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ALL SUPERIORS OF THE SOCIETY
the Language of the Country
Rome, January 1, 1556
summary | text
of letter | footnotes
Ignatius insisted that Jesuits speak the language of the country where they
reside, and he saw this as an indispensable means of promoting unity in the
community. At the beginning of each year this instruction was renewed and sent
to all superiors, and eventually was incorporated into the Common Rules (#10).
To help the non-Italian Jesuits in Rome, Ignatius arranged for Italian classes
three times a week, but then in 1555 he changed it to daily classes. This
instruction exists in an Italian version [Ep. 10:451-452].
The Peace of Christ.
It seems fitting for
the benefit and edification of the peoples among whom our Society is living,
and for the increase of union, charity, and good will among Ours, that in
places where we have a college or a house all who do not know the language
which is in common use should learn it and as a rule speak it. If each one
were to speak his mother tongue, there would be much confusion and lack of
union, seeing that we are of different nations.
For this reason our
Father has given orders that in all places where the Society exists, all of
Ours should speak the language of that country. In Spain, Spanish; in France,
French; in Germany, German; in Italy, Italian; and so on. He has given orders
that here in Rome all should speak Italian, and every day there are lessons in
Italian grammar to help those learn it who are unable to use it. No one is
allowed to speak to another except in Italian, unless it be to make clear the
meaning of some words and thus be better understood. Once a week in the
refectory, either at dinner or supper, there is an Italian sermon in addition
to the tones which is regularly held. Care is taken that some of those who are
skilled in Italian help the others, so that they can compose their sermons
with greater ease. A good penance is given to those who fail in their
observance of this regulation.
Likewise our Father
has given orders that this same rule be written out and kept everywhere in the
Society as carefully as possible, due consideration being had for differences
of places and persons. For this reason we are writing to your reverence to see
that the regulation is observed. Please advise us when you receive this.
May Jesus Christ be
with us all.
From Rome, January