To Father Jerónimo Doménech

On Preferring the Universal Good of the Society over that of a Particular Province  

 Rome, January 13, 1554

summary | text of letter | footnotes

          Jerónimo Doménech1 was provincial of Sicily and was concerned about the lack of Jesuits to staff the various positions in his province. He wrote to Ignatius complaining of the few men who had been sent him for a harvest so vast, and had commented to some that the founder was not sending men to Sicily because he had little interest in the place. Ignatius heard of this remark and directed Polanco to write this letter of reproof. Polanco writes that Ignatius did not appreciate the provincial's comment, informs him that the other houses in Italy are likewise suffering from lack of men, and reminds him that Ignatius has to consider the universal good of the Society rather than that of any single province. By enumerating the several Italian colleges that were understaffed, Polanco shows that Sicily is the best provided of all. Doménech is, of course, to make his needs known to Ignatius, but he is then to leave everything in the general's hands. Polanco's letter was written in Spanish [Ep. 6:178-180].

          The peace of Christ.

          My dear father in Christ:

          I would much prefer to write in a way that would console you rather than offend you, but your reverence must refrain from giving occasion. Indeed, if our Father were not kept busy by other pressing matters, he would show in a much more effective manner his dislike of your reverence's complaints, which reflect, discredit on him, not only because you do not submit your own judgment to his in his appointments but because, in the presence of others, you also condemn them as being bad. This is clearly seen in the instance of the three who had recently come from Spain.2 You tried to keep Master Pierre Chanel3 and you complained to him that, while our Father in the beginning sent you outstanding men of the Society, he later withdrew all of them, and so forth.

          Your reverence overlooks the fact that some recompense had been made for those who were taken away, and you fail to see (something still more surprising) that our Father is obliged to keep the universal good in mind. Thus, besides providing you with enough men to carry on the works you have undertaken, he must assist others in places where our Lord wishes to make use of the Society and its members. The college of Venice has only one priest4 who has no knowledge of philosophy or theology; that of Padua has two5 who are weak in literature and without advanced training; that of Modena has two6 who are only average in Latin and still mere youths. At Ferrara, Pelletier7 was alone until another was sent to help him, who does not know a great deal of literature or higher studies.8 Father Francesco Palmio9 is at Bologna, but no other priest can be sent as companion to him, since there is no other. Master Louis10 is at Florence, and another11 who has only with difficulty completed his literary studies. There are two at Gubbio,12 but neither of them is a theologian. There is a single theologian at Perugia13 and another who is no theologian.14 And I think that there is an equal or even greater lack of schoolmasters in these places. But this does not prevent them from producing fruit, God making up for what our poor efforts cannot accomplish. If we compare conditions in Sicily with conditions in all of Italy, there is no doubt that it is better provided than any other place, even after making all necessary allowances.

          Now, despite all this, our Father does not wish that your reverence fail to declare your mind. Rather it is his wish that you do so, but he does not wish that your reverence allow any word to escape that would seem to indicate that you are complaining of what he does. Do not broadcast your needs abroad. He will be content if you make them known to him, and then leave everything to him. You should prefer the general good to the particular, and convince yourself that our Father, once he has been informed simply, and without any attempt to use pressure, will decide what will be to the greater service of God our Lord and the general good. Indeed, this should be the aim of all, even though local angels have a special preference for their particular provinces or localities.

          To help your reverence not to forget to keep confidential what you think you need in Sicily, and to write by way of representation and so forth, send in your own writing what you think of doing. This our Father expressly commands. Try also to console him occasionally, seeing that he has so much trouble keeping so many places here in Europe and in Ethiopia supplied with men, besides maintaining this university in Rome, where there is much sickness among the professors and students. Doctor Olave,15 who lectured twice a day in theology, is worn out, and it has become necessary to relieve him of one course to preserve his health. This course will be taken over by Master Jean,16 who has just come from Sicily. However, God is our help, whose glory we seek in Sicily, Rome, and everywhere.

          May He fill us with knowledge of Him and hope in Him, and dwell in our souls with perfect love. Amen.

          From Rome, January 13, 1554.

1 Doménech was born in Valencia, Spain, in 1516, and was a priest when he met Pierre Favre in Parma, Italy, in 1539. He made the Exercises and was accepted into the Society in September of that year. He was rector of the students studying in Paris (1540-1542), served as Ignatius’ secretary in Rome (1544-1545), was provincial of Sicily (1553-1561, 1562-1568, 1570-1576), and rector of the Roman College (1568-1570). He returned to Spain and died in Valencia on December 20, 1592.
2 The three priests were Pierre Chanel (see note 87 below), Jean Couvillon (see note 100 below) and Jean de la Goutte. They sailed from Spain in late 1553, and landed in Sicily and then made their way toward Rome. De la Goutte, known as Guttanus, was, unfortunately captured on his way to Rome by Turkish pirates somewhere near Naples, and all attempts to secure his release proved fruitless. He died in 1555. The other two arrived in Rome shortly before this letter was written.
3 Chanel, known as Canal or Canale, was born near Lyons, France, about 1526. He entered the Jesuits in Paris (1543), studied in Spain, and was called to Rome to teach at the Roman College. He died at Billom, France, in 1562.
4 This was Cesare Helmi, rector of the college. He was born in Foligno, Italy, in 1522, entered the Society in Rome (1549), and died in Venice on July 31, 1576.
5 The two in Padua were Giovanni Battista Tavona and Luigi Nappi. The former was rector of the college, having been born in Modena, Italy, about 1520. He entered in Rome (1541) and died in Bovona on November 21, 1573. Nappi was born in Milan, about 1531, entered in Rome (1550), was ordained priest in Padua (1553) and died in Milan on July 22, 1589.
6 Those in Modena were Philip Leernus and Giovanni Lorenzo Patarini. Both were under thirty years of age (see letter 29 in this collection).
7 See letter 17 in this collection.
8 This may be a reference to Louis Harmeville, who was born near Verdun, France, about 1528, entered the Society in Rome (1550) and died at Pont-à-Mousson on October 4, 1578.
9 Palmio was born in Parma, Italy, in 1518, and became a Jesuit in 1547. He was rector of the community in Bologna at this time and died there on April 23, 1585.
10 The rector in Florence was Louis de Coudret, born in Savoy in 1523. He entered the Society in Rome (1546) and died in Paris on November 12, 1572.
11 This seems to be a reference to a member of the community known simply as Father Desiderio. He was a Frenchman, born about 1521, entered the Society in Rome (1550), and died in Florence on July 19, 1561.
12 The two in Gubbio, Italy, were the rector Alberto Ferrarese (see letter 40 in this collection), and Giovanni Agostino Riva, who had been born in Padua about 1503. Riva became a Jesuit in 1552, and died in Loreto on August 17, 1563.
13 This was Everard Mercurian, rector of the college. He was born about 1515 at Marcourt, Luxembourg, and entered the Society in Paris in 1548. He served as rector in Perugia (1552-1557), provincial of Flanders (1558-1565), German assistant (1565-1572), and general of the Society (1573-1580). He died in Rome on August 1, 1580.
14 This was Jean Lenoir, a Frenchman, known among the Jesuits by his Latin name Niger. He entered the Society as a priest in Rome in 1552, and died at Ferrara on February 17, 1555.
15 Martin Olave was also dean of the Roman College. He was born in Vitoria, Spain, about 1512, was ordained in 1544, and received his doctorate from Paris in the same year. He became a Jesuit in Rome (1552) and died there on August 17, 1556.
16 Jean Couvillon was a Frenchman, born in Lille in 1523. He entered the Society at Louvain (1544) received his doctorate at Gandía (1550), and after teaching many years at the Roman College, died in Rome on August 17, 1581.