Imagens das páginas

"Suddenly chinese ciety, under "The Pope

the proffer be removed. sixty, a room

cessary novelty ; but by some influence (heavenly, the biographers say), the cardinal suddenly changed his opinions, the Pope confirmed the Institute and also the society, under the title of The Society of Jesus, on the 27th September, 1540. The Pope authorised them to make constitutions, or bye-laws, for the good of their neighbour, their own perfection, and the glory of God; but limited the number of the professed to sixty,-a restriction which, two years afterwards, he removed. His Holiness now called into action the proffered services of the new society. Several of them were despatched into different parts of Italy on the necessary business of the church ;-Faber accompanied Ortiz, who had received orders from Charles V. to be present at the Diet of Worms; and at the request of John III. of Portugal, Xavier was sent by Ignatius to the East Indies, and Rodriguez to Portugal, where he became superior of the college of Coimbra, founded as a nursery of preachers for the New World. The sanction of the holy See being thus obtained for the Institute, Ignatius considered that the next important step would be to choose a Superior; and, for this purpose, he, with the permission of the Pope, summoned to Rome such of his companions as were able to attend. After the usual kind of preparation the society met, and all the votes were found to be for Ignatius, except his own, which he gave to him who should have most suffrages, but still excepting bimself. Ignatius, however, refused to accept the office of General, on the plea that he, who was not able to conduct himself, was not fit to conduct others. This refusal, as generally happens in such cases, only confirmed the society in their choice; but, in deference to him, they agreed to a new election, which, after four days of fasting and prayer, was again determined in his favour. His disinclination, however, still continued ; and it was not until he had obtained the sanction of his confessor that he consented to accept the charge of the company, which he did on Easter-day, 1541. They made their profession the same week, the Society to Ignatius, as their General and Chief, and he to the Pope himself. They engaged to observe perpetual poverty, chastity, and obedience; besides a special obedience to the Pope, with regard to missions : and they obliged themselves to catechise children.

Having effected this important measure, the General next turned his attention to the formation of a code of regulations for the government of the Society. The mode he adopted in writing his Constitutions, was of the most patient and painstaking kind. He first examined every article, and set down all the reasons for and against its adoption ; and having exactly weighed them on each side, and spent some time in prayer, he chose or rejected the article according to the strength or weakness of such reasons. Upon one occasion, when, after ten days' consideration, he had made up his mind on one article, he still continued to meditate upon it for thirty days together. ", .. As these Constitutions must have considerable influence in determining the character of the founder, we think it necessary to give a brief account of the most striking parts of them. He commences by pointing out the object of the order, which was not only the cultivation and salvation of their own souls, but those of their neighbours; and proceeds to consider the two different forms of life, the contemplative and active. In the first he includes mental prayer, the examination of conscience, the reading of scripture, spiritual retirement, &c.; and in the second, every thing that might contribute to the perfection of their neighbours,—preaching, catechising, missions among Christians and infidels, maintaining controversies against heretics, the direction of conscience, the instruction of youth, visiting prisons, &c. He then proceeds to the principal qualities essential to obtain admission into the society, — such as good nature, fair talents, a vigorous constitution, a well made person, and an engaging carriage : and although rank or fortune are not to be considered, when destitute of these qualities, he recommends them not to be overlooked when they are united to them. The strictest and most minute scrutiny is enjoined into the connections and character of the candidate, as, for example, whether he was born in lawful wedlock, what was the situation of his family, whether he was an only son, and had any engagement of marriage, or otherwise. The founder also prescribed a narrow examination of his disposition; and, to render that examination more perfect, the candidate is interrogated with the greatest freedom by the Superior, who is directed to observe the most profound secrecy on the subject. If, after these preliminary steps, the candidate is judged worthy of admission, he is asked whether he be willing to be admonished by the Superior of all his faults; and whether he himself be willing to inform him, in the spirit of charity, of the faults of others when required. These interrogations being satisfactorily answered, the novice enters upon the spiritual exercises, and assumes the ordinary habit of the society. During the novitiate, which lasts two years, the novice does not study at all, except learning something every day by heart, in order to cultivate the memory. So that the first two years are exclusively devoted to piety and charity; in short, to the acquisition of solid virtue, more especially humility, and self-denial. The third year, the novice entered upon the study of human learning, which, in due course, embraced all that rendered man learned and accomplished, not even omitting the lighter graces

of exterior behaviour ; but, at the same time, regulating their application in such a manner, as to preserve their constitution in full health and vigour. Remembering the impediments which his own exercises of charity, his ill-timed devotion, and voluntary poverty had caused to his progress in learning, he directed that the students should not be employed abroad, that the time of their prayers should be limited, and that the col. leges of the society should have foundations. But considering that study and speculation might abate the religious fervour of the novice, he appointed another year of novitiate, in which he should devote himself to the exercises of a spiritual life, without the least regard to human learning. . This constituted the first degree of the Society, under the title of Scholars Approved. The second degree is, the Spiritual Coadjutors, who make all the vows, except the special vow of obedience, with respect to missions; and the third, the Fathers Professed. In order to preserve the purity and utility of the society, the General reserved the power of dismissing such persons as were either dissolute, or caused dissension, or contrived anything against the Order. He also directed that such as were, through idleness, wholly useless, or had essential impediments, (but not corporal infirmities only) should be discarded. And for this purpose, although the Scholars Approved are bound to the society, and the use, but not the right, of their property taken away, they, as well as the Spiritual Coadjutors, shall have dispensations from their vows, and their property be punctually restored to them. In order to avoid singularity, and to gain his disciples admission into all ranks of society, he did not prescribe any uniformity of habit; but ordained that it should be decent, and according to the usage of the country in which they lived, so that it were not contrary to religious poverty: and on the same principle of giving full effect to his establishment, he determined not to command any austerities, leaving it to every one, to act in that matter as his health and employment would permit. With respect to the Fathers Professed, who constitute the essential part of the society, he obliged them never to seek after any superiority in the society, and to maintain an exact observance of evangelical poverty; not permitting the professed houses to have any revenues, although he allowed the novitiates and colleges to enjoy them; and he also prohibited them, not only from seeking, directly orindirectly, any ecclesiastical dignities, and from soliciting any offices, but from accepting them without the command of the head of the church,

We now come to the General of the society, whose authority he directed influenced, probably, by his early notions of military

discipline) should be absolute, and for life; two provisions equally desirable for the purpose of carrying into effect great enterprises. He was invested with the power of making Provincials, Superiors of professed houses, and Rectors of colleges and novitiates : and that the General might be perfectly acquainted with the state of the society, and be enabled to select proper instruments for his design, the Superiors were obliged to send him, once a year, an account of those under their charge; and every three years, a catalogue of the ages of every person in the province, with an account of his talents, and his progress in learning and virtue; but whenever a member of the society was about to be admitted to his degree or elected to a superiorship, an extraordinary report was made ; and, that the information might be such as the General could rely upon, it was made by three different persons, who had no communication with each other.

In describing the qualities necessary for a General, Ignatius is said to have undesignedly drawn his own character. To the General were assigned, as his co-adjutors, five assistants, bearing the name of their respective countries, men of experience and application, chosen by a general congregation of the whole society : their office was to assist him in his charge, and in some measure to observe his conduct, so that if he deviated from his duty, they had the power of calling a general congregation, to depose him ; or, if the evil would not admit of delay, they had power to depose him themselves, having previously by letters taken the suffrages of the provinces. Besides this, the General, as have all the superiors, has near him a discreet person, chosen by the society, whose business it is to admonish him of any fault he may commit, but with all possible respect and moderation. Ignatius also established a variety of other rules to preserve the union, obedience, and dependance of the society ; and, that the provincials and rectors might have frequent and ready communication with him, and that every one might address him when he pleased, he ordained that the General should have a fixed habitation, and that his ordinary residence should be at Rome.

Such is the outline of the once far-famed Institute of Ignatius, than which nothing can be conceived better calculated to organize a powerful and effective body of men, with cultivated minds and subdued passions, possessing the gravity and decorum of the cloister without its sullenness and reserve, and the suavity and accomplishments of the world, without its vices or frivolity. That there were exceptions to this character is not to be doubted, but such exceptions were rare; and even in cases where vice had set her seal on the heart of the priest, she veiled herself under an exterior of decency and modesty: and where ambition had fired the imagination, its flames were shrouded within the temple of his own breast. But, if his example was less likely to offend, his designs were more difficult to penetrate, and his misconduct more difficult to detect; consequently dismission from the society was less likely to occur. The founder, however, as far as possible, provided against such an evil, by the scrupulousness and care with which the candidates for admission were examined ; and cautious indeed must have been the youth who could have so far veiled his natural disposition, as to suppress any indications of his illicit tendencies, if they really existed, during the whole period of his novitiate, in a place where there were numerous eyes upon him, sharpened by observation and experience in the knowledge of character, to watch and report them. These regulations display profound policy; but the wisdom of Ignatius is no where more conspicuous than in those provisions which he made for the education, not only of the novices, to which the attention of the society was for four or five years after its establishment chiefly confined, but of all such youths as chose to enter themselves in their colleges.

The first college of the Jesuits in Europe, for Xavier had already been put in possession of the seminary at Goa, was founded by Francis Borgia, in the year 1545-46, at Gandia, and thither were six professors sent by the General; and two years afterwards colleges were established at Messina and Palermo in Sicily. The importance of such establishments to the increase and success of the society, is too obvious to require pointing out; but it may not be uninteresting to the reader, to give a few of the heads of his system of scholastic discipline. The first thing to be attended to was to render the children docile, and to subdue untractable tempers ; and for this purpose, impartiality was required in the master, and the hope of honourable distinctions, or the fear of mortifying humiliations, were to be held out to the scholars, a mode of treatment much more efficacious than blows. Gentle means were first to be tried, exhortation and friendly reproach, but on no occasion contumelious language, haughtiness or affronts; the master was not to use either invective or words towards any of the boys which would degrade them in the eyes of their companions or themselves.

In inquiring into trespasses, too minute an investigation was to be avoided; and for the prevention of great faults, small ones must be sometimes overlooked ; but, if in any case the infliction of corporal punishment was considered indispensible, the hand of some indifferent person must be called into action: the hand of the master should only be used to impress gratitude and respect. In the distribution of rewards, no other distinction than that of merit was to be regarded; the very suspicion of partiality to

« AnteriorContinuar »