Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Prayer: Apostolic availability - in the early Society

Before choosing men for Sicily, Saint Ignatius sent a circular to all the Jesuits in Rome. We know its content (MI Epp. 252) and the response it received from Peter Canisius (Espinosa Polit, Perfect Obedience, p. 174). Contributed by Martin E. Palmer S.J. (Fusz Memorial, 3700 West Pine Blvd, St Louis MO 63103, ·USA)

These are the points which our Father in Jesus Christ, Master Ignatius, proposed to everyone in the house on February 2, 1548. ­Giving each man a period of three, four, or five days to recollect and commend himself to God, he had them ponder these points, come to a decision, and write down how they stood in their regard. Our Father in Jesus Christ judged that a man would not be suited for the institute of this Society unless he had attained readiness in regard to all the following points, as true obedience demands.

1. Whether he finds himself indifferent to going to Sicily if so commanded or not going, preferring whatever will be enjoined on him by the superior, to whose governance, in the place of Jesus Christ, he is subjected.

2. Whether, if he should go, he finds himself indifferent towards accepting any task that is enjoined on him –such as: if he is educated, going to serve in corporal matters and ministries; if he has no education, going to teach theology, Greek or some other subject he does not know; and whether therein he judges that the best thing he can do is what is enjoined on him by obedience. Likewise, whether a man sent to be a teacher is ready to accept any of the four courses, i.e., scholastic theology, positive theology, philosophy, or humanities.

3. Whether, if sent as a student, he is ready to study whatever subject he is assigned, i.e., grammar, philosophy, or theology; and under whatever professor is appointed for him. In the same way, whether, if sent to serve, he is ready to work in the kitchen or at any other job.

4. Whether, in addition to carrying out whatever assignment he receives, he is disposed to consider it to be the best, submitting to the yoke of holy obedience not merely his performance but also his private judgement and will, so that he looks upon his assignment as the best in itself, finds peace and joy in whatever the superior shall judge most helpful for his own and the general welfare, and makes evident his faith that God's providence is to guide and govern him through the superior, etc.

After having deliberated with myself for some time on the brief proposal of my reverend Father in Christ and superior, Master Ignatius, I declare in the first place that, with the help of our Lord, I feel equally disposed to either alternative, whether I am ordered to remain at home always, or sent to Sicily, India, 'O!' anywhere else. Moreover, if I must go to Sicily, I affirm simply that I shall be satisfied with whatever office or ministry shall be given me there, whether it be cook, gardener, porter, student, or professor of any class, even of matter with which I am unacquainted. And from this day, February 5th, I vow and swear that I will not concern myself with the future as far as it concerns my dwelling, mission, or any comfort, leaving once for all such care and solicitude to my reverend Father General in Christ. And to him I submit fully my understanding and my will for the government of my soul as well as for my body, humbly offering and confidently surrendering myself in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The year 1548. I have signed this with my own hand.

Peter Canisius of Nimwegen