After its founding in 1540, the Society of Jesus grew rapidly and assumed an important role in the renewal of the Catholic Church. Jesuits were educators, scholars, and missionaries throughout the world. They were also preachers and catechists who devoted themselves to the young, the sick, prisoners, prostitutes, and soldiers. They were often called upon to be confessors to the ruling families of Europe.

By the time of Ignatius’s death in 1556, there were about a thousand Jesuits. One century later, there were over fifteen thousand; near the end of the following century, almost twenty-three thousand.

As time passed, because of the high visibility of the Jesuits among religious orders, their strong defense of the papacy, their work in the missions on behalf of the indigenous peoples, their apparent power at royal courts and in the Church as well as because of their own pride and occasional failings in judgment, they aroused the hostility of many lay and clerical adversaries.

In 1773, bowing to heavy pressure from the courts of France, Spain, Portugal, and Naples, Clement XIV issued a document suppressing the Society of Jesus. He noted that he did so to maintain peace and tranquility within the Church. He listed the charges against the Society, but made no judgment about their accuracy, and avoided making any condemnation of the Society itself.

Jesuit houses and colleges everywhere were seized by the local authorities. Some Jesuits were imprisoned; some were driven into exile. The superior general of the Society, Lorenzo Ricci, was imprisoned in Castel Sant’Angelo where he died two years later.

The Jesuits maintained their corporate identity only in Russia where the Empress Catherine, for her own political reasons, would not allow the papal decree to have its full effect. In the early nineteenth century, novices were admitted to the Society in various parts of the world, including the United States, through affiliation with the Society in Russia.

On August 7, 1814, Pope Pius VII, responding to the desires of those who wished the Jesuits to resume work in education and in the foreign missions, restored the Society throughout the world. By the end of the century Jesuit schools and missions were as numerous as before 1773.

Today, the Society of Jesus has nearly twenty-five thousand members world-wide. Its members dedicate themselves to the service of the Church under their superior general, Very Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach. Through its missions, its parishes, and its educational institutions, it lives out a world-affirming commitment to the service of faith and the promotion of justice.


Posted on Ave Maria
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Ave Maria Online Magazine

We will continue our wonderful goal of a million voices in prayer reaching the high heavens.

Spread the word by sharing this pledge

Tell your friends and family about A Million Hearts Consecrated to Jesus thru Mary as our Fatima Centennial offering.

Ave Maria Online Magazine
Extravagant displays of devotion to Mary gets curtailed as world culture emphasizes the rational, scientific and technological aspects of life. There seems to be no more time for the more affective expressions of religion.

  Then, after a while, people get fed up with the absolutely rational and logical culture, and rediscover religion and the affective part of the human soul and its needs.

  And Mary is one of those.

Love and support for Pope Francis
The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church's life and activity.

  Christ is the Church's Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the successor of the Apostle Peter.

  Yet Christ remains the center, not the Sucessor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the centre.

Browse our archives

A Million Roses for the World
A gift of love, faith and goodwill from the people of the Philippines. Pope Pius IX once said: “Give me an army praying a million rosaries a day and we will conquer the world.” We are not out to conquer the world…but to save it for God to whom it rightly belongs.

%d bloggers like this: