To Father Simão Rodrigues

On Being a Reconciler   Rome, March 18, 1542

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          Simão Rodrigues 1 was one of Ignatius' original companions in Paris and it was he who introduced (1540) the Society into Portugal. When Ignatius wrote this letter the relations between Pope Paul III and King John III of Portugal were at their worst. The pope had named Miguel da Silva,2 the king's former minister, a cardinal, which action infuriated the king, since he thought that only members of the royal family should become cardinals. The king then sent acerbic letters to the papal curia, and to show his grave displeasure with the pontiff, he recalled his ambassador Cristovão da Sousa, and seized the temporalities accruing to Silva from his bishopric. Ignatius wrote this letter a week after the ambassador had left Rome. Thinking of the universal good and feeling that he owed a debt of gratitude to both the pope and the king, Ignatius desired to do all he could to effect a reconciliation and, hence, wrote to Rodrigues, who was on the scene in Portugal. The letter recalls the gratitude that the Society owes Pope Paul, since it was he who first approved the Society and later approved its works and its teaching. It also recalls the debt the Society owes to the king, since it was through his royal patronage that the Society took root and spread through Portugal. In addition, the king founded the college in Coimbra, where Jesuit scholastics were being trained, and the Santo Antão residence in Lisbon. Since gratitude must be expressed—ingratitude is one of the worst sins—Ignatius feels that the Society must do something for both its friends, and so he asks Rodrigues to do all in his power to bring about a reconciliation, and that Ignatius will work for the same goal in Rome. The language of the original letter is Spanish [Ep. 1:192-196].


          May the perfect grace and eternal love of Christ our Lord be our never-failing protection and help.

          In the light of the Divine Goodness, it seems to me, though others may think differently, that ingratitude is the most abominable of sins and that it should be detested in the sight of our Creator and Lord by all of His creatures who are capable of enjoying His divine and everlasting glory. It is a forgetting of the graces, benefits, and blessings received, and as such it is the cause, beginning, and origin of all sins and misfortunes. Contrariwise, the grateful acknowledgment of blessings and gifts received is loved and esteemed both in heaven and on earth. I thought it well, therefore, to remind you that from the time we arrived in Rome we have been continually favored in many things by the pope and have received special favors from His Holiness. Likewise, the whole Society knows, and you more clearly than others, since you are there present, the great obligations we owe the king, your lord and ours in our Lord.

          First. For the many spiritual graces which God our Creator and Lord has been so good as to grant us. His wish being to raise everything to His greater service and praise through His ordinary grace, as Creator looking with an infinite love upon His creature, and though infinite, made Himself finite and willing to die for him.

          Second. Who are we, or whence are we that God our Lord should have ordained that so outstanding a prince should have taken notice of us? Acting on his own initiative or at the suggestion of others, but certainly not because of any thought or effort of ours and even before the Society was confirmed by the Holy See, he asked the pope with such insistence for some of Ours for his service in our Lord and showed us such special consideration at a time when our teaching was under no little suspicion.

          Third. Since our going to Portugal, you will be much more familiar with the situation—not that we are kept in the dark. In fact, we are treated with much love and affection, even with temporal assistance, such as cannot be expected from all princes. For from the abundance of his heart and out of affection for us, he has offered to found a college and to build some houses for the Society, despite its unworthiness before our Creator and Lord in heaven and so great a prince on earth. And this is not all; he has taken under his protection those whom we have sent from here to Portugal for studies.

          I wished to remind you of all this because if you there and we here have one and the same end of always serving our Creator and Lord in all respects ever more and more, and are faithful and grateful to those to whom under the Divine Goodness we owe so much, we shall try with all the strength that heaven gives us to carry our share of the spiritual and corporal labors and trials, many of which the enemy of our human nature for quite the contrary end has endeavored to sow between these great and important personages.

          Now, since you as well as we are quite aware, not only of what has taken place but of what is actually going on, it only remains for us as debtors very diligently to take up our spiritual arms, you in your position and we here in ours, having forever abandoned temporal ones, and be persistent in our daily prayer, continuing to make a special remembrance in our Masses and begging our Lord to deign to lay His hand and bestow His grace on a matter which is so worthy of being commended to His infinite and supreme goodness. Though I am quite convinced that with God's grace the enemy will never prevail over this work, no small harm and confusion can come to many souls if this situation were to continue even for a few days.

          I had a long conversation on the subject with the cardinal of Burgos,3 who in all our matters is a very special supporter and adviser in the Lord, and the few words he spoke to me not only confirmed me in my opinion but gave me also no little consolation. He said: "Someone has told me that there was a report that the king of Portugal is leaving the pope's obedience." The good cardinal would not hear of it, and answered with some spirit: "Who says that? Even if the pope were to trample the king of Portugal under foot, he would not do so. Do you think that the people of Portugal are like the people here, or that the king is like the king of England, who was already half out of the Church before he declared himself so? Do not think that of so Christian and conscientious a king."

          I have thought of writing the king, but have held back, partly because of my insignificance and unworthiness and partly because I am excused by your presence there at court. It is your duty to pay the king due reverence and to speak for all of us as well as for yourself. Yet, if you think I should write, I will abide by your judgment, as I have no desire of falling short even in the slightest detail, in our Lord. . . .

          Since I have written at length elsewhere concerning the dispersed Society and the spiritual fruit which our Lord deigns to gather through them, there remains nothing to add here. May He in His infinite and supreme goodness be our protection, favor and help.

          From Rome, March 18, 1542.

          A week ago today the king's ambassador left for Portugal.

Yours in our Lord,


1 Rodrigues was born in 1510 in the village of Vouzela in the diocese of Viseu, northern Portugal. He was first educated in Lisbon, then went (1527) to Paris and studied at Collège de Sainte-Barbe with Ignatius. He is numbered among the first companions and pronounced vows at Montmartre on August 15, 1534. He was superior (1539-1546) and provincial (1546-1552) of the Portuguese province. In 1553 he was called to Italy, where he remained until 1564, when he went to Spain. In 1573 he returned to Portugal and died at Lisbon on July 15, 1579.
2 Silva (born ca. 1480) had been Portuguese ambassador in Rome during the pontificates of Leo X (1513-1521), Adrian VI (1522-1523), and Clement VII (1523-1534). These popes several times had wanted to make him a cardinal, but King John III always voiced his disapproval. On Silva’s return to Portugal he became (1526) bishop of Viseu and prime minister. Silva preferred living in Rome to living at the Portuguese court, and when he asked the king’s permission to leave the realm, supposedly to attend the Council of Trent, it was denied. Silva ignored the royal prohibition and secretly left (1540) for Italy. Pope Paul III (1534-1549), who was friendly with Silva, had made him a cardinal in petto in 1539, and only revealed his name on December 2, 1541. Silva spent the remainder of his life in Italy and died in Rome on June 5, 1556.
3 This was the Dominican Juan Álvarez de Toledo (born 1488), who became a curial cardinal in 1538. After examining the Spiritual Exercises, by papal request, he approved (1547) them. He was protector of the Roman College and when he became (1550) archbishop of Compostela, he obtained Ignatius’ approval for a Jesuit college in his see. He died in Rome on September 15, 1557.