Ignatius on Missions (1552)

This instruction that Ignatius offered to those Jesuits sent on missionary work contains extracts of Part VII of the Constitutions. At the time, the Constitutions were not yet fully promulgated throughout the Society (that would wait until 1558, two years after the death of Ignatius). The instructions by Ignatius here are divided into three sections: on a missionary’s care for self, on his dealing with his neighbor, and on his responsibility toward the Society.

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





One sent out in this Society to labor in the vineyard of the Lord should have three concerns: one is himself, another is the neighbor with whom he deals, and another is the head and entire body of the Society of which he is a member.

In the first place, with regard to himself, he should take care not to neglect himself for the sake of helping others. He should be unwilling to commit even the smallest sin for all the spiritual gain that could be had, nor even place himself in danger of such. For this it will help to converse only sparingly and in public with persons from whom he has reason to fear anything. In a general way, he should prescind from the outward person and look upon the creature, not as good-looking or attractive, but as someone bathed in the blood of Christ, an image of God, a temple of the Holy Spirit, etc.

To defend himself from all evils and acquire all virtues—to which he will be able to draw others in proportion as he himself is filled with them—it will be helpful to take some time for himself each day for examination of conscience, prayer, the reception of the sacraments, etc.

He should also give suitable attention to his health and bodily strength.


In the second place, with regard to the neighbor, he should consider (1) which persons he deals with: they should be the ones from whom the most results can be foreseen—supposing he cannot deal with everybody. Such would be persons in greatest need and those possessing great authority, learning, or temporal goods, and others who are suited to be laborers—in general those who, if helped themselves, would most be able to help others, for God’s glory.

2.     He should consider which religious works he spends his time on. He should prefer before any others those for which he is specifically sent. Among other works, he should prefer those which are better—that is, the spiritual over the corporal, the more urgent over the less urgent, the universal over the particular, the permanent and lasting over those that do not last, etc.—in cases where he cannot do both. He should also remember that it is not enough to get a good and religious work started: he must as far as possible complete it and put it on a permanent footing.

3.     He should consider the instruments he ought to employ. Besides his example and prayer full of desires, he should consider, for instance, whether to make use of confession, or spiritual exercises and conversations, or catechism teaching, or lectures, or sermons, etc. And he should select those arms (if he cannot make use of all) which are deemed likely to be most effective and which each individual is best able to employ.

4.     He should preserve the proper manner of proceeding, aiming at humility by starting from below and not getting involved in higher matters except when invited or asked, unless discretion should dictate otherwise, taking into consideration time, place, and persons. This discretion cannot be confined within any rule. The manner also includes working to obtain the goodwill of the persons with whom he deals, by a manifestation, grounded in truth, in virtue and love; also by trying to have credit with them, and adapting himself to all with holy prudence. This is chiefly taught by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, but we contribute to it by reflection and careful observation. Thus, the examination of conscience mentioned above could also be applied to such reflections, and some time during the day would need to be devoted to them. It is particularly important that in cases of conscience and difficulties where he does not have the solution clearly and confidently in mind, he not give a reply or solution hastily, but only after adequate study and reflection.


In the third place, as regards the head and body of the Society, he should (1) let himself be directed by the superior, keep him informed of whatever he ought to know, and be obedient to any orders that he is given.

2.     He should be concerned for the Society’s good name and reputation and for any way in which he can further it for God’s glory, chiefly through foundations (especially of colleges wherever opportunity or favorable circumstances are seen) and by recruiting good prospects for the Society, such as persons who are educated, or very active, or young, when they have good appearance, health, intelligence, good inclinations, and no apparent impediments, etc.




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 Those Sent on Missions,” pg. 393–394.