Life of St. Ignatius of Loyola - F. A. Forbes




The Legacy

It was often remarked during the lifetime of St. Ignatius, that if the Society enjoyed for any length of time (and this was rare) untroubled peace and prosperity, the General would become anxious and uneasy. He was a firm believer in the truth that "Whom the Lord loveth He chastiseth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." The Cross for him was the very seal of God's approval on his work; without it, he feared that all might not be well.

We are told that Ignatius, coming out of his oratory one day with a joyously radiant face, was met by Ribadeneira, who asked him, "What grace has God given to you, father, that you look so happy?"

"Our Lord," replied the saint, "has promised me, in answer to my earnest prayer, that the Society shall never be without the Cross."

Never has a promise been more faithfully fulfilled. "You shall be hated by all men for My Name's sake," became trite indeed of the Company of Jesus, front the moment it bore the name of Jesus. The very title "Jesuit" was a term of contempt, originally bestowed on the sons of Ignatius by Calvin, who had his reasons for disliking them.

The spirit in which the saint was wont to meet expressions of open enmity is delightfully shown by a letter addressed to a gentleman who had conveyed to him an abusive missive from a Spanish friar:—

"SIR,—Pray tell Fray Barbaran that as he declares that he would wish that all of ours who are living between Perpignan and Seville may be burnt [as heretics] I declare and I wish that all his friends and acquaintances, not only between Perpignan and Seville, but all whom the world contains, may be fired and inflamed by the Holy Ghost, so that they may all come to great perfection, and be very distinguished in the glory of His Divine Majesty.

"So, too, you will tell him that our affairs are being gone into before the Governor [of Rome] and the Vicar of His Holiness, and a sentence is soon to be pronounced. If he have anything against us, I invite him to depose to it and to prove it before these judges. For I should prefer, if guilty, to pay for it, and to suffer for it, in my own person, than that all those between Perpignan and Seville should be burnt.

"Inigo."

But it is easier to deal with an open foe than a secret slanderer.

From the account of the Last Supper it is evident that the Apostles were entirety ignorant of the treachery of Judas, even though he had been living with them in the closest intimacy. Sin had crept, at first almost imperceptibly, into his heart, gradually taking possession of the whole man; till, in the terrible words of the Gospel, "Satan entered into him." In the Society of Jesus, as in all religious orders, there have been traitors too, men who have gradually given way to the temptations of the evil one, until their real character could be no longer hidden, and they stood revealed in their true colours. Nothing remained for that Company, with which they had no longer anything in common, but to cut off the rotten branch from the tree, and expel the unworthy member.

The world would hesitate to accept as trustworthy the testimony of a clerk dismissed for misconduct against the business firm who had dismissed him; the evidence of a servant sent away without a character would be taken with caution against her mistress. Yet the witness of one expelled from the Society has always been accepted by many as unquestionably fair and truthful, no matter how monstrous his assertions may be.

He knows more about the matter and is altogether more to be trusted than the body which has expelled him. He has lived amongst the Jesuits and knows them; his expulsion is, of course, due to the fact that he is too honest and upright a man for such a community. So reason the enemies of the Society. Such men as these have been amongst the most bitter of its antagonists, and have done the most to blacken its reputation.

Such was Zahorowski, the inventor of the "Monita Secreta" or "Secret Orders," a supposed code of instructions known only to the Superiors of the Society, by which they are bound to enrich and exalt their order by any means in their power, be they fair or foul.

"If pitch is thrown," the saying goes, "some will stick"; and in spite of the fact that the story of the "Monita Secreta" was pronounced by the Cardinals of the Holy Congregation to be "false, defamatory and calumnious," there remain to this day people who believe it. This however was only the first of a series of slanders that were to continue even to our own days. 'Who lets not heard the story that a Jesuit is compelled to obey his Superior, even though he should be ordered to commit a murder? Now a Jesuit's vow of obedience binds him to do what his Superior commands "in as far as these commands entail nothing sinful, contrary to the law of God, or the just laws of the State." But there are always people to be found who know more about the rules and customs of religious than they do themselves; and prejudices die hard.

That the Society gives its members permission, and even encourages them to "do evil that good may come" is another calumny that still finds many believers, though not amongst those familiar with the teaching of the Catholic Church—that if a man might save the whole world by committing one venial sin, if would be wrong to do it.

Ignatius himself would meet all such calumnies (always excepting accusations of heresy) with a determined silence, and would tell his brethren that to live the slanders down was their best and wisest defence. To return good for evil, or if this were not possible to ignore the evil, was his plan of action in all cases, and he lived to see its wisdom. The lives of the Jesuits, their labours, their humility, their poverty, their patience, are answer enough.

"Let all our study be to have an upright intention, not only in our state of life in general, but also in our particular actions, proposing nothing else to ourselves than to serve and please God, and this rather through love and gratitude to Him than through fear of punishment or hope of reward."

This is the end set before the Society by its holy founder in the Constitutions. How far that end has been attained is known to God. Of all races, of all nations, and in all climes, yet one in aim and the sons of St. Ignatius for nearly four hundred years have laboured on the earth with the teaching of their father in their hearts. What has been the result?

The Society of Jesus counts on its roll thirteen canonized saints, countless martyrs, and many others who have been named "Blessed" or "Venerable" by the Church. Amongst these, not to mention the glorious names of Francis Xavier, Peter Favre, and Francis Borgia, with whom we are already familiar, are to be counted Blessed Peter Canisius, the brilliant disciple of Favre, who laboured so long and unweariedly in Germany; St. Aloysius Gonzaga and St. Stanislaus Kostka, who young saints whose beautiful lives have been an inspiration to many of their own age; Blessed Edmund Campion, our famous English martyr, beloved by all, whose brilliant talents won the admiration of Queen Elizabeth, who was later to sign his death-warrant; Blessed John Ogilvie, the gallant Scotch martyr, whose last word on the way to his cruel death was a blessing in exchange for a curse; St. Peter Claver, the slave of the slaves, who passed his life ministering to the wants of the negroes amidst the filth and disease of the slave-ships; Blessed Charles Spinola, missionary to Japan, exposed for three years to the scorching rays of the sun in a wooden cage, in company with between twenty or thirty other prisoners, and then burnt alive; Blessed John de Britto, tracked by the Brahmins through the forests of India like a wild beast, and at last taken prisoner and beheaded, after having converted whole districts to Christ; St. Francis Regis, zealous lover of souls and unwearied labourer in his Lord's vineyard; Venerable Claude de la. Colombiere, chaplain of the beautiful and unfortunate Queen of James II, and promoter of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. Pere de Ravignan, who by his preaching brought the young men of France from the unbelief that followed in the wake of the revolution to the faith of Christ—these are but a few of the noble and illustrious names on the roll of the Society.

And what of—

All the unnumbered rank and file

Of God's own soldiery

—those whose labours have been none the less blessed because hidden, whose merits are known to their God alone?

From his place in heaven Ignatius, the soldier-saint of Christ, looking down upon his army, sees its trials, its sufferings, its triumphs and its labours, and surely says

"Well done!"

THE END.