Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Society of Jesus: Starting Out with the Vows of Poverty and Chastity

In 1532 Saint Ignatius of Loyola, with six other young men, came together to vow poverty, chastity and obedience to the pope. In fact Rule #13 of St. Ignatius’ Rules for Thinking with the Church said: “I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it.” This was the start of the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits.

I have to say that when I consider the three basic vows that St. Ignatius originally intended for his order I can’t help feel a little sad when comparing them with the present reality. Or maybe I should phrase it in a different way. Maybe I just don’t understand the Jesuit definition of these vows… so I’ll try again…

What exactly is the Jesuit definition of “poverty?”

Having walked through the Jesuit household at one of the Jesuit Colleges we toured I can honestly say that nothing that I saw there even came close to attempting to fulfill that vow. Unless I’ve missed something and “poverty” has come to mean living in luxurious and plush surroundings? I certainly can’t imagine that that was what St. Ignatius had in mind.

Vow #2 is chastity. At least they’ve kept this one. No renouncing the original definition of the word or explaining how it could be cheerfully ignored.

So far it’s 50/50. One vow kept and one vow redefined. How do you think they’ll do with Vow #3?

I have so much to say about it that it needs its very own post.

Because the Jesuit idea of “obedience to the pope” certainly seems to have changed over time…

(photo from Wikipedia)

1 comment:

  1. hmm interesting post. The poverty vow is an interesting question, because often when monastics vow poverty it means something different than what we colloquially mean by poverty. Usually it means that they can't own anything as an individual. So everything that they earn and everything that they have belongs to the community rather than to themselves. So that can mean that the monastery/church/schools/living spaces/etc. can be rather nice, but the monks/nuns don't actually own anything privately.

    I know that this is not always true, as you will see religious with an ipod etc. but generally this is what is meant by the monastics vow of poverty.

    God Bless,


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