Decree 20: “Reading at Table,” General Congregation 31 (1966)

The last of the decrees of the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus to deal with Jesuits’ religious life addressed the topic of “reading at table,” the practice of having texts read aloud as members silently ate meals. Often the reading was from the Jesuits’ Constitutions (or its summary, but it also came from histories or other texts. In the following document, the delegates ask the new superior general to make “prudent arrangements” for instituting changes to the longstanding practice. Any changes would have to reflect localized differences. The delegates note, though, that the superior general’s changes would have to address the loss of the monthly readings of the summary of the Constitutions. They mandate that the superior general “take measures effectively to preserve and foster this knowledge” of the Constitutions.

For more from the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, please consult this page.



1.     After careful consideration of the reasons advanced for introducing changes in the present directives for reading at table and in light of the variety of circumstances prevailing in various parts of the Society, the General Congregation turns over to Father General the task of making prudent arrangements for the practice in each province or region.

2.     To prevent a decline in knowledge of the Constitutions as a consequence of discontinuing the monthly reading of the Summary of the Constitutions at table, the General Congregation recommends to Father General that he take measures effectively to preserve and foster this knowledge, either by restoring the monthly reading of the Summary, or by determining that key paragraphs of these Constitutions should be read in order at table, or by some other more suitable method.



Original Source (English translation):

Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, General Congregation 31, Decree 20, “Reading at Table,” pg. 137 [358–359].

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