Secret Instructions of the Jesuits - Diego Laynez

Chapter VI:
Attracting Rich Widows

How to conciliate rich widows to the society.

I. For this work, fathers advanced in age, should be chosen, of lively complexion and agreeable conversation, by whom these widows are to be visited, and as soon as they show any affection towards the society, then let the works and merits of the society be exhibited to them, which if they receive, and begin to visit our churches, look out for them a confessor, by whom they may be weekly directed, especially in order to constancy in their widowed state, by enumerating and praising its advantages and happiness; and let them pledge their faith and stake themselves as hostages that eternal reward can be acquired by such a course, and that it is the most effectual method to escape the pains of purgatory.

II. Also let the confessor provide that they should be occupied in embellishing some house, as a chapel, or oratory, in which they can employ themselves in meditations and spiritual exercises, so that they may the more easily be called away from the conversation and visits of suitors; and although they may have a chaplain, let ours not abstain from the celebration of mass, and especially from exhortations properly made; and study to keep the chapel under their control.

III. Things which relate to the government of the house should be cautiously and gradually changed, so that regard be had to person, place, affection, and devotion.

IV. Let those domestics especially, be removed, but by little and little, who do not plainly communicate and correspond with the society; and let such be recommended, if any should be substituted, who depend on us, and are content to do so; for so we can be made acquainted with all things which are done in families.

V. The whole effort of the confessor should look to this point, that the widow should use and acquiesce in his advice in all things; which he may occasionally show to be the only foundation of her spiritual proficiency.

VI. The frequent use of the sacraments, and especially of penance, is to be advised, in which she may open the thoughts of her mind and all her temptations most freely; and then frequent communion, and the sacred rite of confession, to which she should be invited with promises of special prayers; and the recitation of the litany and daily examination of conscience.

VII. It will also aid, not a little, to the fullest knowledge of all her inclinations, that a general confession, though it may have been made to another, be repeated.

VIII. Exhortations should be made concerning the advantages of widowhood, the troubles of matrimony, especially when repeated, and concerning the dangers which have been once incurred, etc.; and which pertain in the highest degree to man.

IX. Sometimes, skilfully make the proposal of some suitor, but of one whom it is well known the widow abhors; the vices and bad habits of those who are thought to please her are to be depicted so that she may sicken at all second marriages.

X. When therefore it appears that she is well affected to the state of widowhood, then let a spiritual life be recommended, not a recluse one, the inconveniences of which had better be set forth and exaggerated; but such as was that of Paula, or Eustachia, etc. and let the confessor take care as soon as possible that by a vow of chastity extended to at least two or three years, he prevent every step to second marriages, during which time all conversation with the opposite sex, and even intercourse with relations and connexions, are to be forbidden, under the pretext of greater communion with God. As for the Ecclesiastics by whom the widow shall be visited, or whom she shall visit, if all cannot be excluded, let such only be admitted as come by our recommendation, or are dependant upon us.

XI. When it shall have gone thus far, let the widow be persuaded by little and little to good works, especially to alms-giving; but even this she is by no means to do without the direction of her spiritual father; since it is of the highest importance that her talent be given with discretion for her spiritual improvement; and alms ill applied may be the cause, or occasion, of sins, and so might yield only small benefits and rewards.