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Rome, July 20, 1556
summary | text
of letter | footnotes
Stefano Casanova1 was a scholastic teaching in Tivoli. He was
intent on the spiritual progress of his soul and, thus, practiced great
mortification. The increasing physical weakness that he was beginning to feel,
he attributed to the constant repression of his sensuality. Ignatius had been
in correspondence with him but only this present letter has survived. Ignatius
tells him that mortification would not be the sole cause of his increasing
debility, and that there could be another, namely, intellectual over-work.
This was true in Stefano's case, for there were some 120 students at the
college in Tivoli and there was only one other teacher there besides Stefano.
Ignatius tells him to follow the instructions he had given him in an earlier
letter, and recalls that sensual motions that lead to sin must be repressed
even if bodily weakness results. However, sensual motions toward something
licit, and therefore not sinful, may be repressed out of love for the cross.
But this second type of repression "is neither good for all, nor should
it be used at all times." In fact, Ignatius goes on to say, it is
sometimes more meritorious to take some honest bodily recreation so that the
individual can work longer in God's service. Stefano is to continue repressing
his sensuality if sin is in question, but not if it be of the second category.
In writing to this young scholastic, less than two weeks before his own death,
Ignatius is undoubtedly thinking of the penances that he himself had
injudiciously practiced in the early days of his conversion and of the
deleterious effect they had on him. This letter is one of spiritual insight
and reveals the humaneness that was characteristic of Ignatius. The letter is
in Italian [Ep. 12:151-152].
Dear Master Stefano:
The peace of Christ.
I received your
letter, in which you put it down as a certainty that it is the repression of
your sensuality which is robbing you of your strength and that you are
determined to attend to the principal business of your soul. First, though it
could easily be that this weakness of yours comes partly from such repression,
I do not believe it to be the sole cause. There are also mental exercises,
especially those undertaken immoderately and out of time, which also play a
part. Continue to observe what I have previously told you, until you write
again and permission is given you to bring about a change in that order.
however, can be done in two ways. One, when the reason enlightened by God
becomes aware of a movement of sensuality or of the sensitive part of nature
against God's will, yielding to which would be a sin, you repress it through
the fear and love of God. This is well done, even though some weakness should
ensue or some bodily ill, since sin should not be committed for this or any
other reason. There is another way of repressing this sensuality. You may be
looking for some recreation, or anything else that is perfectly lawful, in
which there is no sin, but out of a desire for mortification or love of the
cross you deny yourself what is sought. This second way of repression is
neither good for all, nor should it be used at all times. Rather, at times
there will be more merit in taking some honest bodily recreation in order to
be able to remain active for a long period in God's service than in repressing
oneself. From this you will understand that the first kind of repression is
good for you, and that the second is not, even when you are eager to travel by
the more perfect way and one that is more pleasing to God.
In every other
detail I refer you to your confessor, to whom you will show this letter. I
commend myself to your prayers.
From Rome, July 20,
||Casanova was born in the vicinity of Florence, where he
entered the Society in 1552. He pronounced his first vows in Rome on
March 9, 1553, and taught Latin at Tivoli. He died on February 10,
1557, six months after receiving Ignatius’ kind letter.