Full Text for Church History 2- Volume 54 - Who are Jesuits and Why are They Important? (Video)

File 54 >> SPEAKER: You mentioned that besides the Council, Paul III also approved the Jesuits. I�m familiar with them as a monastic order within the Catholic Church, and I know they are responsible for a number of well-known universities, but that's about all I know. Who are the Jesuits and why are they important? >> SPEAKER: Paul, the Jesuits were one of the new religious orders that come out of the Catholic reformation. As a general rule, one can say that the Catholic Church is strong when the religious orders are strong. And clearly, in the 16th century, that's one of the signs of new vitality within the Catholic Church is the proliferation of religious orders that are attracting into the service of the church a host of dedicated men and women. But among these new orders, there's none that was any more important than the Jesuits. This is the Society of Jesus, and the members of the Society of Jesus are known as the Jesuits. One historian described them as the shock troops of the Reformation. And they did produce some very important leadership in the middle and second half of the 16th century. They produced educators, teachers, they produced confessors and advisors to some of the high and the mighty. They produced theologians for the final sessions of the Council of Trent. They even produced some of the first and greatest foreign missionaries in this period. So out of the Jesuits come a lot of people who were important for promoting, defending, and advancing the Catholic religion, not only in Europe, but actually around the globe. So it's probably worthwhile that we spend a little time on the Jesuits. And certainly, we have to mention the founder of the Jesuits. This is Ignatius of Loyola. In terms of his historical significance, he probably ranks right up there with Luther and Calvin and Zwingli. He was an important church figure from the 16th century. So who was Ignatius? Well, Ignatius was a Spaniard, a Spanish nobleman who, typical of nobility, had embarked as a young man upon a career in the military, in the service to his king and that was, of course, Charles who is now the king of Spain. He's also emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. So Ignatius of Loyola fought for him. But he was wounded. And during a lengthy convalescence, he did some reading. He read �Lives of the Saints.� He read about the life of Jesus. And that reading moved him to give up his previous career, a soldier of the king, and instead to become a soldier for Christ in the service of his church. Ignatius went to a shrine where he exchanged clothes with a bigger to indicate his kind of new commitment to a life of service to the church. And then he spent about a year in really religious isolation at a monastery by the name of Manresa. He really lived as a religious hermit here. He underwent extreme aesthetical disciplines, fasting, vigils, depriving himself of what people ordinarily think as necessary for a decent life. And he devoted himself to prayer and meditations. During this period of time, he went through spiritual struggles that were perhaps as deep as Luther's spiritual struggles, a real sense of his inadequacy, of his sinfulness, of his unworthiness. But the solution for Ignatius's spiritual struggles turned out to be far different from Luther's. As you know, Luther found peace in the gospel of God's free grace and forgiveness to sinners for the sake of Christ. Ignatius found peace in submission, submitting himself entirely to the church. So similar experiences, but different solutions. For Ignatius, the answer was to submit yourself to the authority of the institutional church, the church that we know as, of course, the Catholic Church, the church of Rome. Well, after this experience, Ignatius went on pilgrimage to Rome and then actually to Jerusalem for a time. Then he returned to Spain where he decided that if he were going to be of real service to the church, he needed an education. He studied at several institutions in Spain, and then in the 1520�s, he went off to the University of Paris. And there he was for about seven years, 1528 to 1535. And he studied, interestingly, at the same college that John Calvin had studied at. And it's possible that they may have even overlapped. I don't think they knew each other, but nonetheless, they were there at pretty much the same time. During this period, Ignatius gathered around him a small group of followers. And what he did was to encourage these followers to have the same sorts of spiritual experiences that he had had at Manresa. In fact, those experiences at Manresa which then he encouraged and promoted among his fellows at the University of Paris were the basis for what�s probably his most famous work, his �Spiritual Exercises.� He worked on that work for 20 or 25 years. It was finally published in the 1540�s. But he had already been using it for himself and then also for his followers. Now, what this little group decided they ought to do, if possible, was to preach the Christian religion off in the Middle East and try to convert the Muslims. So they left Paris and made their way to Italy, but they couldn't get past Italy. Conditions in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, were very difficult. Very often, there was actual war between the Ottoman Turks who were the rulers in the east and the various forces of the Christian West like Venice or the papacy or Spain. So they couldn't get to the Middle East. As a result, they decided to devote themselves to the service of the pope, kind of turn themselves over to the pope. It was at this time that they were ordained and then after some time, Paul III recognized them as an official order within the Catholic Church, as an official religious order of the Catholic Church. This was, I believe, around the year 1540 when they were officially recognized. Now, by that time, Ignatius had about 10 Jesuits, maybe a few more. They chose Ignatius as their leader, as the general of the order, and he set up headquarters in Rome and spent the rest of his life, about the next 15 years or so of his life, really promoting, organizing, and directing the Society of Jesus. He devoted himself to the society and devoted the society to the service of the church. I want to mention in connection with that service some of the unique features of the Jesuits. You probably recall that in Catholic life there are certain people who join a religious movement, Dominicans, Franciscans, Benedictines, something like that. And when they do that, they take permanent vows that separate themselves from the world, by which I mean separate themselves from the normal obligations of day-to-day existence, particularly marriage and family, that sort thing. Well, we usually describe the vows that religious take as three: Poverty, chastity, and obedience. And by obedience we usually mean obedience to the rules and regulations of their order. Well, to these three vows Ignatius of Loyola added a fourth vow. This was the fourth vow of the Jesuits. And what it said was this: That a Jesuit would go without question, delay, or provision where ever the pope commanded for the salvation of souls. So the fourth vow of the Jesuit was of a special service to the pope to obey him, even as he gave orders that they might serve for the salvation of souls. So they put themselves at the disposal of the papacy, if you will. Through the succeeding years, Jesuits did a lot of different things. But in 1548, they established their first school. And Ignatius realized that this was one way that they could especially serve the church in this period of time. And so they adopted as a special mission of their order that of education, that of teaching, that of schools. And so in a certain respect, the Jesuits are the very first teaching order. And so schools and education became characteristic of their movement. The movement caught on. By the time Ignatius died, there were about 1000 Jesuits. Remember, they started with 6, but now there were 1000. And then by the end of the 16th century, there were probably over 8000 Jesuits, and they were to be found all over the world. I mentioned all over the world because again, one of the things they did was to send out foreign missionaries. In fact, one of Ignatius's very first Jesuits was Francis Xavier. Perhaps you heard of his name, Francis Xavier, attached to various schools and so forth. At any rate, Xavier took the Catholic religion to India, to Japan, and even to China. He was that far away that Xavier was preaching on behalf of the Jesuits. Through the years, the Jesuits were able to attract into membership some of the brightest and the best of the Catholics. They were able to produce some of the great theologians of the period. Robert Bellerman, for example, was a great defender of the Catholic faith over against the Protestants so that some of the great Protestant theologians of the period like Martin Chemnitz among the Lutherans had to deal with the writings and teachings of Robert Bellerman. They also produced great defenders and apologists for the church. Peter Canisius was a Jesuit who served in Germany and who wrote and preached against the Protestantism in the Catholic parts of Germany and helped to stem the advance of Protestantism in German-speaking lands. They also produced martyrs for the faith. Edmund Campion was sent by the Jesuits into England there to kind of reconvert the country or else to kind of maintain the faith and the practice of the Catholics who were already there. He was arrested by Elizabeth's government, tortured, but he remained faithful to his commitment and was finally executed. A martyr to the Catholic faith on behalf of the Jesuit order. So the Jesuits really were a strong part of Catholic renewal in the second half of the 16th century and beyond. Now, there's one more thing I'd like to say about the Jesuits. And I would like to talk a little bit about this classic work of the Ignatius's known as �Spiritual Exercises.� This is a work that is far different from the kind of works that you would find in Luther or in Calvin. It's really not a theological or doctrinal work. It's actually a manual for prayer and meditation. To a certain extent, it hearkens back to the Middle Ages and a kind of piety known as mysticism. But here it is in book form with a series of spiritual exercises, prayers, meditations, precepts, rules, all kind of put together in order to lead a person from an ordinary Christian existence to a better maybe even a heroic kind of Christian existence. Actually what Ignatius had in mind was that somebody would go away from the world and spend time simply thinking and working at his spiritual life. The Jesuits are kind of the fathers of the spiritual retreat movement which characterize many forms of Christianity in our own times. But the spiritual exercises were especially arranged by Ignatius for those who would become Jesuits and so we have a series of exercises devoted first of all to purging the individual of his self-centeredness and of his sin, his selfishness. And then you have a set of exercises devoted to enlightenment, filling the individual up again with the good things of God by meditating upon the Bible stories and examples of the saints and so forth. Finally, a set of exercises dealing with or having as their goal greater unity of will between the individual and God so that the end result, from Ignatius's standpoint, should be somebody who practices the Christian virtues to a much higher level, maybe even a heroic level, a level that a martyr would have to have as a result of following through these exercises. Well, this work caught on among the Jesuits, and it continues to be in use and in practice even in our own times. So it's a classic of Catholic spirituality, that's the �Spiritual Exercises� of Ignatius of Loyola.