Ignatius on Temporal Duties (1552)

Appointed treasurer of the college at Coimbra, the austere Manoel Godinho (who had complained about the governing style of Simão Rodrigues) found his involvement in finances and lawsuits to be incompatible with the spiritual life. He appealed to Ignatius and received from him the following reply. Even “temporal business,” Ignatius notes, can be “spiritual and highly pleasing” to God, if one pursued it with a “holy intention.” Ignatius well knew of what he writes here, having spent the last 12 years administering the works of the Society of Jesus around the globe from the confines his Roman office.

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




May the sovereign grace and eternal love of Christ our Lord be always our protection and help.

I received a letter from you, dearest brother in our Lord, informing me of your arrival from San Fins with the brethren you had under your charge there, [having given] entire edification through the grace of God our Lord.

Although responsibility for temporal business may appear and be somewhat distracting, I have no doubt that your holy intention and your directing everything you do to God’s glory makes it spiritual and highly pleasing to his infinite goodness. For when distractions are accepted for his greater service and in conformity with his divine will as interpreted to you by obedience, they can be not only equivalent to the union and recollection of constant contemplation, but even more acceptable to him, since they proceed from a more vehement and stronger charity. May God our Creator and Lord deign to preserve and increase this charity in your soul and in the souls of all; and we shall rightly consider that all activities in which this charity is exercised for God’s glory are very holy and right for us, particularly activities in which we have been placed by the infallible rule of obedience to our superiors. May the “double spirit” of which you say you stand in need be bestowed on you in abundance by him who gave it to Elisha; and I will not be remiss in desiring and begging it of his Divine Majesty.

If, however, looking only to the greater glory of God our Lord, you still think before God that this responsibility is unsuitable for you, confer with your superiors there, and they will do what is proper; and I will not fail to aid you from here, as one who holds you deep within my soul.

May Christ our Lord help us all with his abundant grace, so that we may always know his supreme will and perfectly fulfill it.


Rome, January 31, 1552


Yours in our Lord,





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 Manoel Godinho, Rome, January 31, 1552,” pg. 367–368.

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