On this feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, I share a letter, written in 1553 to St Peter Canisius, but addressed the whole of his Society of Jesus, on the requirement of all its members to pray fervently and regularly for the conversion of Germany and England ‘back to the purity of the Christian faith and religion’; a reminder that, notwithstanding his great Indo-Chinese missionary endeavours, St Ignatius founded his order against the backdrop of the turmoil of the European and English Reformations.
‘Ignatius of Loyola, General of the Society of Jesus, to my beloved brothers in Christ, superiors and subjects of the Society of Jesus, everlasting health in our Lord.
The order of charity by which we should love the whole body of the Church in her head, Jesus Christ, requires a remedy to be applied, especially to that part which is more seriously and dangerously affected. Therefore, it seems to us that we should, as far as our slender resources allow, to bestow with special attention the help the Society is able to give to Germany and England and the northern nations which are so grievously afflicted with the disease of heresy.
Though many of us have already carefully attended to this by other means, applying Masses and prayers for many years now, still, in order to give this duty of charity a wider field and a longer life, we enjoin on all rectors and superiors, who are placed over others, to celebrate, if they are priests, and to have those under their authority celebrate one Mass each month to God; and those who are not priests, their prayers for the spiritual needs of Germany and England, so that at length the God of these nations and of all others that are infected with heresy may have pity on them and deign to lead them back to the purity of the Christian faith and religion.
It is our desire that these prayers continue as long as these nations need our help, and that no province, even those in farthest India, be exempt from this duty of charity’.
St Ignatius of Loyola, c.1491-1556
O God, who for the greater glory of thy Name, didst endue thy Church militant with an increase of strength through the life and labours of blessed Ignatius: grant us, by his help and example, so to wage our earthly warfare; that with him we may be found worthy of a heavenly crown; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon