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FATHER FRANCISCO DE BORJA
Rome, June 5, 1552
summary | text
of letter | footnotes
Ever since Francisco de Borja resigned his title in May 1551, his cousin,
Emperor Charles V, held it unthinkable that a former duke should remain a
simple priest and, thus, in March 1552, he proposed to Pope Julius III that
Borja become a cardinal. The pope immediately took to the idea and rumors soon
spread through Rome. Ignatius heard the rumors but waited to see if they died
of themselves or whether they would be confirmed. In the latter part of May
the pope mentioned, in one of his consistories, that the emperor had suggested
four Spaniards for the cardinalate, and one of these was Borja. Many of the
cardinals expressed their happiness in having Borja join their ranks and
mentioned this to Ignatius. The founder was at first disinclined that Jesuits
accept ecclesiastical dignities, and so he prayed over the matter for three
days. The result was that he was now definitely opposed to the idea and so he
visited several cardinals and the pope himself. In speaking to his holiness
Ignatius maintained that it would be for the greater service and glory of God
if Borja were to remain in the humble position that he himself had chosen. The
pope was persuaded by Ignatius' reasoning and the matter was dropped. These
details are found in the letter written by Polanco on June 1, 1552 [Ep.
4:255-258], and mentioned by Ignatius in the letter below. Ignatius wrote his
own letter to Borja on June 5, telling him of his reaction when he heard the
news about the cardinal's hat, and what he did to prevent it being given him.
He also asks Borja to write him and give his own thoughts on the matter.
Ignatius wrote the letter in Spanish [Ep. 4:283-285].
May the sovereign
grace and everlasting love of Christ our Lord ever be our protection and
With regard to the
cardinal's hat, I thought that I should give you, for God's greater glory,
what I myself experienced, and speak to you as I would to my own soul. When I
was informed that it was certain that the emperor had nominated you and that
the pope was willing to create you a cardinal, I at once had the impulse and
the prompting to do all I could to prevent it, and yet, not being certain of
God's will, as I saw many reasons for both sides, I gave orders in the
community that all priests should celebrate Mass and those not priests to
offer their prayers for three days for divine guidance, for God's greater
glory. During this period of three days I reflected and talked with others
about it and felt certain fears or, at least, not that freedom of spirit to
speak out against the appointment and to try to prevent it. I said to myself:
"How do I know what God our Lord wishes to accomplish?"
Consequently, I did not feel entirely safe in speaking out against it. At
other times, as during my usual prayers, I felt that these fears had
disappeared. I repeated this prayer at different intervals, sometimes with
these fears and sometimes without them, until finally, on the third day, when
making my usual prayer, I came to a determination so final, so peaceful and
free, that I should do all I could with the pope and cardinals to prevent it.
I felt sure at the time and still feel so, that if I did not act in this
manner I would not be able to give a good account of myself to God our Lord—indeed,
that I would give quite a bad one.
Therefore, I have
felt, and now feel, that it is God's will that I oppose this move. Even though
others might think otherwise and bestow this dignity on you, I do not see that
there would be any contradiction, since the same Divine Spirit could move me
to this action for certain reasons and move others to the contrary for still
other reasons, and thus bring about the result desired by the emperor. May God
our Lord always do what will be to His greater praise and glory. I believe it
would be quite fitting for you to answer the letter on this subject which
Master Polanco is writing in my name, and declare the intention and purpose
with which God our Lord has inspired you and may now inspire you. Your opinion
would thus appear in writing and could then be produced whenever it may be
called for, leaving the whole matter in the hands of God our Lord, so that His
holy will may be done in all our affairs.
Your letter of March
13, will be answered in another letter. May it please God our Lord that your
journey and everything else has met with the success we have hoped for in His
Divine Majesty, and that you are now in perfect health of body and mind, as I
desire and constantly ask God our Lord in my poor unworthy prayers, to the
greater glory of His Divine Majesty. May He in His infinite mercy be our
constant help and support.