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FATHER ROBERT CLAYSSON
|On Avoiding an Overly
Rome, March 13, 1555
summary | text
of letter | footnotes
Robert Claysson1 was stationed in Paris and was a renowned and
eloquent preacher. On December 1, 1554, following the instructions of his
provincial, Paschase BroŽt, he wrote the prescribed "triannual
letter"2 to Rome. In reading it Ignatius found Claysson's
style ample, inflated, and repetitious and, thus, it became the occasion for
the following letter. Ignatius indicates the style he would like used when
writing to Rome and recommends that it be modest and sober, and that there be
a judicious selection of items. Ignatius' letter was written in Latin [Ep.
The peace of Christ,
Beloved in Christ, Master Robert:
In this letter from
me you will recognize my affection for you, especially because I want to call
your attention, without apology or excuse, to the style of your letter. While
your letter is in some respects ornate and learned, we miss the proper decorum3
in the ornament used and in the show of learning. It is one thing to be
eloquent and charming in profane speech, and another when the one speaking as
a religious. Just as in a matron an ornament that is modest and chaste is to
be commended, so in the style which Ours should use when speaking or writing
we do not look for what is self-indulgent and adolescent, but we look for a
style that is dignified and mature. This is especially so in letters, where
the writing by its very nature, must be more compact and polished and manifest
at the same time an abundance of ideas rather than an abundance of words.
Your charity will
receive this admonition in good part, just as our charity did not permit us to
let it go unnoticed. We do not dare send your letter anywhere without first
making many changes in it.
Some selection of
topics must also be made, and in the triannual letter, only those items should
be submitted which serve for edification. In many passages indeed there is a
virile enough declaration of satisfaction in sharing the cross of Christ, but
in some others the spirit seems weak and much less vigorous than one would
expect in a soldier of Christ.
brother, is our censure, and from it you will see that it is not only the
Sorbonne that is allowed to exercise such a privilege.4 In return
for having written to you, as I think, with such frankness, confidence, and
affection, I beg the reward of your prayers, and your admonition in turn,
should occasion require it.
Yours in our Lord
Rome, March 13,
||Claysson was born in Bruges, Belgium, on December 21,
1529, and entered the Society in Paris on April 1, 1549. He taught
theology in Rome (1562-1564) and returned to Bruges, where he died on
November 17, 1601.
||Clayssonís letter may be found in Litterae
quadrimestres (MHSI) 3:194-196. These letters were so
called because superiors outside Italy and within Europe were required
to write to the general every four months. The superiors of Italian
houses were to write every month, and those in missionary lands were
to write once a year.
||Here Ignatius uses the Greek
||Though the Society enjoyed the favor of King Henry II
and several bishops, it found that the Sorbonne, the Parlement, and
the Bishop of Paris, Eustace du Bellay, were opposed to it. Neither
the Parlement nor the Sorbonne would recognize the Society, and as
recently as December 1, 1554, the Sorbonne succeeded in getting the
Parlement to issue an indictment against the Society, stating that it
was a menace to the faith, a disturber of peace in the Church, and
that it sought to put an end to monastic life. Claysson mentions in
his letter that the Bishop of Paris was still issuing threats and that
they did not expect anything favorable to come form the Sorbonneís
theological faculty. Thus Ignatius, somewhat jovially, refers to the
Sorbonneís penchant for issuing censures.