Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Year by Year with the Early Jesuits (1537-1556): Selections from the Chronicon of Juan De Polanco, S.J

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Year by Year with the Early Jesuits (1537-1556): Selections from the Chronicon of Juan De Polanco, S.J

Article excerpt

Year by Year with the Early Jesuits (1537-1556): Selections from the Chronicon of Juan de Polanco, S.J. Translated and annotated by John Patrick Donnelly, S.J. [Jesuit Primary Sources in English Translation, Series 1, No. 21.] (St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources. 2004. Pp. xxiv, 480. $37.95 paperback.)

In the field of early modern history the role and impact of the Jesuits have attracted ever greater attention in recent years. Moving beyond some of the traditional-and somewhat stale-categories, such as seeing the early Jesuits as primarily the shock troops of the Counter-Reformation, newer research is examining the Jesuits' influence on the arts, sciences, and wider culture, both in Europe and overseas. This was not, of course, a one-way street, and these encounters transformed the early Society of Jesus, just as the Society helped to transform the early modern world. Indispensable in these investigations are the original sources produced by and about the Jesuits, such as Juan de Polanco's seminal Chronicon. Polanco entered the Society in 1541 and served as its secretary under the first three fathers general: Ignatius Loyola, Diego Laínez, and Francisco Borgia.The Chronicon, which covers the years 1537-1556 (from the eve of the Society's founding through the year of Ignatius's death), is a six-volume account totaling some forty-five hundred pages.

From this massive compilation, John Patrick Donnelly, S.J., has selected and translated somewhat under five hundred pages of documents which, in his words, provide "a sample rather than a systematic guide to the Chronicon as a whole" (p. xiv). In general, Donnelly has chosen wisely. The selections from the earliest years are, not surprisingly, relatively few since the number of Jesuits was quite small. Even so, the range of activities was considerable and ever growing, as we can see from one of Polanco's listings of "the usual ministries proper to our Institute-preaching, administering the sacraments of confession and Communion, teaching catechism, giving the Spiritual Exercises, bringing peace to quarrelling factions, and carrying out other similar pious works . . ." (p. 19). Although a number of these were traditional activities of priests and religious orders, the Jesuits often added new (and somewhat controversial) dimensions. In terms of the sacraments, the Jesuits were innovators in encouraging frequent confession and Communion. With regard to the latter, in particular, this brought both commendation and condemnation from various ecclesiastical authorities. Among the most unique and important contributions of the Jesuits were the Spiritual Exercises. …

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