St. Ignatius proposes to his companions that they should adopt a uniform system of life—First Tows pronounced by Ignatius and bis companions in the Church of Our Lady of Montmartre.
The moment had now arrived in which Ignatius, having collected together a truly chosen band of men, filled with zeal and courage, was enabled, in unison with them, to lay the foundation of the great work which he had so long meditated. But to bring this about it was necessary that they should decide to unite amongst themselves for the same object, as each individually was already united to him in intention. Until now there had been no communication between his followers, and each believed himself alone attached to Ignatius. To lead them to a discovery calculated to afford them as much surprise as consolation, and before binding them at the same time to God, to himself, and to each other, he prescribed to them the exercise of prayer, fasting, and other penances, to be practised until a certain day which he fixed upon. During that interval they were also to reflect, and to decide upon the state of life which should appear to them most conducive to the glory of God, and the salvation of men; after which they were to come to Ignatius, and separately communicate their resolutions to him. Then, added he, they would find that not alone should each march towards this noble goal; then their companions should be made known to them.
The time passed by—and having fulfilled the prescribed works, they all arrived on the appointed day, to give their answer to Ignatius. Each ardently desired to become acquainted with his associates in this great enterprise. When they were all assembled, Ignatius, Peter Faber, Francis Xavier, James Lainez, Alphonsus Salmeron, Nicholas 13obadilla, and Simon Rodriguez, they could not refrain from shedding tears of emotion and joy; and all prostrated themselves, to adore and thank the Lord.
There was, in this assembly, such a union of merit and talents, that each individual considered himself unworthy to form a part of it. After a short prayer they rose, and Ignatius spoke:
“Heaven has chosen you,” said he, “from amongst many others, for enterprises of no ordinary importance. In the depths of my heart I have the assurance that it has done so for the salvation of men. In beholding such companions of your labors, how greatly ought your courage to be inflamed, and your confidence to surpass that with which your own zeal and your desire of serving God, had hitherto inspired you; for remark, I beseech you, that if each one of you individually was already capable of great deeds for the glory of God and his Church,—what strength each will receive in the union of all your efforts, when, bound together, you will form but one body and one soul! what fruits may you not expect from this junction, for the common good of all! You have had the time that was necessary for reflection—you must now decide. As for me, my only desire is, by God’s help, to conform my life to the example of Jesus Christ. None more perfect, no surer model for imitation, will ever be found. Must he not be the best of men, who comes closest to this Divine Model? Now, the Saviour was not satisfied with his own personal sanctity; he spent his life, he suffered death for the salvation of the world. Therefore, as far as my weakness makes it possible, I aspire to imitate him in these two points, by laboring for my own perfection, and for the salvation of my brethren. I am well aware, that were we to shut ourselves up in the depths of our own consciences, and enjoy God in the holy delights of contemplation, we should pass a less fatiguing life, one more exempt from danger, more peaceful, in short, more agreeable. But ought we to prefer our own convenience to the interests of God’s glory, which cannot receive greater increase than by the salvation of the souls to whom our Saviour has consecrated his labors, his sufferings, and his death? Can we ourselves be consumed with divine love without endeavoring to revive the ardor of lukewarm hearts? Can we be enlightened with divine knowledge, and not endeavor to illuminate with it the eyes of the blind? Can we walk in the way that leads to heaven without stretching out a helping hand to those who have wandered away from the road? Shall I fear to lose some portion of the gifts of Heaven by communicating them to others, or to swerve from the right path by leading my brethren there? On the contrary, were I even to consider my own advantage only, should I not find in this an increase of merit and honor? But why should I speak to you of interest, or of personal advantages? Does that ardent and generous love which ought to burn within our hearts stop to calculate? Have we not the example of our Lord before our eyes? He who has redeemed our brethren upon Calvary, he desires it, he wills it —and shall not this desire, this wish, be sufficient for us?”
As for the execution of the plans upon which Ignatius was irrevocably decided, he told his friends, that after having in idea traversed the whole world to seek for the place where he might labor with most profit in this noble enterprise, he had not found one where he could hope for more success than the Holy Land. He himself had formerly visited it, and had not seen without great grief, that land where liberty had been gained for the world, and the redemption effected, now enslaved by Satan and deprived of the fruits of that redemption. It was there then that he wished to carry, in the first instance, the precious seed of the faith. “Oh! how happy should I consider myself,” cried he, “could I shed my blood in such a cause, in the very places reddened with the blood of the Saviour!” And as Ignatius spoke his countenance glowed like his heart. He then added, that he was resolved, while awaiting the moment for putting his plans into execution, to consecrate himself solemnly to God, so that he might henceforward belong to him alone; and that in this view, he intended to engage himself by vow to voluntary poverty, to perpetual chastity, and to the performance of a voyage to the Holy Land. After these burning words, there was a momentary silence. Ignatius waited until his companions should manifest their respective resolutions; but all hearts had spoken by his mouth, and in disclosing his sentiments, he had but expressed those of his faithful associates; for God, who had brought them together, had also animated them with the same spirit. “The Holy Land!” Such was the unanimous reply. But the Lord, who discerned in them men capable of still greater things for his glory, destined them for a less narrow sphere, for yet vaster enterprises. To their labors, and to those of their successors, he confided the whole world; and to one of them especially, so large a portion of the globe, that it would have sufficed for the zeal and labors of numerous apostles.
All then applauded the words of Ignatius, and engaged to follow him and share his labors. They then embraced each other, shedding tears of the most cordial affection; and from that moment were so united together by the ties of mutual charity, that they regarded each other as brothers, and felt towards Ignatius all the love and deference due to an elder brother—all the respect which we owe to a parent. After this, the Lord, who willed that their zeal should be wholly directed towards the enterprise to the completion of which they had bound themselves, permitted the same idea to present itself to their minds, and they inquired whether, in the case of their voyage across the seas being prevented, or that on their arrival some unforeseen cause should force them to withdraw, they should not go to other countries, and convert other nations.
After mature deliberation it was agreed that they should wait in Venice for one year, and that if during that period they had found no means of transporting themselves to Palestine, they should consider themselves freed from their vow, should repair to Rome, and presenting themselves to the Sovereign Pontiff, should offer to labor for the salvation of souls, wherever it might please him to send them. But as the greater number of them had not yet terminated their course of theology, which it was absolutely necessary to finish, they agreed to continue their studies in Paris, from the month of July, 1534, at which they then were, until January the 25th, 1537; after which period the journey to Venice was to take place. Providence reserved another destiny for them.
Nothing now remained but to pronounce their vows at the foot of the altar; and they chose as the most suitable day for this, the 15th of August, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. In deposing in her hands the offering which they here made of themselves, the new brothers not only hoped for her special protection, but trusted that this offering of their persons would be more agreeable to the Son if received from the hands of His mother. They thereforeemployed the few days which remained before the Assumption in preparing themselves by fasting, fervent prayer, and austere penance.
The most profound secrecy was to envelope their project; and they selected, as a fitting place wherein to pronounce their vows, a church built upon a hill, at half a league’s distance from Paris, and called Our Lady of the Mount of Martyrs, now Montmartre. There, on the appointed day, they assembled in a subterranean chapel belonging to the church. They were entirely alone. The only priest among the brethren was Faber, who celebrated the holy mysteries. At the moment of communion, holding in his hand the body of the Saviour, he turned towards them, and each, one after the other, added to the vows of poverty and perpetual chastity, that of making a voyage to the Holy Land, and of deferring to the will of the Sovereign Pontiff. They also promised to receive no fees for the administration of the sacraments. Their vow of poverty obliged them to renounce all they possessed, when their studies were terminated, preserving only what was strictly necessary for the journey to Palestine;— but even this little none of them kept, as sufficient alms provided for it.
The vow to receive nothing in the fulfilment of the ecclesiastical functions had for its object, besides the practice of voluntary poverty, that of finding more frequent opportunities of employing themselves for the salvation of souls, when no recompense was required; and it was also a means of contradicting the calumnies of the Lutherans, who falsely accused the Catholic priests of enriching themselves as it were by the blood of Jesus Christ, and of selling the holy things for their own gain.
Their vows being pronounced, they all received communion, with such feelings of devotion and such ardent fervor that one of them, Simon Rodriguez, continued to feel its influence thirty years afterwards, when he wrote the account of it. The sole recollection still filled him with ineffable consolation. But nothing can be compared to that which inundated the heart of Ignatius, whose happiness even surpassed that of his companions, for on this auspicious day be reaped the fruits of his labors, and beheld the fulfilment of his long cherished hopes. His spiritual family was indeed not numerous, but, as it was afterwards proved, the superior merit of each member rendered him equivalent to many proselytes.
Here we shall again remark, what various grave writers have pointed out as one of the most signal evidences of the divine protection extended over the true religion; that in this very year, 1534, in which were laid the first foundations of a Society especially consecrated to the service of the Church, and to obedience towards its Head;—Henry VIII., formerly Defender of the Faith, had become the cruel persecutor and mortal enemy of the Holy See. In this very year, 1534, he had published those detestable edicts, whereby every one who did not efface the title of ” Pope” from all books or writings where it happened to be, was declared guilty of a capital offence, and deserving of death. “Ineffable goodness,” cries Sanders, “infinite mercy of God towards His whole Church! In those days, when the blasphemies of Luther in Germany, and in England the cruelty of its tyrant, appeared on the point of extinguishing the outward profession of all religion, and the practice of Christian perfection; of annihilating the respect due to the Vicar of Jesus Christ, and of giving up to execration the venerable titles of Pope and Pontiff; the Spirit of God raises up men like Ignatius de Loyola and his companions, who not satisfied with imitating the perfection of other Orders, add, in order to combat the impiety of Luther and Henry, a fourth vow to those which bind other Religious, and submit their persons as well as their works, to the Roman Pontiff! By it they bind themselves to undertake all labors, to support with passive obedience, and without even claiming the daily necessaries of life, all the fatigues which he may be pleased to expose them to, for the extension of the Catholic Faith, and the conversion of infidels or sinners. “These men,” continues the same author, “thus united together and formed to virtue by the beautiful Institute of St. Ignatius, took, in order to designate their Society, the name of Society of Jesus; and this holy name, together with the faith of the Roman Catholic Church, they have carried throughout the whole world, and have made both known, not only to the most remote nations and to the utmost limits of the Indies, but even to those countries of Northern Europe, seduced by the new errors, and to unfortunate England, separated from the Communion of the Christian world by the cruelty of its tyrants. At the price of their blood and their lives, they have caused the celestial torch of truth to blaze forth, even in the reign of Elizabeth, the worthy daughter of Henry VIII., and in spite of her most cruel persecutions. Thus “God hath given us another seed, for Abel, whom Cain slew.” Let us return to Ignatius and his first companions. during the remainder of the time which they were to pass in Paris. Ignatius, who together with the title of Father had received that day a new effusion of the Spirit of God, to assist him in governing his children, and preventing all abatement of their fervor, decided upon certain practices to which they were to subject themselves, and which, without being detrimental to their studies, were calculated to maintain devotion in their hearts. These practices consisted in prayers, daily penance, and in receiving the holy Communion on all Sundays and feast days, which was uncommon at that period. Besides this, they were annually, on the day of the Assumption, to renew their vows in the same Church; which in fact they did during the two following years, 1535 and ’36. Finally, they promised to love each other, and to consider each other as brothers.
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