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Jesuits

Following his pilgrimages, Loyola returned to Spain in 1524 where he would continue to study in Barcelona and even gain a following of his own. Following Barcelona, Loyola continued his studies at the University of Paris. In 1534, Loyola and six of his companions (mostly of Castilian origin) gathered in the outskirt of Paris, beneath the Church of Saint-Denis to profess to live a life of poverty, chastity, and penance. They also swore obedience to the Pope. Thus, the Society of Jesus was born.

Did you know? Though Loyola and his companions were all ordained by 1537 they needed their order to also be so. The only person that could do it was the Pope.

Due to the ongoing Turkish Wars, the Jesuits were unable to travel to the Holy Land, Jerusalem. Instead, they decided to form their Society of Jesus as a religious order. In 1540, by the decree of the Papal Bull Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae, the Society of Jesus became a religious order.

How many Jesuit priests are there today?

The Society of Jesus is the biggest male order in the Catholic Church. There are about 17,000 Jesuit priests in the world. What is interesting is that Jesuits do not only work as priests in parishes but also as doctors, lawyers, journalists or psychologists.

Jesuit missionaries

The Jesuits quickly became a growing religious order. They were even considered to be the Pope’s best apparatus that tackled the greatest issues. Jesuit missionaries began exhibiting a great record of ‘returning’ those who were ‘lost’ to Protestantism. During Loyola’s lifetime, the Jesuit missionaries had been dispatched to Brazil, Ethiopia, and even India and China.

Did you know? The Jesuit charity organisations sought to aid converts such as Jews and Muslims and even former prostitutes who wished to start anew.

Loyola died in 1556, in Rome, where he had spent the majority of his life. By then his order of the Society of Jesus consisted of over 1,000 Jesuit priests. Despite his death, the Jesuits only grew larger with time, and they began covering more land. As the 17th century began, the Jesuits had already begun their mission in Paraguay. For the context of how magnanimous Jesuit missions were, one simply needs to look at the missionary mission of Paraguay.

The Jesuit Mission in Paraguay

To this day, the Jesuit missions in Paraguay are considered some of the most spectacular religious missions in the Catholic Church’s history. The Jesuits managed to learn the local Guarani language and, along with other languages, began preaching the word of God. The Jesuit missionaries not only preached and imparted religious knowledge to the locals but also began building communities with public order, a societal class, culture, and education. The Jesuits played a very large role in the later development of Paraguay.

Jesuits and the Counter-Reformation

The Jesuits were a vital part of the Counter-Reformation as they achieved the Catholic Church's two main aims during the Protestant Reformation: missionary work and education in Catholic beliefs. Thanks to the work of Ignatius de Loyola and the Society of Jesus, Catholicism was able to counter the Protestant advances throughout Europe, and notably in the New World across the Atlantic.

The Society of Jesus was very much a Renaissance order, serving the purpose of stabilising Catholicism amid the surge of Protestantism. As Enlightenment ideals spread at the close of the 17th century, countries began to move to a more secular, political absolute form of government - which the Jesuits opposed, favouring Catholic hegemony and the authority of the Pope instead. As such, Jesuits were expelled from many European countries, such as Portugal, Spain, France, Austria, and Hungary at the end of the 18th century.

Did you know? Pope Clement XIV dissolved the Jesuits in 1773 after pressure from European powers, however, they were restored by Pope Pius VII in 1814.

The Society of Jesus has continued to be suppressed and restored since due to their strict adherence to the Papacy and belief in hegemonic Catholic societies in contrast to new political ideologies. Today, there are over 12,000 Jesuit priests, and the Society of Jesus is the largest Catholic group, still operating in 112 countries, notably in North America, where there are 28 Jesuit-founded universities.

Jesuits - Key takeaways

  • The Society of Jesus was founded by Ignatius of Loyola.
  • The Society of Jesus was formally approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III.
  • Pope Paul III after he decreed the Papal Bull named Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae with which the Society of Jesus began operation.
  • Ignatius of Loyola was initially a soldier who after suffering a wound during the Battle of Pamplona decided to become a priest.
  • The Society of Jesus is the official name of the Jesuit order.
  • The Jesuits lived a life of asceticism with which they "became closer to god".
  • The Jesuits were often employed by the Pope to spread Christianity in the new world and fight the Protestant reformation when it began.
  • It is thanks to the Jesuits that many in the new world were converted to Christianity.

Frequently Asked Questions about Jesuits

The Society of Jesus was founded by Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish Catholic Priest, in 1540.

A Jesuit is a member of the Society of Jesus. The most famous Jesuit is Pope Francis.

Because Spain believed that the present Jesuits also fueled the sentiment of independence in their South American colonies, in order to avoid the same thing from happening in the Philippines, the Jesuits were pronounced illegal entities.

Currently, the Society of Jesus is about 17,000 member strong.

There are 28 Jesuit universities in North America. They are as follows, in founding order:

  1. 1789 - Georgetown University
  2. 1818 - Saint Louis University
  3. 1830 - Spring Hill College
  4. 1841 - Fordham University
  5. 1841 - Xavier University
  6. 1843 - College of the Holy Cross
  7. 1851 - Santa Clara University
  8. 1851 - Saint Joseph's University
  9. 1852 - Loyola College in Maryland
  10. 1855 - University of San Francisco
  11. 1863 - Boston College
  12. 1870 - Loyola University Chicago
  13. 1870 - Canisius College
  14. 1872 - Saint Peter's College
  15. 1877 - University of Detroit Mercy
  16. 1877 - Regis University
  17. 1878 - Creighton University
  18. 1881 - Marquette University
  19. 1886 - John Carroll University
  20. 1887 - Gonzaga University
  21. 1888 - University of Scranton
  22. 1891 - Seattle University
  23. 1910 - Rockhurst College
  24. 1911 - Loyola Marymount University
  25. 1912 - Loyola University, New Orleans
  26. 1942 - Fairfield University
  27. 1946 - Le Moyne College
  28. 1954 - Wheeling Jesuit College

Final Jesuits Quiz

Question

In which battle did Ignatius of Loyola suffer an leg injury?

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Answer

Battle of Pamplona.

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Question

What is a Papal Bull?

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Answer

An official decree signed and issued by the Pope. The term 'bull' derives from the Papal seal, which was used to press down on the wax enclosing the document sent out by the Pope.

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Question

The Society of Jesus was formally approved in 1540, by Pope ____.

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Answer

Paul III.

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Question

The Battle of Pamplona was part of the ______ wars.

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Answer

Italian.

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Question

What is asceticism?

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Answer

The act of avoiding all forms of indulgence for religious reasons.

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Question

Where were the Jesuits missionaries dispatched to convert other nationalities to Catholicism?

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Answer

Latin America.

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Question

Where and why did Ignatius of Loyola leave Spain to devote his life to God?

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Answer

In 1523, Loyola left Spain to travel to the Holy Land and “kiss the land where our Lord walked”. There, he fully committed to a life of asceticism.


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Question

When did the Society of Jesus formally become a religious order?

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Answer

1540 with the Papal Bull titled Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae.

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Question

Do you remember, how exactly Ignatius of Loyola formed the Society of Jesus? 

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Answer

In 1534, Loyola and six of his companions gathered outside Paris, beneath the church of Saint-Denis to profess to live a life of poverty. and chastity. They swore obedience to the Pope, and thus, the Society of Jesus was born.

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Question

The Jesuit mission in ______ is considered to be the most spectacular religious mission in the Catholic Church’s history.

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Answer

Paraguay.

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