Ignatius on Mission (1549)

William IV, duke of Bavaria, appealed to Pope Paul III and to Ignatius to send several Jesuits as professors of theology to the University of Ingolstadt, an institution that had fallen into severe decline. Alfonso Salmerón, Claude Jay, and Pierre Canisius were chosen for the task. For them, Ignatius writes the following instruction, urging them to fulfill the specific mission for which they were called but at the same time to carry out the full range of the Society’s ministries. In particular, they were to concentrate their efforts on persons of influence and likely future ministers, doing all they can to promote the founding of a college of the Society in Bavaria. The actual establishment of the Jesuit college took place in 1556 under the next duke, Albert V, after lengthy and complicated negotiations.

For more sources from Ignatius, please visit the Letters of Ignatius of Loyola.




Helps for Those Departing for Germany

            The goal to be chiefly kept in sight is that intended by the Sovereign Pontiff in sending this mission, namely, to help the university at Ingolstadt and, as far as possible, Germany itself in matters related to correctness of faith, obedience to the Church, and solid, wholesome doctrine and life.

A secondary goal will be to promote the Society in Germany, in particular by endeavoring to start colleges of the Society at Ingolstadt and elsewhere, for the common good and the glory of God.

The means for pursuing these closely related goals are themselves closely related; however, some contribute equally to both, some more to the first, and others more to the second. Hence, we shall treat them in that order.


Means Common to the Pursuit of Both Goals

1.     The first and most important help will be if, placing no confidence in yourselves at all, you trust courageously in God and have a strong desire, aroused and nourished by charity and obedience, for achieving your goal; this will ensure that you keep your goal always in mind and before your eyes, commend it to God in your prayers and holy Sacrifices, and make diligent use of every appropriate means.

2.     The second is a life that is excellent in itself and hence a pattern for others. This means avoiding not just evil but every appearance of evil, as well as showing yourselves models of charity and every virtue. This will be of great help to Germany, so much in need of such models. Moreover, in this way, without your saying a word, the Society will be promoted and God will fight on its behalf.

3.     You should have and display a sincere charity towards all, particularly persons of greater consequence for the common good. Among these is the duke himself; you should apologize to him  for your late arrival and signify to him the love in which he is held by the Sovereign Pontiff and the Holy See, as also by the Society; and you should earnestly promise to work hard on behalf of his subjects, etc.

4.     You should display your love in word and truth and render good services to large numbers of persons, by both spiritual assistance and exterior works of charity, as indicated below.

5.     People should be able to see that you seek, not your own interests, but those of Jesus Christ, that is, his glory and the salvation of souls; and that for this reason you accept no stipends for Masses or for the ministry of the word or sacraments, and may possess no revenues.

6.     You should make yourselves beloved by your humility and charity, becoming all things to all men. You should adapt to the local customs insofar as the Society’s religious Institute allows, and as far as possible never let anyone depart from you unhappy (except if it contributes to his salvation). In your efforts to please, however, you should respect your conscience and not let excessive familiarity breed contempt.

7.     Where factions and party strife prevail, you should not take a stand against either side, but instead show that you remain in the middle and love both parties.

8.     It will help very much if, in the opinion of everyone, but particularly of the prince and notables, you yourselves and the Society as a whole enjoy solid authority and a reputation (grounded in fact) for sound teaching. This authority will be much fostered by outward as well as inward gravity in your gait and gestures, the propriety of your dress, and especially the circumspection of your speech and the maturity of your counsel on both practical and doctrinal matters. This maturity entails not hastily giving your opinion on any question (unless it is quite easy), but taking time to think about it, study it, or consult with others.

9.     You should cultivate special bonds of goodwill with those who exercise supreme power. It will be of considerable help in this regard if you are able as much as possible to assist both the duke himself and the more influential members of his household through confessions and the Spiritual Exercises. You should also try to win over the university professors and other dignitaries by your deep humility and modesty and by rendering them becoming acts of service.

10.     Hence, if you know of anyone, especially among the more influential persons, who has an unfavorable opinion of the Society or of yourselves, you should take prudent countermeasures, supplying the person with information about the Society and yourselves, to God’s glory.

11.     It will be helpful to have a good idea of individual persons’ ways of acting and to plan ahead for various contingencies, especially in more important matters.

12.     It will be advantageous for all the companions not only to think and to say the same thing but also to dress alike and act alike in ceremonies and other external matters.

13.     The brethren should individually reflect on how best to achieve the above-mentioned goals, and confer with each other; and the superior, after hearing the others, will decide what should or should not be done.

14.     They will take care to write to Rome either for advice or to report on the state of affairs. This should be done very frequently, for it could be of no little help in all matters.

15.     You should occasionally reread these and the following guidelines, along with any others that may be added, so as to refresh your memory of them in case it fades.


Means Chiefly for the Primary Goal, Namely, the Upbuilding of Germany in Faith and in Christian Doctrine and Life

1.     The first thing is to do well in your public lectures; these are the main thing for which you were requested by the duke and sent by the Sovereign Pontiff. You should give solid doctrine without too much Scholastic terminology, which tends to put people off, particularly when abstruse: the lectures should be learned but comprehensible. They should be regular but not too long or too rhetorical. Prudence will dictate how much use to make of disputations and other academic exercises.

2.     To increase your audience and be of most benefit to them, you should not only nourish the mind but also add things that will nourish the religious affections, so that the hearers go home from your lectures not just more learned but better persons.

3.     In addition to the Scholastic lectures, it would be good to have sermons or biblical lectures on feast days. The aim of these is less to instruct the intellect than to move the affections and shape behavior. They can be given either in Latin in the schools or in German by Master Canisius in the church where crowds of people attend.

4.     So far as these essential occupations permit, you should devote time to the hearing of confessions, in which one ordinarily reaps the fruits of the plants that have been cultivated in lectures and sermons. You should hear the confessions not so much of women and common people (they should be sent to others for this purpose) as of young men of good character who might themselves become pastoral workers, as well as of other persons who, if given spiritual aid, could make a greater contribution to the common good. For when we cannot satisfy everyone, preference should certainly go to those who promise a greater return in the Lord.

5.     You should endeavor to draw your students to spiritual friendship, and if possible to confession and the Spiritual Exercises; these should be the full Exercises for those who appear suited for the Society’s Institute, while you should admit and even invite larger numbers to the Exercises of the First Week, and teach them as well a method of prayer, etc.—mainly, however, [these should be] persons from whom a greater good may be expected and whose friendship should be sought for God’s sake.

6.     For the same reason, great importance should be given to conversation and familiar dealings with persons of this sort; and while on occasion you may digress to a merely human topic because of their individual interests, you should return to the goal of their spiritual improvement, lest your conversations be useless.

7.     You should also devote some time to more visible pious activities—hospitals, prisons, or other ways of helping the poor—which beget a good reputation in the Lord.

Such also are the reconciling of those involved in disagreements and the teaching of catechism to the uneducated where these are appropriate; prudence will dictate whether, depending upon the place and the disposition of the people, this should be done by yourselves or through others.

8.     You should attempt to win the friendship of any leading adversaries and of the more influential among those who are heretics, or suspected of heresy, and are not altogether obdurate. You should try to withdraw them from their error tactfully and lovingly; some guidelines for this are being written elsewhere.

9.     You should be competent in cases of conscience. With particularly difficult cases, you should take time, as was said above, for study or consultation. For while you ought to avoid excessive scrupulosity and anxiety, you should not be overly lax, indulgent, or unconcerned, to the peril of your own and others’ souls.

10.     You should all try to have at your fingertips the matters regarding dogmas of faith controverted with the heretics, particularly nowadays where you are and among the people you deal with, so that where appropriate you can assert and defend Catholic truth, attack errors, and strengthen the doubtful or wavering, both in lectures or sermons and in confessions or conversations.

11.     As to the manner of doing this, remember that, adapting yourselves to the character and inclinations of persons, you should act with prudence and proportion, not putting new wine into old wineskins, etc.

12.     In defending the Apostolic See and its authority and bringing people to sincere obedience thereto, be careful that you do not, by incautious defenses, lose credibility as “papalists.” Conversely, your zeal in pursuing heresy should evidence above all love for the heretics’ persons, desire for their salvation, and compassion for them.

13.     It will help to make good use of the Society’s faculties and of those granted by the Sovereign Pontiff; these should be dispensed for building up and not for tearing down, generously but wisely.

14.     It will help to dispose people as far as possible for God’s grace by exhorting them to a desire for salvation and to prayers, alms, and all kinds of charitable works, which contribute to the reception and increase of grace.

15.     To help your hearers to grasp, retain, and practice what you set before them, you should consider whether something might be given in writing, and to whom.

16.     It is important that, either through the duke, Eck, or other friends, a convenient site be selected for celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, preaching, and being available to people who seek you out.

17.     It will help for the priests of the Society to confer with each other on their studies and sermons, and to criticize each other’s lectures; in this way, any shortcomings in your lectures can be corrected at home, so that they will be more acceptable and helpful to your hearers.


Means for the Secondary Goal, the Society’s Promotion in Germany

Besides the above measures, which would perhaps suffice without recourse to any others, a few more specific ones will be mentioned here. They come down to convincing the duke and other influential persons of the desirability and feasibility of having seminaries of the Society in their dominions.

1.     The first is that efforts to found a college should not appear to be of our own doing, but that they should clearly stem from concern for the good of Germany and in no way from ambition or self-seeking on our part. We should make it clear that the Society appropriates to itself from the colleges nothing but toil and the exercise of charity, and that the college’s revenues will be spent on the education of poor students, so that after their education they can be more useful laborers in the vineyard of Christ.

2.     Regarding those in a position to influence the Duke of Bavaria and the persons around him (such as Eck) to found a college, let them take care not to speak of the college itself but to influence their minds in such a way that they themselves will gradually come to this conclusion.

3.     For this it will help if they have a good opinion of the Society’s Institute, being informed about those aspects of it more likely to please them and about the progress which by God’s grace the Society has made over just a few years in so many parts of the world. This account will be all the more effective if the duke has already begun to experience some of these results in his own dominion.

4.     Show the duke how valuable it will be for his own subjects, and indeed for all of Germany, to have seminaries of men who, unmotivated by ambition or avarice, will help others by sound teaching and the example of their life. Tell him the experience of the King of Portugal, who from a single college of the Society has provided spiritual workers for numerous places in the Indies, Ethiopia, and Africa, even outside his own kingdom.

5.     Indicate to him how advantageous it will be for the university at Ingolstadt to have there, as at Messina and Gandía, a college where not only theology but also languages and philosophy are taught with Scholastic exercises after the mode of Paris.

6.     Show him what a great crown awaits him if he is the first to introduce into Germany colleges of this sort for the advancement of sound doctrine and religious practice.

7.     To convince him of its feasibility, he should be informed that colleges of this kind may be founded and endowed by allocating the income of benefices, abbeys, or other pious works that are no longer useful, especially given the strong approval of the Sovereign Pontiff and the leading cardinals for the establishment of such colleges.

8.     If others join the Society’s Institute and increase the body of men living there at the duke’s expense, this might make it easier to induce him, in order to be free of this burden and the teachers’ salaries, to take steps for getting a perpetual endowment for the college.

9.     Many of these matters could be more conveniently and fittingly handled by persons having influence with the duke, such as Eck and others of the duke’s friends, especially magnates such as the cardinals, who can write to the duke about the Pope’s mind. All this will be more effective if early results of our work have begun to justify it.

10.     If the duke or others seem inclined to want the colleges to be more open, and even have others besides religious living in them, they should be told that the college can include both religious and others so long as the administration remains in the hands of those who by their teaching and example can advance others in both studies and religion.

11.     Investigate also whether there may not be private persons of greater income or property who are being moved by God to start the college. Steps should be taken to interest these persons and other magnates in this, for the common good of Germany.

12.     Besides the colleges, the Society’s cause can be promoted by attracting young men (and older ones, if educated) to its Institute. This can be done by the example of your lives, by getting them to know us better through the Exercises and spiritual conversations, and by other means discussed elsewhere. If these persons cannot be supported there or would be better off not remaining there, they should be sent to Rome or other parts of the Society. Similarly, we can, if necessary, transfer men from other places—Cologne or Louvain, for example—to Ingolstadt.




Original Source (English translation):

Ignatius of Loyola: Letters and Instructions, ed. John W. Padberg, et al. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996, “To the Members of the Society Leaving for Germany, Rome, September 24, 1549,” pg. 291–297.

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