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

On Universal Charity: To Father Lorenzo Of Modena, Rome, May 16, 1556


Fr. Lorenzo of Modena is known principally from this letter. He had been stationed in Ferrara, and when transferred to Modena he gave rosaries to his many penitents as a remembrance of his stay in that city, plus a spiritual document that he had written, which was not free of error. Ignatius received word of this and, thus, he writes to him. He views Lorenzo's gesture as an act of charity, but one somewhat adulterated by human affection. Ignatius instructs him that a Jesuit's charity must be universal, that is, it must be the same for all individuals, no matter what their place of origin, etc. Charity does not prefer one group over another, nor one individual over another. To mix personal preference or human affection with charity is to render it imperfect. When we find ourselves doing this, we must purify our charity. Our apostolate should embrace all, not just those devoted to us. The language of the letter is Italian [Ep. 11:408-409].

Jhs

The peace of Christ.

Beloved in Christ, Father and Brother, Lorenzo of Modena.

We have learned that you have given rosaries and a certain dialogue, full of errors, to, I do not know, how many ladies, who are devoted to you. If that was done without the superior's permission of the superior, it was done badly and for many reasons. Nevertheless, you ought to know that our Society, since it practices a universal charity with regard to all nations and all individuals, does not approve particular affections toward one group or toward this or that person, except when ordinary charity demands it. The Society considers such a mixture of human affection with charity as something imperfect. These gifts and the unnecessary letters seem to be a sign of such affection. The proper spirit of the same Society is also that it does not wish that other persons have such mixed affections toward us. When we meet it, we must purify it as much as possible, or not give occasion to manifest it to these men or women; with them we should have limited relations.

Enough to advert you to this. I heartily commend myself to your prayers.

From Rome, 16 May, 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).