The Society of Jesus – the Jesuits

Don Inigo Lopez de Recalde, the Ignatius
Loyola of history, was youngest son of  a Spanish Grandee and born in
the Castle of Loyola in 1491. Growing up in a relative luxury at the
Spanish Court he sought adventure and glory as a soldier, and did so very
successfully. Whilst shut up in Pampeluna and under siege by the French he
sternly refused to countenance surrender and went out to do battle rather
than be dishonoured. He was struck by a musket ball and fell helpless in
the field to be taken by the enemy into the fallen town and undergo crude
surgery. Three times his wounds were reopened and reputedly he made not a
sound each time he was subjected to the surgeon`s knife.  After a
long recovery period he felt a changed man and sought to become a “saint
of the burning torch”, a knight errant for the Virgin Mary. He spent some
time in a secluded cave in Manressa wrestling with the evil spirits and
voices , keeping an extremely austere  vigil  and virtually out
of his mind. He was rescued by friends  and went into a Dominican
convent at Manressa where he recovered his senses, albeit scourging
himself frequently and spending up to seven hours a day on his knees in
prayer. Here he had some thirty revelations of the Virgin that convinced
him of his purpose in life.

He left Manressa and made his way to
Barcelona and then Italy before returning to Barcelona in 1524 and going
to school. Gaining some proficiency in Latin he went on to the University
of Alcala in 1526 to study theology. In 1528 he went to the College of St
Barbara in Paris, where he stayed until 1535  at a time of great
religious excitement there. The agitations increased his zeal and he
recruited two fellow students – Francis Xavier of Pampeluna, Navarre, and
Peter Fabre of Savoy who became his first disciples. In a short time 
there also joined him Jacob Lainez, Alfonso Salmeron, Nicholas Bobadilla, 
and Simon Rodriguez.. Two others made their number nine  when they
formed the Society led by Loyola in 1534 [ see quote below ].

An important adjunct to the decisions of
the Council of Trent was the formal establishment of the Society of Jesus
(Jesuits).  Adopted by the Pope in
1540, the strict rules and total commitment to the Church and Pope were
quickly absorbed into the teaching of new priests who received a minimum
four weeks of his Spiritual Exercises. This was a four week retreat
of  devotional meditation and instruction – a week on sin; a week on
Christ`s kingship; a week on Christ`s Passion, and fourth week on his
risen life. This training was indicative of a better type of priest
becoming available as well as a rapid growth in the Jesuit fraternity from
the original six, to 1500 by 1556 spread mainly  in Spain, Portugal
and Italy; and lesser numbers in France Germany, the Low Countries, India,
Brazil and Africa. By 1626 they numbered 15,544 and continued to increase
until 1773 when France and Spain forced the Pope to suppress them. They
were a powerful force in three particular areas – high quality education
forming many schools and colleges thus acquiring early converts;
counteracting Protestantism  by all and any means anywhere it was
encountered; and, missionary expansion which was very rapid between 1550
and 1650. They had over 1000 martyrs, mostly killed in mission countries.
They were regarded by many as the Pope`s shock troops, filling important
places on delegations, and acted as Papal Legates thus bringing their
education and skills to bear amongst foreign governments.

The Jesuits are variously suspected or
denounced as the agents of the Antichrist  because of their
dedication and loyalty. Not unworthy attributes in themselves but in the
context of the late medieval religious warfare and the antagonism of the
papacy to the Reformation, their multifaceted skills took on a much darker
hue. The rules or `Institutes` of the Jesuits have never been published in
full, containing as they will numerous Papal Bulls showing the inner
workings of the day. But three basic doctrines were employed that allowed
or justified (to themselves)  their ability to do anything

1.  The ends justifies the means.

2. The principle of probability.
That it is safe to do any action  if it is probably right, although
it may be more probably wrong. Put another way, if there are two opinions,
It is allowable  to follow the less probable opinion, even though it
may be the less safe one.

3. The principle of directing the
of the act. This is based on the view that it is the soul
that does the act so far as it is moral or immoral. If the soul  can
abstract itself from  what the body is doing; the soul can fix itself 
on some benefit or advantage of the act done by the body. Thus by mentally
turning off the intention to do eg an act of vengeance, and direct it to a
desire to defend one`s honour – it becomes an allowable act. This
principle underlies the wanton violence, torture and burning of those
deemed guilty for the Placards incident, when the intention of revenge was
turned into one redeeming the honour of the Church and the Mass.

A similar casuistry would thus justify
the genocide of the Holocaust, the actions of numerous dictators in Africa
and Eastern Europe; or indeed the decision of modern politicians to go to
war in Iraq. Morals ? what are they ?

The following extract from Rev J A Wylie, The History of Protestantism,
vol ii, p 383-6. explains the admission and training of applicants to the
Order, and the reasons for their immense discipline.

On the 15th of August 1534, Loyola followed by his nine companions,
entered the subterranean chapel of the Church of Montmartre, at Paris, and
mass being said by Fabre, who had received priest`s orders, the company ,
after the usual vow of chastity and poverty, took a solemn oath to
dedicate their lives to the conversion  of the Saracens, or, should

make that attempt impossible, to lay
themselves and their services unreservedly at the feet

of the Pope. They sealed their oath by
now receiving
the Host. The day was chosen because it was the
anniversary of the Assumption of the
Virgin, and
the place because
it was consecrated to Mary, the

queen of saints and angels, from whom, as Loyola

firmly believed, he had received his
mission. The
army thus
enrolled was little, and it was great.

It was little when counted, it was
great when
weighed. In
sublimity of aim, and strength of

faith—using the term in its mundane
wielded a power before
which nothing on earth—
one principle excepted—should be able to

To foster the growth of this infant Hercules,
had prepared beforehand his book entitled
,Spiritual Exercises. This is
a body of rules for
teaching men how to conduct the work
of their
“conversion.” It
consists of four grand medita­
and the penitent, retiring into solitude, is
to occupy absorbingly
his mind on each in succe
during the space of the rising and setting of seven suns. It may be fitly
styled a journey from the gates of destruction to the gates of Paradise,
mapped out in stages so that it might be gone in the short period of four
weeks. There are few more remarkable books in the world. It combines the
self-denial and mortification of the Brahmin. with the asceticism of the
anchorite, and the ecstasies of the schoolmen. It professes, like the
Koran, to be a revelation. “The Book of Exercises,” says a Jesuit, “was
truly written by the finger of God, and delivered to Ignatius by the Holy
Mother of God.”

Spiritual Exercises,
we have said, was a body of rules by following
which one could effect upon himself that great change which in Biblical
and theological language is termed “conversion” The book displayed on the
part of its author great knowledge of the human heart. The method
prescribed was an adroit imitation of that process of conviction, of
alarm, of enlightenment, and of peace, through which the Holy Spirit leads
the soul that undergoes that change in very deed. This Divine
transformation was at that hour taking place in thousands of instances in
the Protestant world. Loyola, like the magicians of old who strove to
rival Moses, wrought with his enchant­ments to produce the same miracle.
Let us observe how he proceeded.

 The person
was, first of all, to go aside from the world, by entirely isolating
himself from all the affairs of life. In the solemn stillness of his
chamber he was to engage in four meditations each day, the first at
daybreak, the last at midnight. To assist the action of the imagination on
the soul, the room was to be artificially darkened, and on its walls were
to be suspended pictures of hell and other horrors. Sin, death, and
judgment were exclu­sively to occupy the thoughts of the penitent during
the first week of his seclusion. He was to ponder upon them till in a
sense “he beheld the vast conflagration of hell; its wailings, shrieks,
and blas­phemies; felt the worm of conscience; in fine, touched those
fires by whose contact the souls of the reprobate are scorched.”

 The second
week he was to withdraw his eye from these dreadful spectacles and fix it
upon the incar­nation. It is no longer the wailings of the lost that fill
the ear as lie sits in his darkened chamber, it is the song of the angel
announcing the birth of the Child, and ” Mary acquiescing in the work of
redemption.” At the feet of the Trinity lie is directed to pour out the
expression of the gratitude and praise with which continued medita­tion on
these themes causes his soul to overflow.

 The third
week is to witness the solemn act of the soul’s enrolment in the army of
that Great Captain, who “bowed the heavens and came down” in his
Incarnation. Two cities are before the devotee—Jerusalem and Babylon—in
which will he choose to dwell? Two standards are displayed in his
sight—under which will he fight? Here a broad and brave pennon floats
freely on the wind. Its golden folds bear the motto, “Pride, Honour,
Riches.” Here is another, but how unlike the motto inscribed upon it,
“Poverty. Shame, Humility.” On all sides resounds the cry “To arms!” He
must make his choice, and he must make it now, for the seventh sun of his
third week is hastening to the .setting. It is tinder the banner of
Poverty that he elects to win the incorruptible crown.

 Now comes
his fourth and last week, and with it there comes a great change in the
subjects of his meditation. He is to dismiss all gloomy ideas, all images
of terror; the gates of Hades are to be closed, and those of a new life
opened. It is morn­ing with him, it is a spring-time that has come to him,
and he is to surround himself with light, and flowers, and odours. It is
the Sabbath of a spiritual creation ; he is to rest, and to taste in that
rest the prelude of the everlasting joys. This mood of mind lie is to
cultivate while seven suns rise and set upon him. He is now perfected and
fit to fight in the army of the Great Captain.

 A not
unsimilar course of mental discipline, as our history has already shown,
did Wicliffe, Luther, and Calvin pass through before they became captains
in the army of Christ. They began in a horror of great darkness; through
that cloud there broke upon them the revelation of the “Crucified ;”
throwing the arms of their faith around the Tree of Expiation, and
clinging to it, they entered into peace, and tasted the joys to come. How
like, yet how unlike, are these two courses! In the one the penitent finds
a Saviour on whom he leans; in the other lie lays hold on a rule by which
he works, and works as methodically and regularly as a piece of
machinery. Beginning on a certain day, he finishes, like stroke of clock,
duly as the seventh sun of the fourth week is sulking below the horizon.
We trace in the one the action of the imagination, fostering one
over-mastering passion into strength, till the person becomes capable of
attempting the most daring enterprises, and enduring the most dreadful
sufferings. In the other we behold the intervention of a Divine Agent, who
plants in the soul a new principle, and thence educes a new life.

 The war in
which Loyola and his nine companions enrolled themselves when on the 15th
of August, 1534, they made their vow in the Church of Montmartre, was to
be waged against the Saracens of the East. They acted so far on their
original design as to proceed to Venice, where they learned that their
project  was meanwhile impracticable The war that had just broken out 
between the Republic and the Porte  had closed the gates of Asia.
They took this  as an intimation  that their field of operations
was to lie in the Western world. Returning on their path they now directed
their steps towards Rome. In every town through which they passed on their
way to the Eternal City, they left behind them an immense reputation for
sanctity by their labours in the hospitals, and their earnest addresses to
the populace on the streets. As they drew nigh to Rome, and the hearts of
some of his companions were beginning to despond, Loyola was cheered by a
vision, in which Christ appeared and said to him, “In Rome will
I be gracious unto thee.”‘ The hopes this vision inspired were not to be
disappointed. Entering the gates of the capital of Christendom, and
throwing themselves at the feet of Paul III., they met a most gracious
reception. The Pope hailed their offer of assistance as most opportune.
Mighty dangers at that hour threatened the Papacy, and with the half of
Europe in revolt, and the old monkish orders become incapable, the new and
unexpected aid seemed sent by Heaven. The rules and constitution of the
new order were drafted, and ultimately approved, by the Pope. Two
peculiarities in the constitution of the proposed order specially
recommended it in the eyes of Paul III. The first was its vow of
unconditional obedience. The society swore to obey the Pope as an army
obeys its general. It was not canonical but military obedience
which its members offered him. They would go to whatsoever place, at
whatsoever time, and on whatsoever errand he should be pleased to order
them. They were, in short to be not so much monks as soldiers. The second
peculiarity was that their services were to be wholly gratuitous; never
would they ask so much as a penny from the Papal See.

It was
resolved that the new order should bear the name of The Company of
Loyola modestly declined the honour of being accounted its
founder. Christ himself, he affirmed, had dictated to him its constitution
in his cave at Manressa. He was its real Founder : whose name then could
it so appropriately bear as His? The bull constituting it was issued on
the 27th of September 1540, and was entitled Regimini Militantis
and bore that the persons it enrolled into an army were to
bear “the standard of the Cross, to wield the arms of God, to serve the
only Lord, and the Roman Pontiff, His Vicar on earth.”

in Europe.