On the Difficulties of Early Missionary Work, Paschase Broët (1545)

Paschase Broët was born into a wealthy family in Northern France in roughly 1500. He traveled to Paris in 1532 to begin his university studies, where he met Ignatius of Loyola, Jean Codure, Pierre Favre, Claude Jay, Simão Rodrigues, and Francis Xavier. These seven men made the same vows together in a Montmartre church in 1536, pledging to bound together by poverty, chastity, and a journey to the Holy Land in order to labor “for the good of souls.” Broët’s early work, even before the founding of the Society of Jesus, took place in hospitals. Later he conducted missionary and apostolic work in Ireland, Italy, and France. The difficult labor at the latter location—hostile to Jesuit endeavors—took a toll on Broët’s health. He died in 1562. For more on Broët, see John Padberg’s essay, “The Three Forgotten Founders of the Society of Jesus” in Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, 29.2 (March 1997). The following document, translated by Martin Palmer, S.J., is a letter Broët wrote Ignatius while working in Faenza in Northern Italy. It recounts some of the difficulties Broët encountered during his ministry.  






The supreme grace and love of Christ our Lord be ever our continual protection and help.


Four months have already gone by since I told you of my negligences and tepidity; and so I shall now do the same, so that you will have greater occasion to pray the Divine Majesty that he will aid me and increase in me his holy love, and so that in the future I may be more diligent in his holy service and also in that of the neighbor.


Regarding confessions: I have continually kept them up, both individual, daily confessions and many general confessions as well. And although neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, nevertheless, through the grace of the Lord who gives the increase, there are always some good results—-if not in everyone, at least in many.


Likewise, a few days ago, through the Lord’s grace we won over two prostitutes and placed them in the monastery of converted women along with the others. In their church on feast days and Sundays, I give them an exhortation on the current Gospel. And though my tongue is ineloquent, crude, and stammering, nevertheless, by the grace of Christ our Lord, who gives growth where there is barrenness, many of them are making good progress, as can be seen by the effects.


I also make frequent visits to the hospitals to hear confessions or exhort the sick poor to patience, and also to get the staff in the hospitals to be more concerned about the treatment, provision, and service of the sick poor.


Also, in Faenza and throughout Romagna there are numerous enmities, hatreds, and factions, i.e., of one clan or family against another, so much so that some feuds go back more than a hundred years and many killings are committed. This is a great pity and most fearful to contemplate. Wishing to bring about some peace and concord among certain families, I spoke with some of the principal persons, prudent and qualified to reconcile these conflicts. And by this means the Lord in his goodness and mercy has reconciled—with great solemnity in the principal church—more than a hundred men, who for love of Christ our Lord have pardoned and forgiven one another the past killings, woundings, insults, and other harms that have issued from these enmities. And so I gave a little exhortation on the good which derives from peace and the evil which follows upon discord. For the last three weeks we have also been trying to bring about peace and reconciliation among three or four other families. But when they had all agreed and expressed willingness to be reconciled, the enemy of human nature stirred up some of his members, who murdered three men in the piazza and wounded three others; and so the whole thing was ruined. But we will keep on trying with the Lord’s help to see if we can reconcile these feuds—or others, since there is no shortage of them.


Also: I have here in Faenza a boy of about twelve years who is very eager to join the Society. He is quite intelligent, healthy, and of good outward appearance. I plan to send him to Rome with the first trustworthy person I can find.


I have also devoted care and vigilance to seeing that there be no more talking or disputing about Lutheranism, as was done previously throughout the city. As a result, it is no longer spoken of, at least publicly. I myself have corrected and demonstrated the truth to many persons who I had been told did not believe in purgatory, praying to the saints, or fasting. They answered me that they do believe and hold that there is purgatory, that they do pray to the saints, etc. And so I urged them to persevere in the teaching of the holy Roman Church—in which may God in his infinite goodness also preserve and confirm us all. No more.


Faenza, November 9, 1545

Paschasio Broet




Original Source (English translation):

Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, 29.2 (March 1997): 47–48, “Sources: Writings of the Forgotten Founders.”

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