The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus as a Resource for Ignatian Pedagogy

di James E. Grummer S.I.


Perfectae Caritatis, the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the adaptation and renewal of religious life, mandated “the constant return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institutes and their adaptation to the changed conditions of our time[1]. The decree, approved by over 99.8% of the Council Fathers and promulgated by Saint Paul VI in October 1965, officially confirmed developments that had been going on for decades. As we know from John McGreevy’s survey of Catholicism in the 19th and 20th centuries, the response of the Church to the upheaval and depredations that followed the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the Industrial Revolution, neocolonial empire building, and other developments in the period eventually led to opportunities for movements like expanded missionary activity on every continent, the Neo-Thomistic revival, and the resourcement for theological reflection[2]. It is updating and renewal by returning to the charismatic origins of the Society of Jesus that I want to focus (Aldama, Antonio M. de 1989) on in this paper.

In fact, at the time of the Council the Society of Jesus was especially familiar with the importance of “the original spirit of the institutes and their adaptation to the changed conditions of our time,” because it had spent the previous 150 years striving to renew itself by returning to its Ignatian origins after the various Suppressions of the late 18th century that had culminated in the universal suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773. Although historians have increasingly demonstrated that the Suppression was never as universal and complete as the enemies of the Jesuits might have desired, almost all the Jesuits in western Europe who led the Society’s reestablishment after Pius VII issued the papal bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum (The care of all churches) in 1814 learned about Jesuit life exclusively from original source texts. Only in the Russian empire did a direct line of personal and communal experience—an apostolic line of succession one might say—link the lived experience of one generation of Jesuits after another to the daily experience of the first Jesuits. Generals like Jan Roothaan and Superiors like Franciszek Dzierożyński, who had been formed in and by communities of Jesuits that could trace their lineage to the original Jesuit community of 1540, were rarae aves indeed. Outside the Russian empire, Jesuits learned how to be Jesuits solely by studying the texts of Saint Ignatius, and they generally read those texts through the lens of religious life as lived by contemplative and monastic religious congregations. How that lens refracted their vision is a topic for another time. In any case, encouraged especially by Roothaan (Superior General, 1829-1853) and Luis Martín (Superior General, 1892-1906), Jesuits were quite familiar with and even adept at returning to original texts by the middle of the 20th century[3].

The return of religious congregations to the original spirit of their institutes articulated one dimension of Council’s perspective, as Lumen gentium (8) reminds us, that the Church must seek continual renewal: “Ecclesia in proprio sinu peccatores complectens, sancta simul et semper purificanda, poenitentiam et renovationem continuo prosequitur” (Embracing sinners, the Church, simulteously holy and always being purified, necessarily seeks a change of attitude and renewal). In this context, we should not be surprised or upset that some call for further reform, that others demand a reform of the reform, or that someday there will be a reform of the reform of the reform! Reform and renewal are necessary facets of the continual interplay between past and present as the pilgrim People of God walk together on the path that leads to their ultimate destiny. These pages will emphasize that we have a great deal to learn from those who have gone before us and that ongoing change is needed in every generation, and even within every generation, if we are to take seriously the evangelical command to “Go forth and teach all nations.”

To learn from the past some things that are important for the future, I will look at an important Ignatian and Jesuit text that has not received as much attention as the Spiritual Exercises in Jesuit and Ignatian renewal in the past two generations. I will examine one small but important part of the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus that can provide an important resource for a pedagogy that can evolve over time and that can help us respond to the needs of students and their teachers of students of today and evolve toward tomorrow. Thus, I will outline a few characteristics of Ignatian pedagogy that emerge in the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. I will briefly suggest how the early Jesuits seem to have used the insight of this pedagogy in formulating the Ratio Studiorum of 1599 as week as the dangers of success, for successive generations of Jesuits overlooked the importance of adapting “to places, times, and persons[4]. I will survey ongoing attempts since Vatican II to update and renew Jesuit education, and I will conclude by placing the papal letter Veritatis Gaudium about ecclesiastical universities in this context of renewal and reform through experiential adaptation.

The first 133 paragraphs of the Jesuit Constitutions were most likely composed in 1546, while the nascent Society of Jesus operated under preliminary approval as an experiment. This particular section, known as the Examen, presents questions “which should be proposed to all who request admission into the Society of Jesus”[5]. However, these paragraphs also present “Some observances within the Society which are more important for the candidates to know[6]. Thus, the Examen has two important and interrelated dimensions: First, it assists the candidate by ensuring that he has enough pertinent information about “observances within the Society” of Jesus to help him determine if he really thinks he can do what Jesuits say they do for the rest of his life. Second, the Examen assists Jesuit examiners by eliciting information about the candidate’s potential to be a happy and effective Jesuit, while also ensuring that there are no preexisting conditions that might preclude acceptance into the Society. Therefore, the Examen is a double examination, testing the examiner as well as the examinee. By means of this process, a candidate and the Society of Jesus engage in an encounter in which the two parties learn from each other.

From these two simple chapter headings we can take an important initial pedagogical principal from the Constitutions, one which has fundamental implications for the educational enterprise. It touches on the vital relationship between student and teacher. The two are partners in a mutual exchange whereby each learns from the other; they cooperate in a process of learning that is crucial for both. I do not mean to suggest a relationship of equality. Our current attention to and preoccupation with the power differential that exists in relationships must underline the fact that the relationship between teacher and students is not that of peers. Teachers have grave responsibility for appreciating the influence they exercise over students who are vulnerable no matter their age, gender, or competence. Nonetheless, while students obviously come to school because they want to learn from their teachers, teachers have much to learn from their students. In fact, teachers ignore this dimension of their relationship with students to the detriment of what happens in the classroom. Thus, even before examining a specific section of the Examen, we see a fundamental principle for Ignatian and Jesuit pedagogy: Students and teachers learn from one another.

As part of the Examen, Ignatius and his early collaborators presented “six principal testing experiences”[7] that all Jesuit novices ought to experience before beginning the course of studies that would ultimately lead to definitive incorporation in the Society of Jesus as a fully formed Jesuit[8]. In this paper I am suggesting that these six experiences are analogues for the educational process, especially at theological institutions of higher learning.

Before I discuss the details of the individual experiences and how they might facilitate the preparation of a particular course, I want to point out that all six are experiences. Novices learn about their most basic capacities, their strengths and weaknesses, by taking part in six different experiences that test them in various ways while also training them for their future life as Jesuits. Concomitantly, Jesuit superiors learn from the successes and failures of the experiments who will profit from further training, what that training should entail, and who would probably succeed better elsewhere.

George Ganss, a US Jesuit who made available the first English-language version of the Constitutions only fifty-four years ago, explained that for a 16th century Spaniard “esperiencia has three important meanings: (1) a testing, (2) experience, the knowledge gained through doing or testing rather than instruction, and (3) an experiment through which such knowledge is gained, often by trial and error.” Although in different contexts the emphasis in the Constitutions may focus in a particular way on one of these meanings, the other two meanings are usually included by implication or connotation[9]. The important point is that testing during the novitiate provides information based on the observed behavior of a man in specific conditions. Thus, one might say that the Examen is signaling the importance of experience in Jesuit life but also in what has come to be known as Ignatian spirituality. Didactic instruction is obviously important, but what one learns experientially in a personal way, through trial and error, by engaging or not engaging in particular behaviors, is what really counts for the observer and the one observed. Hence, we arrive at a second important Ignatian pedagogical principle: learning is experiential.

The six novitiate experiments emerged from the lived experience of the first Jesuits, and they highlight some of the principal means by which Ignatius and his friends believed God had led them to companionship for serving the Church. In a number of different ways, the first Jesuits were convinced that God had worked through various incidents in their lives to form them as individuals as well as an apostolic community. They distilled their common experiences into six different experiments, probations, or tests, that could determine if the novice could join them.

After I list all six experiments, I will describe the primary intent of each in testing a novice. I will then discuss what each of the six might contribute to contemporary pedagogy and classroom practice.

“The first experience consists in making the Spiritual Exercises for one month or a little more or a little less…”

“The second experience is to serve for another month in hospitals, or one of them….in order to lower and humble themselves more, thus giving clear proof of themselves to the effect that they are completely giving up the world…”

“The third experience is to spend another month in making a pilgrimage without money and even begging from door to door… in order to grow accustomed to discomfort in food and lodging…abandoning all the reliance which he could have in money or other created things…”

“The fourth experience consists in the candidate’s employing himself… with complete diligence and care in various low and humble offices, while giving a good example of himself in all of them.”

“The fifth experience is that of explaining the Christian doctrine or part of it in public to children and other simple persons, or of teaching to individuals…”

“In a sixth experience, the candidate, after having been tested and found edifying, will proceed farther by preaching or hearing confessions, or by laboring in both together, in accordance with the time, places, and capacity of all”[10].


The first experience is the most fundamental and important for a Jesuit novice. Although people who are not Jesuits sometimes make the entire Spiritual Exercises, they are few in number. However, all Jesuits make the month-long retreat twice in their lives. Thus, a specifically Jesuit requirement, making a thirty-day silent retreat is a kind of a rite of passage. One cannot become a Jesuit without personal engagement and sustained commitment to prayer for about thirty days. Each Jesuit knows that his fellow Jesuits everywhere in the world have prayed through the same meditations and contemplations. In addition, by making the Exercises, each novice attains intimate knowledge of the foundations of Ignatian spirituality and a perspective on reality shared by all Jesuits. The retreat is a rite of passage that all Jesuits undertake, and it gives them access to knowledge, experiences, and modes of expression that all Jesuits share, no matter their age or where they are in the world.

For a novice, however, even more important than the sociological dimension of the retreat as a rite of passage and source of communal knowledge, is attaining the goal of the Spiritual Exercises: ridding oneself of all “disordered affections and then after their removal, of seeking finding God’s will in the ordering of our life and the salvation of our soul.”(Loyola, Ignatius and Ganss 1992, 21, [1]) One reaches that goal by engaging in four or five hours of personal prayer and by living apart from others in a silent atmosphere that promotes prayer and personal reflection. Giving themselves completely to the Exercises for a month, novices personally discover, Ignatian perspectives on reality by experiencing them in deeply personal and individual ways. Rather than being told what to think and believe, they have the privilege and freedom to learn from their own experience. As Ignatius explains

The person who gives to another the method and procedure for meditating or contemplating should accurately narrate the history contained in the contemplation or meditation, going over the points with only a brief or summary explanation. For in this way the person who is contemplating, by taking this history as the authentic foundation, and by reflecting on it and reasoning about it for oneself, can thus discover something that will bring better understanding or a more personalized concept of the history—either through one’s own reasoning or insofar as the understanding is enlightened by God’s grace. This brings more spiritual relish and spiritual fruit than if the one giving the Exercises had lengthily explained and amplified the meaning of the history. For what fills and satisfies the soul consists not in knowing much, but in our understanding the realities profoundly and in savoring them interiorly.(Loyola, Ignatius and Ganss 1992, 21-22, [2].)

Thus, novices who make the Spiritual Exercises experience their own unique, particular, and individual appropriation that does not impose upon them a one-size-fits-all conformity.

Two important points emerge from a consideration of the first experience of the Examen for Jesuit novices: all of them undertake a rite of passage that binds them with other Jesuits and each of them experiences a personal appropriation of fundamental guiding principles through a highly individualized process. We sophisticated citizens of the 21st century might like to think of rites of passage as something characteristic only of primitive cultures, as something that we have transcended. However, they provide meaning and belonging in a world that is increasingly chaotic and individualistic. In fact, as we know, many academic disciplines have similar threshold experiences that students must undergo in order to progress in their course of studies. For example, pre-med students have to “survive” organic chemistry, and their “survival” ensures both a sense of personal accomplishment that comes from completing a difficult task and a sense of camaraderie with fellow students who have similarly succeeded. Devising simple rituals that acknowledge students’ successful completion of difficult tasks can help them feel part of a group of like-minded people who seek a goal together.

At the same time, however, students profit from pursuing their own learning. While they need guidance and supervision to make sure they do not get lost along the way, classroom activities and assignments that promote student efforts to think for themselves and that lead them to learn basic principles by their own exertions should be preferred to telling them the answers or what to think. The most effective teachers demonstrate how to fish rather than passing out sardines. Considering the first novitiate experiment suggests two more pedagogical principles: building a community of learners facilitates learning, but insisting on individual experiences plays a crucial role as well.

The second experiment requires novices to work in a hospital for a month. The first Jesuits appreciated that working in the hospitals of their time provided them opportunities to practice humility. When they worked in hospitals they were not well-educated students of philosophy and theology with impressive academic degrees from one of the greatest institutions of the age; they were mortal men, subject to the same vulnerability and suffering they saw in the crowded and unsanitary places where the sick and elderly of early modern Europe were shunted if they could not take care of themselves. The experiment the first Jesuits envisioned for novices was all about training them in humility, in recognizing the privilege they had in being able to work, and in experiencing the blessing one receives when serving others.

The humility these early Jesuits had in mind was not the false humility of self-deprecation that denies that one has talents and training. In fact, genuine humility is recognition of the truth that we are creatures; that everything we have and are has been given to us. As the etymology of the word suggests, we are humus, (a Latin word for dirt or soil), and to humus we will return. What better lesson can teachers provide than experiences in which students learn that their importance and significance comes from the simple fact of their existence and not from any successes or accomplishments; that using our talents and training for the service of others rather than for self-aggrandizement is the path of true happiness and fulfillment; that serving the less fortunate is a constitutive dimension of happiness? Directing students along the narrow path of humility rather than the wide road of hubris and overweening pride is certainly counter-cultural today, but taking that narrow pathway empowers students to embrace life as a gift to share with others rather than something to horde.

The hospital experiment suggests that teachers interested in applying lessons that the first Jesuits learned for themselves and desired for novices need to focus on inculcating methodology and process rather than passing on content. Projects and experiences that encourage students to use what they already know while stretching them to see what more they are capable of doing is crucial in this regard. Evaluation should encourage students to grow in the humility that is truth, not by assigning letters or numbers that often seem to objectify them on the basis of what they lack, but by giving them honest feedback about what they have learned as well as where they need to improve. Since many students seem to think of grading as a life-or-death issue, teachers provide helpful perspective by emphasizing what is truly important. We might formulate the lesson of the hospital experience in this way: humility is an essential virtue for anyone who wishes to learn.

The pilgrimage seems to be the most challenging yet rewarding experiences for contemporary novices who undertake it, perhaps because it is so countercultural. Spending thirty days on the road with only enough money in their pocket to buy a bus ticket home is a daunting prospect for 21st century men accustomed to contemporary tourism. Begging from strangers for necessities like a place to sleep or food to eat is a new and threatening experience because it is so alien to their usual way of being in the world. At the same time, the narratives of their time of pilgrimage highlight the goodness and generosity of other human beings in radical ways. Random acts of kindness abound, and the men are deeply moved by encounters with people they have never met who go out of their way to be helpful and generous. Although the novices sometimes encounter with the dark underbelly of the human condition, more frequently they are overwhelmed by the number of providential coincidences that lead them to greater thankfulness for a providential benevolence that seems to guide their paths and in which they increasingly learn to trust. By the end of the month of pilgrimage, they have become so accustomed to discomforts in food and lodging that they stop worrying and longing for what they lack; they simply enjoy what comes their way.

Obviously, growing “accustomed to discomfort in food and lodging” would seem to have little to do with being a student today. However, if we think about the pilgrimage analogously, the words make more sense. Although becoming accustomed to discomfort is clearly not a condition we eagerly embrace, it points us in the direction of solidarity with the least of our sisters and brothers who constantly feel discomfort in food and lodging. Thus, rather than encouraging our students to accumulate honors and prestige, we might encourage them to think about the material they study might become a blessing to those who do not enjoy the privileged resources they have. One might call to mind the genuine humility mentioned in relation to the hospital experiment. Students who learn the truth that they have the capacity to make the world a better place can learn the satisfaction of doing so. Reminding them to apply what they learn for the benefit of people with different gifts can assist them greatly. This kind of education can easily begin in the classroom when students with superior skills and training assist those who struggle for various reasons. Rather than competing against one another, students can learn to cooperate with one another so that all profit from the educational experience.

The solidarity with the less fortunate and the humble service based in truth just mentioned in conjunction with the hospital experience also play key roles in the fourth and fifth experiments of the novitiate. For example, all of the fourteen novices I have worked with this year have bachelor’s degrees, and five of them have master’s degrees. Half exercised important positions of authority and influence in businesses, schools, and government before they came to the novitiate. Yet twice a week they vacuum the hallways, take out the compost, scrub the kitchen, and clean the toilets, jobs that a number of them paid others to do less than a year ago. They do these jobs under the direction of one another, often told what to do by someone with no previous experience of directing the work of others. Furthermore, despite their many prestigious academic credentials, they taught catechism “to children and other simple persons” for four months this fall.

What can we learn about pedagogy from these pious novitiate practices? First, none of us is better, more deserving, or superior to anyone else in the classroom. Second, we all have something to learn from one another; we all have something to teach one another. Managing a class in such a way that everyone shows respect for everyone else, that no questions are disdained, and that all make contributions for the benefit of all is important. Promoting this kind of classroom atmosphere requires that we make a greater commitment to the people taking the class than to covering the material in the syllabus. It requires trust that the students will learn how to take charge of their own learning. It takes creativity and vulnerability, but the reward is a classroom in which all feel respected, confident they can direct their own studies, prepared to learn from others, and ready to learn from everyone else.

In addition, teaching children and uneducated people is a good way to demonstrate mastery of the material already learned and now take for granted or to realize that one does not know the material nearly as well as one had thought. The kinds of issues raised by those who have less experience can raise refreshing questions that invite one to plumb the depths of experience and to stretch one’s intelligence rather than depend on memorized formulae that are less than satisfying to those who don’t know them. Pairing students who have mastered what is to be learned with those who have not yet mastered the material can be beneficial for the students as well as a good way to free the teacher for other tasks. Thus, these two novitiate experiences can be more helpful for today’s pedagogy than we might expect.

The sixth experiment has to do with preaching and hearing confessions, which both demand developed communication skills. Similarly, students need to be able to communicate to others what they have learned. While writing usually receives adequate attention in a course, seeing it as an important experience that students need to develop as a tool of effective communication with various audiences can give more meaning and focus to writing a paper that might otherwise become a dreary burden.

A key dimension of Ignatian pedagogy is found in the last phrase of the explanation of the sixth experiment: “in accordance with the time, places, and capacity of all.” Practitioners of Ignatian Spirituality know that “The Spiritual Exercises should be adapted to the disposition of persons who desire to make them, that is, to their age, education, and ability.”(Loyola, Ignatius and Ganss 1992, 26 [18]) Just as novices need to adapt their preaching to particular audiences, teachers should adapt their material and presentations to the capacity of their students, for learning always takes place in a context that must be acknowledged and respected.

Let me conclude this section with a summary of eight elements of Ignatian pedagogy that we can take from the Examen:

1.Learning is a shared exchange between teacher and student.
2.Learning should be experiential.
3.Forming a group identity and sense of community promotes learning.
4.Learning emerges from personal experience.
5.Humility is an essential educational virtue.
6.Solidarity with the less privileged and gifted promotes learning.
7.Students learn by teaching one another.
8.Learning is contextual and should be adapted to the needs of the learners.

Having examined these texts for testing and training novices, we might ask ourselves what happened to them over time. Philip Endean has noted that at least one of the six novitiate experiments, so carefully outlined in the Examen, quickly passed out of use. In fact, by the time of Ignatius’s death in 1556, for various reasons the pilgrimage rarely happened. In particular, many novice became sick during the pilgrimage or failed to return at all from wherever they had been sent.(Endean, Philip 1980) While some might lament that those who came after Ignatius fell away from the original charism almost immediately, others might point out that the pilgrimage disappeared from the novitiate regimen precisely because the second generation of Jesuits took so seriously the principle of learning from experience. Without hesitation or scruple they stopped doing what had the master had legislated when they found it counterproductive and unable to accomplish the intended goal. Their decision affirms the early Society’s fidelity to the principle of learning from experience.

Learning from and responding to experience was also at the heart of the process of developing a tool for conducting schools that remained in force for 225 years and which remained an ideal for Jesuit schools until 1975. The history of this document, the famous Ratio Studiorum that was developed in response to the tremendous expansion of the educational apostolate in the Society, demonstrates the benefit of paying close attention to experience as well as the peril of not continuing to respond to new experiences.

In 1548, eight years into the limited and provisional experiment that received final papal approbation and validation two years later, ten Jesuits opened the first Jesuit school in Messina in Sicily. When Saint Ignatius died eight years later, Jesuits worked in 33 European schools and six others had been approved.(Bangert 1986, 28) By the end of the century Jesuits worked in over 200 schools in Europe alone. 16th century Jesuits took this experience seriously and eventually formulated the Ratio Studiorum as the masterplan for every Jesuit school in the world. Judiciously combining methods that the first Jesuits learned at the University of Paris with the Renaissance humanism that surrounded them in Italy, they published the Ratio in 1599 after decades of experimentation, consultation, and study, all aimed at the approach to take in conducting schools[11].

Unfortunately, the brilliantly successful program that was the result of so much effort became a victim of its own success. For various reasons, Jesuits after 1599 saw the Ratio as so well constructed that they did not continue the process of consultation and adaptation that led to the formulation of the Ratio. In some respects, they were so busy implementing the highly successful Ratio that they did not ask themselves if it continued to respond to the needs of the increasingly varied contexts in which the Society functioned. The extraordinary effort expended in implementing the original Ratio became increasingly unimaginable as the Jesuit network of schools expanded in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Instead of responding to new contexts, Jesuits doubled down on their bets. Thus, over time, Greek and Latin texts that seemed less and less significant because local languages and literature grew in importance, remained at the center of the Jesuits’ curriculum committed to and built on ancient languages. Although the Enlightment and the Scientific Revolution shifted the focus of schools toward vernacular languages and science, Jesuits generally remained convinced that their Ratio was superior to any other curriculum. Accommodation to time, places, and capacity seldom occurred. By 1773 when the universal Society was suppressed, a major charge leveled against the Jesuits was that their unchanging educational were detrimental to students.

Jesuits were, in fact, loath to abandon their synthesis of the modus Parisiensis and Renaissance grammar schools, a program that served students well for generations. Surely, they said, a program that had flourished decade after decade for as long as anyone could remember did not need to change, especially since it was based on the fundamental texts of western civilization. Thus, while minor departures from the Ratio Studiorum were sometimes allowed for slight local adaptations, most Jesuits were convinced that there was little or no need to make any substantive changes.

Throughout the 19th century General Congregations recommended revisions, but the increasingly formidable task resulted in provisional texts that could never be implemented universally[12]. Proposals were prepared, but they were never definitively authorized. Replacing the Ratio was simply not feasible, as the 25th General Congregation stated in 1906, “…in these times of ours, characterized by such variety and instability in legislation concerning school and the subject matter taught there,” revising the Ratio should not be attempted at this time.(Padberg, McCarthy, and O’Keefe 1994, 496) Nonetheless, General Congregation 31, as late as 1966, called for an updated Ratio.(“Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees and Accompanying Documents of the 31st–35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus – Paperback,” n.d., 83) However, in spite of the numerous efforts to respond in other areas to the mandate of Perfectae Charitatis for adaptation and renewal, little was done about education in the 1960s and 1970s,.

Recognizing the problems that needed attention, in 1980 Father Pedro Arrupe convened a small group of Jesuit educational experts from throughout the world, asking them to suggest some kind of renewal of the schools that might contribute to the Church’s mission. Eventually an international commission of Jesuits worked four years to prepare Go Forth and Teach: The Characteristics of Jesuit Education, a document that identifies twenty-eight descriptors that should describe Jesuit schools throughout the world.(Mesa, José 2017, 287–366) In 1993, a similarly international group, this time including the full and active participation of lay men and women, Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach, a document that presents a five step process for using Ignatian principles in any the classroom in the world.(Mesa, José 2017, 367–423) Most recently, Father General Arturo Sosa’s secretariat for education, a team of men and women from the network of Jesuit schools throughout the world led by Father José Mesa, S.J., produced Jesuit Schools: A Living Tradition. This resource establishes an ongoing process of discernment and decision-making at various levels of authority to help Jesuit schools respond to the signs of the times while maintaining key values that link the schools with each other, the Society of Jesus, and the Ignatian tradition.(Society of Jesus 2019) Taken together these three documents provide helpful insights as well as practical suggestions for ongoing adaptation to the signs of the times that highlight Ignatian principles.

From the perspective of these attempts at reform and renewal during the past forty years, we might better understand the apostolic constitution on ecclesiastical institutions that took effect in January 2018. Veritatis Gaudium, presents four common norms intended for application throughout the world. All four have links to the six experiments of novitiate formation and to the eight Ignatian principles for education from the Examen identified in this presentation[13]. These connections should not surprise us, for the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus informed Francis’s years of Jesuit training and experience, especially as director of novices and Provincial. Even more significantly, the norms rest on the insights of contemporary pedagogy, the modus Parisiensis and Renaissance grammar schools of our time. Just as Saint Augustine was unafraid to recommend that Christians plunder the classics of the ancient world to serve new purposes, we should not hesitate to use venerable texts like the Examen, as well as the insights our contemporaries have to offer, as we reform and renew our pedagogy. Simultaneously holy and in need of purification, we need to take advantage of all the help we can as we travel our pilgrim way of ever-changing contexts of time and place and capacity.



Aldama, Antonio M. de. The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus: An Introductory Commentary on the Constitutions. St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1989.

Bangert, William V. A History of the Society of Jesus. 2nd ed. rev. The Institute of Jesuit Sources. Series 3 Original Studies 003. St. Louis (MO): The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1986.

Duminuco, Vincent J., and School of Education, eds. The Jesuit Ratio Studiorum: 400th Anniversary Perspectives. 1. ed. New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 2000.

Endean, Philip. “Origins of Apostolic Formation: Jerome Nadal and Novitiate Experiments.” The Way Supplement, no. 39 (1980): 57–82.

John W. Padberg, ed. Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees and Accompanying Documents of the 31st–35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus. St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009.

Loyola, Ignatius. The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. Edited by Ganss, George E. Translated by George E. Ganss. St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1970.

________. The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. Edited by George E. Ganss. Series I: Jesuit Primary Sources in English Translation. St. Louis (MO): The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1992.

McGreevy, John T. Catholicism: A Global History from the French Revolution to Pope Francis. W. W. Norton, 2022.

Mesa, José, José Mesa, ed. Ignatian Pedagogy: Classic and Contemporary Texts on Jesuit Education from St. Ignatius to Today. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2017.

O’Malley, John W. “How We Were: Life in a Jesuit Novitiate, 1946-1948.” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 51 (2019): 1–76.

O’Malley, John W., and Timothy W. O’Brien. 2020. “The Twentieth-Century Construction of Ignatian Spirituality: A Sketch.” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 52 (3).

Padberg, John W. ed., John L. ed. McCarthy, and Martin D O’Keefe ed. For Matters of Greater Moment: The First Thirty Jesuit General Congregations a Brief History and a Translation of the Decrees. Series I Jesuit Primary Sources in English Translation 012. St. Louis (MO): The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1994.

Rowland, Tracey, 1963-. Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican Ii. Radical Orthodoxy Series. London: Routledge, 2003.

Society of Jesus. “Jesuit Schools: A_Living_Tradition_EN.Pdf.”, 2019.


  1. Perfectae Charitatis, n.2.

  2. McGreevy,John T., Catholicism: A Global History from the French Revolution to Pope Francis (W. W. Norton, 2022).

  3. See O’Malley, John W. and O’Brien Timothy W., “The Twentieth-Century Construction of Ignatian Spirituality: A Sketch,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 52, no. 3 (November 23, 2020) and O’Malley, John W., “How We Were: Life in a Jesuit Novitiate, 1946-1948,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 51, no. 2 (August 19, 2019): 1–76 for institutional and personal accounts of the impact of ressourcemont.

  4. Loyola, Ignatius, The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, Ganss, George E., (ed. and trans.), (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1970) [455]. See also Spiritual Exercises [18].

  5. Loyola, Constitutions, 75.

  6. Loyola, Constitutions, 92.

  7. Loyola, Constitutions, [64].

  8. Aldama, Antonio M. de, The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus: An Introductory Commentary on the Constitutions (St. Louis (MO): Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1989), 9.

  9. Loyola, Constitution, 82, footnote 23.

  10. Loyola, Consitutions, 96-98, [65-70].

  11. Duminuco, Vincent J. and School of Education, (eds.), The Jesuit Ratio Studiorum: 400th Anniversary Perspectives, 1. ed (New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 2000) provides a number of excellent essays that chart the origins, developments, and afterlife of the Ratio Studiorum.

  12. General Congregations recommended that Superiors General prepare provisional revisions in 1785, 1820, 1829, 1853, 1838, and 1946 but no draft ever received final approval. See (Padberg, John W., McCarthy, John, and O’Keefe, Martin, For Matters of Greater Moement (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1994), 411, 430, 440, 455, 507, 611, 638.

  13. For example, passing on the truth of the kerygma requires skills for preaching and teaching. Dialoguing with others, even those with whom we disagree, is a pilgrimage of faith demanding humility. Engaging in interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary integration requires a willingness to walk humbly in mutuality with others, even as we profess with conviction what we believe. Networking with others makes possible greater service of the vulnerable and suffering.