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"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

A Letter of Encouragement: To Father Philip Leernus, Rome, December 30, 1553


The college in Modena opened in 1552, and Philip Leernus [1] was its second rector. He wrote to Ignatius protesting his unsuitableness to the task especially because of the dryness of soul he was then experiencing. In this letter of encouragement, Ignatius exhorts him to have confidence in God and in His divine gifts. What is important is solid virtue, and spiritual relish does not make a man perfect nor is it necessary in the divine service. The letter was written in Italian [Ep. 6:109-110].


The peace of Christ.

My dear Father Master Philip:

The office of rector which your reverence holds is in good hands. You ought to be on your guard that your desire for humiliation does not yield to the spirit of faintheartedness. We should not have a petty regard for God's gifts, though we may and should despise our own imperfections. Let your reverence be of good heart and let your companion, Master Giovanni Lorenzo2 help you when he can. Do not lose heart or belittle yourself. Be assured that we have a higher esteem of God's gifts in your reverence than you yourself have.

As to that blindness or dryness of soul which you think you find in yourself, it may easily come from a lack of confidence, or faintheartedness and, consequently, can be cured by the contrary. Above all remember that God looks for solid virtues in us, such as patience, humility, obedience, abnegation of your own will—that is, the good will to serve Him and our neighbor in Him. His providence allows us other devotions only insofar as He sees that they are useful to us. But since they are not essential, they do not make a man perfect when they abound, nor do they make him imperfect when they are absent.

I will say no more, except to pray that Jesus Christ our Lord may be your strength and the support of us all.

From Rome, December 30, 1553.
1. Leernus was born in Flanders about 1525, in the small town of Leerneur, near Liège. His family name was Faber, but he was known in the Society as Philip Leernus, after his native town, as well as Philip of Flanders. He was a priest at the time of his entrance into the Society in Rome in October 1550. He was first stationed at the college in Ferrara and became rector at Modena at the end of 1553. He died in Modena on February 26, 1558.
2. Giovanni Lorenzo Patarini was born on December 25, 1527, in Piacenza, Italy, and entered the Society on April 21, 1551. He studied at Bologna, was ordained there in March 1552, was then stationed in Ferrara and moved to Modena with Philip Leernus. He died in Naples on November 7, 1557.
I. In July 1521, a 30-year-old Basque knight, named Iñigo was brought home to recuperate after his cannonball experience in the battle of Pamplona—his watershed moment. The wounds on his lower limbs led to the first long lockdown in his life, about nine months, during which he read a life of Christ and a book on the lives of the saints, the only reading matter the Loyola castle afforded. He also killed time by recalling tales of martial valor and by day-dreaming about a great lady who captured his heart. Later when he was out of mortal danger, his attention was centered on the saints. This profoundly moved and attracted him that soon after he had barely recovered he resolved to do something about his many sins. To fulfill this he must embark on a journey towards conversion. He followed the holy austerities of the saints, e.g. Francis of Assisi and Dominic, that God sent as his first spiritual guides in his lifelong task towards holiness.
II. "That mission has its fullest meaning in Christ, and can only be understood through him. At its core, holiness is experiencing in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life… The contemplation of these mysteries, as St Ignatius of Loyola pointed out, leads us to incarnate them in our choices and attitudes" (Gaudete et Exsultate— Rejoice and Be Glad, 20).

St Ignatius of Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens c. 1622
III. "This spiritual poverty is closely linked to what St Ignatius of Loyola calls 'holy indifference', which brings us to a radiant interior freedom: 'We need to train ourselves to be indifferent to our attitude to all created things, in all that is permitted to our free will and not forbidden’ so that on our part, we do not set our hearts on good health rather than bad, riches rather than poverty, honour rather than dishonour, a long life rather than a short one, and so in all the rest" (Gaudete et Exsultate— Rejoice and Be Glad, 69).