In making this selection of the letters of St. Ignatius I have availed myself of selections already published in Spanish by Father Macia, Casanovas, and Iparraguirre, in French by Father Dudon and Bouix, and in German by Father Karrer and Rahner. But the translation itself has been done from the collection of his letters in twelve volumes which constitute the first series of Monumenta Ignatiana in the Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu. Other than a slim volume containing twentyfour letters, selected and edited by the Reverend A. Goodier, S.J., translated by D. F. O'Leary, and published by the Manresa Press in 1914, I know of no formal attempt to give the letters of St. Ignatius any currency in English. Here and there in biographies of the saint letters are quoted in translation, but the letters as letters do not seem to have engaged attention. This collection, therefore, of two hundred and twenty-eight letters will offer the reader a fresh revelation of St. Ignatius. It will be a portrait drawn by the saint himself. There has been no dearth of biographies of St. Ignatius, but each biographer is bound to use his own colors however close he keeps to the authentic outlines of his subject. It can hardly be otherwise even with a selection from the letters. But as this collection comprises all the letters that are contained in the above-mentioned selections of three Spaniards, two Frenchmen, two Germans, and an Englishman, it ought to be able to maintain some claim to being objective.
And there is need of some portrait of the kind of St. Ignatius, for perhaps no saint has suffered more from the hands of his biographers, friends and foes alike. Even his friends have not succeeded perfectly in making a satisfactory synthesis of those apparently contradictory qualities which are to be found in nearly every man of genius, and which even in St. Ignatius his sons have sometimes found so baffling. Singleness of aim and firmness of purpose can so easily be misapprehended as a heartless idealism, while tender affection and patient watchfulness will be misconstrued as weakness or partiality. Even in his lifetime Ignatius was criticized for placing too much reliance on human prudence, and that by some of his own sons, when he was merely looking for that combination of time, place, and person from which he would be able most likely to extract a greater glory for God. Thus one side of his character can easily be exploited at the expense of another, and the result will be distortion. It is hoped that the whole man--the contemplative in action, as he was called . . .