Ignatius in the letter here offers warm encouragement to Jesuits who are suffering the effects of poverty. Such poverty often arose when benefactors who founded colleges for the Society did not fulfill their obligations or promises to support them. Regardless, Ignatius acknowledges that poverty can be a grace, as it lets “us have a real taste of what we ought to be constantly longing for so as to be conformed to our leader Jesus Christ.” He continues that, “I know of no place in the Society where a share in this grade is not being felt.” Typical of Ignatius in this letter is his special concern for those who were ill, even when confronted by scarce resources.
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The peace of Christ.
From various letters we have learned that God our Lord is visiting Your Reverences with the effects of holy poverty, that is, hardships and the lack of certain temporal things which would be necessary for bodily health and well-being. It is no slight grace that the divine Goodness deigns to confer on us in letting us have a real taste of what we ought to be constantly longing for so as to be conformed to our leader Jesus Christ, in accord with the vow and holy Institute of our order. Actually, I know of no place in the Society where a share in this grace is not being felt, although more in some places than in others. However, when we compare ourselves with our brothers off in India—amid great physical and spiritual toils so ill provided with food, in many places never eating bread or drinking wine, subsisting on a bit of rice and water or equally unnourishing fare, poorly clothed, and in general suffering much hardship in the outward man—I do not think our own suffering is too severe. We may account ourselves in our own Indies, for they can be found everywhere. In any case, if whoever is ordinarily responsible for supplying our needs fails, we can have recourse to holy mendicancy and in that way supply our want. And should God our Lord still wish us to have something to suffer, the sick should not lack for anything; the healthier will be better able to practice patience. And may this virtue be granted all of us by him who made it so lovable through his example and teaching, Jesus Christ our Lord; may he give us love for him and delight in his service in place of everything else.
Rome, December 24, 1552
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 throughout Europe, Rome, December 24, 1522,” pg. 405.