Ignatius on Charity (1556)

In this letter to Lorenzo Bresciani, Ignatius explains how the Society of Jesus “regards the mingling of human attachments with charity as imperfect.” Bresciani had reportedly given rosaries and an error-filled dialogue to certain ladies, signs of preferential treatment to which Ignatius had found objectionable.

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





The peace of Christ.

Dear Father and Brother in Christ, Don Lorenzo of Modena:

We have been informed that you sent rosaries and a certain dialogue full of errors to an undetermined number of ladies who are attached to you. If this was done without your superiors’ permission, it was ill done on many counts. In any case, Your Reverence should know that as our Society practices a universal charity toward all nations and types of persons, it does not approve having particular affections toward individual peoples or persons, except as demanded by well-ordered charity. It regards the mingling of human attachment with charity as imperfect; and unnecessary gifts and letters seem to indicate this kind of attachment. Moreover, it is also a part of the Society’s special spirit not to want others to have such mixed feelings towards us; wherever we find they do, we should do all we can to purify them, or else remove the occasion from such men or women by having little to do with them.

Let this reminder suffice; and I commend myself from the heart to your prayers.


Rome, May 16, 1556




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 Lorenzo Bresciani, Rome, May 16, 1556,” pg. 663–664.