Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Jesuit Character

Today is the feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. As much as Saint Francis and his Minorites, the association of words ("Jesuit" and "Ignatian") conjure thoughts and presumptions irrelevant to the intentions of the original founder. That "SJ" is commonly associated with homosexuality, heresy, violent socialist revolutions in South American, and left wing American universities is a tragedy for a society founded to act as a militant arm of the Church, courageous enough to do what others would not as missionaries.

This is not to say that their charism did not carry innate faults. Perhaps the atomistic, solitary spirtuality of the early Jesuits would have worked have the Society remained small, but a large and well funded order living in community without a public dedication to the Office or Mass inevitably leaves its members to their own devices and formation, of which the liturgy is not a factor.

The militant, furtive Jesuit, bereft of transparency and clear intentions, became a myth in popular culture due to the likes of John Ballard, SJ. The Jesuit as a trickster intent on causing accidental conversion persisted into the early 20th century and even appears in Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies in 1930.

No literary Jesuit so perfectly captures this caricature as René d'Herblay (Aramis) in the Musketeer novels of Alexandre Dumas. When our protagonist, D'Artagnan, meets Aramis the latter reiterates that he is only temporarily taking up the tabard of the Musketeers of the Guard. He is constantly in studies to become a Jesuit priest and speaks of the affair in much the same manner Starbucks baristas speak of "moving to Europe". Confronted by his superiors for his dissertation to complete his studies, he derives a comically legalistic argument on grace to pique their interest, all the while lamenting that he might have to put away his mistress. When he does receive the odd letter from his mistress he finally breaks from his melancholy and expresses himself, "SHE STILL LOVES ME!"

Dumas' Musketeer epic concludes with the anti-climactic story of the Man in the Iron Mask, a novella with a plot line so underwhelming that no film that adopted it faithfully. In the finale, Louis XIV is revealed to be a misunderstood king whose unknown identical twin brother is place on the throne by the unwitting Porthos and Athos. D'Artagnan defends King Louis while Athos escapes and Porthos dies in the fight. Valor and thirst for justice burned in the Musketeers' hearts, but their intentions were not shared by their friend, Aramis.

Aramis is now a bishop and French magistrate intent on advancement. The Jesuit prelate manipulated his friends to replace the Divinely ordained King and put their own lives at stake for treason simply to give France a monarch who might make Aramis his Chief Minister, nominate him for the College of Cardinals, and put him on the path to the Supreme Pontificate.

Such was the reputation of Jesuits many moons ago.

1 comment:

  1. "In the 16th century, under the influence of a certain school of the Society of Jesus, the prayer of the faithful came to be divorced from the prayer of the Church. The soul, left alone, withdrawn into herself, sought the meaning of the Scriptures by reasonings and no longer went to Our Lord through the Church; from this stems the great difficulty that souls experience in prayer. To my knowledge, thousands of priests who learned, in seminary, to practice this laborious and dry mental prayer, abandoned it after their ordination, to the great detriment of their souls. The liturgy, understood as the authentic organ by means of which the Church prays and teaches her children to pray, belongs to the whole Church, and Pius X strongly engaged all the priests, the bishops, and the religious Orders to cooperate with him in putting in back into vigour. This was part of his instaurare omnia in Christo, “restoring all things in Christ”. So well did Saint Teresa understand this that she said she would give her life for the smallest liturgical rubric. Understood in this way, it [the liturgy] is not the prerogative or the specialisation of any given religious Order; it belongs to the Church!"-Bl. Columba Marmion