Agents of Change: Jesuits in the Post-Columbian World
SOME INVITATIONS TO GIVE LECTURES OR WRITE ARTICLES feel just right: the desired topics seem comfortably within one's intellectual range or reach. If my teaching, family, and unsolicited writing obligations permit, I usually succumb to such enticements, particularly if the proffered audience, location, or honorarium is congenial. Outside offers serve as antidotes to our natural torpor and spurs to purposeful activity; if we're publishing, we're usually not perishing. But a few invitations come as a surprise, apparently based on a false or skewed impression of one's scholarly depth, breadth, or interests. These I don't hesitate to decline, in order to save everyone future embarrassment.
In the spring of 1989, Loyola University of Chicago asked me to deliver the keynote address to a power-packed, three-day conference on "Agents of Change: The Jesuits and Encounters of Two Worlds" on the weekend before Columbus Day 1992. Having lived happily in the Chicago area for two years, having a number of friends there, and having lectured at Loyola once before predisposed me to accept. But I took some persuading because I was uncertain about the reasons I was asked. Clearly, the organizers of this Jesuit conference at a Jesuit university lighted on me because I had written a comparative history of conversion in colonial North America in which the Jesuits of New France came off the better of the two major European