Society of Jesus

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abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ

The Society of Jesus, (a.k.a. Societas Iesu, abbreviated either (S.J.) or (S.I.)) is a Christian religious order of the Catholic Church at the service of the universal Church. Its members, known as Jesuits, have been called "Soldiers of Christ" and "Foot soldiers of the Pope", in part because the Society's founder, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, was a knight before he became a priest. Today, Jesuits number 20,170 (with 14,147 priests), and comprise the largest religious order of men in the Catholic Church (the Franciscan family of OFM's, Capuchins, and Conventuals have approximately 31,899 members, of whom 20,786 are priests; however, the "family" consists of multiple orders). Jesuit priests and brothers are engaged in ministries in 112 nations on six continents. No work, if it has an evangelical perspective, is closed to them; but they are best known in the fields of education (schools, colleges, universities, seminaries, theological faculties), intellectual research and cultural pursuits. They are also known for missionary work and direct evangelization, social justice and human rights activities, interreligious dialogue and other types of 'frontier' ministry. They are present even in countries where there are very few Catholics or where Christianity is altogether banned.

The Society of Jesus is consecrated under the patronage of Madonna Della Strada, a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and is led by a Superior General (currently Peter Hans Kolvenbach). The headquarters of the Society, called General Curia, is in Rome. The history curia of St. Ignatius is now part of the Collegio del Gesù attached to the Church of the Gesù, the Jesuit Mother Church.





Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus

On August 15, 1534, Ignatius (born Íñigo López de Loyola - his first name was Latinized when he enrolled in university), a member of the Basque people, and six other students at the University of Paris (Spaniards Francisco Xavier, Alfonso Salmerón, Diego Laínez, and Nicolás Bobadilla, along with Peter Faber from Savoy, France and Simon Rodrigues from Portugal) met in Montmartre outside Paris, probably either at Saint Pierre de Montmartre (the local abbey) or near the modern Chapel of St Denys, Rue Antoinette. This group bound themselves by a vow of poverty and chastity, to "enter upon hospital and missionary work in Jerusalem, or to go without questioning wherever the pope might direct". They called themselves the Company of Jesus, because they felt "they were placed together by Christ". The name had echoes of the military (as in an infantry "company"), as well as of discipleship (the "companions" of Jesus). The word "company" comes ultimately from Latin, cum + pane = "bread with," or a group that shares meals. These initial steps led to the founding of what would be called the Society of Jesus later in 1540. The term societas in Latin is derived from socius, a partner or comrade. Much is sometimes made of Ignatius' military background, forgetting that Ignatius was a "knight" and not an army man in the sense understood today. In fact, nowhere in the Constitutions of the order is the Society of Jesus compared to an army.

In 1537, they travelled to Italy to seek papal approval for their Order. Pope Paul III gave them a commendation, and permitted them to be ordained priests. They were ordained in Venice by the bishop of Arbe on June 24. They devoted themselves to preaching and charitable work in Italy, as the renewed war between the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Venice, the pope and the Ottoman Empire rendered any journey to Jerusalem impossible.

Ignatius and his lesser-known companions made their way to Rome in October 1538, to offer their priestly services to the pope. When it was clear that the missions given them by the Pope would lead to a break-up of the group of "Friends in the Lord", they decided to bind themselves spiritually together by obedience to a superior. They presented the project to the Pope. A congregation of cardinals reported favorably upon the constitution presented, and Paul III confirmed the order through the Papal bull Regimini militantis (September 27, 1540), but limited the number of its members to sixty. This limitation was removed through the bull Injunctum nobis (March 14, 1543). Ignatius was chosen as the first superior-general. He sent his companions as missionaries around Europe to create schools, colleges, and seminaries.<ref name="Hopfl">Hopfl, Harro (2004) "Jesuit Political Thought: The Society of Jesus and the State, C.1540-1630" Cambridge University Press. 426 pp. ISBN 0-521-83779-0.</ref>

When developed, Jesuits concentrated on three activities. First, they founded schools throughout Europe. Jesuit teachers were rigorously trained in both classical studies and theology. The Jesuits' second mission was to convert non-Christians to Catholicism, so they developed and sent out missionaries. Their third goal was to stop Protestantism from spreading. The zeal of the Jesuits overcame the drift toward Protestantism in Poland -Lithuania and southern Germany.

Ignatius wrote the Jesuit Constitutions, adopted in 1554, which created a tightly centralized organization and stressed absolute self-abnegation and obedience to Pope and superiors (perinde ac cadaver, "[well-disciplined] like a corpse" as Ignatius put it). His main principle became the unofficial Jesuit motto: Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam ("for the greater glory of God"). This phrase is designed to reflect the idea that any work that is not evil can be meritorious for spiritual life if it is performed with this intention, even things considered normally inconsequential.<ref name="Hopfl" />

The Society of Jesus is classified among institutes as a mendicant order of clerks regular, that is, a body of priests organized for apostolic work, following a religious order, and relying on alms or donations for support.

The term "Jesuit" (of fifteenth-century origin, meaning "one who used too frequently or appropriated the name of Jesus"), was first applied to the Society in reproach (1544-1552), and was never employed by its founder, though members and friends of the Society in time appropriated the name in its positive meaning.

Early works

The Jesuits were founded just before the Counter-Reformation, a movement whose purpose was to reform the Catholic Church from within and to counter the Protestant Reformers, whose teachings were spreading throughout Catholic Europe. As part of their service to the Roman Church, the Jesuits encouraged people to continue their obedience to scripture as interpreted by Roman doctrine. Ignatius is known to have written:

"I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it."<ref>Cheyne, Colin (2001) "Knowledge, Cause, and Abstract Objects: Causal Objections to Platonism" Springer 252 pp. ISBN 1-4020-0051-0.</ref>

But his hyperbole relativizes propositional claims defined by the hierarchical Church. For him, the important things in life are not propositional definitions, but the spiritual movements within oneself.

Ignatius and the early Jesuits did recognize, though, that the hierarchical Church was in dire need of reform, and some of their greatest struggles were against the corruption, venality, and spiritual lassitude within the Catholic Church. Ignatius's insistence on an extremely high level of academic preparation for ministry, for instance, was a deliberate response to the relatively poor education of much of the clergy of his time, and the Jesuit vow against "ambitioning prelacies" was a deliberate effort to prevent greed for money or power invading Jesuit circles. As a result, in spite of their loyalty, Ignatius and his successors often tangled with the pope and the Roman Curia. Over the 450 years since its founding, the Society has both been called the papal "elite troops" and been forced into suppression.

St. Ignatius and the Jesuits who followed him believed that the reform of the Church had to begin with the conversion of an individual’s heart. One of the main tools the Jesuits have used to bring about this conversion has been the Ignatian retreat, called the Spiritual Exercises. During a four-week period of silence, individuals undergo a series of directed meditations on the life of Christ. During this period, they meet regularly with a spiritual director, who helps them understand whatever call or message God has offered in their meditations. The retreat follows a Purgative-Illuminative-Unitive pattern in the tradition of the mysticism of John Cassian and the Desert Fathers. Ignatius' innovation was to make this style of contemplative mysticism available to all people in active life, and to use it as a means of rebuilding the spiritual life of the Church. The Exercises became both the basis for the training of Jesuits themselves and one of the essential ministries of the order: giving the exercises to others in what became known as retreats.

The Jesuits’ contributions to the late Renaissance were significant in their roles both as a missionary order and as the first religious order to operate colleges and universities as a principal and distinct ministry. By the time of Ignatius' death in 1556, the Jesuits were already operating a network of 74 colleges on three continents. A precursor to liberal education, the Jesuit plan of studies incorporated the Classical teachings of Renaissance humanism into the Scholastic structure of Catholic thought. In addition to teaching faith, the Ratio Studiorum emphasized the study of Latin, Greek, classical literature, poetry and philosophy, as well as non-European languages, sciences and the arts. Furthermore, Jesuit schools encouraged the study of vernacular literature and rhetoric, and thereby became important centers for the training of lawyers and public officials. The Jesuit schools played an important part in winning back to Catholicism a number of European countries which had for a time been predominantly Protestant, notably Poland and Lithuania. Today, Jesuit colleges and universities are located in over one hundred nations around the world.

Under the notion that God can be encountered through created things and especially art, they encouraged the use of ceremony and decoration in Catholic ritual and devotion. Perhaps as a result of this appreciation for art, coupled with their spiritual practice of "finding God in all things", many early Jesuits distinguished themselves in the visual and performing arts as well as in music.

The Jesuits were able to obtain significant influence in the Early Modern Period because Jesuit priests often acted as confessors to the kings of the time. They were an important force in the Counter-Reformation and in the Catholic missions, in part because their relatively loose structure (without the requirements of living in community, saying the divine office together, etc.) allowed them to be flexible to meet the needs of the people.


Ruins of La Santisima Trinidad de Parana in Paraguay, one of the many Jesuit missions established in South America during the 17th and 18th centuries

Early missions in Japan resulted the Jesuits being granted the feudal fiefdom of Nagasaki in 1580. This was revoked by the Japanese government in 1587, however, due to fears over their growing influence in the country.

Francis Xavier arrived in Goa in Western India in 1541 to consider evangelical service in the Indies. He died after a decade of evangelism in Southern India. Under Portuguese royal patronage, the order thrived in Goa and until 1759 successfully expanded its activities to education and healthcare. On December 17, 1759, the Marquis of Pombal, Secretary of State in Portugal, expelled the Jesuits from Portugal and Portuguese possessions overseas.

Two Jesuit missionaries, Gruber and D'Orville, reached Lhasa in Tibet in 1661.

Jesuit missions in Latin America were very controversial in Europe, especially in Spain and Portugal, where they were seen as interfering with the proper colonial enterprises of the royal governments. The Jesuits were often the only force standing between the Native Americans and slavery. Together throughout South America but especially in present-day Brazil and Paraguay they formed Christian Native American city-states, called "Jesuit reductions" (Spanish Reducciones). These were societies set up according to an idealized theocratic model. It is partly because the Jesuits protected the natives whom certain Spanish and Portuguese colonizers wanted to enslave that the Society of Jesus was suppressed.

Jesuit priests such as Manoel da Nóbrega and José de Anchieta founded several towns in Brazil in the 16th century, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and were very influential in the pacification, religious conversion and education of Amerindians.

In 1732 Matteo Ripa, a Jesuit from the kingdom of Naples, created there the first Sinology School of the European Continent: the "Chinese Institute", the first nucleus of what would become today's "Università degli studi di Napoli L'Orientale" (Naples Eastern University). Ripa had worked as a painter and copper-engraver at the Manchu court of the emperor Kangxi between 1711 and 1723. In 1732 he returned to Naples from China with four young Chinese Christians, all teachers of their native language, and formed the Institute sanctioned by Pope Clement XII to teach Chinese to missionaries and thus advance the propagation of Christianity in China. Jesuit missions in China brought about the Chinese Rites controversy in the early 18th century.

Jesuit scholars working in these foreign missions were instrumental in documenting these unknown languages and strived to produce Latinicized grammars and dictionaries, the first organized efforts at linguistics. This was done, for instance, for Japanese (see Nippo jisho also known as Vocabvlario da Lingoa de Iapam, a Japanese-Portuguese dictionary written 1603) and Tupi-Guarani (a language group of South American aborigines).

Suppression and restoration

Boston College is the home to the world's largest Jesuit community

The Suppression of the Jesuits in Portugal, France, the Two Sicilies, Parma and the Spanish Empire by 1767 was troubling to the Society's defender, Pope Clement XIII. Following a decree signed by Pope Clement XIV under secular pressure in July 1773, the Jesuits were suppressed in all countries except Russia, where Catherine the Great had forbidden the papal decree to be promulgated. Because millions of Catholics (including many Jesuits) lived in the Polish western provinces of the Russian Empire, the Society was able to maintain its legal existence and carry on its work all through the period of suppression.

The period following the Restoration of the Jesuits in 1814 was marked by tremendous growth, as evidenced by the large number of Jesuit colleges and universities established in the 19th century. In the United States, 22 of the Society's 28 universities were founded or taken over by the Jesuits during this time. Some claim that the experience of suppression served to heighten orthodoxy among the Jesuits upon restoration. While this claim is debatable, Jesuits were generally supportive of Papal authority within the Church, and some members were associated with the Ultramontanist movement and the declaration of Papal Infallibility in 1870.

In Switzerland, following the defeat of the Ultramontanist Sonderbund by Calvinist cantons, the Swiss Federal Constitution was modified and Jesuits were banished in 1848. The ban was lifted on 20 May 1973, when 54.9% of voters accepted a referendum modifying the Constitution.<ref>Official results (in French language|French) on the website of the Swiss Administration.</ref>

The 20th century witnessed both aspects of growth and decline. Following a trend within the Catholic priesthood at large, Jesuit numbers peaked in the 1950s and have declined steadily since. Meanwhile the number of Jesuit institutions has grown considerably, due in large part to a later 20th century focus on establishing of Jesuit secondary schools in inner-city areas and an increase in lay association with the order. Among the notable Jesuits of the 20th century, John Courtney Murray, SJ, was called one of the "architects of the Second Vatican Council" and drafted what eventually became the council's endorsement of religious freedom, Dignitatis Humanae Personae in apparent contradiction of Pope Eugene IV's Domini Cantate.

Jesuits today

The Jesuits today form the largest religious order of priests in the Catholic Church, with over 20,000 members serving in 112 nations on six continents. The current Superior General of the Jesuits is Peter Hans Kolvenbach. The Society is characterized by its ministries in the fields of missionary work, human rights, social justice and, most notably, higher education. It operates colleges and universities in various countries around the world and is particularly active in the Philippines and India. In the United States alone, it maintains over 50 colleges, universities and high schools. A typical conception of the mission of a Jesuit school will often contain such concepts as proposing Christ as the model of human life, the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning and life-long spiritual and intellectual growth.<ref>St. Aloysius College mission statement.</ref> In Latin America, liberal Jesuits have had significant influence in the development of liberation theology, a movement which has been highly controversial in the Catholic theological community and condemned by Pope John Paul II on several fundamental aspects.

Under Superior General Pedro Arrupe, social justice and the preferential option for the poor emerged as dominant themes of the work of the Jesuits. On November 16, 1989, nearly a decade after the assassination of Bishop Oscar Romero, six Jesuit priests (Ignacio Ellacuria, Segundo Montes, Ignacio Martin-Baro, Joaquin Lopez y Lopez, Juan Ramon Moreno, and Amado Lopez), their housekeeper Elba Ramos, and her daughter Celia Marisela Ramos, were murdered by the Salvadoran military on the campus of the University of Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador. Due to their unwavering defense of the poor, they had been labeled as subversives by the Salvadorian government. The assassinations galvanized the Society's peace and justice movements, including annual protests at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, Georgia, where the assassins were trained under US government sponsorship.

In 2002, Boston College president William P. Leahy, SJ, initiated the Church in the 21st Century program as a means of moving the Church "from crisis to renewal." The initiative has provided the Society with a platform for examining issues brought about by the worldwide Roman Catholic sex abuse cases, including the priesthood, celibacy, sexuality, women's roles, and the role of the laity.

On January 6, 2005, Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, on the occasion of the Jubilee Year, wrote that the Jesuits "should truly profit from the jubilee year to examine our way of life and [take] the means to live more profoundly the charisms received from our Founders."<ref>Letter to major superiors, 6 January 2005.</ref>

In April 2005, Thomas J. Reese, SJ, editor of the American Jesuit weekly magazine America, resigned at the request of the Society. The move was widely published in the media as the result of pressure from the Vatican, following years of criticism by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on articles touching subjects such as HIV/AIDS, religious pluralism, homosexuality and the right to life for the unborn. Reese went a year-long sabbatical at Santa Clara University.

On February 2, 2006, Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach announced his intention to step down as superior general in 2008, due to age (2008 was his 80th year). On January 18, 2008, the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus met in Rome to elect a new superior general, and decide other important policy for the Jesuit order in the years to come. On January 21, they announced their choice of Spanish-born Fr. Adolfo Nicolas as the new superior general.

While the Jesuit superior general is elected for life, the order's constitutions allow him to step down.

On April 22, 2006, on the Feast of Our Lady, Mother of the Society of Jesus, Benedict greeted thousands of Jesuits on pilgrimage to Rome, and took the opportunity to thank God "for having granted to your Company the gift of men of extraordinary sanctity and of exceptional apostolic zeal such as St Ignatius of Loyola, St Francis Xavier and Bl Peter Faber." He said "St Ignatius of Loyola was above all a man of God, who gave the first place of his life to God, to his greater glory and his greater service. He was a man of profound prayer, which found its center and its culmination in the daily Eucharistic Celebration."<ref>Address of Benedict XVI to the Jesuits, April 22, 2006.</ref>

In May 2006, Benedict XVI also wrote a letter to Fr. Peter Hans Kolvenbach on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII's encyclical "Haurietis Aquas," on devotion to the Sacred Heart, because the Jesuits have always been "extremely active in the promotion of this essential devotion."<ref>Benedict XVI Hails Devotion to Sacred Heart, May 23, 2006.</ref> In his November 3, 2006 visit to the Pontifical Gregorian University, Benedict XVI cited the university as "one of the greatest services that the Society of Jesus carries out for the universal Church." <ref>Benedict XVI's visit to the Gregorian University.</ref>

Ignatian spirituality

Sacred Heart of Jesus. According to Benedict XVI, the Jesuits have always been "extremely active in the promotion of this essential devotion."

As with all Catholic spirituality, the spirituality practised by the Jesuits, called Ignatian spirituality, is based on the Catholic faith and the gospels. Aside from the "Constitutions," "The Letters," and "Autobiography," Ignatian spirituality draws most specially from St. Ignatius' "Spiritual Exercises" whose purpose is "to conquer oneself and to regulate one's life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment." In other words, the Exercises are intended, in Ignatius' view, to give the exercitant (the person undertaking them) a greater degree of freedom from his or her own likes, dislikes, comforts, wants, needs, drives, appetites and passions that they may choose based solely on what they discern God's will is for them.

In the words of Kolvenbach, the Exercises try to "unite two apparently incompatible realities: exercises and spiritual." It invites to "unlimited generosity" in contemplating God, yet going down to the level of many details.<ref>Discourse given to the Rome Consultation, 16 February 2003.</ref>

Ignatian spirituality can be described as an active attentiveness to God joined with a prompt responsiveness to God, who is ever active in people's lives. Though it includes many forms of prayer, discernment, and apostolic service, it is the interior dispositions of attentiveness and responsiveness that are ultimately crucial. The result is that Ignatian spirituality has a remarkable 'nowness,' both in its attentiveness to God and in its desire to respond to what God is asking of the person now.<ref>Charles J. Jackson, Ignatian Spirituality.</ref>

The Ignatian ideal has the following characteristics:<ref>Pinard De La Boullaye, Ignatian Spirituality.</ref>

God's greater glory
St Ignatius of Loyola stressed that "Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord and by this means to save his soul." This is the "First Principle and Foundation" of the Exercises. Ignatius declares: "The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God's life to flow into us without limit... Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of God's life in me."
Union with Jesus
Ignatius emphasized an ardent love for the Savior. In his Exercises, he devoted the last weeks to the contemplation of Jesus: from infancy and public ministry, to his passion and lastly his risen life. The Spiritual Exercises, in 104, sum this up in a prayer: "Lord, grant that I may see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly." There is a great emphasis on the emotions in Ignatius' methods, and a call for the person to be very sensitive to the emotional movements that shape them.
Ignatius recommends the twice daily examen. This is a guided method of prayerfully reviewing the events of a day to awaken an inner sensitivity to one's own actions, desires, and spiritual state through each moment reviewed. The goals are to see where God is challenging the person to change and grow, where God is calling the person to deeper reflection (this is particularly apt when discerning one's vocation in life), and where sinful or imperfect attitudes or blind spots are. The general examen, often at the end of the day, is, as the name implies, a general review. The particular examen, often in the middle of the day, focuses on a particular fault identified by the person to be worked on over some days or weeks.
Spiritual direction
Meditation and contemplation such as the aforementioned examen are best guided, Ignatius says, by an experienced person. Jesuits and those following Ignatian spirituality meet with their spiritual director (traditionally a priest, though in recent years many laypeople have undertaken this role) on a regular basis (weekly or monthly) to discuss the fruits of their prayer life and be offered guidance. Ignatius sees the director as someone who can rein in impulsiveness or excesses, goad the complacent, and keep people honest with themselves. If the director is a priest, spiritual direction may or may not be connected with the Sacrament of Penance. Ignatius counseled frequent use of sacrament and while some directors see them as integrally linked, others hold them to be two separate relationships.<ref></ref>
Effective love
The founder of the Society of Jesus put effective love (love shown in deeds) above affective love (love based on nice feelings). He usually ended his most important letters with "I implore God to grant us all the grace to know His holy will and to accomplish it perfectly." True and perfect love demands sacrifice, the abandonment of tastes and personal preferences, and the perfect renunciation of self. This can be taken together with the prayer for generosity, which asks for teaching to be generous, to serve God as God deserves without counting any cost or seeking any reward except knowing that one is doing God's will.
Where Francis of Assisi's concept of poverty emphasized the spiritual benefits of simplicity and dependency, Ignatius emphasized detachment, or "indifference." For Ignatius, whether one was rich or poor, healthy or sick, in an assignment one enjoyed or one didn't, was comfortable in a culture or not, etc., should be a matter of spiritual indifference — a modern phrasing might put it as serene acceptance. Hence, a Jesuit (or one following Ignatian spirituality), placed in a comfortable, wealthy neighborhood should continue to live the Gospel life without anxiety or possessiveness, and if plucked instantly from that situation to be placed in a poor area and subjected to hardships should simply cheerfully accept that as well, without a sense of loss or being deprived.
Prayers, efforts at self-conquest and reflection
Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises is a fruit of months of prayer, and it is through prayer that one gets to understand Ignatian Spirituality. Jesuits stress the need to take time to reflect and to pray because prayer is at the foundation of Jesus's life. [1] Prayer, in Ignatian spirituality, does not dispense from "helping oneself," a phrase frequently used by Ignatius. Thus, he also speaks of mortification and of amendment.
Upon his recovery from battle wounds, St. Ignatius of Loyola hung his military accouterments before the image of the Virgin of Montserrat. Then he led a period of asceticism to found the Society of Jesus.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart, the Eucharist and our Lady
The Society of Jesus has a relationship with the Order of the Visitation in a commitment to spread the devotion to the Sacred Heart (though the concept of devotion to Christ's mercy, as symbolized in the image of the Sacred Heart, is more ancient, its modern origins can be traced to St. Marie Alacoque, a Visitation nun, whose spiritual director was St. Claude la Colombiere, S.J.). The Jesuits particularly promoted this devotion to emphasize the compassion and overwhelming love of Christ for people, and to counteract the rigorism and spiritual pessimism of the Jansenists.
St. Ignatius counseled souls to receive the Eucharist more often, and from the order's earliest days the Jesuits were promoters of "frequent communion". It should be noted that it was the custom for many Catholics before this time to receive communion perhaps once or twice a year, out of what Catholic theologians considered an exaggerated respect for the sacrament; Ignatius and others advocated communion at least monthly, emphasizing communion not as reward but as spiritual food; by the time of Pope St. Pius X, "frequent communion" had come to mean weekly and even daily reception of the Eucharist.
Ignatius made his initial commitment to a new way of life by leaving his soldier's weapons (and symbolically, his old values) on an altar before an image of the Christ child seated on the lap of Our Lady of Monsterrat. The Jesuits were long promoters of the Sodality of Our Lady, their primary organization for their students until the 1960s, which they used to encourage frequent attendance at Mass, reception of communion, daily recitation of the Rosary, and attendance at retreats in the Ignatian tradition of the Spiritual Exercises.
Zeal for souls
The purpose of the Order, says the Summary of the Constitutions, is "not only to apply one's self to one's own salvation and to perfection with the help of divine grace but to employ all one's strength, for the salvation and perfection of one's neighbor."
Finding God in all things
The vision that Ignatius places at the beginning of the Exercises keeps sight of both the Creator and the creature, the One and the other swept along in the same movement of love. In it, God offers himself to humankind in an absolute way through the Son, and humankind responds in an absolute way by a total self-donation. There is no longer sacred or profane, natural or supernatural, mortification or prayer - because it is one and the same Spirit who brings it about that the Christian will "love God in all things - and all things in God." Hence, Jesuits have always been active in the graphic and dramatic arts, literature and the sciences.
Examination of conscience
The Examination of Conscience is a simple prayer directed toward developing a spiritual sensitivity to the special ways God approaches, invites, and calls. Ignatius recommends that the examen be done at least twice, and suggests five points of prayer:
  • Recalling that one is in the holy presence of God
  • Thanking God for all the blessings one has received
  • Examining how one has lived his day
  • Asking God for forgiveness
  • Resolution and offering a prayer of hopeful recommitment
It is important, however, that the person feels free to structure the Examination in a way that is most helpful to him. There is no right way to do it; nor is there a need to go through all of the five points each time. A person might, for instance, find himself spending the entire time on only one or two points. The basic rule is: Go wherever God draws you. And this touches upon an important point: the Examination of Conscience is primarily a time of prayer; it is a "being with God."
Discernment is rooted in the understanding that God is ever at work in one's life, "inviting, directing, guiding and drawing" one "into the fullness of life." Its central action is reflection on the ordinary events of one's life. It presupposes a habit of personal prayer, self-knowledge, knowledge of one's deepest desires and openness to God's direction and guidance. Discernment is a prayerful 'pondering' or 'mulling over' the choices a person wishes to consider. In his discernment, the person's focus should be on a quiet attentiveness to God and sensing rather than thinking. His goal is to understand the choices in his heart: to see them, as it were, as God might see them. In one sense, there is no limit to how long he might wish to continue in this. Discernment is a repetitive process, yet as the person continues, some choices should of their own accord fall by the wayside while others should gain clarity and focus. It is a process that should move inexorably toward a decision.
Service and humility
Ignatius emphasized the active expression of God's love in life and the need to be self-forgetful in humility. Part of Jesuit formation is the undertaking of service specifically to the poor and sick in the most humble ways: Ignatius wanted Jesuits in training to serve part of their time as novices and in tertianhsip (see Formation below) as the equivalent of orderlies in hospitals (for instance, emptying bed pans and washing patients), to learn humility and loving service. Jesuit educational institutions often adopt mottos and mission statements that include the idea of making students "men and women for others," and the like. Jesuit missions have generally included medical clinics, schools and agricultural development projects as ways to serve the poor or needy while preaching the Gospel.

Jesuit formation

The training of Jesuits seeks to prepare men spiritually, academically and practically for the ministries they will be called to offer the Church and world. St. Ignatius was strongly influenced by the Renaissance and wanted Jesuits to be able to offer whatever ministries were most needed at any given moment, and especially to be ready to respond to assignments from the Pope. Formation for Priesthood normally takes up to 14 years, depending on the man's background and previous education, and final vows are taken several years after that, making Jesuit training among the longest of any of the religious orders.

Candidacy is an informal precursor to becoming a Jesuit, wherein a man interested in joining the Jesuits explores his calling with a spiritual director. The candidate attends vocation events, including retreats and discussions with other candidates and Jesuits. Candidacy can last any length of time, with the norm being about a year. During this time, the candidate may or may not live in a Jesuit community.

Novitiate is the first stage of formation. The Novice begins to live the three vows of poverty, chastity, obedience (though he has not yet vowed himself publicly), completes the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, learns about the history and practice of the order and enters into a series of “experiments.” These experiments are usually short ministerial assignments where the novice tests his aptitude for various ministries, such as teaching, working with the marginalized, or giving retreats. The novitiate lasts 2 years. Jesuit novices place the letters "n. S.J." after their names.

At this point, the novice pronounces his First Vows (perpetual Simple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and a vow to persevere to final profession and ordination) and becomes either a Scholastic (entering onto the path of priesthood) or a Jesuit brother (technically known as a "temporal coadjutor," but officially styled "brother" today). The scholastics (who are addressed as "Mister So-and-so,") and the Brothers of the Society of Jesus have different courses of study, although they often overlap.


For scholastics, the usual course of studies is as follows:

First Studies is the period when the scholastic begins his academic training. Depending on his prior education it will last 2–4 years, guaranteeing a grounding in philosophy and the attainment of at least a first university level degree. It may also introduce the study of theology or some other specialized area. As Jesuits serve on the faculties of high schools and universities, and in a wide variety of other positions, the Jesuit scholastic or Jesuit priest often earns a master or doctoral degree on some area -- Theology, History, English, Chemistry, Educational Administration, Law or any other subject. Hence, a Jesuit may spend another few years earning a graduate degree beyond the Bachelor's.

Regency is the next stage, wherein the scholastic lives and works in a typical Jesuit community (as opposed to the “formation communities” he has lived in so far). He is engaged full-time in ministry (an Apostolate), which is traditionally teaching in a secondary school; but it may be any ministry Jesuits are engaged in. Regency lasts for 2–3 years.

Theology is the stage immediately preceding ordination. By universal canon law, every candidate for priestly ordination must complete four years of theology studies, though part of this requirement may have been met in first studies. This will include the attainment of a first degree in theology (such as Bachelor of Sacred Theology), and usually a second (masters level) degree in a specialized area related to theology. As such, it is not uncommon for a Jesuit to hold a master's level degree in Theology and a second master's or a doctorate in a completely different field.

Ordination follows, and the new priest may receive a ministerial assignment or be sent back for further studies in any academic field. The ordained Jesuit priest will be chosen either for profession as a "spiritual coadjutor," taking the usual perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, or for profession as a "professed of the four vows." Those chosen for the latter undertake tertianship, so named because it is something like a third year of novitiate, which follows within a few years of ordination.

After his first fews years of experience of ministry as a priest, the Jesuit completes the final stage of formal formation by revisiting the essentials of Jesuit life which he learned as a novice. Once again, he studies the history and constitutions of the Jesuits, he makes the Spiritual Exercises and he participates in experimentism, most often by serving in ministries to the sick, terminally ill or poor.

Final Vows for the fully professed follow upon tertianship, and the Fourth vow, unique to Jesuits, of special obedience to the pope in matters regarding mission. Only the professed of the four vows are eligible for posts like novice master, provincial superior or assistant to the general of the society. The professed of the four vows also take five additional simple vows: not to consent to any mitigation of the Society's observance of poverty; not to have "ambition" or seek any prelacies (ecclesiastical offices) outside the Society; not to have ambition for any offices within the Society; a commitment to report any Jesuit who does show ambition; and, if a Jesuit does become a bishop, to permit the general to continue to provide advice to that bishop, though the vow of obedience to Jesuit superiors is not operative over matters the man undertakes as bishop. Under these vows, no Jesuit may "campaign" or even offer his name for appointment or election to any office, and if chosen for one must remind the appointing authority (even the Pope) of these vows — if the Pope commands that the Jesuit accept ordination as a bishop anyway, the Jesuit must keep an open ear to the Jesuit general as an influence.

Jesuit brothers

The formation of Jesuit brothers has a much less structured form. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, they worked almost exclusively within Jesuit communities as cooks, tailors, farmers, secretaries, accountants, librarians and maintenance support - they were thus technically known as "temporal coadjutors," as they assisted the professed priests by undertaking the more "worldly" jobs, freeing the professed of the four vows and the "spiritual coadjutors" to undertake the sacramental and spiritual missions of the Society. Following the Second Vatican Council, which recognized the mission of all the Christian faithful (not just those who are ordained) to share in the ministries of the Church, Jesuit brothers began to engage in ministries outside of their communities. Today, the formation of a Jesuit brother may take many forms, depending on his aptitude for ministry. He may pursue a highly academic formation which mirrors that of the scholastics -- there are, for instance, some Jesuit brothers who serve as university professors. Or he may pursue more practical training in areas such as pastoral counseling or spiritual direction (some assist in giving retreats, for instance). Or he may continue in the traditional “supporting” roles in which so many Jesuit brothers have attained notable levels of holiness (as administrative aides, for example). Since Vatican II, the Society has officially adopted the term "brother," which was always the unofficial form of address for the temporal coadjutors.

Regardless of the practical details, Jesuit formation is meant to form men who are open and ready to serve whatever is the Church’s current need. Today, all Jesuits are expected to learn English, and those who speak English as a first language are expected to learn Spanish.

Government of the society

The Society is headed by the Praepositus Generalis, (Latin for General President or General Superior) more commonly called Father General, who is elected by the General Congregation for life or until he resigns, is confirmed by the Pope, and has absolute authority in running the Society.

He is assisted by "assistants," each of whom heads an "assistancy," which is either a geographic area (for instance, the North American Assistancy) or an area of ministry (for instance, higher education). The assistants normally reside with the General Superior in Rome. Together with a number of other advisors, they form an advisory council to the General. A vicar general and secretary of the Society run day-to-day administration. The General is also required to have an "admonitor," a confidential advisor whose specific job is to warn the General honestly and confidentially when he is acting imprudently or is straying toward disobedience to the Pope or heresy. The central staff of the General is known as the Curia.

The order is divided into geographic provinces, each of which is headed by a Provincial Superior (generally called Father Provincial) chosen by the General. He has authority over all Jesuits and ministries in his area, and is assisted by a socius, who acts as a sort of secretary and chief of staff. With the approval of the General, he appoints a novice master and a master of tertians to oversee formation, and rectors of local houses of Jesuits. Each individual Jesuit community within a province is normally headed by a rector who is assisted by a "minister," a priest who helps oversee the community's day-to-day needs.

The General Congregation is a meeting of all of the assistants, provincials and additional representatives who are elected by the professed Jesuits of each province. It meets irregularly and rarely, normally to elect a new superior general and/or to take up some major policy issues for the order. The General meets more regularly with smaller councils composed of just the provincials.


Within the Catholic Church, some Jesuits have been criticized for being overly liberal and allegedly deviating from official Church teaching and papal directives, especially on such issues as abortion, priestly celibacy, homosexuality, and liberation theology.<ref>See:

  • Philip Sherwell. "US Catholic editor resigns after clash with Pope", The Daily Telegraph, 2005-08-05. Retrieved on 2007-02-18. 
  • Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J. (2005-04-04). Liberal Jesuits & the Late Pope. Catholic World News. Retrieved on 2007-02-18.</ref> Indeed, it is not unusual, especially in more conservative Catholic outlets, to hear calls for the outright abolishment of the Jesuit order. Thus, some may argue that the future influence of the Jesuits in the Catholic community, and perhaps their very existence, remains uncertain, while others may note that the Jesuit Order is well established in the Church and the communities where they serve. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, both considered to be theological conservatives, have appointed Jesuit theologians to the College of Cardinals, the highest position in the Church excepting the papacy itself, and John Paul II appointed Jesuit priest Roberto Tucci to the College after serving for many years as the chief organizer of papal trips and public events. In total, these two popes appointed 10 Jesuit cardinals.

Famous Jesuits

Notable Jesuits include missionaries, educators, scientists, artists and philosophers. Among many distinguished early Jesuits was St. Francis Xavier, a missionary to Asia who converted more people to Catholicism than anyone before. José de Anchieta and Manoel da Nobrega, founders of the city of São Paulo, Brazil, were also Jesuit priests.

The Church of the Gesu on the Ateneo Campus in Manila.

Jesuits in the Philippines

Though there is almost no occupation in civil life, and no ministry within the Church, which a Jesuit has not held at one time or another, and though the work of the Jesuits today embraces a wide variety of apostolates and ministries, they are probably most well known for their educational work. Since the inception of the order, Jesuits have been teachers. Today, there are Jesuit-run universities, colleges, high schools and middle or elementary schools in dozens of countries. Jesuits also serve on the faculties of both Catholic and secular schools as well.

In the Philippines, the Jesuit universities are all independent, although they maintain institutional ties. The Ateneo de Manila University, Ateneo de Naga University, Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, Ateneo de Zamboanga University and Ateneo de Davao University are all loosely federated. An affiliated grouping, Mindanao Consortium of Ateneo Universities, groups all of the Jesuit universities located in Mindanao island with the purpose of promoting Muslim-Christian unity and dialogue as well as to exchange knowledge and expertise in various academic fields.

There are a number of buildings and ruins in the Philippines that are the product of the Jesuit order's construction activities worldwide. These include the ruins of San Ignacio Church, and the Church of the Gesu on the Ateneo de Manila University campus. The stained-glass windows of the University Church of Xavier University and the chapels (grade school, high school, and college) of Ateneo de Davao are noteworthy.

Notes and references

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External links

The original Church of the Gesu, mother church of the Society of Jesus in Rome

Catholic Church documents

Jesuit documents



Original Source

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