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Jesus, Society of,religious order of the Roman Catholic Church. Its members are called Jesuits. St. Ignatius of LoyolaIgnatius of Loyola, Saint
, 1491–1556, Spanish churchman, founder of the Jesuits (see Jesus, Society of), b. Loyola Castle near Azpeitia, Guipúzcoa, Spain. Early Life and Ordination
..... Click the link for more information. , its founder, named it Compañia de Jesús [Span.,=(military) company of Jesus]; in Latin it is Societas Jesu (abbr. S.J.). Today the society numbers about 19,000 members; in the United States, where there were approximately 2,900 Jesuits in 2007, there are many Jesuit schools and colleges (e.g., Georgetown, Fordham, and St. Louis universities).
Among the great organizers and theologians of the order are St. Francis BorgiaFrancis Borgia, Saint
, 1510–72, Spanish Roman Catholic reformer, third general of the Jesuits (see Jesus, Society of). He was a member of the famous Borgia family, a great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI, and cousin to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
..... Click the link for more information. , Claudio AquavivaAquaviva, Claudio
, 1543–1615, Italian Jesuit. He was (1581–1615) fifth general of the Society of Jesus and composed the Ratio, the basis of Jesuit education.
..... Click the link for more information. , Saint Robert BellarmineBellarmine, Saint Robert
, 1542–1621, Italian theologian, cardinal, Doctor of the Church, and a principal influence in the Counter Reformation. His full name was Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmino.
..... Click the link for more information. , Luis MolinaMolina, Luis
, 1535–1600, Spanish Jesuit theologian. He taught at Coimbra and Évora. In 1589 he published Concordia, a work in which he expounded the doctrine known as Molinism.
..... Click the link for more information. , and Francisco SuárezSuárez, Francisco
, 1548–1617, Spanish Jesuit philosopher, b. Granada. He studied at Salamanca and was ordained in 1572. He taught successively at Ávila, Segovia, Valladolid, Rome, Alcalá, and Salamanca and in 1597 was appointed to the Univ.
..... Click the link for more information. . The order has a tradition of learning and science; e.g., the BollandistsBollandists
, group of Jesuits in Belgium, named for their early leader, Jean Bolland, a Flemish Jesuit of the 17th cent. They were charged by the Holy See with compiling an authoritative edition of the lives of the saints, the monumental Acta sanctorum, which is still in progress.
..... Click the link for more information. are Jesuits, and Jesuits have made a specialty of the study of earthquakes. Pierre Teilhard de ChardinTeilhard de Chardin, Pierre
, 1881–1955, French paleontologist and philosopher. He entered (1899) the Jesuit order, was ordained (1911), and received a doctorate in paleontology from the Sorbonne (1922). He lectured (1920–23) at the Institut Catholique in Paris.
..... Click the link for more information. is perhaps the most famous Jesuit scientist. The society is also noted for its foreign missionary work.
The Modern Order
The largest single religious order, it is characterized by a highly disciplined organization, especially devoted to the pope and ruled by its general, who lives in Rome. Jesuits have no choral office; like the secular clergy they are under obligation to individually recite the divine office each day. They have no distinctive habit. In principle they may accept no ecclesiastical office or honor, but members of the order have on occasion been named bishops or cardinals; FrancisFrancis,
1936–, pope (2013–), an Argentinian (b. Buenos Aires to Italian immigrants) named Jorge Mario Bergoglio; successor of Benedict XVI. Francis, the first non-European to assume the papacy in more than 1,200 years, is the first pope from the Americas and the
..... Click the link for more information. was the first Jesuit to have been elected pope.
Jesuit training is famous and may last for more than 15 years. The novice spends two years in spiritual training, after which he takes the simple vows of the regulars—chastity, poverty, and obedience. Then as a scholastic he spends 13 years and sometimes longer in study and teaching, completed by an additional year of spiritual training. Toward the end of this period he is ordained and becomes a coadjutor. He may then take a fourth vow of special obedience to the pope and become professed.
The Order's Beginnings
The society had its beginnings in the small band of six who together with St. Ignatius took vows of poverty and chastity while students at Paris. Their first plan was to work for the conversion of Muslims. Unable to go to the Holy Land because of the Turkish wars, they went to Rome and received ordination. Their constitution was approved by Pope Paul III (1540), and St. Ignatius was made (1541) general. The order then immediately began to expand.
In Europe the Jesuits were a major force in the Counter Reformation. They sought to reclaim Protestant Europe for the church and to raise the spiritual tone of the Catholic countries. They enjoyed considerable success in W and S Germany, France, Hungary, and Poland. In nearly every important city the Jesuits established schools and colleges, and for 150 years they were leaders in European education. One of their boldest efforts was the English mission of 1580, distinguished by Saint Edmund CampionCampion, Saint Edmund
, c.1540–1581, English Jesuit martyr, educated at St. Paul's School and St. John's College, Oxford. As a fellow at Oxford he earned the admiration of his colleagues and his students and the favor of Queen Elizabeth by his brilliance and oratorical
..... Click the link for more information. . Another celebrated English Jesuit was Robert Southwell.
Missions in Asia and the Americas
One of the most brilliant of all foreign missionaries was St. Francis XavierFrancis Xavier, Saint,
1506–52, Basque Jesuit missionary, called the Apostle to the Indies, b. Spanish Navarre, of noble parents. He studied in Paris (1525–34), where he became an associate of St.
..... Click the link for more information. (see also missionsmissions,
term generally applied to organizations formed for the purpose of extending religious teaching, whether at home or abroad. It also indicates the stations or the fields where such teaching is given.
..... Click the link for more information. ); his work in the East was continued by a host of Jesuits. The mission in Japan was wiped out by persecution in the early 17th cent., but when Japan was reopened to the West in the 19th cent. a number of Christians were found there, descendants of these martyrs. The most distinguished early figures of the Chinese mission were Fathers Matteo Ricci, Adam Schall, and Ferdinand Verbiest in the 17th cent.; a characteristic of their mission was their popularity at court, where they were revered as men of wisdom and science. There were persecutions and martyrdoms, but the original Jesuit foundation became the nucleus of the Roman Catholic Church in that country. The Indian mission began under the aegis of the Portuguese in Goa, whence it spread over the country; one of the most remarkable Jesuits in this mission was Robert de' Nobili, who, after arduous asceticism and study, won recognition as an equal of the Brahmans.
The Jesuits worked all over Latin America; among their number was St. Peter ClaverPeter Claver, Saint
, 1581–1654, Spanish Jesuit missionary, called the Apostle of the Blacks. He was sent to what is now Colombia in 1610 and began at once his life work of ministering to the bodies and souls of the West African slaves, then being imported in large numbers.
..... Click the link for more information. . The most remarkable missions were in Paraguay. In French North America the Jesuits came frequently into rivalry with the government and the other clergy; their missions among the Huron were especially successful, and they made headway among the Iroquois. The "Black-Robes," as the Native Americans called them, traveled as far afield as Oregon. Some of these Jesuits died as martyrs for their faith (c.1640); six of them have been canonized together, with two of their lay helpers, as the Jesuit Martyrs of North America (feast: Sept. 26). The Jesuit RelationsJesuit Relations,
annual reports and narratives written by French Jesuit missionaries at their stations in New France (America) between 1632 and 1673. They are invaluable as historical sources for French exploration and native relations and also as a record of the various
..... Click the link for more information. is a firsthand account of Jesuit work in New France. The suppression of the order in Canada in 1791 and its later readmission as a teaching order led to the Jesuit Estates ActJesuit Estates Act
, law adopted in 1888 by the Quebec legislature, partly to indemnify the Society of Jesus for Jesuit property confiscated by the British during the period after the suppression (1773) of the society by Pope Clement XIV.
..... Click the link for more information. .
Suppression and Restoration
The Jesuits eventually became the object of criticism from vested ecclesiastical interests in every Catholic state. The Gallican party in France (see GallicanismGallicanism
, in French Roman Catholicism, tradition of resistance to papal authority. It was in opposition to ultramontanism, the view that accorded the papacy complete authority over the universal church.
..... Click the link for more information. ), being antipapal, was naturally anti-Jesuit. The polemics of Blaise PascalPascal, Blaise
, 1623–62, French scientist and religious philosopher. Studying under the direction of his father, a civil servant, Pascal showed great precocity, especially in mathematics and science.
..... Click the link for more information. and the Jansenists (see under Jansen, CornelisJansen, Cornelis
, 1585–1638, Dutch Roman Catholic theologian. He studied at the Univ. of Louvain and became imbued with the idea of reforming Christian life along the lines of a return to St. Augustine.
..... Click the link for more information. ) against Jesuit casuistry and alleged laxity in confessional practice were damaging. Through their loyalty to papal policies, the Jesuits were drawn into the struggle between the papacy and the Bourbon monarchies.
Before the middle of the 18th cent. a combination of publicists (including VoltaireVoltaire, François Marie Arouet de
, 1694–1778, French philosopher and author, whose original name was Arouet. One of the towering geniuses in literary and intellectual history, Voltaire personifies the Enlightenment.
..... Click the link for more information. ) and the absolute monarchs of Catholic Europe undertook to destroy them. In 1759 the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal and its colonies, France suppressed them in 1764, and in 1767 the Spanish dominions were closed to them. Pope Clement XIII denounced these acts, but, in 1773, Clement XIVClement XIV,
1705–74, pope (1769–74), an Italian (b. near Rimini) named Lorenzo Ganganelli; successor of Clement XIII. He was prominent for many years in pontifical affairs at Rome, and he was created cardinal in 1759. He was a Conventual Franciscan.
..... Click the link for more information. , under the coercion of the Bourbon monarchs and of some of his own cardinals, dissolved the order, and the Society of Jesus ceased to exist in the Catholic world.
Frederick the Great and Catherine the Great refused to publish the brief suppressing them, and the Jesuits continued to exist in Prussia and Russia, especially as educators. As the 18th cent. drew to a close Catholic Europe, especially Italy, began to ask for restoration of the Jesuits, and, in 1814, Pius VIIPius VII,
1740–1823, pope (1800–1823), an Italian named Barnaba Chiaramonti, b. Cesena; successor of Pius VI, who had created him cardinal in 1785. He conducted himself ably during the period of the French Revolution, showing sympathy for the social aims of the
..... Click the link for more information. reestablished them as a world order.
See T. A. Hughes, History of the Society of Jesus in North America (3 vol., 1907–17, repr. 1970); J. Brodrick, Origin of the Jesuits (1940, repr. 1971); W. V. Baugert, A History of the Society of Jesus (1972); J. C. Aveling, The Jesuits (1982); A. Scaglione, The Liberal Arts and the Jesuit College System (1986).