At the request of Ignatius and on the occasion of the jubilee year, the senior professed members of the Society gathered in Rome at the end of 1550. During the ensuing weeks, while the men were discussing the draft of the Constitutions that he and Juan Alfonso de Polanco had prepared, Ignatius presented them with the following request to be relieved of his position as superior general. Ignatius notes the reasons that he should step down: “because of my many sins, many imperfections, and many inward and outward infirmities.” The members in attendance rejected the request.
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1. Having reflected and pondered over various months and years, with no inward or outward agitation that I could perceive to be at work in me, I will state before my Creator and Lord, who will judge me forever, what I am able to perceive and understand for the greater praise and glory of his Divine Majesty.
2. Upon examining the matter factually and, so far as I could perceive within myself, without any emotional bias, I have come on many and varied occasions to the factual conclusion that because of my many sins, many imperfections, and many inward and outward infirmities, I lack to an almost infinite degree the qualities required for the responsibility over the Society which I presently hold by the Society’s appointment and imposition.
3. I desire in our Lord that this matter be carefully examined, and that another person be elected who can carry out my present office of governing the Society better, or less poorly, than I.
4. Voting for this same person, I likewise desire that the office be given to him.
5. And not only does this desire of mine stay with me, but it is my well-grounded judgment that this office should be given not just to whoever would carry it out better or less poorly than I, but to whoever would perform it equally well.
6. All this being taken into account, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, my one God and my Creator, I lay down and resign, simply and absolutely, the office I hold, requesting and with all my soul beseeching in our Lord that the professed, along with whomever they shall prefer to add for this purpose, would accept this offering of mine, so justified before his Divine Majesty.
7. Should any disagreement arise among those having to allow and judge this petition, to God’s greater glory, I request them, by the love and reverence of God our Lord, please to commend the matter earnestly to his Divine Majesty, that in all things his most holy will be done, to his own greater glory and to the greater universal good of souls and of the entire Society, and that he may receive all of this for his divine and greater praise and glory forever.
Rome, this day of Friday, January 30, 1551
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, Rome, January 30, 1551,” pg. 329–330.