Chapter 2. Loyola’s First Disciples.
Vision of Two Camps — Ignatius Visits Jerusalem — Forbidden to Proselytize — Returns to Spain — Resolves to make Christendom his Field — Puts himself to School — Repairs to Paris — His Two Companions — Peter Fabre — Francis Xavier — Loyola subjects them to a Severe Regimen — They become his Disciples — Loyola’s First Nine Followers, Their Vow in the Church of Montmartre — The Book of Spiritual Exercises — Its Course of Discipline — Four Weeks of Meditation — Topic of each Week — The Spiritual Exercises and the Holy Spirit — Visits Venice — Repairs to Rome — Draft of Rules — Bull Constituting the Society
Among the wonderful things shown to Ignatius Loyola by special revelation was a vision of two great camps. The center of the one was placed at Babylon; and over it there floated the gloomy ensign of the prince of darkness. The Heavenly King had erected his standard on Mount Zion, and made Jerusalem his head-quarters. In the war of which these two camps were the symbols, and the issues of which were to be grand beyond all former precedent, Loyola was chosen, he believed, to be one of the chief captains. He longed to place himself at the center of action. The way thither was long. Wide oceans and gloomy deserts had to be traversed, and hostile tribes passed through. But he had an iron will, a boundless enthusiasm, and what was more, a Divine call — for such it seemed to him in his delusion. He set out penniless (1523), and begging his bread by the way, he arrived at Barcelona. There he embarked in a ship which landed him on the shore of Italy. Thence, travelling on foot, after long months, and innumerable hardships, he entered in safety the gates of Jerusalem. But the reception that awaited him in the “Holy City” was not such as he had fondly anticipated. His rags, his uncombed locks, which almost hid his emaciated features, but ill accorded with the magnificence of the errand which had brought him to that shore. Loyola thought of doing in his single person what the armies of the Crusaders had failed to do by their combined strength. The head of the Romanists in Jerusalem saw in him rather the mendicant than the warrior, and fearing doubtless that should he offer battle to the Crescent, he was more likely to provoke a tempest of Turkish fanaticism than drive back the hordes of the infidel, he commanded him to desist under the threat of excommunication. Thus withstood Loyola returned to Barcelona, which he reached in 1524.
Derision and insults awaited his arrival in his native Spain. His countrymen failed to see the grand aims he cherished beneath his rags; nor could they divine the splendid career, and the immortality of fame, which were to emerge from this present squalor and debasement. But not for one moment did Loyola’s own faith falter in his great destiny. He had the art, known only to those fated to act a great part, of converting impediments into helps, and extracting new experience and fresh courage from disappointment. His repulsion from the “holy fields” had taught him that Christendom, and not Asia, was the predestined scene of his warfare, and that he was to do battle, not with the infidels of the East, but with the ever-growing hosts of heretics in Europe. But to meet the Protestant on his own ground, and to fight him with his own weapons, was a still more difficult task than to convert the Saracen. He felt that meanwhile he was destitute of the necessary qualifications, but it was not too late to acquire them.
Though a man of thirty-five, he put himself to school at Barcelona, and there, seated amid the youth of the city, he prosecuted the study of Latin. Having acquired some mastery of this tongue, he removed (1526) to the University of Alcala to commence theology. In a little space he began to preach. Discovering a vast zeal in the propagation of his tenets, and no little success in making disciples, male and female, The Inquisition, deeming both the man and his aims somewhat mysterious, arrested him. The order of the Jesuits was on the point of being nipped in the bud. But finding in Loyola no heretical bias, the Father Inquisitors dismissed him on his promise of holding his peace. He repaired to Salamanca, but there too he encountered similar obstacles. It was not agreeable thus to champ the curb of privilege and canonical authority; but it ministered to him a wholesome discipline. It sharpened his circumspection and shrewdness, without in the least abating his ardor. Holding fast by his grand purpose, he quitted his native land, and repairing to Paris in 1528, enrolled himself as a student in the College of St. Barbara.
In the world of Paris he became more practical; but the flame of his enthusiasm still burned on. Through penance, through study, through ecstatic visions, and occasional checks, he pursued with unshaken faith and unquenched resolution his celestial calling as the leader of a mighty spiritual army, of which he was to be the creator, and which was to wage victorious battle with the hosts of Protestantism. Loyola’s residence in Paris, which from 1528 to 1535 coincides with the period of greatest religious excitement in the French capital. Discussions were at that time an hourly occurrence in the streets, in the halls of the Sorbonne, and at the royal table. Loyola must have witnessed all the stirring and tragic scenes we have already described; he may have stood by the stake of Berquin; he had seen with indignation, doubtless, the saloons of the Louvre opened for the Protestant sermon; he had felt the great shock which France received from the Placards, and taken part, it may be, in the bloody rites of her great day of expiation. It is easy to see how, amid excitements like these, Loyola’s zeal would burn stronger every hour; but his zeal did not hurry him into action till all was ready. The blow he meditated was great, and time, patience, and skill were necessary to prepare the instruments by whom he was to inflict it.
It chanced that two young students shared with Loyola his rooms in the College of St. Barbara. The one was Peter Fabre, from Savoy. His youth had been passed amid his father’s flocks; the majesty of the silent mountains had sublimed his natural piety into enthusiasm; and one night, on bended knee, under the star-bestudded vault, he devoted himself to God in a life of study. The other companion of Loyola was Francis Xavier, of Pampeluna, in Navarre. For 500 years his ancestors had been renowned as warriors, and his ambition was, by becoming a scholar, to enhance the fame of his house by adding to its glory in arms the yet purer glory of learning. These two, the humble Savoyan and the high-born Navarrese, Loyola had resolved should be his first disciples.
As the artist selects his block, and with skillful eye and plastic hand bestows touch after touch of the chisel, till at last the superfluous parts are cleared away, and the statue stands forth so complete and perfect in its symmetry that the dead stone seems to breathe, so did the future general of the Jesuit army proceed to mold and fashion his two companions, Fabre and Xavier. The former was soft and pliable, and easily took the shape Loyola’s master-hand sought to communicate. The other was obdurate, like the rocks of his native mountains, but the patience and genius of Loyola finally triumphed over his pride of family and haughtiness of spirit. He first of all won their affection by certain disinterested services; he next excited their admiration by the loftiness of his own asceticism; he then imparted to them his grand project, and fired them with the ambition of sharing with him in the accomplishment of it. Having brought them thus far he entered them on a course of discipline, the design of which was to give them those hardy qualities of body and soul, which would enable them to fulfill their lofty vocation as leaders in an army, every soldier in which was to be tried and hardened in the fire as he himself had been. He exacted of them frequent confession; he was equally rigid as regarded their participation in the Eucharist; the one exercise trained them in submission, the other fed the flame of their zeal, and thus the two cardinal qualities which Loyola demanded in all his followers were developed side by side. Severe bodily mortifications were also enjoined upon them. “Three days and three nights he compelled them to fast. During the severest winters, when carriages might be seen to traverse the frozen Seine, he would not permit Fabre the slightest relaxation of discipline.” Thus it was that he mortified their pride, taught them to despise wealth, schooled them to brave danger and contemn luxury, and inured them to cold, hunger, and toil; in short, he made them dead to every passion save that of the “Holy War,” in which they were to bear arms.
A beginning had been made. The first recruits had been enrolled in that army which was speedily to swell into a mighty host, and unfurl its gloomy ensigns and win its dismal triumphs in every land. We can imagine Loyola’s joy as he contemplated these two men, fashioned so perfectly in his own likeness. The same master-artificer who had molded these two could form others — in short, any number. The list was soon enlarged by the addition of four other disciples. Their names — obscure then, but in later years to shine with a fiery splendor — were Jacob Lainez, Alfonso Salmeron, Nicholas Bobadilla, and Simon Rodriguez. The first three were Spaniards, the fourth was a Portuguese. They were seven in all; but the accession of two others increased them to nine: and now they resolved on taking their first step.
On the 15th of August, 1534, Loyola, followed by his nine companions, entered the subterranean chapel of the Church of Montmartre, at Paris, and mass being said by Fabre, who had received priest’s orders, the company, after the usual vow of chastity and poverty, took a solemn oath to dedicate their lives to the conversion of the Saracens, or should circumstance make that impossible, to lay themselves and their services unreservedly at the feet of the Pope. They sealed their oath by now receiving the Host. The day was chosen because it was the anniversary of the Assumption of the Virgin, and the place because it was consecrated to Mary, the queen of saints and angels, from whom, as Loyola firmly believed, he had received his mission. The army thus enrolled was little, and it was great. It was little when counted, it was great when weighed. In sublimity of aim, and strength of faith — using the term in its mundane sense — it wielded a power before which nothing on earth — one principle excepted — should be able to stand.
To foster the growth of this infant Hercules, Loyola had prepared beforehand his book entitled Spiritual Exercises, This is a body of rules for teaching men how to conduct the work of their “conversion.” It consists of four grand meditations, and the penitent, retiring into solitude, is to occupy absorbingly his mind on each in succession, during the space of the rising and setting of seven suns. It may be fitly styled a journey from the gates of destruction to the gates of Paradise mapped out in stages so that it might be gone in the short period of four weeks. There are few more remarkable books in the world. It combines the self-denial and mortification of the Brahmin with the asceticism of the anchorite, and the ecstasies of the Schoolmen. It professes, like the Koran, to be a revelation. “The Book of Exercises.” says a Jesuit, “was truly written by the finger of God, and delivered to Ignatius by the Holy Mother of God.”
The Spiritual Exercises, we have said, was a body of rules, by the following of which, one could effect upon himself that great change which in Biblical and theological language is termed “conversion.” The book displayed on the part of its author great knowledge of the human heart. The method prescribed was an adroit imitation of that process of conviction, of alarm, of enlightenment, and of peace, through which the Holy Spirit leads the soul that undergoes that change in very deed. This Divine transformation was at that hour taking place in thousands of instances in the Protestant world. Loyola, like the magicians of old who strove to rival Moses, wrought with his enchantments to produce the same miracle. Let us observe how he proceeded.
The person was, first of all, to go aside from the world, by entirely isolating himself from all the affairs of life. In the solemn stillness of his chamber he was to engage in four meditations each day, the first at daybreak, the last at midnight. To assist the action of the imagination on the soul, the room was to be artificially darkened, and on its walls were to be suspended pictures of hell and other horrors. Sin, death, and judgment were exclusively to occupy the thoughts of the penitent during the first week of his seclusion. He was to ponder upon them till in a sense “he beheld the vast conflagration of hell; its wailings, shrieks, and blasphemies; felt the worm of conscience; in fine, touched those fires by whose contact the souls of the reprobate are scorched.”
The second week he was to withdrawal his eye from these dreadful spectacles and fix it upon the Incarnation. It is no longer the wailings of the lost that fill the ear as he sits in his darkened chamber, it is the song of the angel announcing the birth of the Child, and “Mary acquiescing in the work of redemption.” At the feet of the Trinity he is directed to pour out the expression of the gratitude and praise with which continued meditation on these themes causes his soul to overflow.
The third week is to witness the solemn act of the soul’s enrollment in the army of that Great Captain, who “bowed the heavens and came down” in his Incarnation. Two cities are before the devotee — Jerusalem and Babylon — in which will he choose to dwell? Two standards are displayed in his sight — under which will he fight. Here a broad and brave pennon floats freely on the wind. Its golden folds bear the motto, “Pride, Honor, Riches.” Here is another, but how unlike the motto inscribed upon it, “Poverty. Shame, Humility.” On all sides resounds the cry “To arms!” He must make his choice, and he must make it now, for the seventh sun of his third week is hastening to the setting. It is under the banner of Poverty that he elects to win the incorruptible crown.
Now comes his fourth and last week, and with it there comes a great change in the subjects of his meditation. He is to dismiss all gloomy ideas, all images of terror; the gates of Hades are to be closed, and those of a new life opened. It is morning with him, it is a spring-time that has come to him, and he is to surround himself with light, and flowers, and odors. It is the Sabbath of a spiritual creation; he is to rest, and to taste in that rest the prelude of the everlasting joys. This mood of mind he is to cultivate while seven suns rise and set upon him. He is now perfected and fit to fight in the army of the Great Captain.
A comparable course of mental discipline, as our history has already shown, did Wickliffe, Luther, and Calvin pass through before they became captains in the army of Christ. They began in a horror of great darkness; through that cloud there broke upon them the revelation of the “Crucified;” throwing the arms of their faith around the Tree of Expiation, and clinging to it, they entered into peace, and tasted the joys to come. How like, yet how unlike, are these two courses! In the one the penitent finds a Savior on whom he leans; in the other he lays hold on a rule by which he works, and works as methodically and regularly as a piece of machinery. Beginning on a certain day, he finishes, like the stroke of clock, duly as the seventh sun of the fourth week is sinking below the horizon. We trace in the one the action of the imagination, fostering one over-mastering passion into strength, till the person becomes capable of attempting the most daring enterprises, and enduring the most dreadful sufferings. In the other we behold the intervention of a Divine Agent, who plants in the soul a new principle, and thence educes a new life.
The war in which Loyola and his nine companions enrolled themselves when on the 15th of August, 1534, they made their vow in the Church of Montmartre, was to be waged against the Saracens of the East. They acted so far on their original design as to proceed to Venice, where they learned that their project was meanwhile impracticable. The war which had just broken out between the Republic and the Porte had closed the gates of Asia. They took this as an intimation that the field of their operations was to be in the Western world. Returning on their path they now directed their steps towards Rome. In every town through which they passed on their way to the Eternal City, they left behind them an immense reputation for sanctity by their labors in the hospitals, and their earnest addresses to the populace on the streets. As they drew nigh to Rome, and the hearts of some of his companions were beginning to respond, Loyola was cheered by a vision, in which Christ appeared and said to him, “In Rome will I be gracious unto thee.” The hopes this vision inspired were not to be disappointed. Entering the gates of the capital of Christendom, and throwing themselves at the feet of Paul III., they met a most gracious reception. The Pope hailed their offer of assistance as most opportune. Mighty dangers at that hour threatened the Papacy, and with the half of Europe in revolt, and the old monkish orders become incapable, this new and unexpected aid seemed sent by Heaven. The rules and constitution of the new order were drafted, and ultimately approved, by the Pope. Two peculiarities in the constitution of the proposed order especially recommended it in the eyes of Paul III. The first was its vow of unconditional obedience. The society swore to obey the Pope as an army obeys its general. It was not canonical but military obedience which its members offered him. They would go to whatsoever place, at whatsoever time, and on whatsoever errand he should be pleased to order them. They were, in short, to be not so much monks as soldiers. The second peculiarity was that their services were to be wholly gratuitous; never would they ask so much as a penny from the Papal See.
It was resolved that the new order should bear the name of The Company of Jesus. Loyola modestly declined the honor of being accounted its founder. Christ himself, he affirmed, had dictated to him its constitution in his cave at Manressa. He was its real Founder: whose name then could it so appropriately bear as His? The bull constituting it was issued on the 27th of September, 1540, and was entitled Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae, and bore that the persons it enrolled into an army were to bear “the standard of the Cross, to wield the arms of God, to serve the only Lord, and the Roman Pontiff,” His Vicar on earth.