Ignatius on Prayers for Nations (1553)

Peter Canisius was one among the many Jesuits whom Ignatius sent to Germany. He asked Ignatius to order the entire Society to offer special prayers to remedy and aid that country. Ignatius replied with this letter to the Society, though he added “England…and the northern nations” to the petition, indicating the places that were “imperiled by the grievous disease of heresy” and appeared “seriously or dangerously ill.”

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




Ignatius of Loyola, superior general of the Society of Jesus, to my beloved brothers in Christ, superiors and subjects of the Society of Jesus: everlasting salvation in our Lord.

Since the order of charity by which we must love the entire body of the Church in Jesus Christ her head requires that remedies be applied especially to that part of the body which is seriously and dangerously ill, we have determined that to the extent of our weak powers, we ought to devote the Society’s efforts with particular zeal to the aid of England, Germany, and the northern nations imperiled by the grievous disease of heresy. And although we may labor earnestly for this end by other means, and although many of us have for years striven to assist these regions by the application of prayers and Masses, nevertheless, in order to extend and prolong this work of charity, we enjoin upon all our brethren—those under our immediate authority as well as rectors and superiors in charge of others—that they and those under their charge should each month offer to God the sacrifice of the Mass if they are priests, and prayers if not priests, for the spiritual needs of Germany and England, so that God may at long last take pity on these regions, and others infected by them, and lead them back to the purity of Christian faith and religion.

It is our intention that this continue as long as the needs of these nations continue to require this assistance. It is also our intention that no province where our Society is present, not even those in the farthest Indies, be exempted from this office of charity.




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 Whole Society, Rome July 23 and August 7, 1553,” pg. 434–435.

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