The following decree from the 31st General Congregation acknowledges that “works of art can exert a vast influence,” often providing “a special pathway to the human heart.” The decree notes the historical importance of patronage of the arts by the Society of Jesus and indicates that the tradition of “greatness in poetry, music, the theater, and architecture” continued into the twentieth century. Therefore, the decree encourages those Jesuits “who toil in this field for the greater glory of God.” Six years after this decree, Superior General Pedro Arrupe spoke on “art and the spirit of the Society of Jesus.”
For more from the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, please consult this page.
1. The Church, which has at all times given most generous encouragement to the arts, today again hails their importance. Indeed, in our day especially works of art can exert a vast influence, whether it be with respect to the growth and unfolding of human personality, or to the development of civil society, or to the mutual union of men, a union that paves the way to union with God.
For the arts provide a special pathway to the human heart. As a result, men are often stirred not only by rational arguments but also by artistic works.
2. In times past under the patronage of the Society many outstanding artists, not a few of them members of the Society itself, have achieved greatness in poetry, music, the theater, and architecture. In both the Western world and mission areas, all these arts were eagerly pursued by sons of the Society for the greater glory of God and the welfare of souls. This tradition lives on even in the Society of today. Many modern Jesuits who are themselves artists of repute not only pursue the arts but promote an understanding and deeper appreciation of the Gospel message by this activity.
3. The 31st General Congregation, taking into consideration both the tradition of the Society and the signs of the times, and aware of the importance of the arts for building up the kingdom of God, wishes to encourage the activity of its members who toil in this field for the greater glory of God.
4. During their training Jesuits should be given opportunities to become acquainted with and to appreciate the arts as part of their general education so that all may be better prepared for the apostolate in today’s world. The arts can be a genuine help in this apostolate.
5. Measures should be taken to permit those who manifest outstanding talents in this field to develop them and to learn how they can integrate their artistic activity into the context of priestly and religious life. In the missions Jesuits should endeavor to make full use of these arts in the apostolic work of spreading Christ’s message.
6. In addition, mutual communication is recommended among members of the Society who are engaged in artistic activity.
Original Source (English translation):
Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st–35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, General Congregation 31, Decree 30, “Cultivating the Arts in the Society,” pg. 179–180 [553–559].