Lecture delivered by Paul Shore at the September 10, 2008 opening of the exhibit, “Spiritual Journeys:
Books Illustrating the First Two Centuries of Contemplation and Action of the Society of Jesus.”
©2008 Paul Shore
Copyright 2009 Pius XII Memorial Library, Saint Louis University.
Site created: 07/15/2009
Last modified: 07/15/2009
Anyone who would study the early history of the Society of Jesus is blessed with an abundance
of riches. Jesuits have left us monuments of architecture, works of music and dance, theological
and philosophical systems, realia in the form of religious objects, tools and mechanical
inventions, letters and reports. But most of all they have left us books, thousands and thousands
of books.
For those of us in the academy, surrounded by and producing books, books created by and for
the early Jesuits might seem like the easiest things to take up and study in order to gain an
understanding of the Society. But it is not as simple as that. After some years spent pondering
Jesuits and their books, I was told by a learned Jesuit that I was “close” to understanding what it
meant to be a Jesuit, but I was not quite there. Why? Because while these written records of the
Jesuits do document the aspirations, the achievements, and sometimes failures of the Society of
Jesus, they do so in the context of an internally experienced spiritual realm whose contours can
only be imperfectly reflected in a book or other written document. The first Jesuits were guided
by and made powerful by the use of words, but words alone cannot convey the totality of their
experiences or the passion of their convictions, nor do words easily render the complex
relationships that existed among Jesuits, or the perhaps even more complex relationships
between Jesuits and non-Jesuits.
Then, too, the Jesuits of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries lived in an intellectual and
political world very unlike our own. Their cosmos swarmed with unseen and dangerous demons,
much as ours is crowded with equally hazardous microbes. Their horizon revealed implacable
and ingenious enemies who sought their destruction. Among their allies were princes and
prelates of absolute power and material splendor. Their notions of causality, the individual,
justice, obedience, and virtue were based on assumptions in many cases unlike today’s, and the
very real Jesuit appreciation of non-European cultures derived from a profoundly different
motivation than our modern ideas of intellectual curiosity and respect for diversity.
In short, the Jesuits were human beings like us, but they understood and expressed their
humanity in ways that would often seem unfamiliar, even bewildering, were they to appear today
on this Jesuit university campus. Books alone cannot unlock this mystery, but they can provide a
This exhibit consists of only a small handful of the hundreds of titles produced by Jesuit presses
during the first century and a half that followed the founding of the Society in 1540. In these
years the Society grew with stunning speed from a roomful of companions seeking to be
assigned a mission by the Pope, to a vast and largely self-sustaining enterprise of enduring
significance in the history of the world (I often think of it as the first multi-national corporation,
1in some ways). At the same time, the Society developed an understanding of itself that it
expressed in many media, including books.
The books selected for this exhibition were chosen because of the roles they played in defining
the identity of the Jesuits to themselves and to others. This identity emerged in an environment
that we must keep in mind as we view these artifacts. First, the Jesuits were a new Catholic
order: on the day that the Pope approved the formation of the Society, the Benedictines were
already a thousand years old, the Dominicans and Franciscans over three centuries old. Perhaps
more importantly, the Jesuits were a new religious order that came into existence at the same
time that other Catholic orders were also being born: the Theatines, for example, were founded
sixteen years before the Jesuits, the Ursulines five years before. The Society of Jesus, therefore,
once granted its commission and focused on its educating and missionary missions, entered a
field already crowded with other orders competing for resources, recognition, recruits, and a
visible place in the fluid cultural landscape of the day.
While the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola, lived, the identity of the new order was
unmistakably shaped by his own personality: sensitive, energetic, aware of human relations and
social dynamics, yet simultaneously absolutely certain about where he was headed, and
unyielding in matters that he felt might compromise the Society. Yet even before Ignatius’ death
in 1556, tensions were emerging among some of the original Companions over points of
devotional practice and broader policy. After the Founder’s death, the Society underwent the
familiar process in which the thoughts of the creator of the institution become surrounded by an
aura that soon begins to obscure some of its intended meaning. Meanwhile those who carry on
the mission attempt to keep alive the charisma and vision of the founder, whose personality
becomes buried with this very effort.
Ignatius suffered in this way at least as much as most founders of religious movements: his
personality was soon rendered almost inaccessible by pious legends and baroque accretions; the
very rooms that he lived and died in in Rome were loaded with baroque tassels and gilded, obese
putti, obscuring the saint’s personal austerity and his medieval origins.
One of the goals of this exhibit is to put us in mind of this austere man
with medieval roots who founded the Society of Jesus. To this end, the
first book in this exhibit is the Vita Christi of Ludolf of Saxony, a
fourteenth century Carthusian. It is the book, Ignatius tells us, that was
brought to him while he languished in bed for months while recovering
from grave battlefield injuries. This much of the story is well known to us
from Ignatius’s so-called autobiography. Let us consider this story from
three perspectives. First, that of Ludolf, the author, whose unsystematic
(and for this modern reader, sometimes annoying) presentation of learned
citations is counterbalanced by his great gifts of description, gifts that
“hooked” Ignatius, the physically immobilized yet profoundly physical
2reader. Ludolf produced this book to be read aloud, so that the vivid images with which the text
abounds—and the religious truths it was intended to convey—might be absorbed through human
contact and metaphor. In fact, Ludolf wrote towards the end of a great era of European orality
which would fade with the appearance of the printed word and a vast expansion of schools—an
expansion that the Jesuits themselves would play a key role in.
In Ludolf’s day, the fourteenth century, the humanity of the characters of the stories from
Christ’s life was communicated through the human processes of reading and hearing, an
interpersonal transaction. But Ignatius, let us recall, read the Vita Christi alone (although perhaps
not silently), internalizing the drama and integrating it into what he already knew of life. Thus
the second perspective is that of a man of action, a Basque nobleman (though by cannonball
involuntarily made inactive), directing his attention to a new set of actions and motivations that
he previously presumably had not given much thought to. In this instant a new journey is
beginning, one that will soon lead to a geographical pilgrimage (Manresa, Paris, Rome, and
beyond), but which begins with an inward turning (in Latin, conversio), a journey, elements of
which would be repeated by countless Jesuits in the coming years and centuries. We see also the
beginnings of a productive tension among the Jesuits between reflection and action, between the
concrete and the imagined, that will remain an outstanding characteristic of this Jesuit journey.
The third perspective from which to view this event of crucial importance to the history of the
Jesuits, and, I believe, to the history of the entire Catholic Church, is that of Ignatius, now
revered at sixty-three years old (and that’s an old man in the sixteenth century), reflecting on
these events that had led to the founding and expansion of the Jesuits. His initial encounter, years
earlier, with the lengthy, scholastic Latin sentences of Ludolf, he now understands through the
prism of the development of the new institution he had founded and the trials he had seen it
through. Ignatius, reflecting, now sees clearly his own substitution of the Life of Christ for the
chivalric romance that he actually wanted to read, the worldly with the spiritual, the erotic with
the transcendent. His words seek to explain his understanding of this change, the commencement
of the journey, and in doing so, he helps define the evolving Society. A founding narrative is
But what of the book that actually precipitated this
transformation? We don’t have the Castilian version of the
Vita Christi, which Ignatius would have read himself; instead
our exhibit offers a sixteenth-century edition of the original
Latin of Ludolf. Despite its publication date of 1530, this is a
medieval book, one very close in spirit to the volume that
Ignatius would have read himself. Both the format and the
illustrations of our book are redolent of the pre-modern culture in which Ignatius reached
manhood and which characterized much of Europe during his lifetime.
3Let me just briefly show you one of the woodcuts that ornaments
this remarkable volume: Christ and the Tempter in the wilderness.
No baroque accretions or hard-to-understand props here: on a bare
stage, two figures of equal stature executed in simple outline,
facing the viewer. The mood is one of isolation, solitude, and
confrontation. The Tempter in fact is offering Christ the world. It
is a model of many of the encounters that the Jesuits woul
experience as a result of their inward and outward journeys. The
pre-modern Society of Jesus, despite its thousands of members and
well-crafted organization, strikes the modern researcher as a
gathering of individuals bound by vows and common goals, but
frequently operating in remote and isolated settings. The one-on-one debater with opponents or
rivals of Church teachings, the lone missionary passing through the darkening wilderness, the
solitary black-robed figure giving last rites to battlefield slain, the priest on the scaffold
ministering to the condemned criminal, or facing execution himself: each of these images is a
commonplace in later Jesuit writings. And ultimately the Society itself becomes personified, and
would be described by its own writers in terms of the experience of a solitary single person—
being born, growing, suffering, and gaining honor. A single entity that is always confronting a
Tempter who must be overcome, a corporate entity whose journey embodies the journeys of
many solitary men.
onnect this
A century after the establishment of the Society, its writers and artists
produced a baroque masterpiece: the Imago primi saeculi. The pope was
not pleased; much about this massive, ambitious book struck him as
distinctly lacking in humility and restraint. Today we are struck by the
opulence of the object itself, the multiple media employed (poems in
Latin, Greek and even Hebrew, tomb inscriptions quoted at length, prose
history, scores of detailed, complex, emblematic engravings), the cultural
sophistication on every page which both flatters and challenges reader and
viewer, the technical virtuosity and ingenuity of the illustrations. Most
arresting is the motto—one of many presented—which is also featured on
the headpiece of the catalog of this exhibit: Unus non sufficit orbis:
literally, “one world is not enough.” How should we
understand this phrase, which is echoed repeatedly in other
mottos found throughout the Imago? As with other references
in the Imago, the answer is complicated. The line is from the
Silver Age Latin poet Juvenal’s Satires —almost. The ori
line is a bit longer, containing two more words that c
dissatisfaction with merely one world to Alexander the Great.
Plutarch, a contemporary of Juvenal, recorded in his Moralia
the often-repeated tale that Alexander, when he reached India,
4wept because there were no more worlds to conquer. This legend was undoubtedly known to
Juvenal, to many of the readers of the Imago, and certainly to the creator of this image, which
has put India very conspicuously in the right-hand hemisphere.
Several different journeys are implied in this line. The first is Alexander’s, the eternally youthful
conqueror (remember, he died at 33) who reached the Indus River after subduing the oriental
despotism of Persia and conquering much of what was then the known world. Alexander, whose
supposed virtues have since been seriously deconstructed by historians, was viewed in the
seventeenth century as an exponent of European culture par excellence. A student of Aristotle,
an imitator of the mythic heroes such as Achilles, Alexander, at least in his legendary blond,
heroic form, shared many of the virtues of the protagonists of Jesuit school dramas. His
ambitions were put in the best possible light by many of the historians who came after him, who
pointed out his clemency and charity towards the captive members of the Persian court, his love
of literature and culture, his genius, energy, ingenuity, and bravery. Alexander had sought the
Indies—petit Indias—a phrase echoing one used so many times in Jesuit documents that refers to
any Jesuit seeking assignment overseas. But India was also a place with special significance to
the Society.
For it was in India that Xavier, the most widely traveled of the original companions of Ignatius,
had achieved his first great triumph as a missionary. And while “India” could be shorthand for
any distant, exotic destination, it was also the name of a land better known than China or Japan,
and it was synonymous with fabulous wealth. India was another world, and the empires and the
virgin lands of the Americas were new worlds, too. The engraving above the motto unus non
sufficit orbis shows the two hemispheres accompanied by an armed and steady-eyed Eros (this is
no pudgy putto) and the names of the Jesuit missions are emblazoned on the various continents.
Here, “One world is not enough” can be taken to mean: the Old World was not enough; we have
journeyed to new worlds that the antique heroes such as Alexander and Hercules (who is
mentioned in the accompanying poem) could not have imagined. When the Jesuit Manuel de
Nobrega traveled from the Old World to Brazil in the middle of the sixteenth century, he had this
truncated line of Latin sewn into the sails of his ship.
Most of the opponents of the Jesuits (and by 1640, the year the Imago was published, there was
quite a crowd) took this motto in a more broadly geographic sense. The Jesuits, they said, were
not content with the vast world they had taken on as their missionary field; rather they were so
vainglorious that for them the terrestrial globe was not enough. Someone perusing the Imago
may be tempted to accept such an interpretation. The complex allegorical messages of the
emblems, the Latin verses loaded with classical allusions, the presentation of the history of the
Society in a formula that calls to mind the birth, life, and suffering of the Savior himself: all
these elements smack of an organization that is pretty sure of itself and sure of its position and its
importance in a Counter-Reformation then reaching its crest. Failure and setbacks are dealt with
in oblique and unthreatening ways. Here we see arrows shot by fools (one of whom is having
some problems with his pants, looks like); they’re headed to the sun, but the arrows turn and fall
5to earth. Meanwhile the hammer blows of opponents only
make the Society stronger. Neither heady success nor
seeming defeat is enough to stop the progress of the Jesuits.
Yet there is yet another way that we may take the slogan,
“One world is not enough,” and that is that our earthly life
should never be enough for us, that we should aspire to a
better and heavenly one. The message here is of salvation.
The avowed mission of the Jesuits from the very beginning
was cura animarum, the care of souls. In practical terms
this meant the baptism of individuals whenever possible.
Jesuit records of the period are full of statistics on the
number of baptisms, adult conversions, people taking
communion, and apostates reclaimed. The duty of the Jesuit
missionary was to bring souls living on this earth to
salvation in the next. This was yet another spiritual journey,
one for both the Jesuits committed to this undertaking, and
for those whose souls they attempted to save. This mission – and the Spiritual Exercises of
Ignatius, and, as we’ve heard, an early example of which graces this exhibit—provides the
backdrop against which many if not all the Society’s activities from this period can be
We now come to the Societas Jesu usque ad sanguinis et vitae
profusionem militans…, etc. (It’s a long baroque title including the word
Mahometanos – rather politically incorrect—at about the middle.) This
is perhaps the heart of the exhibit. The year is 1675, and it is a hundred
and thirty-five years since the formation of the Jesuits. The narratives of
thousands of men have become merged with the larger identity of the
Society. As the title of the book suggests, this is the story of the pouring
out of the blood and life of individual Jesuits. But Tanner does not
present the accounts of these martyrdoms (almost every one of which is
accompanied by an engraving) in order to sadden, shock, or alarm us.
Instead, these detailed accounts are intended to demonstrate how the
deaths of these Jesuits accomplished great good, and are in fact worthy of our emulation.
The notion that martyrdom advanced the cause of the Faith of course did not originate in the
baroque Society of Jesus; the primitive Christian Church cherished its martyrdom narratives.
Tanner’s book has two specific purposes, though, that go beyond this earlier goal. First, Tanner
(and other Jesuits who composed the obituary notices that appear in the Society’s archives) seek
to explain the setbacks experienced by Jesuits to which the Imago only alluded indirectly or
allegorically. The great triumphs of the first century of the Society’s undertakings were
6interspersed with profound hardships and tragedies. The Japanese mission, which began with
such promise, was brutally suppressed. Jesuit endeavors in Transylvania, the Philippines,
Americas, and England experienced tragic setbacks, while, closer to home, plague claimed the
lives of many Jesuits ministering to the stricken throughout Europe.
What did these
misfortunes mean?
The Societas Jesu
usque ad sanguinis is
unsparing in
answering this
question on a frankly
concrete level; ove
one hundred
engravings show
Jesuits being murdered
in fiendish and frankly
appalling ways:
beheading; drowning;
an early modern
favorite, drawing and
quartering; a Japanese
specialty, being
hanged upside down;
submersion in freezing
water (notice the
snowflakes—a nice touch by the engraver); and scalding by boiling water. But there’s a deeper
lesson than just the sacrifices as physical events. Each of these sacrifices is carrying forward the
success of the Society and the
triumph of the Faith, for, as one
allegorical engraving in this book
proclaims, “The blood of the marty
is the seed of the Christians” –
sanguis martyrum semen
christianorum. (And here, a detail from the same engraving, we actually
see an angel with a watering can watering the Christian garden with the
fluid marked with the monogram often used by the Jesuits.) Now this
much is predictable, but Jesuit-generated records from this period tell us
that individual Jesuits—in fact, whole communities—experienced
frustration, sadness, and even despair when their enterprises failed to bear fruit. Nor were these
sentiments kept a complete secret, since the reports in which they appear were intended to be
7read by other Jesuits (if not by a wider public who might rea
the other travel narratives that you will see in this exhibit). The
men who undertook these journeys were compelled by these
misfortunes to examine their own consciences, the
environments in which they worked, the people whom the
encountered, and finally their own obedience to God’s word.
The tension between the em
otions documented in Jesuit
community histories and the faithful sacrifices that Tanne
reports was, I believe, an important element in the internal
spiritual journey of these Jesuits. And Tanner’s volume, alm
as massive a work as the Imago, was written both to inspire and
to impress laity and to bolster the courage and commitment of other Jesuits experiencing these
tensions. Where the Imago employs sophisticated language and emblematic imagery to
communicate the mission of the Society, Tanner’s work assures his confreres that even in the
darkest moments of the Jesuit journey, the Divine plan is still in place, and that their own
sacrifices were likewise evidence, not of failure, but of success. In doing so, the Societas Jesu
usque ad sanguinis becomes as important a document of Jesuit self-definition as the bett
known Imago.
But that is not all that the illustrations, and in some cases, the texts of this book accomplish. In
the retelling of the tales of Jesuit martyrdom and triumph, Tanner draws a chiaroscuro picture of
the struggle to save souls whose villains are as vivid as its hero martyrs. In Ludolf’s Vita Christi,
Christ and the Tempter stand ready to contend over matters of power and truth in a fashion that
seems surprisingly civil. By contrast, Tanner’s book gives us the opponents of the Jesuits often
as barely human wretches, distinguished from the Fathers whom they torment by their costume,
facial expression and gesture. These tormentors are the Other whose inhumanity portrayed here
demonstrates the limits of early modern Jesuit tolerance towards differing religious beliefs and
cultures, while simultaneously casting the virtue of the Jesuits to shine forth even more brightly.
The drawing of this line between light and
dark is most striking when the Other is not a
turbaned Turk or a native without clothing, but
a European Christian. The Calvinist soldiers
who cast these Jesuits from this tiny boat into
the South Atlantic; the sadistic English
executioners (and Tanner seems to really like
sadistic English people—I don’t know why—
also brutish English people), but we see here
the execution of Fathers Southwell and Garnet;
or perhaps even more dramatically, the
exotically yet somehow effeminately garbed Transylvanian Calvinist who torments Stephanus
8Pongracz and his companions: all drive home the nearness and
omnipresence of the Other in this particular strand of Jesuit narrative.
The journeying Jesuit expected to meet the prospective convert. In
Jesuit reports these converts come in several standard varieties,
among them the repentant libertine (sometimes a repentant libertine
even becomes a Jesuit), the girl fleeing a non-Catholic marriage, the
Jewish wife seeking escape from her brutish, if learned husband, and
there are others. But in addition to these prospective converts, we also
meet in these narratives the adversary, who might strike down a Jesuit
with an edged weapon, or perhaps, even more deviously, poison him.
Some of the most haunting illustrations in Tanner’s work depict the
victims of poisoning holding an envenomed cup, which, as you can see,
contains a diminutive serpent. With such unseen risks, sacrifice might
be demanded of any Jesuit at any moment.
Interwoven with this fatalistic yet optimistic view of the Jesuit journey
are understandings of the function of the body, the purpose of
knowledge, and the proof of virtue that are quite alien to ones that we
are used to today. The body in baroque Catholic Europe was a potent
receptacle of power: witness the worldwide cult of relics that flourished
in these centuries. At the same time the body was the source of danger
in a world that did not yet understand the germ theory of disease, and
the body seemed far more fragile and probably much more mysterious
than our own bodies seem today.
Feeble in many ways, a Jesuit’s body did have one great potentiality: it could be broken. The
breaking of a Jesuit’s body was on one level an act in imitatione Christi (in imitation of Christ);
it was also a realization of part of the journey that a Jesuit might undertake, a culminating step in
the process that began with the commitments called forth in undertaking the Spiritual Exercises,
at which point, it was hoped, any fear or hesitation in facing such a sacrifice was abandoned
(although it’s worth remembering that the Spiritual Exercises could take men and women in
other paths: the artist Bernini undertook them as well).
Jesuit martyrdoms were also acts of witness to the knowledge that each Jesuit possessed as the
product of his intellectual training, spiritual formation, and life experiences. Books such as
Tanner’s likewise were witnesses to this knowledge, organized and expanded into a narrative
embracing the many missions of the Society. Interwoven with both of these ideas was an
understanding of the virtues of fortitude and self-denial, called by some modern Jesuit
commentators “self-annihilation,” which were understood as among the highest levels of
Christian virtue. (And yet, we must ask, did a sort of desire for personal glory lurk behind the
overtly expressed commitment of a martyr to die for the “greater glory of God”? Books cannot
really tell us the answer to that.)
9Books not only documented these events but contributed to the creation of a narrative to which
Jesuits in future centuries would refer as they sought self definition. Added to the edifying Latin
literature to which the Ratio held the key, and the challenges posed by the Spiritual Exercises,
Jesuit book culture of the seventeenth century created a landscape of language, symbol, and
illustration that future Jesuits might move through towards new goals.
As we gaze at these demonstrations of baroque virtue across a chasm of over three hundred
years, we might be put off by the repeated graphic displays of violence and the objectification of
its perpetrators. The pre-Enlightenment presentation of religious devotion as the ultimate human
motivator might further alienate us, living as we do in a world of suicide bombers motivated by
devotion to their religious truth. The motivations and cultural assumptions of these European
men who ventured into new worlds to spread what they believed to be the Truth can be
understood in ways far different from how they themselves saw their journeys. But no
investigation of the Society of Jesus—and here I include the modern Society as well—can avoid
an examination of the motivation of these men and of the culture that fostered their hopes,
beliefs, and visions.
First, it must be said that while the gestures and language found in the world of Tanner’s Jesuits
may seem inaccessible to us, the modern Society of Jesus is by no means completely divorced
from things resembling the spiritual journeys of these early Jesuits. The martyrdom of the five
Jesuits in El Salvador in 1985 is only one instance of the spirit of self-sacrifice manifesting itself
in recent times. The early Jesuits believed fervently that the written word was a powerful means
of communicating the message of how elevation of the life of the spirit was the goal towards
which more earthly undertakings were directed. Even centuries later, it’s not so difficult to see
that relationship.
Less easily grasped today are the contours of the spiritual journey as the writers of the Ratio, the
Spiritual Exercises, the Imago and Jesuit travel narratives understood them. The early Jesuits
deliberately moved towards denial and even dissolution of the self; our modern Jesuit institutions
offer the prospect of personal fulfillment and success defined in the terms of the larger culture.
The early Jesuits strove to serve in the physical world, while continually keeping sight of the
potential destruction of their own physicality. Contemporary Jesuit education does not always
call attention to physical loss, let alone destruction. The sixteenth and seventeenth century
Society, while prepared to engage other cultures, remained at an institutional level unwilling to
acknowledge the legitimacy of other religious traditions (the artists who were active in the
Societas Jesu usque ad sanguinis portray the objects of devotion in Asian societies in the ugliest
possible way, it has to be said). By contrast, modern day Jesuit higher education in our country
goes to considerable lengths to embrace and understand many religious traditions. The morally
focused and rigorously hierarchical curricular theory of the Ratio has been replaced by a
kaleidoscope of disciplinary offerings whose common cause with a Jesuit identity is sometimes
so difficult to locate that we must hold conferences and symposia to discover the connection. The
culture of obedience that suffuses Jesuit books of this period (and which provides some of the
10most arresting symbols found in the Imago) is not so much challenged by today’s American
Jesuit university students; rather it is scarcely known to most of them.
Yet it would be simplistic to diagnose this transformation as merely a case
of a rigorous pre-modern institution broadening as it moves into the
modern and postmodern worlds. Nor are some of the critics of the Society
correct when they accuse Jesuits of watering down or softening up their
curriculum in order to accommodate changing times. We can see this in
another book that Matthias Tanner wrote and which was published shortly
after his death: Societas Jesu apostolorum imitatrix (Society of Jesus, an
imitator of the apostles). The same Society which set before its members
explicit images of their physical dissolution could at the same time
celebrate human connections and lovingly depict beauty in the physical
world. This volume is concerned with those acts of individual Jesuits that
imitated the deeds of the original apostles, not all of whom of course became martyrs.
Among the illustrations that grace this volume is a representation of the
“bonfire of vanities” set up by Rodericus Ninno de Guzman, which
burned in the streets of seventeenth-century Toledo. Although the
intent of the Jesuit father is to suppress unwholesome forms of
attachment to the material world, look at the details in this engravi
Ninno de Guzman is accompanied in his good work by two finely
dressed gentlemen who toss playing cards on a tidy pyre while the
black-robed father stands to the side expostulating. While the su
the engraving is of course Father Guzman’s apostolic work, the center
of the composition is actually one of the hidalgos, gracefully posed,
sword on his hip, practicing virtue at the Jesuit’s behest, but is n
compromised in his own personal elegance, nor apparently being called upon to do so.
bject of
Engagement with the Other and acknowledgement of the possibilities
of the physical world is even more evident in this engraving, a favorite
of mine, of Father Hieronymus Lopez pausing in the nocturnal semidarkness of a Spanish street. The pre-Suppression Society was one of
the most prolific producers of drama in the history of the world, and
almost any public activity of the Jesuits in this era can legitimately be
considered theatre of some sort. As with the scene in Toledo, framed
by the city wall, here there is a performance, this time with performers,
producer and audience. Three figures sum up a procession that is being
watched by residents standing in lighted upper floor windows. Again,
laypersons are the focal point of this composition. Two well dressed
boys and another gentleman move along the flagstones while Father Lopez reads and rings a bell.
Encased torches add warmth and mystery to the scene, and the gentleman turns towards the
11Jesuit just as his vestment almost brushes the head of one of the boys. It is a scene both theatrical
and intimate, and free of terror, hatred, or misfortune.
So while the Society set forth an ideal that in its realization in the Ratio was intellectually
demanding, and in the Imago refined and even haughty, and in the Societas Jesu usque ad
sanguinis tragic and shocking, the image of the gesture of Father Lopez, human in scale, sensory
in intent, shows us that these sides of the Jesuit experience also existed. The ringing of this small
bell, echoed in the choral pieces composed for Jesuit churches and the chanted recitations of
young performers in Jesuit dramas, is a small counterpoint to much of what I briefly touched on
here. And it is more than this; it suggests an inherent and arguably productive tension in the
journeys of these early Jesuits, a tension from the start between denial of the world and
acknowledgment of it, and on a different plane, between the inward, spiritual journey and the
outwardly manifested, physical one. Evidence of both are found in the volumes that you will be
seeing in a few minutes, as well as hints to what lay ahead for the Society, as both these journeys
continued in the coming century, towards the landmarks of suppression, restoration, and
Thank you very much.


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