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In The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola: Contexts, Sources, Reception, Terence O’Reilly examines the historical, theological and literary contexts in which the Exercises took shape. The collected essays have as their common theme the early history of the Spiritual Exercises, and the interior life of Ignatius Loyola to which they give expression.
The traditional interpretation of the Exercises was shaped by writings composed in the late sixteenth century, reflecting the preoccupations of the Counter-Reformation world in which they were composed. The Exercises, however, belong, in their origins, to an earlier period, before the Council of Trent, and the full recognition of this fact, and of its implications, has confronted modern scholars with fresh questions about the sources, evolution, and reception of the work.

The leading critic in Spain of the early Society of Jesus and its founder was the Dominican theologian Melchor Cano, who believed that the spirituality of Ignatius and his companions was a form of illuminism. During the 1550s he set out his reasons for thinking this in his Censura y parecer contra el Insituto de los Padres Jesuitas, a document he intended to show to the pope. It survives in a number of manuscripts, one of them in the British Library in London. The present article traces the history of the text, which was long considered lost, and examines its portrayal of Ignatius, the Spiritual Exercises, and the Society. It concludes with a critical edition of the British Library manuscript.

In: Journal of Jesuit Studies

The recovery of important historical texts in the last half century has provoked a reevaluation of the features of Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises that have been described as “mystical” (especially their contemplative dimension and their implicit pneumatology), inviting us to reconsider the history of their composition and first reception, including the relationship between the spirituality of Ignatius to which they give expression, and the teachings of the illuminists or alumbrados. This article furthers this discussion by examining criticisms directed against the Spiritual Exercises during the last decade of Ignatius’s life by two Spanish Dominicans, Melchor Cano and Tomás de Pedroche, who found parallels between the Exercises and the theology of the illuminists. These criticisms were serious enough to affect the received interpretation of what we now call the mystical aspects of the Exercises leading up to its codification in the Official Directory of 1599, particularly regarding the place, if any, of contemplation in the lives of the laity, the role of consolation in prayer, and the experience of direct divine guidance.

In: Journal of Jesuit Studies