Saint Ignatius on heresy, and the capsizing boat
On the feast of St Ignatius, I offer my prayers and good wishes to some great Jesuits. Just off the top of my head, I think of Fr Joseph Fessio SJ the founder of Ignatius Press which has not only published the English translations of various works of Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict, but has also given a break for good Catholic authors both of theology and of Catholic fiction. Then there is Fr Bob Spitzer SJ, with whom I studied in Rome many years ago, and Fr Paul Mankowski SJ who has written some superb articles over the years. Here in England, I recall Fr Anthony Meredith SJ, the great fatherly commentator on the Fathers of Cappadocia and in Rome, there is Fr Gilles Pelland SJ, the fierce French-Canadian patristics scholar was a bit harsh when I first arrived in the Holy City, but seemed to soften a bit when after 5 years he seeme satisfied that, though English, I was not a modernist.
Many of my Jesuit priest friends and mentors have now reached “that night when no man can work” and I remember them in my prayers today – Fr Thwaites SJ, Fr John Edwards SJ, and some of my teachers in Rome. Fr Antonio Orbe SJ was an immensely learned expert in the pre-Nicene Fathers, with whom I enjoyed a challenging couple of terms in a major seminar reading Tertullian’s Adversus Praxean.
Thinking of these sound men, it seemed good to me to quote a letter to Father Peter Canisius which St Ignatius wrote from Rome on 13 August 1554, advising him on the need for the society to oppose heresy. St Ignatius said:
“The heretics have made their false theology popular and presented it in a way that is within the capacity of the common people. They preach it to the people and teach it in the schools, and scatter pamphlets that can be bought and understood by many; they influence people by their writings when they cannot reach them by preaching. Their success is largely due to the negligence of those who should have shown some interest, and the bad example and the ignorance of Catholics, especially the clergy, have made such ravages in the vineyard of the Lord.”
Sadly in our time, some prominent Jesuits have been part of the ravages and caused a reaction in which people understandably emphasise the action of Pope Clement XIV in 1773 in Dominus ac Redemptor Noster suppressing the Jesuits. (Here is a link to Fr Z’s Clement XIV gear.) I do admit to having stopped off occasionally when walking home from the Gregorian University, to call in to say a prayer at the tomb of Papa Ganganelli at the Basilica of the Dodici Apostoli which was conveniently situated in the next square.
On the feast day of the saintly founder, let us recall instead the document Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum of Pope Pius VII, restoring the Society. I quote:
“We would believe ourselves guilty of a great crime in the presence of God, if, in these so grave necessities of the public interest, We were to neglect to put to work those salutary helps which God, with singular providence has provided Us, and if We, placed in the bark of Peter, tossed and buffeted by continual storms, were to reject the expert and valorous rowers who offer to break the waves of a sea which at every moment threatens Us with shipwreck and ruin.
This reminds me of the recent message of Pope Benedict for the funeral of Cardinal Meissner who, the Emeritus Holy Father said, had “learned to let go and live increasingly from the conviction that the Lord does not leave his Church, even if at times the ship is almost filled to the point of shipwreck.”
The strong rowers don’t necessarily have to be Jesuits. Today we might search for some other group who could volunteer their services to break the waves. There are one or two societies who spring to mind.