by our Father Ignatius, or under his direction, for those living outside Rome,
as well as on other points worthy of notice and which should not be forgotten.
A scholastic of the
Society wishes to have our Father's directives on the following points:
1. How much time
should be given to prayer by one still in studies, and how much time should he
spend conversing with his brothers, supposing that the rector has set no
limits to these activities?
2. Should Mass be
celebrated daily, or only on certain days, even when it seems a hindrance to
3. After finishing
philosophy should one give more time to speculative or to moral theology, the
supposition being that one does not give oneself entirely to both these
subjects in college?
4. What is to be
done when one finds oneself entertaining an inordinate desire for knowledge?
5. Should one offer
oneself to the superior before being asked to do a certain task, or should one
leave the entire matter in his hands?
6. What method of
meditation, more in keeping with our vocation, should be followed?
7. In confession,
should one get down to particular imperfections or, for the sake of brevity,
be satisfied with mentioning the more general faults?
8. If confession is
made to a member of the community and the confessor questions the penitent,
even though there is no question of sin, in what instances should the
confessor ask the penitent's permission to inform the superior of the content
of the confession?
9. What attitude
should one take in speaking with the superior concerning the difficulties of
others? Should he make a complete revelation of them, even though some of them
have ceased to be troublesome?
10. Should one
correct an imperfection noticed in a member of the Society, or should it be
allowed to pass, allowing the individual to be deceived into thinking that it
is no imperfection?
11. If, before God,
one believes that the superior—the rector, for instance—is wrong in a
certain matter, should the provincial be informed, and the same of other
subordinate superiors, or should one close one's eyes?
12. What rule should
be followed in writing either to externs or to ours, when there is no real
need, nor having been commanded to do so, but merely out of motives of
13. In dealing with
externs or Ours, should they use language which might appear to them to be
mere civility, or should they avoid all forms of flattery?
14. What should one
do about volunteering information concerning one of the Society, and how
should it be done?
15. Would it be
lawful to counsel an extern, or one of the house without vows, to take vows?
What should they do
about using or not using the privilege of the Society in dealing with a
The first question
has two parts, and the answer to the first part is to remember that the
purpose of a scholastic at a college is to study, to acquire that knowledge
with which he can serve God's greater glory and be of help to his neighbor.
This is a task which demands all that a man has, and he will not give himself
completely to his studies if he also gives a large amount of his time to
prayer. Hence it will be sufficient if scholastics who are not priests
(supposing there is no interior trial or exceptional feeling of devotion),
give one hour to prayer over and above Mass. During Mass the scholastic should
make a short meditation while the priest is at the secret parts, but during
the hour of prayer he would ordinarily recite the hours of our Lady or some
other prayer, or meditate, should the rector judge this to be better. If the
scholastic is a priest, it will be enough for him to say his office, celebrate
Mass, and make the examens. Should his devotion move him, he could add another
The second part of
the question will be answered if we consider the goal of conversing with
others, which is to influence for good him with whom we converse. This
edification is hindered by excess in either direction, and we should therefore
avoid extremes and try to hold a middle course.
With respect to the
last clause of this question, our reverend Father made some remarks on the
great esteem we should have for obedience. Some saints have excellences that
are wanting in others, and the same is true of religious orders; and therefore
it was his desire that in the Society there be an excellence, which would put
it on a footing with any other religious order, even if they had excellences
which we could not aspire to equal, though we might well make the attempt in
some things—poverty, for instance. But our reverend Father wished that our
excellence be obedience; we have a great obligation to excel in it because of
the extra vow of obedience which the fathers have to the sovereign pontiff,
which takes away every excuse we might have for not carrying out an order to
obedience. And he also said that this obedience could not be perfect until the
understanding of the subject was in complete conformity with the understanding
of the superior. Without this conformity life would be a continual purgatory,
and with little hope of stability.
To the second
question our reverend Father answered that, considering the purpose one of
Ours should have in his studies, he could be satisfied with two Masses a week,
over and above Sundays and feast days, supposing that none of the three
following reasons urge otherwise (1) obedience, (2) common good, (3)
To the third
question, preference should be given to speculative theology, because, after
finishing college, one has to devote oneself to moral theology, since that is
necessary in speaking with others, and speculative theology is proper to class
work where one studies fundamental truths.
The fourth question
will be answered with the sixth.
The fifth. It would
be good to offer oneself once for all to the superior for him to direct to the
greater glory of God our Lord, leaving all care of oneself to him who has the
place of Christ our Lord on earth, seldom making any representation unless
something occurs which might especially require it.
Considering the goal of our studies, the scholastics can hardly give
themselves to prolonged meditations. Over and above the spiritual exercises
assigned for their perfection—namely, daily Mass, an hour for vocal prayer
and examen of conscience, and weekly confession and Communion—they should
practice the seeking of God's presence in all things, in their conversations,
their walks, in all that they see, taste, hear, understand, and in all their
actions, since His Divine Majesty is truly in all things by His presence,
power, and essence. This kind of meditation, which finds God our Lord in all
things, is easier than raising oneself to the consideration of divine truths,
which are more abstract and which demand something of an effort, if we are to
keep our attention on them. But this method is an excellent exercise to
prepare us for great visitations of our Lord, even in prayers that are rather
short. Besides this, the scholastics can frequently offer to God our Lord
their studies and the efforts they demand, seeing that they have undertaken
them for His love to the sacrifice of their personal tastes, so that to some
extent, at least, we may be of service to his Divine Majesty and of help to
the souls for whom He died. We can also make these exercises the matter of our
To these exercises
we may add that of preaching in the colleges. After the example of a good
life, one of the most efficient means of helping the neighbor, and one which
is especially fitting to the Society, is preaching. Our reverend Father was of
the opinion that no little fruit could be gathered if the scholastics did some
preaching. He thought that they should preach on Sundays, on subjects of their
own choosing, and as an exercise that involves no loss of time, two or three
of them could, during supper, recite the tones2 which they had been
taught, using, in the beginning the formula that is in use here in Rome. Then
as things evolve another could easily be adopted which could develop according
to local customs. The advantages of this exercise are very great, but for
brevity's sake we omit mentioning them here.
The seventh deals
with confession. To avoid any mistake, we should notice from which side the
enemy begins his attack and tries to make us offend our Lord. If he aims at
getting us to commit mortal sins easily, the penitent should weigh well even
the least imperfections which lead to that sin, and confess them. If he finds
himself drawn to doubts and difficulties, seeing sin where there is no sin, he
should not descend into minute details, but only mention his venial sins, and
of these only the more important ones. If by God's grace the soul is at peace
with God our Lord, let him confess his sins briefly, without going into
detail. He should try to feel shame for them in God's presence, considering
that He who is offended is infinite, which imparts a kind of infinity to the
sin. But by the sovereign goodness of God our Lord they are venial, and are
forgiven by using a little holy water, striking one's breast, making an act of
contrition, and so forth.
To the first part of
the eighth, questions may and sometimes should be raised regarding certain
venial faults, for they may be the means of revealing mortal sins and help the
penitent to a clear manifestation of his conscience, by which he may be
The second part of
the eighth question. For greater clarity on this point, our Father insisted on
the importance of the superior's being in touch with all that concerns his
subjects, so that he could provide for each one according to his needs. Thus,
if he knows that one is undergoing temptations of the flesh, he will not
station him near fire by assigning him, for example, to hear the confessions
of women, and so forth. Nor will he entrust government to one who is lacking
in obedience. To guard against anything like this happening, our Father
usually reserves certain cases to himself; all mortal sins, for example, and
vehement temptations against the Institute, the superior, and other forms of
instability. Keeping this in mind the confessor, according to the
circumstances of each case, may discreetly ask leave to make a manifestation
to the superior. There is reason to believe that, in this way, a troubled
conscience will be helped more in the Lord than in any other.
The ninth. The
answer to the ninth may be deduced from the preceding, and it is that the
superior should be wholly informed about everything, even of things past,
always taking for granted one's good will, and with every precaution for the
due observance of charity toward the neighbor.
The part of the
tenth concerns correcting another. For this to be successful, it will help
much if the corrector has some authority, or acts with great affection, an
affection that can be recognized as such. If either of these qualities is
absent, the correction will fail; that is, there will be no amendment. For
this reason it would not be proper for everybody to undertake such correction.
But in whatever manner it is done, and if one is reasonably certain that it
will be well taken, one's admonition should not be too forthright, but toned
down and presented without offense. Since one sin leads to another, it is
quite possible that, once committed, the sin will not dispose the sinner to
accept even a well-intentioned correction in the right spirit.
To the second part
of the tenth, as to whether one should be left under the false impression that
there is no imperfection, our reverend Father says that it might be better for
the person's progress to do so. The more one attends to the faults of others,
the less he will see of his own and, thus, make less progress himself. But if
one is really advancing with his passions well under control and in good
order, with our Lord expanding his heart so that he is a help to others as
well as to himself, such a one may correct him who is in error, provided the
manner suggested in number eleven be followed.
As an answer to the
eleventh question, our Father recounted what he told the first fathers after
the six of them had made their profession together, namely, that they could
help him toward perfection in two ways: the first was their own perfection;
the second was to call his attention to whatever they thought was contrary to
this perfection in him. He wanted them to have recourse to prayer before they
corrected him and, then, if in the presence of God our Lord there was no
change in their understanding and judgment, they were to tell him privately, a
procedure which he himself follows now. Our Father said that it would be a
great help to success in this matter if the superior entrusts this duty to
some of his subjects—priests, for example, and others who are respected. He
who wishes only to benefit himself would do well to close the eyes of his
judgment. If anyone should have something to say, let him first carefully
place himself in the presence our Lord, so as to know and make up his mind
what he ought to do. Second, he should find some acceptable way of telling the
delinquent if he thinks that he will accept the correction. But if he thinks
that he will not accept it, let him tell the superior. Our Father thought it
would be a great advantage to have a syndic to make these things known to the
superior. Besides, he would have one or two as vice-rectors, one subject to
the other, to help the rector, and with this arrangement the rector would be
better able to be of greater help to one or the other and would keep the
affection of his subjects, since they could look upon him as a refuge if they
thought themselves severely dealt with by the vice-rectors.
Our Father gave an
answer to the thirteenth which seems rather striking to me; namely, that in
dealing with another we should take a cue from the enemy who wishes to draw a
man to evil: he goes in the way of the one whom he wishes to tempt, but comes
out his own way. We may thus adapt ourselves to the inclinations of the one
with whom we are dealing, adapting ourselves in our Lord to everyone, only
later to come out with the good accomplished to which we had laid our hand.
Our Father made another remark as to how to free oneself from one whom there
was no hope of helping. He suggests talking to him rather pointedly of hell,
judgment, and such things. In that case he would not return; or if he did, the
chances are that he would feel himself touched in our Lord.
Finally, one should
accommodate oneself to the character of him with whom one is dealing, whether
he be phlegmatic, choleric, and so forth. But this should be done within
questions depend more on the circumstances of individual cases, which, in this
instance, were not given.