To the Whole Society

Prayers for Germany and England  

Rome, June 25, 1553

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          Peter Canisius, writing to Ignatius from Vienna, sometime in June or July 1553, asked him to request Masses and prayers from the members of the Society for Germany and the northern countries suffering the ravages of the Reformation. Ignatius took to the idea and immediately wrote a letter to the entire Society requesting these prayers and stipulated that the priests were to celebrate Mass once a month for this intention, and that the nonpriests were to offer their prayers for the same. Ignatius did not restrict this order to European houses, but also asked the prayers of the brethren in India. Though Canisius did not mention England by name, Ignatius does so in his letter for news had recently arrived that Mary Tudor had succeeded to the English throne, and with a Catholic queen now ruling England Ignatius hoped that that nation would soon be brought back to the Catholic faith. Since this letter was directed to all Jesuits, it was written in Latin [Ep. 5:220-222].


          Ignatius of Loyola, General of the Society of Jesus, to my beloved brothers in Christ, superiors and subjects of the Society of Jesus, everlasting health in our Lord.

          The order of charity by which we should love the whole body of the Church in her head, Jesus Christ, requires a remedy to be applied, especially to that part which is more seriously and dangerously affected. Therefore, it seems to us that we should, as far as our slender resources allow, to bestow with special attention the help the Society is able to give to Germany and England and the northern nations which are so grievously afflicted with the disease of heresy.

          Though many of us have already carefully attended to this by other means,1 applying Masses and prayers for many years now, still, in order to give this duty of charity a wider field and a longer life, we enjoin on all rectors and superiors, who are placed over others, to celebrate, if they are priests, and to have those under their authority celebrate one Mass each month to God; and those who are not priests, their prayers for the spiritual needs of Germany and England, so that at length the God of these nations and of all others that are infected with heresy may have pity on them and deign to lead them back to the purity of the Christian faith and religion.

          It is our desire that these prayers continue as long as these nations need our help, and that no province, even those in farthest India, be exempt from this duty of charity.

          From Rome, July 25, 1663.

1 Among these means would have been the sending of Jesuits to Ingolstadt in 1549, to Vienna in 1551, and the opening of the German College in Rome in 1552.