Ignatius on Health (1554)

Seriously ill, Francesco Mancini came from Sicily to Naples. He wrote to Ignatius, saying that for his own spiritual consolation he judged it better to stay with his Jesuit brethren there than with his family. The superior in Naples, Alfonso Salmerón, had believed that Mancini could not receive the proper treatment at the city’s college and had suggested he go home to his family to recuperate. Ignatius, in a letter written by Juan Alfonso de Polanco, notes his agreement with Salmerón’s decision but also assures Mancini that he had an abiding bond with the Society. “Although you may be separated from us in body,” the letter states, “you are intimately united by the bond of charity on our side and, I am sure, on yours as well.” Francesco did recover but then left the Society. The letter, however, is evidence of Ignatius’s concern that a person’s good health was required to properly serve God.

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



May the grace and peace of Christ our Lord always abide and increase in our souls.

Dearest Brother in Jesus Christ, Master Francis:

You will have learned the answer given to your letter if you have been in Naples. Our Father desires for you every spiritual consolation, and since this would have consisted in staying among your spiritual brothers and fathers, he would have let you stay in Naples had your poor health been able to bear it. But since the physicians judged that your recovery absolutely required your native air, consolation had to give way to expedience. But be assured, dear brother, that although you may be separated from us in body, you are intimately united by the bond of charity on our side and, I am sure, on yours as well. Be confident also that you are united to us not only by this bond but also by that of holy obedience, which binds all the members of our Society into a single spiritual body, into which you are incorporated no matter where you are. Therefore, consider yourself under obedience in employing any medical remedies and aids that are suggested to you, as well as whatever forms of decent recreation, even physical, may be recommended to you; for in this way you will more speedily get past your present illness with God’s help, so that you can dedicate yourself fully to his service. And you should not think that working to recover your health is an insignificant occupation when you desire it for no other purpose than to serve God, and in conformity with God’s will. Nevertheless, you also need a great deal of resignation (even while using all reasonable means for recovery) in order to be content with whatever disposition God our Lord makes of you. As long as he visits you with illness, accept it from his hand as a very precious gift from the wisest and kindest of fathers and physicians; make up your mind to be content, both in soul and in body, in acting and in suffering, with whatever may please his divine providence. And write us once in a while, however briefly.

Master Pompilio told me that you had requested some spiritual books. It would be all right for you occasionally to read or have someone read to you for your spirit’s refreshment and consolation. But avoid excessive reading or devotions, especially those that are mental; these would block the way to your recovery, which is the reason for your going home and that of obedience in sending you there. So be very moderate in any mental exercises, and assume that outward recreation when well ordered, as I said, is also prayer and a means by which you please God our Lord.

May his grace always abound in your soul.


We all earnestly commend ourselves to your charity.



Rome, April 7, 1554




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 Francesco Mancini, by commission, Rome, April 7, 1554,” pg. 489–490.

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