Jesuit spirituality

TalkReformation Era: History and Literature

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Jesuit spirituality

Edited: Nov 1, 2022, 10:46pm

What was Jesuit spirituality like? The author of The Jesuits: A History, Markus Friedrich, covers this in depth in the longest first section of the book, “The inner life and structure of the Society.” To me, it feels like fragmentary evidence, since I still cannot really visualize a Jesuit priest. But it does give me some clues.

Near the beginning of the book the author gives key phrases of the Jesuits.

“the whole world is our (a Jesuit’s) home”
“our way of proceeding”
“seek God in all things”
“active in contemplation”
“help the souls”
“to the greater glory of God”
“more” (p. 66).

Most of these are explained in the book.

The author says, the Jesuits had a “shared preference for a spirituality that engaged with people in their daily life, while conveying confidence and certitude in a generally optimistic tone.” They also liked shaking people up and “jolting them out of (their) well-worn habits…”. “… their spirituality primarily aimed - with some exceptions - to instill a religious consciousness that was not founded on constant fear.” (p. 156)

Especially this last point is surprising, since Catholic teaching (not unlike some Protestant teaching) does have a reputation of leaning towards fear. It says a lot to me that the Jesuits were not trying to instill fear in their charges on a regular basis.

There is much more in the book about the inner lives of the Jesuits and their viewpoints on many spiritual issues and practices.