Ignatius on Obedience (1550)

In the summer of 1550, Ignatius offered a brief set of directions to his fellow Jesuits. He implores them to be “blind and prompt” in their obedience, prepared to leave any occupation on the instant, all for “God’s greater praise and the greater spiritual progress of all of us.” The instructions were sent by Juan Alfonso de Polanco.

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



Reverend Father Master Ignatius wishes, for God’s greater praise and the greater spiritual progress of all of us—as he has already partly set forth in other constitutions—that from now on when he calls anyone, or the Father Minister calls any priest or lay member, or the sub-minister any lay member, the one called should come immediately as to the voice of Christ our Lord, obeying in the name of his Divine Majesty. Thus, the obedience should be blind and prompt to such an extent that if one is at prayer, he should leave his prayer; if one is writing and hears the voice of his superior—or, more accurately, the voice of Christ our Lord—and has begun a letter, that is to say, an A or a B, he should not finish it. Similarly, if he happens to be with anyone at all, even a prelate (unless he owes that person obedience), he should come if he is called by any of his superiors. In cases where a person is called while taking a bodily restorative of any kind, that is, is either at table or in bed; or while busy with a sick person, serving him a potion or medicine or engaged in some service which could not be interrupted without harm to the sick person, or is helping to bleed him; or if the person called is making his confession, or about to receive Communion, or hearing the confessions of others if he is a priest—in these cases he should send to the superior asking whether he wishes him to leave his meal, get out of bed, or leave whatever else it may be.


Given at Rome, August 24, 1550

Received at Messina, September 12, 1550




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 Jesuits in Rome, Rome, August 24, 1550,” pg. 320–321.