To the Fathers Attending Council of Trent

On Dealing with Others Rome, early 1546

summary | text of letter  | footnotes

          The Council of Trent opened on December 13, 1545. Pope Paul III had asked Ignatius for three Jesuits to serve as theologians to the three papal legates presiding over the council; in response to this request, Ignatius appointed Diego Laínez, Alfonso Salmerón, and Pierre Favre. Laínez and Salmerón arrived in Trent on May 18, 1546; Claude Jay had been there since the previous December representing Cardinal Otto Truchsess of Augsburg. Favre, however, was never to arrive. At the time of his appointment he was in Spain preparing the way for future houses of the Society. But before setting out for Trent, he first wanted to visit Ignatius and, thus, he sailed from Barcelona, landed at Genoa, and made his way southward, arriving in Rome on July 17, 1546. Favre's health had been greatly weakened by the frequent bouts of fever he had suffered over the past years, and before he had a chance to leave Rome for Trent the fever returned and he died on August 1. At Trent Laínez and Salmerón were assigned the task of making abstracts from Protestant books and extracting propositions for discussion in the council. Both Jesuits also spoke before the assembled fathers. Before the two of them left Rome in early 1546, Ignatius wrote an instruction for their benefit and in it he offers his advice on how to deal with others at the council, encourages them to initiate an apostolate among the people of the city, and suggests some self-helps. Ignatius clearly did not view the position of peritus as a full-time job, for, in addition to their work at the council they were to preach, hear confessions, visit the sick and poor, catechize children, and give the Exercises to those ready for them. This instruction was written sometime in early 1546 and is in Spanish [Ep. 1:386-389].

Instruction for the Sojourn at Trent


Dealing with Others

          1. Since associating and dealing with many people for the salvation and spiritual progress of souls can be very profitable with God's help so, on the other hand, if we are not on our guard and helped by God's grace, such association can be the occasion of great loss to ourselves and sometimes to everyone concerned. In keeping with our profession we cannot withdraw from such association and, therefore, the more prepared we are to proceed according to a common plan, the more likely we are to succeed in our Lord. In the following notes, which may be modified or amplified according to need, we may be able to offer some assistance.

          2. Be slow to speak. Be considerate and kind, especially when it comes to deciding on matters under discussion, or about to be discussed in the council.

          3. Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.

          4. When these or other matters are under discussion, I should consider the reasons on both sides without showing any attachment to my own opinion, and try to avoid bringing dissatisfaction to anyone.

          5. I should not cite anyone as supporting my opinion, especially if they are persons of importance, unless this has been thoroughly arranged beforehand. And I would deal with everyone on an equal basis, never taking sides with anyone.

          6. If the matters being discussed are of such a nature that you cannot or ought not to be silent, then give your opinion with the greatest possible humility and sincerity, and always end with the words salvo meliori iudicio—with due respect for a better opinion.

          7. Finally, if some point of human or divine science is under discussion and I have something to say, it will be of great help to forget about my own leisure or lack of time—that is, my own convenience. I should rather accommodate myself to the convenience of him with whom I am to deal so that I may influence him to God's greater glory.

Helping Souls

          1. While at Trent Ours should try to live together in some respectable district. And what they should especially seek to accomplish for God's greater glory is to preach, hear confessions, lecture, instruct children, give good example, visit the poor in the hospitals, and exhort the neighbor according to the talents each is conscious of possessing, so as to move as many as possible to prayer and devotion. Pray and lead others to pray particularly to God our Lord, beseeching His Divine Majesty to deign to send forth His Holy Spirit on all who take part in the discussions of that august gathering, so that the Holy Spirit may descend in greater abundance with His grace and gifts upon the council.

          2. In your sermons do not touch on subjects on which Catholics and Protestants are at variance, but simply exhort your audience to virtue and to devotions approved by the Church. Awaken in souls a thorough knowledge of themselves and a love of their Creator and Lord. Speak frequently of the council and always end your sermons, as we have said, with a prayer for the council.

          3. In lecturing follow the same rules as you do in preaching, and try to enkindle in souls a love of their Creator and Lord, explaining the meaning of the passage read, and have your hearers pray as has been indicated.

          4. When you hear confessions remember to tell your penitents the same that you have said in public. Let the penance consist of prayers for the council.

          5. In giving the Exercises and in other conversations, remember that you are equivalently speaking in public. Recall that, in general, only the exercises of the first week should be given to everyone, unless you are dealing with very special persons who are prepared to arrange their lives according to the manner of the elections. Such persons should not be allowed to make any vows, either during the Exercises or at their end; nor should they bind themselves in any other way, especially at the beginning. Later on, if time allows, they might do so, but always with moderation, and only if the Exercises are given in their entirety. Prayers for the council should also be said.

          6. You should teach boys at some appropriate time, according to an arrangement that is suitable and which may vary in different places. Begin with the basic rudiments and explain them in keeping with the needs of your audience. When you end your instruction recite some prayers for the council.

          7. Visit the hospitals at some convenient hour during the day, always taking your health into consideration. Hear the confessions of the poor and console them, and even take them some little gift if you can. Have them pray, as I have suggested when speaking of hearing confessions. If you are at least three in number, each one should take his turn visiting the poor, a day at a time, twice a week.

          8. Exhort those with whom you come into contact to frequent confession, Communion, or the celebration of Mass. Have them make the Exercises and perform other works of piety; also encourage them to pray for the council.

          9. Here also, as in determining the matters to be discussed, it will be better to be slow to speak and to speak little, as I have said. But on the other hand, if you wish to urge souls to make progress in the spiritual life, it will be better to speak at length, with order, and with kindness and love.

Some Self-Helps

          Spend an hour at night when each of you can share with the others what you have done that day and discuss your plans for the following day.

          We should agree on past and future matters by vote, or in some other way.

          On one night, let one of you ask the others to correct him in what he may have done amiss, and he who is corrected should make no answer unless he is asked to explain the matter about which he has been corrected. On another night, another will do the same. Thus each one in turn, so that all can be helped unto greater charity and to greater influence in all things.

          Make your resolutions in the morning and twice during the day make the examen.

          This order should begin within five days of your arrival at Trent. Amen.