Filippo Leerno had been named rector at Modena in 1553. Shortly after his appointment to the northern Italian city, Leerno feared that that some of the young Jesuits in his charge did not want to change for the better while others lacked in obedience. The situation was enough for Leerno to conclude that he was not the right person to hold the office of rector. In this letter, Ignatius encourages Leerno in his task.
The peace of Christ.
Dear Father Master Filippo:
The office of rector is in good hands with Your Reverence, and you must take care not to humble yourself to the point of yielding to a spirit of faintheartedness. God’s gifts are not to be despised, even though we duly deprecate our own imperfections. Be of good heart, and take advantage of whatever help your companion, Master Giovanni Lorenzo [Patarini], is capable of giving you. Do not demean yourself or be wanting in courage. Be assured that we have a higher opinion of God’s gifts in you than you yourself seem to have.
As to the blindness or dryness of spirit which you think you find in yourself, it might easily stem from this diffidence or faintheartedness, and thus be cured by the contrary. Above all, remember that God seeks from us solid virtues, such as patience, humility, obedience, abnegation of our own will, and charity—that is, readiness to serve him and to serve our neighbor for his sake—rather than other forms of devotion, though his providence may grant us these when he sees that they are good for us. But since they are not substantive matters, an abundance of them does not make anyone perfect, nor the lack of them imperfect.
I will add no more about this, except to pray that Jesus Christ our Lord may be always the help and protection of us all.
Rome, December 30, 1553
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 Filippo Leerno, Rome, December 30, 1553,” pg. 454–455.