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21. TO THOSE SENT TO MINISTER TO OTHERS

Principles for Ministry

 Rome, October 8, 1552

summary | text of letter  | footnotes


          As the Society grew in membership Ignatius found it somewhat easier to send Jesuits, not only to foreign countries, but also to the major European cities where reigning princes had expressed a desire for a Jesuit college to be founded, for example, Ingolstadt, Vienna, Ferrara, Naples, Messina. In October 1552 Ignatius jotted down the principles that ought to guide the Jesuits in their ministries, and he divides his short instruction into three parts: principles concerning oneself, the neighbor, and the Society. Success in the ministry depends on complete purity of soul, faithfulness to exercises of piety, understanding the persons with whom they are to deal, establishing a hierarchy of values among the works they are to perform. At the same time the Jesuits are to be guided by the Holy Spirit and their superiors, and are to try to attract suitable young men to the Society. The headings in the instruction, originally written in Italian, have been added [Ep. 12:251-253].

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          Whoever in this Society is sent to labor in the vineyard of the Lord, should keep three things in mind: the first concerns himself, the second concerns the neighbor with whom he deals, and the third, the head and the whole body of the Society of which he is a member.

 

Principles Concerning Oneself

          With regard to the first, that is with respect to himself, he should not be forgetful of himself because of his interest in the neighbor. He should refuse to commit even the slightest sin to further the greatest apostolic gain in the world, and not even place himself in danger of committing one. He will find it a help if he avoids dealing with persons from whom he has reason to fear danger, and if he does deal with them, it should be rarely and in public. He should make little account of external appearances, and look upon creatures not as fair or attractive, but as bathed in the blood of Christ, as images of God, temples of the Holy Spirit, and so on.

          He should defend himself from all evil and acquire every virtue; and the more perfectly he possesses them, the more successfully will he be able to draw others to them. To this end, it will be helpful daily to assign some time for the examination of conscience, prayer, and the reception of the sacraments, etc.

          He should take into account his own health and his body's strength.

 

 

Principles Concerning the Neighbor

          With regard to the neighbor, which is the second point, we must be careful with whom we deal. They should be persons from whom we can expect greater fruit, since we cannot deal with everyone. They should be such as are in greater need, and those in high position who exert an influence because of their learning or their temporal possessions; those who are suited to be apostolic workers and, generally speaking, all those who, if helped, will be better able to help others for God's glory.

          2. With regard to the works he undertakes, he should prefer those for which he is especially sent, rather than others. Among the other works he should prefer the better, that is, the spiritual to the corporal, the more urgent to the less urgent, the universal to the particular, those that have some permanence to those that are ephemeral, since he cannot do both. We should remember that it is not enough to begin but that we must, as far as possible, finish and ensure the endurance of good and pious works.

          3. As to the instruments we must use, besides good example and prayer that is full of desires, we must consider whether to make use of confession, the Exercises and spiritual conversations, teaching catechism, or lectures, sermons, and so forth. We should select those weapons (since we cannot use all of them) which will be judged to be more effective and with which we are better acquainted.

          4. As to our method of procedure, we should try to be humble by beginning at the bottom and not venturing into lofty subjects unless we are invited or asked to do so, or discretion should dictate otherwise, taking into consideration the time, place, and persons. This discretion cannot be reduced to any hard-and-fast rule. Our method should include an effort to secure the good will of the persons with whom we are dealing by truly manifesting our virtue and affection, and this will command some authority with them. We should make use of holy prudence in adapting ourselves to everyone. This prudence will certainly be taught us by the unction of the Holy Spirit, but we ourselves can assist it by reflection and careful observation. The above-mentioned examination of conscience could be extended to include this consideration, and it should be made at a fixed hour of the day. Special attention should be given to cases of conscience; and when the solutions of these difficulties are not clear in our own minds, we should not hazard an answer or solution, but first give it the study and consideration it requires.

 

Principles Concerning the Society

          With reference to the third point, that is the regard we should have for the head and body of the Society, it is shown principally by allowing oneself to be directed by the superior and by keeping him informed of what he should know and by obediently obeying the orders he shall give.

          2. You can serve the good name and reputation of the Society by helping wherever you can for the glory of God, and this will be done especially by encouraging foundations of colleges and particularly, when you see the opportunity, by recruiting acceptable candidates for the Society. These should be persons educated, alert, and young, especially when endowed with good manners, health, intelligence, and who are disposed to good and are free of other impediments, and so on.

Footnotes