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

On Preserving Chastity: To Emerio De Bonis, Rome, May 23, 1556


Emerio de Bonis [1], a scholastic teaching in Padua, had been in the Society only five years and felt somewhat insecure in it. He had been suffering temptations against chastity and decided to write to Ignatius, in a letter that has not survived, opening his soul to him and manifesting his troubled spiritual state. Ignatius had Polanco write a consoling letter to him, indicating remedies he might put to use. Ignatius also offers him the opportunity of coming to Rome to continue his studies. Later in life de Bonis became an eminent director of souls and spiritual writer. Polanco wrote this letter in Italian [Ep. 11:439-440].

Jhus

The peace of Christ.

My dear Master Emerio in Christ;

Our Father has understood what you wrote. Though you show great courage in overcoming the enemy who up to the present has harassed you, but by God's grace has not overcome you, he leaves it to you to decide. Judging that it would be to your greater consolation, whether to come to Rome next September, or to remain in Padua, or to change to some other college in which you could take charge of the first class, as you do there.

In this way you will, with God's help defend yourself. Besides your prayer, make it a point not to look at anyone fixedly in the face, which might cause you any uneasiness of heart. In general, when you deal with the neighbor, let your eyes be averted, and try not to think of this one or that one as handsome or ugly, but rather as the image of the most holy Trinity, as a member of Christ and bathed in His blood. Moreover, do not become familiar with anyone. It will be enough if in school, you fulfill your task as teacher in pure charity and obedience. Always deal with your students in public and not in private, and extern students should not be allowed the run of the house, unless the rector has, in some particular case, given permission. By attending to your progress in God's service and the way of perfection, God will continue to help you.

Also be on your guard against those times and occasions when you are usually attacked. Briefly raise your mind to God. And above all, make a real effort to abide in His presence, frequently recalling that His Infinite Wisdom is present both to the inner and exterior man.

There is no need to multiply remedies if you make faithful use of these. And do not forget the first, which concerns the eyes. You will, then, never complain with him who says: my eyes cause me grief [Lam. 3:51].

Our Father and all of us commend ourselves to your prayers.

From Rome, May 23, 1556.
1. De Bonis was born in Guastalla, in Lombardy, in 1531, and entered the Society in August 1550 in Rome. He was ordained in Rome in 1560 and served as rector of several colleges and gained a reputation for being an eloquent preacher. He died in Naples on April 10, 1595.
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).