From Inspiration to Invention: Rhetoric in the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus

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From Inspiration to Invention: Rhetoric in the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. By J. Carlos Coupeau, SJ. [No. 22 in Series 3: Scholarly Studies Originally Composed in English.] (St. Louis:The Institute of Jesuit Sources. 2010. Pp. xii, 292. $29.95 paperback. ISBN 978-1-880-81074-3.)

Over the past twenty years, historians, prompted in part by John W. O'Malley's The First Jesuits (Cambridge, MA, 1992), have explored the struggles of the first generation of Jesuits as they defined themselves and their role in early-modern Catholicism. Oddly, few historians have shown a comparable interest in the ordinances, rules, and decrees formulated by the same Jesuits in their juridical, canonical conceptualization of this self-understanding. Within a hundred years the succinct Formula of the Institute evolved into a multivolume collection of letters, briefs, bulls, ordinances, rules, and decrees. Such negligence becomes even more astonishing because the Institute of Jesuit Sources has made the Constitutions, Ratio studiorum, and the decrees of the general congregations more accessible in English translations. [May one hope that the different formulae and regulae will be translated before the classically educated generation passes away?] The same institute has published the only commentaries (in English translation) on the Constitutions, specifically the multivolume study by Antonio M. de Aldama, SJ. (1989-99), and Together for Mission: A Spiritual Commentary on the Constitutions of the Society (2001) by André de Jaer, SJ. Both authors, not surprisingly, were more interested in Jesuit understanding and appreciation of the Constitutions than with a historico-critical analysis. De Jaer, following in the venerable footsteps of Joseph de Guibert, SJ., claims a spiritual value for the Constitutions equal to that of the Spiritual Exercises. Indeed, de Jaer suggests the former may be more important for Jesuits because they are proper to the Society whereas the wider Ignatian family share in the Spiritual Exercises. In the monograph under review, the author proposes the perspective of the "academic discipline of spirituality" (p. …


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