Saturday, July 31, 2010

St. Ignatius of Loyola and Jesuitical conspiracy stuff

It's St. Ignatius' feast day!  He founded the Jesuit order in the 1500's, and for some reason today I kept remembering a scene from The Man in the Iron Mask, when Aramis, who has become a Catholic priest, meets in a secret crypt with his former Musketeer buddies: Athos, Porthos, and D'Artagnan.  He tells them that the wicked King of France, Louis the WhateverNumber, has commanded him to find out the identity of the secret leader of the Jesuits, and kill him.  "Let the secret leader of the Jesuits worry about that," suggests Porthos.  "The problem is," says Aramis, "I am he."  And he goes on to ask the Musketeers to join him in a plot to replace the king with a lookalike.

Doesn't have a whole lot to do with the awesome spirituality of St. Ignatius, but it is an interesting indication of how the Jesuits came to be viewed in certain sectors of the secular world.  St. Ignatius wanted complete loyalty to the Pope to be one of the hallmarks of his order.  In fact he made it a fourth vow, added to the traditional religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  While the Jesuits were still young, St. Ignatius and some of his followers presented themselves in Rome and asked the Pope to command them, and the Pope told St. Ignatius to send missionaries to the East.  So St. Ignatius sent St. Francis Xavier, telling him "Go, set all on fire!" and St. Francis Xavier converted thousands in India, then went on to Japan and died on his way to China.  St. Ignatius in the meantime developed the Spiritual Exercises, which are a series of meditations to help you order the disorder in your life and live entirely for God.  He was big into the question of how to know and do the will of God, and how to recognize when you're being deceived and the impulse you're sensing is not from God.  The fourteen basic rules he wrote about this are explained in a most useful book called The Discernment of Spirits.

Incidentally, the Jesuits were active as missionaries in North America in the 1600's, at the same time as the Pilgrims were settling here.  Some of them were tortured and killed.  One of them was tortured, escaped back to France, and begged to return to the Indians, who killed him.  His journal revealed his burning desire to be martyred for Christ; I think only the Holy Spirit could have inspired it.

But I was talking about loyalty to the Pope.  That came to be viewed as a threat in some countries.  The Jesuits were a big, successful, well-educated order that made a lot of converts and had a lot of influence-- apparently at one time the Superior General of the order was known as the Black Pope because he was supposedly the second most powerful man in the Church (Jesuits wear black and the Pope wears white).  And since their ultimate loyalty lay with the Pope and not with the secular leaders of the various European countries in which they lived, those European leaders suspected them as a source of foreign influence.

So there was some huge conflict involving lots of politics and not enough religion, and the upshot was that for a time the Jesuit order was actually suppressed.  The Pope, to keep the peace with the political leaders in France-- or was it Spain?  I'm telling this history off the top of my head-- shut down the Jesuits entirely.  I think the order never really recovered.

But in the early 1800's an Italian priest named Pio Bruno Lanteri had a Jesuit as a spiritual director.  This was when the order was suppressed, so maybe the director wasn't officially a Jesuit any more, but he taught Fr. Lanteri the Jesuit spirituality-- the Exercises of St. Ignatius, and the rules of discernment and all the rest.  And Fr. Lanteri, influenced by this Jesuit, decided to found a new order that would propagate this spirituality and focus on helping laypeople grow in holiness by teaching it to them.  They'd sort of be Jesuits, but legal.

The order that he founded was called the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, and it still exists today and it's the order that runs my parish. :)  And, mirable dictu, they are still faithful to their founder's vision and they teach the Exercises all the time.  I've done two eight-day Ignatian retreats-- one last summer and one the summer before that-- under the direction of our priests.  It was such a privilege to be able to do that.  They also continuously teach the Exercises in a ten-week format so people who can't take all that vacation time can just meditate for one hour every day and meet in a group every week to learn about Ignatian spirituality and get the meditations for the next week and so on.  I've done that twice too; I'm sort of a Spiritual Exercises junkie.  It's a GREAT program, and for many it's life-changing.  I think a few thousand people have joined in now!  They come from other parishes, from all over the area.  If you live near L.A., you should do it. :)

Update:  Seriously, you should do it, and here's a message from the SPC parishioner who coordinates it all: "To get more information and to register for the next session (which begins the week of September 18), contact Jim Martorana at 562 924 5193 or  The program will be offered at 3 different times each week for your convenience. "  If you're reading this after September 18 has passed, email Jim anyway.  The ten-week cycle of Exercises usually starts again at our church as soon as the previous cycle has finished.  The address is St. Peter Chanel, 12001 E. 214th St., Hawaiian Gardens, CA.

Wow, I wasn't even planning to go into all that, but anyway now you know why I like St. Ignatius of Loyola so much-- the Oblates of the Virgin Mary are pretty good at teaching about him.

Now, to my knowledge the Jesuits have never had a secret leader, nor been involved in replace-the-king plots.  And I don't think anyone has to worry today about their dangerous loyalty to the Pope, because a large swath of the order (which was re-formed once the suppression against them was lifted) went kind of crazy liberal in the 60's and started more or less advocating against certain Catholic teachings of which the Pope is the principal exponent.  A year or two ago they had a big meeting of the order to elect a new superior general, and one of their leaders gave a speech at that meeting explaining that their loyalty to the Pope really means that they're loyal to the Pope of the future, the Pope we're surely going to have one day, the one who will agree with everything the Jesuits are already teaching and doing.  They're not loyal to this current Pope, because heaven knows he's too Catholic for them...

It's so ironic that the Jesuits are like that, because if you Google "Black Pope" you still find some whacked-out conspiracy-theory sites explaining that the Jesuits would kill for the Pope, just like the albino assassin monk in The Da Vinci Code, and they're coming to get us all!!!  If that's the case, they've certainly taken secrecy and disguise to new heights.  In fact, that's rather a neat explanation of the sad changes the order has undergone... they're all just going undercover to fight the Pope's battles in enemy territory... I like it.  One almost wishes it were true.  Like that Jack Chick tract that warns, "The name of every Protestant church member in the world is being recorded in the big computer in the Vatican."  You just wish we were that organized.  I thought the same five years ago when a Democrat congressman suggested that Karl Rove had deliberately planted the Rathergate memos to destroy Dan Rather's credibility.  If that were true, how totally awesome would that be?

Okay, link time.  Here's Laetitia Crucis, who is proving to be very much like me in lots of delightful ways, blogging about St. Ignatius.

And here's a translation of a prayer he wrote:

I love Thee, O Thou Lord most high,
Because Thou first has loved me;
I seek no other liberty
But that of being bound by Thee.

May memory no thought suggest
But shall to Thy pure glory tend,
My understanding find no rest
Except in Thee, its only end.

My God, I here protest to Thee
No other will I have than Thine;
Whatever Thou hast giv'n to me
I here again to Thee resign.

All mine is Thine; say but the word,
Whate'er Thou willest shall be done;
I know Thy love, all-gracious Lord —
I know it seeks my good alone.

Apart from Thee all things are nought;
Then grant, O my supremest Bliss,
Grant me to love Thee as I ought —
Thou givest all in giving this.

I learned that song from the Echoes of Ephesus CD here.

And now I must be going-- we have company tomorrow and I'm in charge of dessert.  Hard life, I know.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us. :)


Laetitia Crucis said...

I am wallowing joyously in the Ignatius-love. <3

However, I sigh and weep in regards to the Jesuits' post-60s. Poor, Ignatius. I keep praying for a renewal within the Jesuits, a renewal in their fidelity as true sons of St. Ignatius... ah, my heart. :(

I will also be on the lookout for the Oblates of the Virgin Mary -- how exciting! I've never really known about them before, so I most definitely appreciate your info about them!

Aaaaand St. Isaac Jogues rocks my socks. <3

Lee Gilbert said...

"It's so ironic that the Jesuits are like that...."

Actually there is reason for hope.

A few days ago my wife and I were in Enterprise, OR on our way back from visiting our daughter In Nebraska. Enterprise is in the middle of NOWHERE- in the Wallowa Mountain area of drop dead gorgeous Northeastern Oregon.

We went to Mass mid-week at St. Katherine's, more or less braced for whatever liturgical abuses might come our way.

What a surprise was in store for us. First, there was an altar boy, John Paul, and he knew what he was doing. The priest intoned the Kyrie and the congregation sang the responses beautifully and correctly. The lector was incredible and sang the responsorial psalm according to haunting music of her own devising.
The priest gave a long, practical, excellent homily on Confession. He sang the Sanctus.

It developed that he was a recently ordained Jesuit visiting his parents in Enterprise.

The next day since we happened to be entering the church at the same time, I said to father with a smile, "The next time you preach a sermon like that on Confession, be sure to hear confessions afterwards." And he told me, "Today is Part II."

The Mass was more of the same, and again he preached excellently on Confession.

After Mass we made a thanksgiving and after a time I heard some clatter in the back-father exiting the confessional stole in hand. He had taken my advice, but I had missed my chance!

One thing that struck me was his saying that over the years he has come to pay less attention to what priest he is confessing to, because he is confessing to the Lord in every case. Another thing was that the advice the priest gives in the Confessional is not one of the essential elements of Confession. It might be good advice or bad advice and has to be taken on its own merits.

He also talked about Confession from the viewpoint of the priest, of the admiration and even awe they have for penitents who make a clean breast of their lives. Also, he spoke of the blessed amnesia that priests often experience after hearing confessions.

And so begins the ministry of Fr. Anthony Wieck, S.J. May the Lord bless him and everyone like him!

Rachel Gray said...

Laetitia, thanks for sharing in the Ignatius love (and also the Isaac Jogues love)! The Oblates of the Virgin Mary are pretty small in the U.S., about 30 priests (there are more in Europe). So you probably won't encounter them, but hey, keep your eyes open. I hope for a renewal of the Jesuits too, and fortunately Lee's is not the only story I've heard of young Jesuits who are faithful. (I heard of one who cheerfully said he and the other youngsters plan to "inherit the ashes" and rebuild. He'd better be careful about letting his superiors hear that!)

Lee, thanks for that long account which I very much enjoyed reading. It's so lovely to encounter liturgical beauty and fidelity where you weren't expecting it. The fact that the congregation was in tune with it tells you that it wasn't just the visiting priest doing his thing, but that the parish is like that-- which in turn might suggest how Fr. Wieck heard the call to the priesthood and is living it so well.

JimAroo said...

Thank you for plugging the Spiritual Exercises program at St. Peter Chanel. To get more information and to register for the next session (which begins the week of September 18), contact Jim Martorana at 562 924 5193 or

The program will be offered at 3 different times each week for your convenience.