Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, a religious organization within the Catholic Church that was formed in Spain in the 1500s. A great deal of focus for Jesuits is education, scholarly research, and cultural development. In pursuit of the first of these, Jesuits are often seen as founders of schools, including colleges, universities, and seminaries. Other Jesuits participate in hospital and parish ministry, or work in religious retreats. Unlike other practitioners of the Catholic faith, Jesuits do not have an official habit; instead, they are instructed to wear clothing that is proper, that conforms to the customs and traditions of the area in which one is serving, and that it does not violate the vow of poverty that Jesuits are expected to abide by.
Facts Regarding the Jesuit Religion
- Founded by Ignatius of Loyola
- The first Jesuits took vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience
- Pope Paul III approved this organization by papal decree in 1540
- While Jesuits have been an active and highly respected branch of the Catholic Church for nearly 600 years, it was not until 2013 that the first Jesuit, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, became elected pope, taking the name of Pope Francis.
Because Ignatius was a soldier himself, having learned of God's plan for him while recovering from an injury sustained in the Battle of Pamplona, one of his core teachings was that Jesuits were to be prepared to take orders wherever they were needed, even in the harshest of circumstances. Because of this obedience, Jesuits are sometimes referred to as "God's soldiers" or "the Company."
In his 2010 address to representatives of Jesuit universities worldwide, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, SJ, Superior General of the Jesuits, discussed imagination. He believes that exercising an imagination which grasps reality and involves "a refusal to let go until we get beneath the surface" is a crucial element of Jesuit education. In the same speech, he worried that today's instant and global communication technologies discourage such deep reflection and engagement with the real and instead foster a "globalization of superficiality." To Fr. Nicolas, imagination requires going to the depths of reality and recreating (re-imagining) it. Do social media and instant communication pose obstacles to such reflection and serious thinking? How can college students practice serious reflection in our always connected and instantaneous world?
The Jesuit tradition was begun by Ignatius Loyola - in his religious doctrine called Spiritual Exercises. His life, though not particularly well-born, was filled with opportunity. His lower nobility enabled him to join the ranks of soldier and offered him an education. In 1521, as the Spanish crown attempted to quell several small rebellions, St. Ignatius would prove his worth. The wounds that Ignatius received would test his resolve as a man, as well as his faith as a Christian. The several operations needed to correct the damage to his legs would nearly kill him with infection - not to mention the pain that he was forced to endure.
The Jesuit movement which he founded would flourish in the region and would lead to the opening of the first Jesuit school in 1551 - The Roman College. The original motto for the school was "for religion and the good arts". This creed centralized the spirit of Jesuit education as focusing one's mind on God and the pursuit of one's ability to further His word.
In its 450 year history, the Jesuit faith has spread from the small region near the borders of France and Spain to nearly every European nation, as well as the United States.
Ignatian spirituality has at its center the life, the teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus, acknowledged as the Christ, and invites people to come to know, love, and follow Jesus more wholeheartedly, as Ignatius did. This spirituality teaches us that while we live in a world of much darkness and brokenness, God is passionately involved with all creation, working to bring healing and reconciliation, justice and hope, forgiveness and love to everyone.
Through his own work towards a more improved spirituality, St. Ignatius was able to form a sect within the Catholic church, and through that, inspire hundreds of thousands of men and women to improve themselves, their lives, and their understanding of God.The adherence and reverence to justice above all human endeavors provides the Jesuit tradition, not only with, a solid and respected basis, but also a tradition of opposing tyrannical rule. This has resulted in the deaths of Jesuits on occasion. However, because of their strict lifestyles, the Jesuits have persevered in the face of such prosecution. The humanism and brotherhood which is shared within the Jesuit group, has allowed for them to maintain their faith and their adherence to the teachings of St. Ignatius.