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13. TO THE JESUITS IN THE ROMAN HOUSES

On Prompt and Blind Obedience

 Rome, August 24, 1550

summary | text of letter  | footnotes


          Ignatius personally ordered that this directive on obedience be sent to all the Jesuit houses in Rome. The obedience that he expected from his sons was to be prompt and blind. The basic idea expressed in this instruction is likewise enshrined in the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, Part VI, chap. 1. The original directive was written in Italian [Ep. 3:156-157].

          Our reverend Father Master Ignatius wishes for God's greater glory and the greater spiritual progress of all of Ours (as he has already partly declared in other ordinances), that in the future, when his reverence or father minister summons anyone, whether he be a priest or not, or the subminister calls one who is not a priest, they should all answer the call at once, as though it was the voice of Christ our Lord, and practice this obedience in the name of His Divine Majesty. In this way obedience should be blind and prompt. If one is at prayer, he should leave his prayer. If he hears the voice of his superior, or rather the voice of Christ our Lord, when he is writing and has begun a letter, say A or B, he should not wait to finish it.

          In like manner, if he happens to be with anyone at all, even a prelate (supposing he owes him no obedience), he should come if he is called by any of his superiors. Should one be called who happens to be taking some bodily refreshments of any kind, whether he be at table or in bed, or busy with an invalid, serving a drink or a medicine, or engaged in a service which could not be interrupted without harm to the patient, such as helping to bleed him, or should he be going to confession or about to receive Communion, or hearing the confessions of others, if a priest, in all such cases he should send word to the superior and ask whether he wishes him to leave his meal, or his bed, or whatever else it may happen to be.

          Given at Rome, August 24, 1550.

Footnotes

1 Such unhesitating obedience does not originate with Ignatius; it is part of the monastic tradition. In the fifth chapter of his Rule, Saint Benedict exhorts his monks to "lay down whatever they had in hand, leaving it unfinished."