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

On Humble Obedience to Superiors' Decisions: To Father Giovanni Francesco Araldo, Rome, September 16, 1554

Fr. Giovanni Francesco Araldo [1] was one of the first Jesuits assigned to the college in Naples. The occasion of this letter was Araldo's taking exception to a decision of his superior Alfonso Salmerón. In Naples a certain Feliciana had, in her charity, taken in six or seven poor girls, supported them by begging alms, and took them once a week to the Jesuit church to receive the sacraments. When the Jesuits decided to move into a residence of their own, Feliciana also thought of moving so that she and her young ladies could be near them, making it easier for her charges to receive spiritual direction. Salmerón approached Feliciana and suggested that it would not be a good idea for her to move so near to them, for such a move could only become fuel for the Neapolitan gossips. If she insisted on moving, Salmerón informed her, he would have no other alternative but to deny them the sacraments at the Jesuit church. The Jesuits moved and so did Feliciana. The house she rented was opposite the Jesuits, and her windows looked into those of the Jesuits. Araldo continued directing the young ladies, but now that they were so near he also began paying them frequent visits. To prevent any scandal Salmerón felt it necessary to carry out the threat he had previously made and, thus, he denied the sacraments to Feliciana and her ladies. Thinking Salmerón's action wrong and unjust, Araldo wrote to Andrés de Oviedo2 to intercede with Ignatius so that he could countermand Salmerón's order. Having read Araldo's letter Ignatius sent this stern reproof telling him that he had overstepped the limits of obedience and humility, and that his superior would not have done what he had done unless he had good reasons to do so. The problem was solved when Salmerón found places for the young ladies in several reputable monasteries. Polanco's letter was written in Italian [Ep. 7:528-529].

My dear Father in Christ, Master John Francis:

I have read your letter to Master Andrew, and feel convinced that your good will and fervent desire to serve God have prompted you to write as you have. It is clear, however, that you have gone beyond the limits of holy obedience and her mother, humility, in thus manifesting an opinion that differs from and is even opposed to that of Father Master Salmerón, whose mind you wish to change as though he had made a mistake. And yet, if you remember that he is superior with the light of learning and prudence and experience that are his, to say nothing of the special help and light he receives from God our Lord to direct him in his duty as head of the college, you would see that it is easier for your judgment to be wrong than his, and that you ought to be more willing to submit your judgment to his than to set aside his for yours. For myself, I believe that Father Salmerón would not have forbidden these ladies to receive the sacraments in your church except for grave reasons. While he does not write me so, I fancy that the proximity of their house to the college could give rise to some suspicion. There might, of course, be a different reason known to him who has a more general view of the situation than has he who looks at it from a single point of view. It is because of this special love I bear your reverence that I wish to bring this to your attention.

I commend myself to the prayers and sacrifices of your charity.

September 16, 1554.
1. Araldo was born in Cagli, near Pesaro, Italy, in 1522. He entered the Society in Rome on February 24, 1551, after serving Cardinal Rodolfo Pio di Carpi, the Society’s Cardinal Protector, as secretary for seven years. In January 1552 Araldo went in the first group of Jesuits to open a college in Naples, where he was ordained on February 4, 1553. The notes he used for teaching Christian doctrine to his students were published in 1553 as Compendio della dottrina cristiana, one of the first Jesuit attempts at producing a catechism. In 1554, the year of the Feliciana affair, Araldo also initiated among the laity of Naples two successful sodalities or congregations (one for men, the other for women), whose members received the sacraments regularly, taught catechism, visited hospitals, reconciled enemies, and encouraged others to the frequent reception of the sacraments. Araldo was called to Rome in 1569, but returned to Naples in 1577, and died there on May 10, 1599.
2. When Araldo went to Naples, Oviedo was the superior of the group and the first rector of the new college. Having been named a bishop, Oviedo was in Rome waiting to set out for Lisbon, whence he would embark for Ethiopia.

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, eg Francis of Assisi, Onuphrius of Egypt 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).