Monday, October 22, 2018
Concerning 1572: I correct myself: the date is from 1575 to 1577. The fourth Superior General, Fr. Everard Mercurian, “forbade the reading of certain authors as not in keeping with the spirit of the Society: Tauler, Ruysbroeck, Mombaer, Herp, Lull, St. Gertrude, St. Mechtild, and others.” The position of mental prayer in the Society “eventually was formulated as follows: discursive meditation is the type of formal prayer that is proper to the Society of Jesus; affective prayer and contemplative prayer are foreign to the Jesuit spirit.” (“Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition” by Fr. Jordan Aumann, OP, pp. 203-206) This is a shift away from Ignatius’ training of the first Jesuits and his own spirituality. His “Spiritual Diaries” which show how he himself practiced discernment, were only published less than 100 years ago, and since then there has been an effort to recover the original inspiration of the Founder, but a tradition shut in a cupboard for 350 years is not easily resurrected. There was a similar shift away from traditional prayer at the same time in other spiritual traditions, and the effect it has had on the Church in the past 400 years is far more than I can discuss here. However, a tree whose tap-root has been cut can hardly be expected to flourish, and, far from blaming the Jesuits because they do not measure up to what we expect of them, I admire them for what they have accomplished with the emasculated spiritual formation they have been given. I pray that they may recover the true understanding of the spiritual life bequeathed to them by St. Ignatius.