During this generalate there were serious troubles in various parts of Europe. Thus, in Spain, when Charles V withdrew into the solitude of Yuste he was very anxious to have as a companion in retirement his friend of many years, Francis Borgia. It was hard to oppose the expressed wish of such a potentate as Charles, but Laínez succeeded, and Borgia continued to exercise his great influence in Spain to protect his brethren in the storm which was then raging against them. There were troubles, also, throughout Italy. A veritable persecution had started in Venice; an attempt was made to alienate St. Charles Borromeo in Milan; in Palermo, the rector of the college was murdered. The General himself had to go to France to face the enemies of the Faith at the famous Colloquy of Poissy; Canisius was continuing his hard fight in Germany; there were the martyrdoms of two Jesuits in India where, as in Brazil, the members of the Society were displaying the sublimest heroism in the prosecution of their perilous missionary work.
Laínez died in 1565, and was succeeded by Francis Borgia, who for many years had been the most conspicuous grandee of Spain. He was Marquis of Lombay, Duke of Gandia, and for three years had filled the office of Viceroy of Catalonia. His intimacy with the Emperor Charles V, apart from his great personal qualities, naturally resulted in having every honor showered upon him. Astrain, in his history of the Society in Spain, notes the difference in the point of view from which the Borgia family is regarded by Spaniards and by other mortals. The former always think of the saintly Francis, the latter see only Alexander VI. It is not surprising, however, for it is one of the weaknesses of humanity to exult in its glories and to be blind to its defects. Francis Borgia was the great-grandson of Alexander on the paternal, and of King Ferdinand on the maternal, side; there are, however, bar sinisters on both descents that are not pleasant to contemplate, and Suau says, "he was unfortunate in his ancestry."
Born on October 28, 1510, Borgia began his studies at Saragossa, interrupting them for a short space to be the page of the Infanta Catarina, daughter of Joanna the Mad. At eighteen, he was one of the brilliant figures of the court of Charles V. At nineteen, he married Eleanor de Castro, who belonged to the highest nobility of Portugal, and at that time he was made Marquis of Lombay. When he was twenty-eight, the famous incident occurred, which has been made the subject of so much oratorical and pictorial exaggeration – his consternation at the sight of the corrupting remains of the beautiful Empress Isabella, and his resolution to abandon the court and the world forever. Astrain in speaking of this event merely says: "he was profoundly moved;" Suau, in his "Histoire de Saint François de Borgia," makes no mention of any perturbation of mind and ascribes Borgia's vocation rather to subsequent events. The Bollandists do not vouch for the story of his consternation, but note that he was the only one who dared to approach the coffin, the others keeping aloof on account of the odor. They add that his biographers make him say: "Enough has been given to worldly princes." As a matter of fact, later on, he willingly accepted the office of major domo to Prince Philip, who was about to marry the Infanta of Portugal. As the King and Queen of Portugal, however, refused to accept him in that capacity, he was simply disgraced in the eyes of all diplomatic Europe and was compelled to keep out of the court of his own sovereign, for three whole years. "This and other serious trials, at that period," says Suau, "probably developed in him the work of sanctification begun at Granada."
Borgia was thirty-six years of age when his wife died in 1546, and he then consulted Father Faber, who happened to be in Spain at the time, about the advisability of entering a religious order. He made the Spiritual Exercises under Oviedo, and determined to enroll himself as one of the members of the Compañía founded by Ignatius, with whom he had been for some time in communication. He was accepted and given three years to settle his worldly concerns. By a special rescript, the Pope allowed him to make his vows of profession immediately. In January, 1550, he was allowed to present himself for ordination to the priesthood whenever he found it feasible. On August 20 of the same year, he obtained the degree of doctor of theology and ten days later, set out for Rome with a small retinue. Accompanying him were nine Jesuits, among whom was Father Araoz, the provincial. In every city he was officially received, the nobility going out to meet him at Rome. He was sumptuously lodged in the Jesuit house, part of which St. Ignatius had fitted up at great expense to do honor to the illustrious guest. Soon, however, it was rumored that he was to be made a cardinal, whereupon he took flight, making all haste for Spain, without any of the splendor or publicity which had surrounded him three months before. His only purpose was to escape observation. Arriving in Spain, he visited Loyola, the birthplace of Ignatius, and then fixed his residence at the hermitage of Oñate, where, after receiving the Emperor's leave, he renounced all his honors and possessions in favor of his son Charles. He was ordained priest on May 23, 1551.
After six months spent in evangelizing the Basques, Borgia was sent to Portugal to put an end to the troubles caused by Simon Rodriguez, but did not reach that country until 1553. Meantime, sad to say, Father Araoz astounded every one by displaying an intense jealousy of Borgia, who had been made independent of all superiors except Ignatius himself, and he demanded that his former friend and benefactor should show himself less in public and give evidence of greater humility. His complaints were incessant, and unfortunately an accidental unpopularity involving the whole Borgia family which just then supervened gave some color to the charges. In the meanwhile the Pope had again insisted on bestowing the cardinalitial honor upon Borgia, and for a moment Nadal, the Commissary General of Spain, was afraid that it might be accepted, not out of any ambition on the part of Francis, but because of his profound reverence for the will of the Sovereign Pontiff, especially as he had not as yet pronounced the simple vow of the professed against the reception of ecclesiastical dignities. Whereupon, Ignatius sent an order for him to make the vow, and from that forward his conscience was at rest on the question of running counter to the desires of the Pope.
In 1554 he was made commissary general in place of Nadal, who had been summoned to Rome to assist Ignatius, now in feeble health. The appointment of Borgia to such a post was most extraordinary for the reason that he had been but such a short time in the Society, and had never been in a subordinate position. The difficulty of his task was augmented by the fact that he had been commissioned to divide the Spanish section of the Society into four distinct provinces, and to assume, in this and other matters the duties and functions of an office which had no defined limitations, and which would inevitably bring him into conflict with other superiors. As a matter of fact, the commissariate was such a clumsy contrivance that it had soon to be done away with.
Araoz had previously been at odds with Nadal, but he found it still more difficult to get along with Borgia. This disedifying antagonism continued for some time, and it is said that the old worldly superiority of the viceroy showed itself occasionally in Borgia. His dictatorial methods of government, his resentment of interference with his plans, even when Nadal spoke to him, showed that he was not yet a Jesuit saint. As if he still possessed unlimited revenues he established no less than twenty new houses; and, when there were not sufficient resources to carry them on, he expected his subjects to live in a penury that was incompatible with general content and fatal to the existence of the institutions. Moreover, his old propensity for great mortifications manifested itself to such an extent that there was danger of the Jesuits under him becoming Carthusian in their mode of life. Indeed, he was of opinion that the old monastic prison and stocks should be introduced into the Society, and he sent a postulatum or petition to that effect to the congregation which elected Laínez. The result was that a spirit of revolt began to manifest itself in Spain, and Nadal, who was temporarily there, was happy when recalled to Rome.
How all this can be reconciled with the admittedly remarkable prudence of St. Ignatius and his profound knowledge of the character of those he had to deal with is difficult to say. Had he perhaps received some divine intimation of what Borgia was yet to be? On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that these isolated instances of impatience, authoritativeness, resentment and the like, naturally attract more attention when seen in one who is possessed of brilliant qualities than they would in any ordinary personage. Moreover, they occurred only in his dealings with Jesuits of the same official standing, and were never remarked when he had to treat with the rank and file who were entrusted to his care and guidance. They were, in any case, faults of judgment and not of perversity of will. Indeed so intent was he on acquiring the virtue of obedience that he fell into a state of almost despondency and distress when he was warned that Ignatius would disapprove of his methods and measures. Finally, he was then only on the way to sanctity; he had not yet achieved it.
It must be confessed, however, that Nadal was not at all pleased with the attitude of Borgia and the other Spanish Jesuits, when the call for the election of a new general was issued. He fancied that it was the beginning of a schism. When, as previously pointed out, Philip II allowed the Spanish delegates to go to the congregation, Borgia, remained in Spain. The fear of the red hat still haunted him. The famous postulatum about the prison and stocks which he sent to the congregation was, of course, promptly rejected. Borgia, however, had other reasons not to go to Rome. Several Spanish cities were up in arms against the Society; he himself was assailed openly in church by Melchior Cano; a book he had written or was accused of having written was condemned by the Inquisition, and he expected momentarily to be arrested; evil things were also said about his character. Unfortunately, Araoz took advantage of all this and began to pen a series of denunciatory letters to the General against Borgia, and, though he was rebuked for them and made public reparation for his offense, he soon relapsed into his customary antagonism. To put an end to it all Laínez summoned Borgia to Rome and conferred on him the honor of assistant. Even that lesson Araoz failed to take to heart.
Francis reached Rome only in 1561. In the following year when Laínez had to attend the re-opened Council of Trent, he made Borgia vicar general, and, when Laínez died at the age of fifty-three in January, 1565, the congregation which was convened in July of that year elected Borgia in his place. At the same time stringent laws were enacted against the hasty multiplication of houses and the inevitable lack of formation which ensued. This was a notice served on the new General to control his zeal in that direction. Borgia instituted novitiates in every province; he circulated the book of Exercises and laid down rules for common life, which on account of the enormous growth of the Society had now become a matter of primary importance. Instead of showing any proneness to the eremitical life or wishing to impose it on the Society, he gave an example of immense and intense activity in public matters. Thus he had much to do with the revision of the Bible, the translation of the "Catechism" of the Council of Trent; the foundation of Propaganda; and, omitting other instances of his administrative ability, when the plague broke out in Rome in 1566, he so successfully organized the financial and medical machinery of the city that two years afterwards, when the plague appeared again, all the public funds were immediately placed in his hands.
The impression that his administration was severe, exacting, harsh and narrow has no foundation in fact. It is sufficient to glance at the five bulky volumes made up mainly of correspondence and documents in the "Monumenta Borgiana" to be convinced that the reverse was the case. There is a kindliness, a graciousness, even a joyousness observable in them on every page. He even kept a list of all the sick in the Society, and consoled them whenever the opportunity offered. The vastness of his correspondence is simply astounding; his letters are addressed to all kinds of people, the lowest as well as the highest, and deal with every variety of topic. Finally, there was no General who developed the missions of the Society so widely and so solidly as did St. Francis Borgia. He reformed those of India and the Far East, created those of America, and before he died he had the consolation of knowing that sixty-six of his sons had been martyred for the Faith during his Generalate. The discovery of him by St. Ignatius was an inspiration, for Borgia is one of the great glories of the Society. He ended his remarkable life by a splendid act of obedience to the Pope and of devotion to the Church.
On June 27, 1571, St. Pius V, his intimate friend, requested him to accompany Cardinal Bonelli on an embassy to Spain and Portugal. He was just then recovering from a serious illness, and felt quite sure that the journey would result in his death, but he accepted the call. In Spain he was received with the wildest enthusiasm. Indeed the papal legate was almost forgotten in the public ovations. Portugal also lavished honors on him, and when in consequence of new orders from the Pope the embassy continued on to France to plead with Charles IX and Catherine de' Medici, he was received in the same manner in that country. On February 25 he left Blois but by the time Lyons was reached he had been stricken with congestion of the lungs. From Lyons, the route led across the snow-clad Mt. Cenis and continued by the way of Turin to Alexandria, where they arrived on April 19.
As the invalid was in too perilous a state to permit of his going any further for the moment, his relative, the Duke of Ferrara, kept him through the summer until September 3, when another start was made for Rome, where he wanted to die. The last stage of his journey inflicted untold suffering on him, but he never complained. On September 28, he arrived at the professed house in Rome, and throngs of cardinals and prelates hurried to see him to get his blessing, for he was already canonized in the popular mind. For two days he lingered, retaining full consciousness, conversing at times with those around him, but most of the time absorbed in prayer. When asked to name his vicar he laughed and said: "I have enough to do to give an account of my own stewardship." Towards evening he became speechless and about midnight peacefully expired, ending a career which it would be hard to equal in romance – a gorgeous grandee of Spain, a duke, a viceroy, the affectionate friend of the greatest potentate on earth, and now dying in the poor room of a Jesuit priest, atoning by his splendid sanctity for the offenses which have made the name of the family to which he belonged a synonym of every kind of iniquity.
Following close upon St. Francis Borgia came a number of men who have reflected glory upon the Church and on the Society, some of them, the most illustrious theologians of modern times, and others acting as the diplomatic agents of the great nations of Europe in the tentative but usually unsuccessful efforts to reunite Christendom. We refer to Bellarmine, Toletus, Suárez, Petavius, Possevin and Vieira.
Speaking of Bellarmine, Andrew White, in his "Conflict of Science and Religion" informs us that "there must have been a strain of Scotch in Bellarmine, because of his name, Robert," – a typical illustration of the unreliability of Andrew White as a witness. The first Robert who appears in Scottish history is the son of William the Conqueror, and consequently a Norman. Even the name of Robert Bruce frequently occurs as Robert de Bruce, just as there is a John de Baliol; Robert de Pynkeny, etc. There is also a Robert of Arbrissel, associated with Urban II in preaching the Crusades; Robert of Geneva, an antipope; Robert de Luzarches, who had to do with the building of Notre-Dame in Paris, and scores of others might be cited.
Robert Bellarmine was born at Montepulciano, in 1542. He was a nephew of Pope Marcellus II, and after entering the Society was immediately admitted to his vows. He studied philosophy for three years at the Roman College and was then assigned to teach humanities. In 1567 he began his theology at Padua, but towards the end of his course, he went to Louvain to study the prevailing heresies of the day at close range. While there, his reputation as a preacher was such that Protestants came from England and Germany to hear him. In 1576 he was recalled to Rome to fill the recently established chair of controversy, and the lectures which he gave at that time form the groundwork for his remarkable work "De controversiis." It was found to be so comprehensive, conclusive and convincing in its character that special chairs were established in Protestant countries to refute it. It still remains a classic. Singularly enough, though Sixtus V had permitted the work to be dedicated to him, he determined later to put it on the Index, because it gave only an indirect power to the Holy See in temporal matters. But he died before carrying out his threat, and his successor, Gregory XIII, gave a special approbation to the book and appointed its author a member of the commission to revise the Vulgate, which Sixtus had inaugurated, but into which certain faults had crept. At Bellarmine's suggestion the revision was called the "Sixtine edition" to save the reputation of the deceased Pontiff.
He was rector of the Roman College in 1592, and in 1595 provincial of Naples. In 1597 he was made theologian of Pope Clement VIII, examiner of bishops, consultor of the Holy Office, cardinal in 1599, and assessor of the Congregation "de Auxiliis," which had been instituted to settle the dispute between the Thomists and Molinists on the question of the conciliation of the operation of Divine grace with man's free will. Bellarmine wanted the decision withheld, but the Pope differed from him, though afterwards he adopted the suggestion. He had, meantime, been consecrated Archbishop of Capua, by the Pope, and was twice in danger of being raised to the papacy. He remained only three years at Capua, and passed the rest of his life in Rome as chief theological adviser of the Holy See. During this period occurred the dispute between Venice and the Holy See in which Bellarmine and Baronius opposed the pretensions of Paolo Sarpi and Marsiglio, the champions of the Republic. The English oath of allegiance also came up for consideration at that time. In this controversy Bellarmine found himself in conflict with James I of England. He was conspicuous also in the Galileo matter. His life was so remarkable for its holiness that the cause of his beatification was several times introduced, but was not then acted on, because his name was connected with the doctrine of papal authority, which was extremely obnoxious to the French regalist politicians. It has, however, been recently re-introduced.
When Baius, the theological dean of Louvain, first broached his errors on grace, he was answered by Bellarmine; and in 1579 when he again defended them, he was taken in hand by Toletus, who, after refuting him, induced him to acknowledge his heresy before the united faculties of the university. Unlike Bellarmine, who was of noble blood and the nephew of a Pope, Toletus came of very humble people in Spain. Rosa says he was one of the "new Christians," that is, of Jewish or Moorish blood. He was born at Córdova in 1532 and was, consequently, ten years older than his friend and fellow-Jesuit, Bellarmine. He made his studies at Salamanca, where his master, the famous Soto, described him as an intellectual prodigy; he must have been such, for he occupied a chair of philosophy when he was fifteen. He entered the Society in 1558, and was sent to Rome as professor of theology. He was appointed theologian and preacher of Pius V, Gregory XIII, Sixtus V and Urban VIII, successively. He accompanied Cardinal Commendone in his diplomatic visit to Germany, to form a league against the Turks, just as Bellarmine had been deputed to go with Gaetano to France during the Huguenot troubles. He was made a cardinal in 1593, and in 1595 he induced Pope Clement to grant Henry IV the absolution that brought peace to France. He warned the Pontiff that a refusal in that case would be a grievous sin. Shortly afterwards he was named legate to that country, but, as he had offended his fellow-countrymen by showing himself hostile to Philip II in the matter of the succession of Henry IV, it was considered advisable to send someone else in his stead. He died in the following year, and that gave occasion to the now discredited historian, d'Etoile, to say that the Spaniards had poisoned him.
The writings of Toletus are very numerous. Bossuet was a great admirer of his "Instructions to Priests," in which, as in his "Commentaries," his enemies discovered the "lax" principles of probabilism, ultra-montanism, and the like, and he has been accused of teaching even perjury, simony and regicide. He was the preacher and theologian of four of the Popes, the counsellor of princes, and the great defender of the Faith in the northern countries. Cabassut, one of the most learned of the French Oratorians in the reign of Louis XIV, declared that we should have to wait for several centuries before a man would appear who would equal Cardinal Toletus. Tanner says that his life could not have been more useful or better employed for Jesus Christ if he travelled over the whole earth preaching the Gospel. Gregory XIII indignantly denounced what he called the lies of those who assailed his character. "We set against those calumnies our own testimony," he wrote, "and we affirm in all truthfulness that he is incontestably the most learned man living to-day; we have a greater opinion still of his integrity and his irreproachable life. We have had personal proofs of both. We know him perfectly and we testify to what we know. We beg of your Highness to give full and entire faith to the truth and to the sincerity of our testimony, and to regard this man henceforward as a true servant of Jesus Christ, and marvellously useful to the whole Christian world." These words were uttered before Toletus was clothed with the purple. He will appear again at the election of Aquaviva.
Very angry at the punishment he had received at the hands of Bellarmine and Toletus, Baius turned on Lessius, who was then teaching in the Jesuit College at Louvain, where, acting on misinformation, the university condemned thirty-four propositions which Baius ascribed to him. Lessius declared that they were not his, but the university refused to accept his word. Baius, therefore, continued his denunciation of Lessius in particular and of the Jesuits in general as Lutherans and heretics. Whereupon, not only the other universities but the whole country took up the quarrel. When the question was ultimately referred to the Pope, he replied that he himself had taught the same doctrine as Lessius. Besides being one of the very great theologians of the Society, Lessius was remarkable for the holiness of his life. Pope Urban VIII, who made such stringent laws about canonization, and who knew Lessius personally, paid a special tribute to his sanctity. He is now like Bellarmine ranked among the venerable, and the process of his beatification is proceeding.
Another great Jesuit theologian of this period was the Spaniard, Juan Maldonado, who was born in 1533 at Casas de Reina, about sixty-six leagues from Madrid. He went to the University of Salamanca, where he studied Latin under two blind professors. He took up Greek with El Pinciano, philosophy with Toletus, and theology with Soto. He was endowed with a prodigious memory and never forgot anything he had ever learned. His aspirations were at first for law, but he turned to theology; and after obtaining the doctorate, taught theology, philosophy and Greek at the university. He entered the Society in 1562, and was ordained priest in the following year. He lectured on Aristotle in the new College of Clermont in 1564, and then taught theology for the four following years; after an interruption of a year, he continued his courses until 1576. His lectures attracted such crowds that at times the college courtyard was substituted for the hall. He was appointed a member of the commission for revising the Septuagint; his knowledge of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldaic and Arabic and his comprehensive knowledge of history, of the early Fathers and of all the heresies, gave him the first rank among the Scriptural exegetes of his time. In Cornely's opinion, his "Commentaries on the Gospels" are the best ever published. Above all, he was a man of eminent sanctity, endowed with an extraordinary instinct for orthodoxy, and an unflinching courage in fighting for the Church as long as he had life. "His constant desire," says Prat, "was to make everything the Society undertook, bear the mark of the greatness and sanctity which St. Ignatius had stamped on the Institute."
There was also the great Suárez, who was born at Granada in 1548, and became a Jesuit in 1564. Pope Paul V appointed him to answer King James of England and wanted to retain him in the Holy City, but Philip II claimed him for Coimbra to give prestige to the university. When he visited Barcelona the doctors of the university went out to meet him processionally to pay him honor. Bossuet declared that his writings contained the whole of Scholastic theology. In Scholasticism he founded a school of his own, and modified Molinism by his system of Congruism. His book, "De defensione fidei," was burned in London by royal command, and was prohibited as containing doctrines against the power of sovereigns. One edition of his works consisted of twenty-three and another of twenty-eight volumes in folio. De Scoraille has written an admirable biography of this great man.
Cardinal de Lugo also should be included in this catalogue; indeed he is one of the most eminent theologians of modern times. His precocity as a child was almost preternatural, he was reading books when he was three years old and was tonsured at ten; at fourteen, he defended a public thesis in philosophy, and about the same time he was appointed to an ecclesiastical benefice by Philip II. He studied law at the University of Salamanca, but soon followed his brother into the Society. After teaching philosophy at Medina del Campo and theology at Valladolid, he was summoned to Rome to be professor of theology. His lectures were circulated all over Europe before they were printed, and only when ordered by superiors did he put them in book form. Between 1633 and 1640 he published four volumes which cover the whole field of dogmatic theology. Their characteristic is that there is little, if any, repetition of what other writers had already said. St. Alphonsus Liguori rated him as only just below St. Thomas Aquinas; and Benedict XIV styles him "a light of the Church." He was made a cardinal in 1643.
The distinguished Father Lehmkuhl appropriates four long columns in "The Catholic Encyclopedia" to express his admiration for Gregory de Valencia who was born in 1541 and died in 1603. He came from Medina in Spain and was studying philosophy and jurisprudence in Salamanca, when attracted by the preaching of Father Ramírez, he entered the novitiate and had the privilege of being trained by Baltasar Álvarez, who was one of the spiritual directors of St. Teresa. St. Francis Borgia called him to Rome, where he taught philosophy with such distinction that all North Germany and Poland petitioned for his appointment to their universities. He was assigned to Dillingen, and two years afterwards to Ingolstadt, where he taught for twenty-four years. His "Commentary" in four volumes on the "Summa theologica" of St. Thomas is one of the first comprehensive theological works of the Society. He contributed about eight polemical treatises to the war on Lutheranism, which was then at white heat; but he was not at one with his friend von Spee in the matter of witchcraft. Von Spee wanted both courts and trials abolished; Gregory thought their severity might be tempered. He had much to do with the change of view in moral theology on the subject of usury; and the two last volumes of his great work, the "Analysis fidei catholicæ" culminates in a proof of papal infallibility which expresses almost literally the definition of the Vatican Council.
In 1589 he was summoned to Rome to take part in the great theological battle on grace. The task assigned to him was to prove the orthodoxy of Molina, which he did so effectively and with such consummate skill that both friend and foe awarded him the palm. But the battle was not over, for it was charged that isolated statements taken from Molina's book contradicted St. Augustine. Consequently all of St. Augustine's works had to be examined; a scrutiny which of course called for endless and crushing labor, but he set himself to the task so energetically that when the debates were resumed his health was shattered, and he was allowed to remain seated during the discussions. Thomas de Lemos was his antagonist at this stage. In the ninth session, Gregory's strength gave way and he fainted in his chair. His enemies said it was because the Pope had reproached him with tampering with St. Augustine's text, but as his holiness had decorated him with the title of "Doctor doctorum," the accusation must be put in the same category as the other which charged the Jesuits with poisoning Clement VIII so as to prevent him from condemning their doctrine.
According to the "Biographie universelle," Denis Pétau, or Petavius, was one of the most distinguished savants of his time. He was born at Orléans, August 21, 1583, and there made his early studies. Later he went to Paris, and at the end of his philosophical course defended his thesis in Greek. He took no recreation, but haunted the Royal Library, and amused himself collecting ancient manuscripts. It was while making these researches, that he met the famous Casaubon, who urged him to prepare an edition of the works of Synesius. While engaged at this work, he was chosen for the chair of philosophy at Bourges, though he was then only nineteen years old. As soon as he was ordained to the priesthood, he was made canon of the cathedral of his native city. There he met Father Fronton du Duc and entered the Society. After his novitiate, he was sent to the University of Pont-à-Mousson for a course of theology. He then taught rhetoric at La Flèche, and from there went to Paris. His health gave way at this time, and he occupied himself in preparing some of the works which Casaubon had formerly advised him to publish. In 1621, he succeeded Fronton du Duc as professor of positive theology, and continued at the post for twenty-two years with ever increasing distinction.
Pétau's leisure moments were given to deciphering old manuscripts and studying history. Every year saw some new book from his hands; meanwhile, his vast correspondence and his replies to his critics involved an immense amount of other labor. Though naturally of a mild disposition, his controversies unfortunately assumed the harsh and vituperative tone of the period. It was the accepted method. His great work on chronology appeared in 1627 and won universal applause; Philip IV of Spain offered him the chair of history in Madrid, but he refused it on the score of health. In 1637 he dedicated to Pope Urban VIII a "Paraphrase of the Psalms in Greek verse," for which he was invited to Rome, but he escaped the honor on the plea of age. As a matter of fact, he was so frightened at the prospect of being made a cardinal that he fell dangerously ill, and recovered only when assured that his name was removed from the list. He stopped teaching in 1644, only eight years before his death. The complete list of his books fills twenty-five columns in Sommervogel's catalogue of Jesuit publications. They are concerned with chronology, history, polemics, and the history of dogma. His "Dogmata theologica" is incomplete, not having been carried beyond the fifth volume.
In those days there was an extraordinary amount of exaggerated confidence entertained by many of the dignitaries of the Church that the Jesuits had an especial aptitude for adjusting the politico-religious difficulties which were disturbing the peace of Europe. Thus, we find Father Warsewicz sent to Sweden in 1574 to strengthen the resolution of the king of that country, who, under the influence of his Catholic queen, was desirous of restoring the nation to the Faith. Warsewicz appeared in the court of King John, not as representing the Pope, but as the ambassador of the King of Poland, who was related to Queen Catherine. It was she who had suggested this means of approaching the king. Accordingly, private meetings were held with the monarch during an entire week, for five and six hours consecutively, for John prided himself on his theological erudition. He agreed to re-establish Catholicity in his realm, provided the chalice was granted to the laity and that marriage of the clergy and the substitution of Swedish for Latin in the liturgy were permitted. He had no difficulty about the doctrinal teaching of the Church.
The king's conditions were, of course, unacceptable, and in 1576 Father Nicolai was sent to see if he could induce him to modify his demand. According to the "Realencyclopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche" and Böhmer-Monod, Nicolai represented himself as a Lutheran minister, and taught in Protestant seminaries. The "Realencyclopädie" adds, "he almost succeeded in smuggling in what was virtually a Romish liturgy." But in the first place, this "liturgy" was not "smuggled in" by the Jesuit or anyone else. It was imposed by the king, and was in use until his death which occurred seventeen years later, (The Catholic Encyclopedia). Secondly, Nicolai could not have been posing as a minister, for he let it be known that he had studied in Louvain, Cologne, and Douay, which were Catholic seminaries. It is true that he did not declare he was a Jesuit; but it is surely possible to be a Catholic without being a Jesuit. It is more than likely that the school was a sort of union seminary, which was striving to arrive at conciliation, for, according to the king, what kept the two sections apart was merely a matter of ecclesiastical usage. Finally, the Confession of Augsburg was not admitted in Sweden as the religion of the State until 1593. Had Nicolai advocated Luther's doctrines either in the pulpit or the professor's chair, he would have been instantaneously expelled from the Society.
The next Jesuit who appeared in Sweden was Anthony Possevin, an Italian of Mantua, who was born either in 1533 or 1534. He began his career as the secretary of Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga, and became a Jesuit at the age of twenty-five. He accomplished much in France as a preacher and founder of colleges; and in 1573 was made secretary of the Society under Mercurian. In 1577 he was sent as a special legate of the Pope to John III of Sweden, and also to the Courts of Bohemia and Bavaria to secure their support for John in the event of certain political complications. These political features of the mission made it very objectionable to the Jesuits because of their possible reaction on the whole Society. But as the order came from the Pope, and as the conversion of the king and of all Sweden was the predominating idea of the mission, the attempt was made in spite of its possible consequence.
Like his predecessor, he did not appear in his clerical garb, nor even as the legate of the Pope. That would scarcely be tolerated in a Protestant country like Sweden, but he came as the ambassador extraordinary of the Empress of Germany, the widow of Maximilian II. With him were two other Jesuits – Good, an Englishman, and Fournier, a Frenchman. Crétineau-Joly makes Good an Irishman, but the English "Menology" for July 5 says he was born at Glastonbury in Somersetshire, and was one of the first Englishmen admitted to the Society. After his noviceship he was sent to Ireland, where he labored for four years under the Archbishop of Armagh. He then accompanied Possevin to Sweden and Poland, and after passing four years in the latter country, died at Naples in 1586.
When Possevin had finished discussing the political situation with the king, he began his work as ambassador of the Lord. He had many private interviews with his majesty, and convinced him of his errors in matters of faith; but the king insisted on points of discipline and liturgy which could not be granted. In brief, he was a Catholic, but reasons of State prevented him from making any public declaration. However, on May 16, 1578, he decided to take the step, and an altar was erected in a room of his palace. There he assisted at Mass, and in the presence of the queen, the Governor of Stockholm and his secretary, declared himself a Catholic. But he still hesitated about making it known to his people, and begged Possevin to return to Rome to see if he could not obtain the dispensation already asked for, – such as Communion under both kinds, Mass in Swedish, the marriage of priests, which Possevin knew would never be granted. However, he set out for Rome with seven young converts, and sent two Jesuits to Stockholm as preachers. He also got others ready in Austria, Poland, and Moravia, and made arrangements with the Emperor Rudolph to give his daughter in marriage to King John's son, Sigismund. He finally reached Rome, but the congregation of Cardinals, of course, rejected the king's pusillanimous petition.
In spite of this failure, Possevin was then sent as legate to Russia, Lithuania, Moravia, Hungary, and, in general, to all the countries of the North; while Philip II of Spain entrusted him with a confidential mission to the King of Sweden. In Bavaria, he has to see the duke; at Augsburg, he makes arrangements for the Pope with the famous banking firm of Fugger, the Rothschilds of those days, who had figured so conspicuously in the question of Indulgences in Luther's time. From there he proceeded to Prague to deliver a message to the Emperor; and at Vilna he conferred with Bathori, the King of Poland. A Swedish frigate waited for him at Dantzig and, after a fourteen days' voyage, he landed at Stockholm on July 26, 1579. He was no longer dressed as a layman, but went to the court in his Jesuit cassock and was received with great ceremony by the dignitaries of the realm.
Meantime, however, the king's brother and sister-in-law had aroused the Lutherans; the Swedish bishops were banded against him, and finally, when the king learned that none of his demands had been granted, except that of keeping the confiscated ecclesiastical property, he lost courage and reverted to Protestantism. The assurance given him by Possevin that he could rely on the help of Spain, of the Emperor, and of the Catholic princes of Germany did not move him. He saw before him the revolt of his subjects, and the accession of his brother; and, while insisting that he was a Catholic at heart, he refused to act, unless the Pope granted all his demands. On February 19 he convoked a Diet at Wadstena, at which Possevin was present, but as the majority was clearly against returning to the old Faith, the legate had to be satisfied with being merely an onlooker, while the king, convinced that he was acting against his conscience, yielded to the popular clamor. Another Diet was held with the same result. Meantime, the legate remained in Stockholm, devoting himself to the sick and dying, in a pestilence that was then devastating the city. He also succeeded in so strengthening the faith of the young Sigismund, the heir apparent, that when there was question subsequently of his renouncing Catholicity in order to ascend the throne, he had the courage to say that he would relinquish all his rights and withdraw into private life, rather than abandon the Faith.
A much more curious exercise of diplomacy came in Possevin's way in the quarrel between the King of Poland and the ruler of Muscovy. The latter had made vast conquests in the East, and then turned his attention to Livonia, which was Polish territory. Bathori, who was ruler of Poland, met and conquered the invader in a series of successful battles. Whereupon the Czar, knowing Bathori's devotion to the Holy See, asked the Sovereign Pontiff, Gregory XIII, to intervene. Possevin was again called upon, and set out as plenipotentiary to arrange peace between the two nations. Incidentally, the intention of the Pope was to obtain the toleration of Catholics in the Russian dominions, to secure a safe passage for missionaries to China through Russia, to induce the Czar to unite with the Christian princes against the Turks, and even to bring about a union of the Greek and Latin churches.
Possevin arrived at Vilna in 1581. He found Bathori elated by his victories, but in no humor to entertain proposals of peace, which he wisely judged to be merely a device of his opponent to gain time. However, he yielded to persuasion, and Possevin set out to find the Russian sovereign at Staritza. He was received with all the honors due to an ambassador, and succeeded in gaining a suspension of hostilities, the surrender of Livonia to Poland, as well as the agreement to the demands of the Pope for religious toleration, and the passage across Russia to China for Catholic missionaries. Even the proposal to join the crusade against the Turks was accepted, in the hope that it would put Constantinople in the hands of Russia. But when the question of the union of Churches was mooted, which, of course, implied the recognition of the Pope as Supreme Pastor, the savage awoke in the Czar, and, for a moment, it seemed as if the life of the ambassador was at stake. The treaty of peace was finally signed on January 15, 1582, the delegates meeting in the chapel, where the ambassador celebrated Mass; all the representatives of Poland and Russia kissing the cross as a declaration of their fidelity to their oath. Possevin and his associates then started for Rome towards the end of April. They were loaded with presents from the Czar; but to the amazement of the barbarians, they distributed them among the poor of the city.
There was, however, an appendix to this mission. Though the Polish king did all in his power to preserve the Faith in Livonia, the German Lutherans, Calvinists, Baptists, and other heretics had already invaded the country, and were inflaming the population with hatred of the Pope and the Church. Added to this was the alarm awakened in the mind of the Emperor of Germany at the growing power of the Poles. Again Possevin had to return to the scenes of his labors, but this time it was more as a priest than a diplomat. Indeed, much of his energy was expended in proving that he was neither German nor Pole, but an ambassador of Christ sent to build up the Faith of both nations against heresy. We hear of him once more in the matter of the reconciliation of Henry IV of France to the Holy See. To him and Toletus was due the credit of inducing the Pope to absolve the king, and by so doing, save France from schism. When this was done, Possevin became an ordinary Jesuit, laboring here and there, exclusively for the salvation of souls. It is a curious story, and it would be hard to find anything like it in the chronicles of the Church, except, perhaps the career of the famous Portuguese Jesuit, Antonio Vieira, surnamed by his fellow-countrymen, "the Great."
Vieira was born in Lisbon, on February 5, 1608, and died at Bahia, in Brazil, on July 18, 1697. He was virtually a Brazilian, for he went out to the colony when still a child, and after finishing his studies in the Jesuit college there, entered the Society in 1623, when he was only fifteen years of age. At eighteen, he was teaching rhetoric and writing commentaries on the Canticle of Canticles, the tragedies of Seneca, and the "Metamorphoses" of Ovid, but it was twelve years before he was raised to the priesthood. The eloquence of his first sermon astounded everyone.
In 1640 Portugal declared its independence from Spain, to which it had been subject for sixty years. As the union had been effected by fraud and force, and as all the former Portuguese possessions in the East and a part of Brazil had been wrested from Spain by the Dutch and English; and as the taxes imposed on Portugal were excessively onerous, there was a strong feeling of hatred for the Spaniards. This hostility broke out finally in a revolution, and John IV ascended the throne of Portugal, but the change of government involved the country in a disastrous war of twenty years' duration.
Before the outbreak, the Jesuits were solemnly warned by their Superiors to observe a rigid neutrality. But in the excited state of the public mind, Father Freire forgot the injunction, and, in an Advent sermon in the year 1637, let words escape him that set the country ablaze. Crétineau-Joly says "the provincial promptly imprisoned him," which probably meant that he was kept in his room, for there are no prisons in Jesuit houses. But even that seclusion produced a popular tumult. The provincial was besieged by protests, and a delegation was even sent to Madrid to protest that the words of the preacher had been misinterpreted. The Spanish king accepted the explanation, and when the envoys returned to Lisbon, Freire had been already liberated.
Ranke asserts in his "History of the Popes" that as there was question of establishing a republic in Portugal at that time, it is possible that Spain preferred to see the innocuous John of Braganza, whose son was a dissolute wretch, made king, than to run the risk of a republic like those projected at that time by the Calvinists in France and by the Lutherans in Sweden. Later, however, an investigation was ordered, and a Jesuit named Correa was incarcerated for having predicted at a college reception given to John of Braganza some years earlier that he would one day wear the crown. Meantime the explosion took place, and in 1640 John of Braganza was proclaimed king of an independent Portugal.
In the following year Vieira arrived from Brazil and was not only made tutor to the Infante, Don Pedro, as well as court preacher, but was appointed member of the royal council. In the last-named office he reorganized the departments of the army and navy, gave a new impetus to commerce, urged the foundation of a national bank, and the organization of the Brazilian Trading Company, readjusted the taxation, curbed the Portuguese Inquisition, and was mainly instrumental in gaining the national victories of Elvas, Almeixal, Castello Rodrigo, and Montes Claros.
Between 1646 and 1650 he went on diplomatic missions to Paris, the Hague, London, and Rome, but refused the title of ambassador and also the offer of a bishopric. He wanted something else, namely, to work among his Indians, and he returned to Brazil in 1652. There he provoked the wrath of the slave-owners by his denunciation of their ill-treatment of the negroes and Indians, and was soon back in Lisbon pleading the cause of the victims. He won his case, and, in 1655, we find him once more at his missionary labors in Brazil, evangelizing the cannibals, translating the catechism into their idioms, travelling over steep mountain ranges and paddling hundreds of miles on the Amazon and its numberless tributaries. Eleven times he visited every mission post on the Maranhon, which meant twenty journeys along the interminable South American rivers, on some of which he had to keep at the oar for a month at a time. It is estimated that he made 15,000 leagues on foot, and advanced 600 leagues farther into the interior of the continent than any of his predecessors. He continued this work till 1661, and then the slave-owners rose against him with greater fury than ever, and sent him a prisoner to Lisbon. He was no longer as welcome at court as previously, for the degenerate Alfonso, who had to be subsequently deposed, was on the throne. In 1665 the Inquisition forbade him to preach, and flung him into a dungeon, where he lay till 1667, when he was released by the new king Pedro II. He then went to Rome, and was welcomed by the Pope, the cardinals, and the General of the Order, Father Oliva.
While at Rome he met Christina of Sweden, who had abdicated her throne in order to become a Catholic. Ranke, in his "History of the Popes," devotes a whole chapter to this extraordinary woman, and she is referred to here merely because of her admiration for Vieira, and also to call attention to the fact that the first priest she spoke to about her conversion was the Jesuit, Antonio Macedo, who was the confessor of Pinto Pereira, the Portuguese ambassador to Sweden. The "Menology" tells us that Macedo did not wear his priestly dress in that country. He was the ambassador's secretary and interpreter, but he attracted the attention of the queen, who remembered no doubt that the Jesuit, Possevin, had appeared in the same court, in the time of John III, disguised as an officer. She finally asked Macedo about it, and he admitted that he was a Jesuit. Then began a series of conversations in Latin, which Christina spoke perfectly, as she did several other languages. She finally told him that she had resolved to become a Catholic, even if she forfeited her crown, and she commissioned him to inform the Sovereign Pontiff of her purpose. To reward Macedo she asked the Pope to make him a bishop, but as he had been a missionary in Africa, the mitre did not appeal to him, and he went back to Lisbon, where he died after sixty-seven years passed in the Society.
Macedo's departure from Stockholm was so sudden that it excited comment, and possibly to persuade the public she had nothing to do with it, the queen pretended to despatch messengers in pursuit of him. In fact, she had requested the General of the Society to send some of the most trusted members of the Order to Sweden. It may be that the old African missionary, Macedo, was not skillful enough in elucidating some of the metaphysical problems which she was discussing. "In February, 1652," says Ranke, "the Jesuits who had been asked for arrived in Stockholm. They were two young men who represented themselves to be Italian noblemen engaged in travel, and in this character they were admitted to her table." They were Fathers Cavati and Molenia, who were able mathematicians as well as theologians. Descartes also was there about that time. The queen did not recognize the young noblemen in public, but, says Ranke: "as they were walking before her to the dining-hall, she said, in a low voice to one of them: 'Perhaps you have letters for me.' Without turning his head he replied that he had. Then, with a quick word, she bade him keep silence. On the following morning they were conducted secretly to the palace. Thus," continues Ranke, "to the royal dwelling of Gustavus Adolphus there now came ambassadors from Rome for the purpose of holding conferences with his daughter about joining the Catholic Church. The charm of this affair for Christina was principally the conviction that no one had the slightest suspicion about her proceedings."
The conferences seem to have been long drawn out, although the envoys subsequently reported that "Her Majesty apprehended with most ready penetration the whole force of the arguments we laid before her. Otherwise we should have consumed much time. Suddenly she appeared to abandon every desire to carry out her purpose, and attributed her doubts to the assaults of Satan. Her spiritual advisers were in despair, when just as suddenly she exclaimed: 'There is no use. I must resign my crown.'" The abdication was made with great solemnity amid the tears and protests of her subjects. She left her country and spent the rest of her life in Rome, where her unusual intellectual abilities and great learning excited the wonder of everyone. Her heroism in sacrificing her kingdom was, of course, the chief subject of the praise that was showered upon her.
When Vieira arrived in Rome and fascinated everyone by his extraordinary eloquence, Christina wanted him to be her spiritual director. But the old hero preferred ruder work, and by 1681 he was again back in Brazil among his Indians. Even in his old age he was a storm centre, and although he had done so much for the glory of God and the good of humanity, he was deprived of both active and passive voice in the Society, that is to say, he could neither vote for any measures of administration or be eligible to any office, because he was supposed to have canvassed a provincial congregation. It was only after he had expired, at the age of ninety, that his innocence was established. His knowledge of scripture, theology, history, and literature was stupendous, and he is said to have been familiar with the language of six of the native races. Southey, in his "History of Brazil," calls him one of the greatest statesmen of his country. He was a patriot, whose one dream was to see Portugal the standard-bearer of Christianity in the Old and New Worlds. As an orator he was one of the world's masters, and as a prose writer the greatest that Portugal has every produced. His sermons alone fill fifteen volumes, and there are many of his manuscripts to be found in the British Museum, the National Library of Paris, and elsewhere.
When St. Francis Borgia, the third General of the Society, died in 1572, his most likely successor was Polanco, who had been the secretary of St. Ignatius, and was generally credited with having absorbed the genuine spirit of St. Ignatius. Had he been elected, he would have been the fourth successive Spanish General. It would have been a misfortune at that time, and would have fastened on the members of the Society the name which was already given to them in some parts of Europe: "the Spanish priests," a designation that would have been an implicit denial of the catholicity of the Order, even though the Spanish monarch was "His Catholic Majesty."
Their devoted friend, Pope Gregory XIII, saw the danger and determined to avert it. Fortunately, he had just been asked by Philip of Spain, Sebastian of Portugal, and the cardinal inquisitor not to allow the election of Polanco, who was of Jewish descent. The Pope determined to go further and to exclude any Spaniard from the office, for the time being. At the customary visit of the delegates, prior to the election, he intimated that as there had been three successive Spanish Generals, it might be wise, in view of the world-wide expansion of the Society, to elect someone of another nationality, and he suggested Mercurian. Doubtless his words found a ready response in the hearts of many of those to whom they were addressed, and even most of the Spaniards must have seen the wisdom of the change. A remonstrance, however, was respectfully made that His Holiness was thus withdrawing from the Society its right of freedom of election, to which the Pope made answer that such was not his intention; but in case a Spaniard was chosen he would like to be told who he was, before the public announcement was made. As the Pope's word is law, the Spaniards were excluded as candidates, and apparently, as a measure of conciliation, Everard de Mercœur, or Mercurian, was elected. As his native country, Belgium, was then subject to Spain, the blow thus given to the Spaniards was, to a certain extent, softened. But it was the beginning of trouble which at one time almost threatened the Society with destruction. Fortunately, Mercurian's successor, Aquaviva, had to deal with it when it came.
Mercurian had as yet done nothing great enough to attract public attention; but he evidently enjoyed the unqualified esteem of the Pope. In the Society itself he had filled many important posts such as vice-præpositus of the professed house in Rome, rector of the new college of Perugia, visitor and provincial of Flanders and France, and assistant of Francis Borgia. And in all of these charges he was said to have reproduced in his government the living image of St. Ignatius. A man with such a reputation was invaluable, especially for the spiritual life of the Society, and that is of infinitely greater importance than outward show. There is one thing for which the Order is especially very grateful to him namely, the "Summary of the Constitutions," and the "Common Rules" and the rules for each office, which he drew up at the beginning of his administration. This digest is read every month in the refectory of every Jesuit house and selections from it form the basis of the domestic exhortations given twice a month to the communities by the rector or spiritual father. By this means the character and purpose of the Institute is kept continually before the eyes of every Jesuit, from the youngest novice to the oldest professed, and they are made to see plainly that there is nothing cryptic or esoteric in the government of the Society. Hence, when the priest, after his ordination, goes through what is called his third year of probation, in which the study of the Institute constitutes a large part of his work, nothing really new is presented to him. It is familiar matter studied more profoundly.