Ignacio y la Compañía: Del castillo a la misión, written by María Lara and Laura Lara

in Journal of Jesuit Studies

Madrid: Edaf, 2015. Pp. 373. Pb, €28.

Although the title, Ignacio y la Compañía: Del castillo a la misión (Ignatius and the Society: From the Castle to the Mission) suggests a narrow focus on the early years of the Jesuit community, this book offers an overview of the Society of Jesus from Ignatius of Loyola’s birth into the twenty-first-century, including the election of Jorge Bergoglio as pope. The concept of missionary work is interpreted broadly to detail Jesuit scientific expeditions as well as the Jesuits’ role in the media, specifically as content producers, as influencers in the film industry in the United States via Daniel Lord’s roles as consultant to Hollywood films in the 1920s and 30s and his eventual participation in the development of the Hays Code governing film production in the United States, and as the subjects of contemporary popular films. From time to time, however, the authors state as facts points about the Society’s significance that can be debated; for example, the first sentence affirms that Ignatius of Loyola founded “the most important Catholic religious order in history” (11, translation mine).

The initial chapters provide detailed information not only about Ignatius of Loyola, but also about his milieu. These chapters also offer biographical details about several prominent Spanish members of the Society of Jesus, including Francis Xavier, Francisco de Borja, and Juan Alfonso de Polanco. Although the foundation of the Society of Jesus is briefly contextualized as part of a broader reform of Catholic practices, much of Chapter 2 focuses on the Jesuit order itself. The role of women in the order, particularly the negotiations concerning Isabel Roser and Juana de Austria’s desires to become Jesuits, receives detailed attention. After Chapter 3, which studies the order’s educational and preaching efforts against a backdrop of growing tensions with the Spanish monarchy and Protestant sovereigns’ policies against Catholicism, the volume becomes less panoramic and instead focuses on specific facets of the history of the religious order. Chapter 4 concentrates on the order’s missionary efforts in Egypt and the Far East and Chapter 5 on the Society’s work in the Americas. The organization of Chapter 6 is chronological; it examines the eighteenth-century Society in Iberia and its colonies, including reductions and Jesuits’ scientific contributions. This chapter concludes with the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain and its empire. On occasion, the narrative oversimplifies complicated issues, as in its treatment of the suppression of the order. If the volume had footnotes, these would give the authors space to clarify such complexities. Although the authors list several works relating to the motives for the expulsion from Spain in their bibliography, student readers might not realize that titles that do not contain the word “expulsion” treat this topic without a footnote to bring these texts to their attention. Chapter 7 briefly treats the order’s survival in Prussia and Russia before studying Jesuits in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Chapters 8 through 10 respectively discuss the papacy and the Jesuits, the place of pedagogy, and, in the final chapter, the very name of the Society, tensions with the Dominican order, and film.

This text is part of a series oriented toward general readers published by Edaf and the Ámbito Cultural (Cultural circle) of the Spanish department store El Corte Inglés. Because the volume does not have scholarly apparatus like references to page numbers and editions for direct quotations, footnotes, an extensive bibliography or an index, I would not use this volume as the primary textbook in a university course. Perhaps in the future the authors could produce an on-line or printed supplement with documentation since this would make the text much more useful for classroom and scholarly use. As is, Ignacio could be used in conjunction with other texts at the undergraduate level or potentially in a religion course at the secondary level in the Spanish-speaking world.

The volume’s format is very much indebted to textbooks; the chapters are broken up by supplementary material in text boxes. These text boxes offer brief biographies of notable figures in the Jesuit order, such as Aloysius Gonzaga, and those indebted to Ignatian spirituality such as Mary Ward, as well as descriptions of concepts and sites significant to the Jesuit community, such as reductions and the church of Saint Pierre in Montmartre. Beyond the Society of Jesus, a number of historical and religious topics, such as changes in practices surrounding the sacrament of penance, are defined in one or two page explanations, which are often illustrated. Such ancillary material will prove helpful to readers unfamiliar with the Jesuits and their historical context.

For scholars, the text offers tantalizing bits of information that they will need to source themselves. Personally, I was interested in the statement that a seller of penitential devices earned significant profits at a mission led by Jesuit Pedro [de] Calatayud (101), and I will start my search for the origin of this anecdote with Cecilio Gómez Rodeles’s Vida del célebre misionero P. Pedro Calatayud (Madrid: Sucesores de Rivadeneyra, 1882). Other tidbits unattributed by the authors that have passed into the popular imaginary, like the assertion that Ferdinand of Aragon died as a result of overdosing on an aphrodisiac (18), are easier to trace to particular chroniclers via newspaper articles and blogs.

Apart from engaging anecdotes, it must be noted that this volume contains a wealth of illustrations, many of them in color. Photographs of buildings significant to the Society of Jesus, including the Gesù, Santa María la Mayor in Alcalá de Henares, and the Iglesia de la Compañía in Puebla, Mexico to name only a few of the churches and schools pictured from Spain and its former colonies, is one of the volume’s visual leitmotifs. Portraits of European monarchs, several popes and notable Jesuits also abound. Since the book also contains photographs of manuscripts, maps, frontispieces of rare books, paintings and engravings related to the Society of Jesus, scholars of Jesuit visual or book culture will be interested in looking through the volume for this purpose.

DOI 10.1163/22141332-00403007-04

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