- Missions Religieuses Modernes: "Notre Lieu Est Le Monde"
Taking its origins from a conference organized in 2000 by scholars from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris, this collection of essays examines Catholic missions in Spain and in Portugal, and in their overseas empires, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A helpful introduction by coeditors Pierre-Antoine Fabre and Bernard Vincent places the fourteen essays that follow in a lively historiographical context. The essays published here, which give more attention to Jesuit missions than to others, even to all other missions put together, are divided into three parts: Formation, Vocation, Destination; Mission and Empire; Interior Missions, Distant Missions.
Fabre and Vincent point out the exceptional breadth and depth of the Jesuit archives in Rome: this abundance of sources surely explains at least to some degree a focus on the Society of Jesus. The first three essays in this collection all deal with letters that were sent by individual Jesuits, often young Jesuits preparing for ordination, to the superior general in Rome, asking to be sent to the overseas missions. Some 14,000 such letters are extant, dating from the 1560s through the suppression of the order by Clement XIV in 1773. Fabre's own essay does a fine job of showing how the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, with their emphasis on discernment, on self-knowledge, and on availability to serve Christ with generosity in a great variety of ways, are reflected in these letters. Another type of letter that is central to the research presented here is the correspondence of Jesuit provincial superiors with authorities in Rome regarding candidates for the missions. Charlotte de Castelnau's essay highlights the concern of Portuguese superiors to carefully vet potential missionaries, given that those missioned to the Indies were not sent merely on a trial basis, for they were expected never to return to Europe.
To what extent missionaries were or were not an integral part of Iberian imperialistic aims and practices is a recurring question in this volume. A lengthy essay on the presence of four religious orders in the Philippines emphasizes royal patronage and a relatively high degree of national uniformity among the missionaries sent there. Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits who went to [End Page 1295] the Philippines were mostly Spaniards; though Italians were the most numerous of non-Spanish missionaries in the Philippines, they more often than not came from parts of Italy under Spain's domination, such as Naples. Fabre makes clear that the Jesuits, more than other missionaries, contended with some lively tensions: between an ideal of international mobility and a reality of European national identities and barriers; between an ideal of availability to go anywhere in the world for the greater glory of God and a rapidly growing number of Jesuit schools demanding a certain stability in their staffing.
How different were missions within Spain or Portugal from those in New Spain, the Philippines, India, or Brazil? The essays in part 3 provide an excellent array of case studies that help answer this question. Very often, when Jesuits who requested to be sent overseas were turned down, they might be told to consider that there were Indies at home needing as much attention. An essay by Marie Lucie Copète and Bernard Vincent shows how Jesuit colleges in one part of southern Spain functioned as bases of operations for missions both in urban and rural areas. Federico Palomo's essay examines how in Portugal Jesuit missionaries worked to adapt themselves to local cultures as they called the people to repentance for sin. Strategies of adaptation and accommodation, as Palomo calls them, were central to Jesuit missionary endeavors in many parts of the world, in Europe as well as elsewhere.
This collection of essays offers anything but the definitive word on its vast subject. Some important topics are largely ignored...