By William Po
In 2013, Francis, the first Jesuit pope, canonized the Jesuit Peter Faber (1506-1546) who, with founder St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) and four others, vowed poverty, chastity and obedience on Montmartre in 1534 in forming the Compañía de Jesús (which was Latinized into Societas Jesu) – the Jesuit order. Others among the 53 Jesuit saints are Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), theologian, cardinal and one of 36 Doctors of the Church; Edmund Campion (1540-1581), one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales; Isaac Jogues (1607-1646), the first Catholic priest on Manhattan Island and one of the North American Martyrs; Francis Borgia (1510-1572), third Superior General of the Society of Jesus, a great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo de Borja, 1431-1503) and a white sheep of the Borgia family; and Robert Southwell (1561-1595), another of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, hymnist and writer who, according to John Klause’s Shakespeare, the Earl and the Jesuit, deeply influenced his “cosen” William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
The Society of Jesus was not founded to combat Protestantism. Yet Jesuits are teased with lines that go like “the Dominicans were founded to combat Albigensianism whereas the Jesuits were founded to combat Protestantism, and when was the last time you saw an Albigensian?” Rather, the Society was founded at Montmartre, then just north of Paris, in 1534 and received Pope Paul III’s formal approval in 1540, but the Counter-Reformation, the beginning of which is usually dated to the start of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), very quickly became part of its mission.