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From Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia http://encarta.msn.com (4 July 2002).


Jesuits, religious order of men in the Roman Catholic church, founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in 1534 and confirmed by Pope Paul III in 1540. The motto of the order is Ad majorem Dei gloriam (Latin for “to the greater glory of God”), and its object is the spread of the church by preaching and teaching or the fulfillment of whatever else is judged the most urgent need of the church at the time. Education has been its chief activity almost from the outset, and it has made notable contributions to scholarship in both theology and the secular disciplines.


The preparation required of a candidate, especially for membership as a priest rather than as a brother (temporal coadjutor), is considerably longer than that required for the secular priesthood or for membership in other religious orders. After two years in seclusion and prayer as a novice, the candidate takes simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and becomes a scholastic. He then typically spends two years of study in review of classical subjects and three years studying philosophy, mathematics, and the physical sciences. Several years of teaching follow, succeeded by three years' study of theology, after which ordination to the priesthood takes place. Following a fourth year of theological study and a year of retirement and prayer, the candidate is awarded his final grade, becoming either a coadjutor or a professed. The coadjutors take final simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but the professed take these vows as solemn vows and add an additional solemn vow to go wherever the pope may send them; furthermore, the professed take five simple vows, among them the renunciation of ecclesiastical office beyond their order unless by directive of the order. The order is governed by a superior general, residing in Rome, who is elected for life by the general congregation of the order, consisting of representatives of the various provinces; there are now more than 90 regional provinces in the world, each under its own father provincial.


The aim of Ignatius of Loyola in forming his band was to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to convert the Muslims; all access to the Holy Land was barred, however, by the outbreak of war with the Ottoman Empire, and the members of the order submitted to the pope a constitution that bound them to go as missionaries to any place the pope might direct. After the constitution was approved, Loyola was elected the first superior general of the order.

The development of the order was rapid. Its members took leading parts in the Counter Reformation, establishing schools and colleges throughout Europe. For 150 years they were the leaders in European education; by 1640 they had more than 500 colleges throughout Europe; by about a century later the number of colleges had increased to more than 650 and, in addition, the order had total or partial charge of two dozen universities. More than 200 seminaries and houses of study for Jesuits had also been established. The education of Jesuits in the period of the Counter Reformation was designed to strengthen Roman Catholicism against Protestant expansion. Among the laity the Jesuits were concerned chiefly with the education of the nobility and those of wealth, although they did conduct trade schools and, in mission countries, schools for the poor.

In the mission field the expansion of the order was equally great. Missions were established by Saint Francis Xavier in India and Japan, and the order spread to the interior of China and the coast of Africa. Letters from the Jesuit missionaries in Canada, containing ethnological, historical, and scientific information, were published as the Jesuit Relations and form a unique and valuable source of information about the native tribes of that country. The most famous work of the Jesuit missionaries in the New World, however, was the establishment in the order's South American provinces of reductions, or village communities of native peoples under the spiritual and temporal direction of the priests. The most successful were the reductions of Paraguay. In that country for almost 200 years the Jesuits governed a communal nation of Native Americans, founding 32 villages with a total population of about 160,000; they taught the Native Americans agriculture, mechanical arts, and commerce and trained a small army for defense of the settlements.

The history of the Jesuit order has been marked by a steadily increasing prejudice against it, especially in Roman Catholic countries. Their devotion to the papacy called forth opposition from nationalistic rulers and leaders, and their zeal for ecclesiastical reform antagonized the clergy. At one time or another the order has been expelled from every country in Europe, and in 1773 a coalition of powers under Bourbon influence induced Pope Clement XIV to issue a brief suppressing the order. Frederick II, king of Prussia, and Catherine II, empress of Russia, both admirers of Jesuit education and scholarship, refused, however, to give the brief the publication necessary to make it effective, and in those countries the order survived in local organizations until 1814, when Pope Pius VII reestablished the Jesuits on a worldwide basis. Political and religious opposition also revived; since the reestablishment of the order, it has been free from attack only in Denmark, Sweden, Britain, and the United States.

Contributed By: Rev. W. Norris Clarke, S.J., M.A., S.T.L., Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University. Former Editor in Chief, International Philosophical Quarterly.

"Jesuits". Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2002
http://encarta.msn.com (4 July. 2002)

© 2002 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.