Ignatius on Obedience (1554)

A Neapolitan woman had started a home for six or seven abandoned girls, whom she brought to the Jesuit church for the sacraments. She rented a house next door to the Jesuits, where the girls’ windows looked onto the men’s rooms. When she refused to move, the Jesuit superior, Alfonso Salmerón, threatened to deny the girls the sacraments in the Jesuit church. Giovan Francesco Araldo, their chaplain, wrote to Andres de Oviedo, protesting this highhandedness and asking him to intercede with Ignatius to countermand Salmerón’s action. Araldo received the following reply, which must have disappointed him. Ignatius reminds Araldo that Salmerón was his superior and, as such, received a “special influx of [God’s] light in guiding him.” Therefore, Salmerón’s actions were to be respected.

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



Dear Father in Christ, Master Giovan Francesco:

I have seen Your Reverence’s letter to Father Master Andres [de Oviedo]; and while I am convinced that you were led to write as you did by your good and fervent will to serve God, you nevertheless clearly step beyond the limits of holy obedience and of humility, her mother, in thus manifesting an opinion dissenting from and even opposed to that of Father Master Salmerón, whose decision you wish to change as though he stood in error. And yet, if you remember that he is the superior, and that, over and above the light of learning and prudence and experience that he possesses, God our Lord cooperates with a special influx of his light in guiding him because of his responsibility for governing the college, then you should think that your own judgment is more likely to go wrong than his, and that having represented your view, you should be quicker to submit your judgment to his than to set aside his for yours. For myself, I do not believe that Father Salmerón would have forbidden these ladies to receive the sacraments in your church except for a serious reason. While this was not written to us, I suppose that their being housed so close to the college is likely to engender some suspicion. Or perhaps there is some other reason, more visible to one with a universal rather than a particular view. Because of the special love I bear Your Reverence, I did not want to fail to bring this to your attention.

Therewith I commend myself to Your Charity’s prayers and sacrifices, etc.

Sent September 16, 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 Giovan Francesco Araldo, Rome, September 16, 1554,” pg. 514–515.

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