J.M. Stone.

Studies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries online

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other sects, but ashamed of the spectacle they had presented to the
eyes of the Catholics who were all united, they left Worms secretly,
and contented themselves with attacking each other in the usual
vituperative terms.

"It was," wrote Canisius, "as if the giants of old were seeking to
rebuild the Tower of Babel. God visited them with the same spirit of
confusion which prevented their understanding one another, so that
Melancthon was punished by the work of his own hands, like those who
are devoured by the wild beasts which they have themselves bred up with
great pains and difficulty."

Cologne, Strassburg, and his own native Nymwegen next came in for a
share in the apostles' labours. The Bishop of Trent begged him to come
and found a college in his diocese; the Duke of Bavaria called upon him
to organise the one he had already set on foot at Munich, and to
establish another at Landshut. But Straubing, by reason of its extreme
need, detained him longer than any of these places.

Charles V. had himself been mainly responsible for the worst of the
difficulties and complications that existed at Straubing, on account of
his famous interim, which granted to all, on his own personal
authority, permission to communicate under both kinds, pending the
decision of the Council of Trent on this point. Straubing had availed
itself without exception of the permission, and even after the decision
of the Council persisted in retaining the custom. A few priests had
attempted resistance, but numberless apostasies and half an
insurrection had followed on their action, and now the position had
come to be regarded as impregnable.

Canisius made no attempt to storm the fortress; he arrived, and was
gentleness itself. He had scarcely passed a week in the town when he
was regarded as the friend and adviser of all its principal citizens.
His sermons drew crowds as usual, and his instructions on the subject
of Holy Communion, of which his hearers proved to be strangely
ignorant, were continued in the confessional, and on every possible
occasion. At Easter nearly the whole population approached the
sacraments, and communicated without making the least difficulty, under
one kind. The apostle, broken with fatigue, for he had preached
throughout Lent, three times a week, besides catechising, visiting the
sick, hearing confessions, and answering the objections of all who came
to him, was yet beaming with joy, so markedly had his labours been

It would be superfluous to follow Canisius in his journey to Poland, in
his fruitful sojourn at Augsburg, in his campaign against the ignorance
of the clergy at Wurzburg, against the Calvinism of the Swiss
Protestants. Everywhere the story is the same: ignorance, vice, and
heresy fled before the bright light of his presence, and his wisdom
provided, that where he had planted the good seed, others should follow
him, to keep it watered, so that there should be no return to the
former errors. Long after his death, the colleges of the Society which
he had founded continued his work, and formed an efficient barrier
against the modern spirit of revolt from authority and order.

If in a sense the old ages of faith were dead, the new age witnessed a
wonderful resurrection, the effect of which is still going on in our
own day. And the scourge of heresy wherewith the Church in Germany was
scourged to its ultimate salvation in the sixteenth century, lies now a
thing of nought, effete and all but lifeless, while the Bride of Christ
has renewed her youth like the eagle.


Lacordaire once wrote in a letter to Madame Swetchine these remarkable
words concerning the disciples of St. Ignatius:

"Tout ce qui m'a tombe sous la main m'a toujours revolte par l'emphase
ridicule de l'eloge, ou par l'impudeur du blame. II semble que cette
nature d'hommes ait toujours ote la raison a ses amis et a ses ennemis.
Je voudrais leur consacrer dix annees d'etudes, ne fut ce que pour mon
plaisir propre; mais Dieu nous donne et nous prepare une bien autre
besogne, et il faut dire avec l'auteur de l'Imitation, 'relinque
curiosa.' Les Jesuites continueront a faire du bien, et a le faire mal
quelquefois; ils auront des amis frenetiques et des ennemis furieux, en
attendant le jour du jugement dernier, qui sera pour bien des raisons
un tres-interessant et tres-curieux jour."

At no time has the world been more occupied with the Jesuits than at
the present moment, and the prophecy of the celebrated Dominican above
quoted seems more than ever likely to be fulfilled. If their friends
are indeed still as extravagant in their praise as Lacordaire found
them, perhaps on the other hand criticism is even louder, hatred more
profound, accusation more wild and general. Most of the governments of
Europe have banished them, on the ground that they are the enemies to
progress, to liberal ideas, that they have meddled in politics, and
constitute a danger to the State, by seeking to grasp the helm of
public affairs, secretly stirring up the nations against their rulers.

The subject appears to be of perennial and universal application, since
even in this twentieth century, and in so tolerant a country as
England, people have been moved to some apprehension lest we should be
incurring a danger in suffering the Jesuit to live unmolested in our
midst. But it is not our present ambition to settle so burning a
question as the right of members of the Society of Jesus to exist
anywhere; rather would we make an excursion into the domain of history,
and inquire what have been the rules and regulations, and what has been
the practice of the Society concerning politics in the past, what has
been the attitude of its members, prescribed and actual towards kings,
potentates, and dynasties.

Certain facts have recently come to light, bearing on the history of
the Jesuits at the various German courts in the sixteenth century, and
the scattered remains of the private correspondence belonging to the
archives of the old Society before its suppression have been gathered
together. What was done more or less in secret is now proclaimed on the
housetops, and the result, as might be expected, is in many ways
interesting and instructive.*

* Die Jesuiten an den deutschen Furstenhofen des 16ten Jahrhunderts.
Auf Grund ungedruckter Quellen. Von Bernhard Duhr, S. J., Freiburg im
Breisgau, 1901.

This correspondence consists of communications between the rank and
file, and the superiors at Rome, and vice versa, and includes the
letters which passed between the General and the kings, archdukes and
other reigning princes, who were ostensibly friends of the Society, but
who did their best to put frequent spokes in the wheels of the

The great dearth of learned preachers and confessors that prevailed
about the middle of the sixteenth century appealed strongly to the
Jesuits to throw themselves into the breach, and thus against the
original intention of their founder, they became the spiritual guides
of those who made the history of Europe for the next hundred years and
more. It was a delicate and an onerous task, fraught with temptations
from without and from within.

Ignatius of Loyola, being a man of the world as well as a saint, was
well aware of the perils to which he exposed his sons, in sending them
forth into the midst of vanities, while at the same time, having had
some experience of courts, he knew that princes love not contradiction.
But he decided after mature deliberation that after all his "least
Society" was created to do a certain work in the Church and in the
world, the need of which work was only too apparent in the decayed
state of faith and morals. It was not by turning his back on courts
that he could hope to regenerate them; but it would be interesting
could we discover whether by a contrary decision he would have averted
some of the odium which the name Jesuit has accumulated in the course
of ages.

John III. of Portugal was the first king to demand a Jesuit confessor,
and to him Ignatius sent Father Luis Gonzalez de Comara, much against
the desire of the said individual. To his entreaties and objections the
first General of the Society made answer, on the 9th August 1552, that
he was indeed edified by the humility which caused Father de Comara to
shrink from a position which many envied; nevertheless, he was of the
opinion that he should obey his Highness in this, as in other things,
"for the honour of God our Lord." St. Ignatius went on to say that he
need not occupy himself with any but good and pious objects, neither
had he reason to fear that the king would, against the will of the
Society, confer upon him those honours and dignities with which it was
the custom to distinguish other confessors. If moreover, his remaining
at court was a cross to him, he must bear it with patience as he would
all else that obedience required of him.

At the second General Congregation held in 1565, the question arose
whether Cardinal Otto of Augsburg might have a member of the Society
attached to his court, as theologian. The Congregation decided not to
allow any member to reside permanently at the court of any prince,
spiritual or secular, or to consent to his following the said court on
its travels, either in the capacity of preacher, theologian or
confessor, and that no appointment of such a kind should be permissible
for longer than one month or double that period at the most.

Ten years later, the Provincial Congregation of North Germany was
reminded of this decree in drawing up propositions to be placed before
the third General Congregation, and it was expressly stated that none
but the General of the Society himself should have the power to make
such appointments, that they should be made as rarely as possible,
experience having proved that more harm was done to the confessor by
his residing at court than good to the penitent by his ministrations.
The reply to this proposition was to the effect that with the General
alone should rest the appointment.

By degrees, further legislation became imperative, and the fifth
General Congregation, held in 1593, forbade in the most solemn form
every member of the Society to interfere in politics or any public
affairs whatever. The decree was so absolute that not only did it
ensure the imprudent from taking part in the questions of the day, but
timid confessors were thereby prevented by their scruples from giving
counsel, when appealed to on matters that could scarcely be supposed to
border on politics.

In order therefore, to correct all misapprehension, the General, Father
Aquaviva, issued an Instruction for the confessors of princes, which
was formally approved by the General Congregation of 16o8. This was
considered so important a document that it was incorporated into the
Institute, a sort of code, containing the Constitutions which St.
Ignatius drew up, as well as the decrees of General Congregations. The
Instruction was in fact a summary of all previous experience on the
subject. It provided, first of all, that in cases where the Society
could not avoid compliance with the demand for a confessor at court,
great care should be taken in the choice of the individual member to
fill the office, so that he might conduce to the welfare of the prince,
the edification of the people, and the avoidance of all injury to the
Order. The last clause bore reference to the fact that not infrequently
the Society was called upon to suffer in one place for wounds inflicted
on it in another. Rules for the said confessor were then laid down, to
fit every possible emergency, and in minute detail.

For instance, the king's confessor, although attached to the royal
chapel, must not only lodge exclusively in a college of his Order, but
he must remain subject to the rule, like any other member of the
Society. Even when travelling with the court he was obliged to sleep in
a house of his Order, or if passing through a town where no such house
existed, he must beg hospitality of any other religious community,
preferably to passing the night at court.

It was again solemnly impressed upon him not to allow himself to be
drawn into any secular concerns, which rule the king was humbly
petitioned to enforce.

Neither must the confessor undertake to be an emissary between the
prince, his penitent, and any of his ministers, or other officials.

As regarded the prince himself, he was bound to listen to his
confessor, not merely when he exhorted him on the subject-matter of his
confessions, but also in matters relating to the prevention of
injustice, oppression, or other scandals such as often came about
through the fault of officials, and which were unknown to the sovereign.

None might undertake the office of permanent confessor at court without
the consent of his provincial. It was, moreover, the duty of the
provincial before according such permission, to hand this Instruction
to the prince in order that he might thoroughly understand what the
Society was willing to bestow upon him. The prince was further to be
reminded in modest but decided terms, that superiors retained the right
to the obedience of the individual who became his confessor, as
absolutely as to that of any other member of the Society.

At first there seemed no great need for these precautions. The emperor,
Charles V., chose Dominicans for his confessors, and his successor,
Ferdinand, followed his example. But Ferdinand held the Society in
great esteem, and at his death Father Lainez, who was then General,
ordered that each priest in the college at Dillingen should offer
twelve Masses for the repose of his soul, and the lay-brothers were to
say certain prayers with the same intention. The Society was not only
indebted to him for his unvarying friendship, but owed to his
munificence the foundation of four colleges, viz., those of Vienna,
Prague, Innsbruck, and Tyrnau.

Ferdinand's son and successor, Maximilian, having Protestant leanings,
dispensed with a confessor altogether, but his wife, Doha Maria, sister
of Philip II. of Spain, was provided with a Spanish Franciscan, who was
chosen for her by her brother. Maximilian's sons all chose Jesuit
confessors, as did also his daughter, the Queen of Bohemia.

At that time the Lutherans thought that Catholicism was at its last
gasp, and they eagerly anticipated the banishment of the Jesuits. But
Maximilian, in spite of his Protestant tendencies, was well disposed
towards them, and their college at Vienna received many marks of his
favour, to the great disgust of his Lutheran subjects. The Protestant
nobles assembled at the Landtag held in Vienna, attached three
conditions to their votes of supplies for his war against the
Turks: - The abolition of the procession of Corpus Christi, the
confirmation of the Confession of Augsburg, and the banishment of the
Jesuits. They declared that if the emperor refused to grant these
requests, they would not furnish him with the required subsidy for the
war. Maximilian replied that it was his business to repulse the Turks;
the other things did not concern him, but the Pope.*

* Orig. G. Epist., 6, 48 seq.

Disappointed in their hopes, the Lutherans, allying themselves with the
enemies of the Jesuits within the Church, began to circulate false
reports against the Society. At one moment they accused Father Peter
Canisius of prejudicing the Pope against the emperor, at another, the
whole community at Vienna were declared guilty of openly insulting the
Protestants. Reiterated complaints poured into the emperor's ears ended
by alienating Maximilian from his former friends, and it was difficult,
almost impossible for them to obtain a hearing. But the empress
remained loyal to them, and would perhaps have been termed by
Lacordaire frenetique.

Father Maggio, who was then court preacher, seems to have been a man of
great prudence and mildness, thoroughly imbued with the spirit of
religion. By degrees he not only convinced Maximilian of the injustice
of the attacks made upon the Society, but the two became fast friends,
so that when he was made Provincial of Austria in 1566, the appointment
gave much satisfaction at court. He was frequently summoned to private
audiences, and the emperor treated him with so much confidence that
Father Maggio would sometimes venture to address to him written words
of exhortation, words which Maximilian invariably took in good part.
The empress, observing the affection of her husband for the Jesuit
would consult Father Maggio as to the best means of confirming him in
the Catholic religion.

When Father Maggio was made provincial, Father Antonio, a Portuguese
Jesuit, became court preacher, but so little to his own satisfaction
that he repeatedly appealed to the empress and to the General for his
release. He bewailed his unfitness for a post requiring so much
exceptional virtue, and expressed his desire to be sent to foreign
missions. If such were not the will of his superiors, he entreated that
he might have some humble office in a house of novices, where he might
live unnoticed by the world, and labour for his soul's health.

The General, Father Mercurian, replied, on the 18th March 1576, that he
had no one to replace him at court, and that he must perforce remain
where he was. Previously to this, Father Antonio had besought the
empress to dismiss him, but she had answered that she counted on his
ministrations at the hour of death. A month after Father Mercurian's
refusal to remove him, he again wrote to the General, begging that he
might apply to the empress for, at least, a year's leave of absence,
during which time a locum tenens might be dispensed with. Two days
later, he followed up this letter with another, giving the General his
opinion why it was inexpedient for any member of the Society to remain
at court for more than a short term, such as a month or two. There was,
he said, no bishop, ambassador, or person of consequence who did not
desire to have several of the Fathers about him; the door which, at
their profession, they had shut on the world, seemed in a certain sense
to be reopened by a residence at court; unfortunately, men were not
wanting who aspired to such offices, and great inconveniences ensued
thereby. Some grew accustomed to a certain independence, little in
accordance with the rules of the Society, some were altogether spoiled,
and brought disgrace on the Order. It was, perhaps, not astonishing
that after this letter the General showed even less inclination than
before to remove Father Antonio. One who thus appreciated the dangers
of the world would be less likely than another to fall a prey to them,
and was as safe at court as in fulfilling the humblest duties of the

But when all was said and done, the influence of the Jesuits at the
Court of Vienna was not very great. Their El Dorado was the Archducal
Court at Gratz, where reigned Ferdinand's son, Charles II. Here their
power was at least supposed to be so great that their enemies declared
that they possessed the master-key of all the doors in the palace, and
could pass through all the rooms composing the apartments of the
Archduchess at will. This, however, with other things, she declared
solemnly to be nothing but lies - nur lautere Lugen - and an attack on
her honour.*

* Hurter, Ferdinand II, 3, 578.

Apart from these unpleasant calumnies, the Society flourished at Gratz
as hardly anywhere else, and was able to train its novices, give the
Spiritual Exercises, and administer the sacraments undisturbed. The
only difficulties that arose were in connection with the right of the
provincial to move his men about as he chose, the archduke, like the
emperor, being inclined to regard his confessors as his own property.
This was notably the case with the celebrated Father Blyssem, who
received marching orders in 1578. The Archduke at once wrote to the
General, declaring that Father Blyssem's removal would be extremely
inconvenient, and was not to be contemplated. If the General were on
the spot he would be of the archduke's opinion. First, Father Blyssem
was his and the archduchess's confessor, and they both wished above all
things to keep him. Secondly, he was not only a vigilant rector of the
college under him, and an experienced confessor, but he was also an
excellent preacher. And finally, he was beloved by all, was well
acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of the country, enjoyed a good
reputation and inspired respect even in the opponents of the Catholic
religion. His sudden departure could not therefore but be injurious to
the temporal and spiritual welfare of the college, and detrimental to
the general good.

Not alone the archduke, the papal legate, Bishop Ringuarda, also
appealed to the General of the Jesuits in the same interest, saying
that he had already sought the intervention of the Pope and the
Cardinal of Como, to prevent the removal of Father Blyssem. As he now
heard that, in spite of his efforts, Father Blyssem was to go to Rome,
at least for three months, Bishop Ringuarda begged most urgently that
this order might be cancelled, the Father's absence for even a week, to
say nothing of a month, being likely to entail serious harm to the
Church in Austria. His daily presence was so necessary, that if he were
not already at Gratz, he must be sent there without delay. The legate
then went on to enumerate all the wonderful qualities possessed by the
rector, and ended his letter with the solemn entreaty that the General
would on no account remove him.*

* Orig. G. Epist., 3, 298.

Pressure such as this being frequently brought to bear on superiors,
they could scarcely be said to exercise undivided control over their
own subjects.

Driven into a corner, Aquaviva was obliged to leave the archduke's
confessor where he was, accommodating matters by making him Provincial
of Austria, in place of Father Maggio, Father Emerich Torsler replacing
Father Blyssem as rector of the college at Gratz. The archduke
expressed himself content with the arrangement, provided that Father
Blyssem did not absent himself on the business of the province when he
required him at his side.

The new provincial had occasion, in January 1582, to write to the
General about the sermons of a certain Father John Reinel, which were,
he complained, too lengthy and too violent. In regard to the first
fault he had improved somewhat, but no admonition had succeeded in
causing him to desist from his biting attacks on the heretics. His
Paternity was, therefore, requested to command him to observe more
moderation and gentleness, and instead of handling the heretics angrily
and roughly, to teach and exhort them with Christian charity. In this
manner he would convert a far greater number, as every one maintained.
But if he continued as heretofore, Father Blyssem would be obliged to
send him to another college, where he would have to adopt a different
style or give over preaching altogether, and take up another occupation.

But the removal of Father Reinel was not so simple a matter as it at
first appeared. Towards the end of the year, Father Blyssem again wrote
to Aquaviva on the same subject. It had been decided during the
preceding summer to send the unmanageable preacher to another sphere of
activity, he having been already so long a time at Gratz, where he was
too much engrossed in the court, which he had recently, against the
wishes of his superiors, accompanied in its journey of several months
through Bavaria and Suabia, to the neglect of the pulpit at Gratz.
Moreover, his harsh and aggressive manner of preaching was as repulsive
to the Catholics as to the Lutherans, but when, according to his
instructions, he was on the point of starting for Vienna, the
archduchess, whose confessions he sometimes heard in Father Blyssem's
temporary absence, was so much aggrieved at the change, that she
entreated her husband with many arguments and tears to prevent his
departure. Accordingly, the archduke begged the provincial to defer
Father Reinel's removal on account of his consort's distress, and this
he apparently did, but he wrote to the General asking him to insist on
the order being carried out, and to persuade the archduke to agree to

Sometimes varying reports were sent to the General concerning the
behaviour of certain Fathers at court. Thus, the rector of the college
at Gratz wrote somewhat severely of Father Saxo, who also was a
favourite in the most exalted circle.

But Father Blyssem in a letter to Aquaviva, dated gist December 1585,
defended him, saying: -

"Your Paternity appears to be incorrectly informed as to Father Saxo.

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Online LibraryJ.M. StoneStudies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries → online text (page 11 of 28)