Subscribe to our monthly Woodstock Reflections podcast in either video or audio format, by pasting these URLs into iTunes!

5. TO THE SCHOLASTICS AT ALCALÁ

On Maturing Spiritually

 1543

summary | text of letter  | footnotes


          These general directives for scholastics have been preserved by Pedro de Ribadeneira1 in his still unpublished Historia de la Assistencia de España (Book 1, chap. 6). Writing in his final years in Spain, Ribadeneira notes that the scholastics at Alcalá "did not have the Constitutions or the rules as we in the Society have them, since our blessed Father Ignatius had not yet written them; but they did have some of his instructions and counsels which they often read, and which they strove to keep with the greatest of care. Because these are the counsels of so excellent a Father, and the first that our scholastics ever had, it seemed good to include them here so that they may always be remembered." Since the first scholastics to study at the famous University of Alcalá de Henares went there in April 1543, the usual date given to these paternal counsels is 1543. However, it is very probable that they had already been prepared (as early as 1541?) for the scholastics studying in Paris or in Padua, and on the occasion of the scholastics going to Spain, a copy was given them. The scholastics are here reminded that during their years of study they are to retain purity of heart, live always in the presence of God, see Christ in their superior, behave humbly and charitably, reject anything that would keep them from loving their brethren, etc. In a word, these counsels are meant to shape a youthful scholastic into the mature Jesuit; they will eventually evolve into "Rules for Scholastics." These counsels, written in Spanish, may be found in Ep. 12:674-676.

          1. We should be careful to preserve great purity of heart in the love of God, loving nothing but Him, and desiring to converse with Him alone, and with the neighbor for love of Him and not for our own pleasure and delight.

          2. We should speak only with necessity, and for the edification of ourselves or others, and leave aside those things which do not profit the soul, such as the desire for news and worldly affairs. We should try always to treat of matters connected with humility and mortification of the will, and not of things that give occasion for laughter or murmuring.

          3. Let no one seek to be considered a wit, or to affect elegance or prudence or eloquence, but look upon Christ, who made nothing at all of these things and chose to be humbled and despised by men for our sake rather than to be honored and respected.

          4. We should not wish to see or do anything which could not be done in the presence of God and His creatures, and we shall thus imagine that we are always in His presence.

          5. We should not dispute stubbornly with anyone; rather we should patiently give our reasons with the purpose of declaring the truth lest our neighbor remain in error, and not that we should have the upper hand.

          6. One of the things which we must be very firm about, if we are to please our Lord, is to cast far from us everything that could remove us from the love of our brethren. We should make every effort to love them with a tender charity, for Supreme Truth has said: This is how all will know you are my disciples, etc. [John 13:35].

          7. Should anyone do anything that is disedifying, and it seems that as a result he should be held in less esteem than he was held before, let him not be so discouraged as to wish to give up, but let him humble himself and ask forgiveness of those who might have been scandalized by his bad example and a penance from his superior. He should thank God, who has permitted him to be humbled, so that he can be known by all for what he is. He should not wish to appear better in the eyes of men than he is in the eyes of God. The brethren who behold him should think that they could fall into even greater weakness, and should ask God to strengthen them.

          8. In our superiors we should always behold the person of Christ, whom they represent, and have recourse to them in our doubts and hold it as certain that our Lord will direct us through them.

          9. We should not conceal our temptations, nor even our good thoughts, but make them known to our confessor or superior, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light [2 Cor. 11:14]. We should always act according to the judgment and counsel of our spiritual father rather than our own, which we should always regard rather with suspicion.

          10. In dealing with others we should bear ourselves modestly, and try not to appear sad or too serious, nor, on the other hand, overcheerful and gay, but as the Apostle says: Everyone should see how modest you are [Phil. 4:5].

          11. We should never postpone a good work, no matter how small it may be, with the thought of later doing something greater. It is a very common temptation of the enemy to be always placing before us the perfection of things to come and bring us to make little of the present.

          12. Let us all persevere in the vocation to which God calls us, and not make our first loyalty an empty word. For the enemy is wont to tempt those in the desert with thoughts of dealing with the neighbor and improving him, and to those who are helping the neighbor he will propose the great perfection of the desert and solitary life. Thus he lays hold of what is far off to prevent us from taking advantage of what is at hand.

Footnotes

1 Ribadeneira was born in Toledo, Spain, on November 1, 1526. He went to Rome in 1539 as a page in the household of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, and entered the Society on September 18, 1540. He first studied in Paris and Louvain, but in 1546 went to Padua. In 1549 he was assigned to teach in Palermo and remained in Sicily until 1552, when Ignatius called him to Rome to assist at the German College. He was ordained in 1553, and in 1555 went to Flanders to establish houses of the Society. He was provincial of Tuscany (1560-1561) and of Sicily (1561-1565), and visitor for Lombardy (1569-1570). In 1567 Father General Francisco de Borja commissioned him to write Ignatius’ biography, which appeared in 1572. He then went to Spain and remained there until his death in Madrid on September 22, 1611.