God's Soldiers: Adventure, Politics, Intrigue, and Power--A History of the Jesuits
The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
, Oct 18, 2005
- 368 pages
Publisher's description: When Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuits (or the Society of Jesus) in 1534, his modest goal was to lead a group of nine like-minded students at the University of Paris on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to convert the Muslims. By the time of his death in 1556, approximately one thousand priests were Jesuits. The order continued to grow rapidly, distinguishing itself first in the field of education and quickly becoming a force to reckon with as its interests-and influence-expanded into the economic, political, and cultural spheres. Along with their authority, the Jesuits also acquired powerful enemies. At one time or another, they were expelled from every country in Europe. The Jesuits' reputation for academic excellence, which continues today, began almost as soon as the order was founded. As part of their determined efforts to reclaim Protestant Europe for the Catholic Church, they built schools and colleges in nearly every important city; by the mid-eighteenth century, they had established more than 650 educational institutions. They were also strongly committed to foreign missions, and like the secular explorers and settlers of the Age of Discovery, traveled to the Far East, India, and the Americas to stake a claim. They were especially successful in Latin America, where they managed to put numerous villages entirely under Jesuit rule. Their successes both in Europe and abroad, coupled with rumors of scandal and corruption within the order, soon drew criticism from within the Church and without. Writers like Pascal and Voltaire wrote polemics against them, and the absolute monarchs of Catholic Europe sought to destroy them. Their power was seen as so threatening that hostility escalated into serious political feuds, and at various times, they were either banned from or harshly suppressed throughout Europe. GOD'S SOLDIERS is fascinating chronicle of this celebrated, mysterious, and often despised religious order. Jonathan Wright illuminates as never before their enduring contributions as well as the controversies that surrounded them. The result is an in-depth, unbiased, and utterly compelling history that will appeal to the general and religious reader alike.