this link and watching the advertisement.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at admin@erenow.org. Thank you!