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

On the Need for Interior Change: To Bartolomeo Romano, Rome, January 26, 1555


Bartolomeo [1] was a scholastic at the college in Ferrara, and from various reports sent to Rome it appears that he was discontented, and had complained about the school and the Jesuits in his community. Ignatius took no action until he had a chance to hear from Bartolomeo himself, and so he had Polanco write to him on November 24, 1554 [Ep. 8:96]. Bartolomeo answered Ignatius toward the end of December or early January, but his letter has not survived. From Ignatius' response, however, we conclude that Bartolomeo was attributing his internal disquiet to his work at the college, his superiors, and those with whom he was living and, consequently, he requested a change of residence. In answering him Ignatius tells him that it is his conduct that must change and not his place of residence. Bartolomeo's disquiet was coming from within him; unless that part of him changes, he will not be happy anywhere. Ignatius, therefore, exhorts him to practice humility, obedience, and self-denial. Finally, showing his interest in the young man, Ignatius asks him to write every month describing his progress in virtue and in studies. Ignatius' letter was written in Italian [Ep. 8:328-329].




The peace of Christ.

My dear Brother Bartolomeo:

From your letters and the letters of others, but especially from yours, we have some understanding of your state of mind. We are all the more disappointed in this, since we have such great desires of your spiritual good and eternal salvation.

You are mistaken in thinking that the cause of your disquiet, or little progress in the Lord, is due to the place, or your superiors, or your brethren. This disquiet comes from within and not from without. I mean from your lack of humility, obedience, prayer, and your slight mortification, in a word, your little fervor in advancing in the way of perfection. You could change residence, superiors, and brethren, but if you do not change the interior man, you will never do good. And you will everywhere be the same, unless you succeed in being humble, obedient, devout, and mortified in your self-love. This is the only change you should seek. I mean that you should try to change the interior man and lead him back like a servant to God.

Do not think of any mere external change, because if you are not good there in Ferrara, you will not be good in any college. We are all the more certain of this, for we know you can be helped more in Ferrara than elsewhere. I will give you one bit of advice: humble yourself sincerely before your superior, ask his help, open your heart to him in confession, or however you like, and accept with devotion the remedy he offers. Occupy yourself in beholding and bewailing your own imperfections rather than contemplating the imperfections of others. Try to give more edification in the future, and do not, I beg you, try the patience of those who love you in Jesus Christ our Lord, and who would like to see you His good and perfect servant.

Write me a few lines every month on how you are getting on with your humility, obedience, prayer, and the desire for perfection. Also let me know what progress you are making in your studies. May Christ our Lord have you in His blessing.

From Rome, January 26.
1. Bartolomeo’s family name is unknown, but he was called Romano after the city of his birth. He joined the Jesuits in 1553, probably in Rome, but then left the Society in March 1556.
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).