« IndietroContinua »
A succinct mention of the different Classes of the Members who formed the Society of Jesus.
To use the language of its constitutions*, the society of Jesus, taken in the most extensive sense of these words, comprised all, who lived under obedience to the general: in a less extensive sense, it comprised the professed members, the formed coadjutors, and the approved scholars. In a more proper sense, it comprised only the professed members, and the formed coadjutors: in its most abstract sense, it was confined to the professed members. The numbers of each of these classes were capable of receiving from the general, the spiritual graces of which the holy see made him the depositary.
The lowest class was that of probationers, or postulants for admittance into the order, and received for trial. For these, there was a house of probation they remained in it from twelve to twenty days. By frequent examinations of them during this time, a general knowledge of their circumstances, their dispositions, and their aptitude for the order, was obtained; but frequently the póstulants had passed through all, or the greater part of the schools of humanity, in houses of the jesuits: where this happened, their dispositions were so well known, as to render unnecessary any further probation.
* Cons. part 5.
After the postulant had finally signified his resolution to enter into the society, and had been approved, the first gate of the sacred precinct was opened to him, and he became a novice: but the admission into this class was far from being indiscriminate legitimacy and decent parentage were usually required; probable services to the society, high birth, uncommon talents, were a recommendation; and a turn for learning, or the management of business, was desired; but habits of piety, regularity, and obedience were indispensable conditions.
Thus admitted, the whole time of the novice was dedicated to prayer, meditation, the practice of penance and self mortification, and the exercise of spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The novitiate generally lasted two years. At the end of it, the novice usually made his first vows.
The vows of every religious order oblige the persons who make them to obedience or perfect submission to the will of their superior, in all things, not inconsistent with the law of God, or the rules of the order to poverty, or an absolute inability of inheriting or acquiring property, except for the benefit of the order*; to chastity, or the renunciation of marriage; and to stability, or perpetual residence in the houses of the order, unless the
*In all catholic countries the inheritance and acquisition of property by professed religious, was either modified or absolutely prohibited by the civil law of the state.-Where it was prohibited, (which was the case in England before the reformation,) the religious person, in respect to property, was considered to be civilly dead.
superior dispense with it. A vow is said to be simple, when it is made in privacy and without any solemnities; it is said to be solemn, when it is made with solemn ceremonies. In the society of Jesus, the novices pronounced their vows aloud in the church, during mass, at the feet of a priest, who held the sacrament in his hands, and in the presence of some persons of the house: he addressed his vows to God.
After the close of the novitiate, it remained for the general to decide to which of the three other classes the novice should belong : while the novice remained in this uncertain situation, he was called an indeterminate jesuit.
The class immediately above the novice, was that of the approved scholars. From these, no other than the first vow was required.
It was supposed, that the novices had acquired a familiar knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages, previously to their entrance into the novitiate. At the end of it, literature was resumed, and the approved scholars went through a course of philosophy and divinity; the former generally lasted two years; the latter three. Between the novices and the approved scholars there was a small difference in the covering of the head. If the approved scholar had not made his vows during his novitiate, he made them during the term of his scholarship: they too were simple vows, and addressed to God.
No description of persons, either secular or regular, more zealously or successfully promoted the studies of their scholars, than the jesuits. They
found it necessary to use the curb, much oftener than the spur. It was a standing rule of the order, that, after an application to study for two hours, the mind of the student should be unbent by some relaxation, however trifling. When father Petavius was employed in his Dogmata Theologica, a work of the most profound and extensive erudition,(which has extorted praise even from Mr. Gibbon), -the great relaxation of the learned father, was, at the end of every second hour, to twirl his chair for five minutes.
Next above the class of the approved scholars, was the class of the coadjutors. But most frequently a second novitiate, which lasted for the term of one year, intervened between the class of scholars and that of coadjutors. During that year,―(as also during their first novitiate),—the whole time of the novice was dedicated to prayer and spiritual exercises; except, that to keep the powers of the memory in activity, they learned every day some lines by heart.
The coadjutors were divided into the spiritual and temporal: the latter answered to the lay brothers of other religious institutions. To the spiritual coadjutors belonged the great functions of the order, hearing confessions, preaching, and instruction.
The highest class in the society was its professed members. They took the same vow as the coadjutors; and promised, in addition, "aspecial obe"dience to the pope, in what related to missions." The number of the professed members was small,
as the constitutions prescribed, that persons only of the most tried and approved virtue, should be admitted into this class. The choice of the general resided exclusively with them. The constitutions of the society excluded all its members from the dignities of the church; the professed members bound themselves by a solemn vow, never to solicit, (and to inform the general of any member who should solicit) ecclesiastical preferment. In some instances, however,-(but these were very rare),the dignities of the church were forced on some members of the body by the pope.
From the time of taking their simple vows, the members were bound to the order, and therefore could not leave it without the permission of the general; but, until their solemn profession, the order was not bound to them, the general therefore might dismiss them against their will from the › society.
It was understood, that, till the jesuit took his solemn vows, though he had interdicted to himself the right of disposing of his property, he did not abdicate his right of succession, acquisition, or legal ownership; still, he held them under the control of his superiors. With the exception of France, every catholic state sanctioned this arrangement: but in France, the members of the society were deprived of their civil right of inheriting, acquiring, or transmitting property, from the time of making their simple vows.
The general held his office for life, and his power was absolute: but he had five assistants; one, for