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Reviewed by:
  • The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits
  • Robert Aleksander Maryks
Thomas W. Worcester , ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits. Cambridge Companions to Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. xiii + 362 pp. index. illus. bibl. $29.99. ISBN: 978-0-521-67396-9.

In his article "Jesuit History: A New Hot Topic" in America (9 May 2005), John W. O'Malley highlighted the recent fascination of scholars coming from various backgrounds with the early modern phenomenon named the Society of Jesus. The publication of a companion to the Jesuits by the Cambridge University Press confirms this new historiographical trend.

The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits examines the religious and cultural impact of the most dynamic and influential (for better or worse) Catholic religious order of men. The volume focuses on the early modern period —only the last part is dedicated to the suppression of the Society in the late eighteenth century and some [End Page 1296] aspects of its modern history after its restoration in 1814. The collection of eighteen essays dealing with multifaceted activities of the Jesuits is edited by the Jesuit professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross, Thomas Worcester.

Worcester has structured the 300-odd-page volume in five parts: the first one explores the personality of Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus; part two examines the Jesuit foundations throughout Europe; the third part examines the geographic and ethnic frontiers of the order; art and sciences are the subject of the penultimate part; and the last part offers a panorama of the Society in the modern world.

The individuality of the Jesuits' founder is approached from three perspectives. The first one is offered by Lu Ann Homza, the only laywoman to contribute to this collection, who is a specialist in the Spanish Renaissance from the College of William and Mary. Leaving out Ignatius's converso connections, it provides the necessary background of Loyola, who was born in 1491 in the Basque country, in the middle of complex political and religious shifts that were forming Spanish Christianity —"an essential provocative context for pondering Ignatius's spiritual preferences and choices" (26). The second perspective deals with five different personae (not in the original Latin meaning of "mask" ) that had been attributed to Loyola by his contemporaries. "Iñigo," "our Father Master Ignatius," "Founder," "Saint Ignatius," and "Loyola" are the roles analyzed by a Jesuit professor of spirituality at the Gregorian University in Rome, J. Carlos Coupeau. Finally, "the heart and soul of the spiritual 'formation' of Jesuits" (3) —Loyola's Spiritual Exercises are examined in detail by Philip Endean, editor of The Way, a journal of spirituality published by the British Jesuits.

"A sampling of several important contexts and issues that shed light on Jesuit priorities" (5) is provided in the second part of the collection: Paul V. Murphy, Director of the Institute of Catholic Studies at John Carroll University, scrutinizes the complexity of Jesuit ministries in early modern Italy; Thomas McCoog, S.J., editor of the Roman Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu, presents the history of the Society in "the three Kingdoms" —England, Scotland, and Ireland; and the editor of the volume offers an essay on how the Jesuits in France used the printing press, ca. 1600-50, with the goal of gaining royal support; the former Polish Jesuit, Stanislaw Obirek, analyzes the ups and downs of the Society in the multireligious Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania; finally —out of the geographical structure of this part —an essay on the attempts by women to found religious life on the model of the Jesuits is provided by Gemma Simmonds, a sister of the Congregation of Jesus (former Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

"Geographic and Ethnic Frontiers" (part 3) "considers some of the ways in which Jesuits made 'missions' outside Europe a priority" (6): "The Jesuit Enterprise in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Japan" is considered by M. Antoni J. Üçerler, a specialist in the Jesuit Japonic studies; the adaptation efforts of the Jesuits in China are examined by the Jesuit Sinologist from the Catholic University of Leuven, Nicolas Standaert; and Jesuits in New France are explored by Jacques Monet, the...


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pp. 1296-1298
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Archived 2009
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