The Jesuits have influenced history in more ways than one, and with the current Pope occupying a high profile position in what is becoming an incredibly popular way, I wanted to study up on the Jesuits.
My interest in them began actually with the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius, but that was to supplementing my work with Wesley’s Rules. Ignatius, Bonaventure, Thomas A Kempis, Benedict, and a few others all were pretty fascinating in the way they understood Spiritual Disciplines, and while their direct links to Wesley might be tenuous, Wesley took many similar ideas from the traditions around him and put them together to form the societies.
Wesley created a sort of lay version of the monastic vision.
Which is brilliant in so many ways, and not entirely unique except for it’s eventual scale and scope. Spener, Law, and many other priests and pastors of the reformation worked to create the same thing, but Wesley is unique if not in the tenor of his work in the ability to create these societies.
But in the process of this work, I wanted to study up more on the Jesuits which I have discovered were a step ahead of Wesley.
In fact they predated him by nearly 200 years starting in the early 1500s and quickly becoming the largest mission oriented organization in the world. They took away some of the restrictions of other monastic groups, and while taking a vow of poverty and maintaining some sense of unity as a sub set of the larger Roman Catholic Church, they tended to live outside the rigorous disciplines and time scales normally associated with mendicant orders.
The mixed history of the Jesuits being told by O’Malley represents mostly positive feeling towards the Society of Jesus. This is a rose colored account of the Jesuits make no mistake, but it still offers us some picture of the great and the infamous attributes of the society. But oddly even those come with unexpected positives.
The Society set up farms owned by the communities in Brazil and other parts of South America.
They set up Schools all over the world and charged no tuition!
They charge no tuition! If only we could build schools that are absolutely renowned for their quality of education and accept people from all walks of life. Nobles and paupers could both come and receive an education. So much of the enlightenment philosophers owe their education to Jesuit schools, and the Jesuits continued the conversations with those philosophers even after they started to denounce the Jesuits.
A Jesuit took over the burning of all the documents of the Maya and the Aztecs, which is abominable to say the least. But before they were burned that same Jesuit took such detailed records that are still used in researching the Central American works. Several Jesuit groups kept records of native languages across the globe, and the Society merged existing cultures with Christianity in an effort to preserve the former within the context of the later.
It’s quite a paradigm, and they caught endless flack for it and ended up for various political reasons disbanded for their culturally inclusive practices. It was quite a row. But importantly, the Jesuits offered a completely different way of treating indigenous peoples than the practices of Europeans during the colonial period.
When they came back from being disbanded they kept on doing things in their own unique way, and if the current Pope is any indication, their first member elevated to the papacy is keeping up with that tradition.
I read this to give myself a quick rundown on the history of the Jesuits, and it did it’s work. It was well written and concise, and it served to whet my appetite to hear more from and about the Jesuits.
If that’s what you are looking for – pick it up.