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22. TO FATHER DIEGO MIRÓ

On Dismissing the Disobedient

 Rome, December 17, 1552

summary | text of letter  | footnotes


          Diego Miró1 became provincial in Portugal at the very end of 1551, after Ignatius had removed Simão Rodrigues from that position. This change caused further tension in the province since Rodrigues was mild and easy-going in his governing, while Miró was somewhat strict and demanding. The unfortunate result was that some members of the province, siding with Rodrigues, refused to show obedience to the new provincial. Miguel de Torres had been sent by Ignatius to Portugal to see that Rodrigues accepted Ignatius' decision, and to ensure a smooth transition for the incoming Miró. During his several months in Portugal, Torres periodically reported to Rome about the lamentable state of affairs in that province. Ignatius would not tolerate disobedience and thus he wrote to Miró instructing him to dismiss from the Society those who refuse to obey, or to send them to Rome if there is hope the change might bring about amendment. He likewise asked him to notify John III, King of Portugal, of this instruction. This letter was written in Spanish [Ep. 4:559-563].

Jhs

          May the sovereign grace and everlasting love of Christ our Lord be ever our protection and support.

          According to information coming to us from Doctor Torres, whom I sent to the province of Portugal as my representative and visitor in the Lord, I understand that there is a notable failing, among not a few of Ours, in that virtue which is more necessary and essential in the Society than anywhere else, and in which the vicar of Christ, in the bulls of our Institute, most carefully recommends that we distinguish ourselves. I mean the respect, reverence, and perfect obedience to our superiors who hold the place of Christ our Lord, even of His Divine Majesty.

          You can realize, from what you have heard, how I should and do desire this virtue in my brothers, and what satisfaction must be mine when I hear that some among you disrespectfully say to their superior, "You should not order me to do this," or "it is not good for me to do this," or, as I am told, that some are unwilling to do what they are told, or that the actions of some show so little reverence and interior submission to the one whom they ought to reverence as the representative of Christ our Lord and, accordingly, humble themselves in all things before His Divine Majesty. This matter seems to have gone so far because of the fault of one whose duty it was to correct it, but who failed to do so. May God our Lord forgive him! How much better it would have been to remove a diseased member from the body of the Society in order to protect the healthy members, than to allow it to remain and infect with so serious a disease many others by example and association. On another occasion I have written how gratified I was that Master Leonard2 in Cologne had dismissed nine or ten together who had gone wrong. Later he did the same again, which I approved, though if measures had been taken when the trouble began, it might possibly have been enough to dismiss one or two. Now, though late, the remedy is being applied in Portugal. Better late than never!

          I command you in virtue of holy obedience to take the following step with regard to the safeguarding of that virtue. If there is anyone who is unwilling to obey you—and I say this, not to you alone but to all superiors or local rectors in Portugal—do one of two things: either dismiss him from the Society, or send him here to Rome if you think that a particular individual can, by such a change, be helped to become a true servant of Christ our Lord. If necessary, keep their highnesses informed, who I doubt will make any objections, in keeping with the spirit and holy good will which God our Lord has bestowed upon them. To retain one who is not a true son of obedience does no good for the kingdom. Nor is there any reason for thinking that such a person, his own soul being so destitute, can help other souls, or that God our Lord would wish to accept him as an instrument for His service and glory.

          We see from experience that men, not only with average talents but even less than average, can often be the instruments of uncommon supernatural fruit, because they are completely obedient and through this virtue allow themselves to be affected and moved by the powerful hand of the author of all good. On the other hand, great talent may be seen exerting great labor with less than ordinary fruit, because being themselves the source of their activity, that is, their own self-love, or at least not allowing themselves to be moved by God our Lord through obedience to their superiors, they do not produce results proportionate to the almighty hand of God our Lord, who does not accept them as His instruments. They achieve results proportioned to their own weak and feeble hands. Their highnesses understand this, and I am sure that they will make no difficulty. And while we have enough to do here without burdening ourselves with this additional task from Portugal, we will not decline the added burden because of the special charity which God our Lord causes us to feel toward Portugal.

          This is all for the present, except to beg the Divine and Supreme Goodness to give us all His abundant grace to know His most holy will and perfectly to fulfill it.

          From Rome, December 17, 1552.

          This precept of obedience which I am sending you, requiring you to dismiss those who are disobedient, or to send them here to Rome, is to be published in all the colleges and houses throughout the province. See that the king is informed of it, so that those who are sent beyond the borders of the kingdom, because they have need of help, do not appear as being withdrawn from Portugal because we here are looking for workers who would otherwise be useful within the territory of his highness. Rather, let it appear that they are being sent elsewhere to prepare them to be such when they return, as his highness desires, as are all the others in the service of God and of souls in his kingdom.

          Yours in our Lord,

          Ignatius

Footnotes

1 Torres was born in the province of Aragon in 1509. He studied in Paris and became acquainted with Ignatius but always felt some antagonism toward him. Upon his return to Spain, Torres taught at Alcalá and eventually became its rector. In 1542 he went to Rome on business for the university and again met Ignatius, made the Exercises, and decided to enter the Society. He secretly pronounced vows in 1545, and when his business in Rome was over he returned to Spain (end of 1546) and openly joined the Society’s ranks in 1547. When it was time to open a Jesuit college in Salamanca, Torres was sent there as its rector (1548) , and then on January 1, 1552, he was appointed visitor for Portugal. He became provincial of Baetica in 1554, and succeeded Miró as provincial in Portugal in 1556. When his labors were completed in Portugal, he returned to Spain and died at Toledo during the night of October 23-24, 1593.
2 Leonard Kessel was born in Louvain, Belgium, about 1519, and there entered the Jesuits in December 1543. He was already a priest. He was sent to the Jesuit college in Cologne, where he became rector of the community, spent his life, and died on October 26, 1574. The incident to which Ignatius refers took place in 1552.