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A Jesuit Pope with a Franciscan Heart
If you want to understand St. Ignatius and Jesuits, turn to Francis of Assisi.
December 2013
CNS PHOTO/PAUL HARING Franciscan Friendship
Between the incident at Jerusalem in 1523 and the conflict about a Jesuit college there in 1553, however, there were many positive interactions between the established Franciscans and the men who would be the first Jesuits.

Ignatius and his friends studied under Franciscans and Dominicans when they took up advanced studies at the University of Paris. Earlier, Ignatius had benefited from the spiritual direction of a Franciscan confessor in Barcelona while working on preliminary studies there around 1524, before leaving for Paris. The most important encounter between Ignatius and a Franciscan confessor ended up making Ignatius the first superior general of the Jesuits.

As the story goes, Ignatius was twice unanimously elected by the first companions, excluding himself, who declined to name anyone, and said in his ballot that he agreed with whomever his friends chose.

Twice he declined, but Ignatius agreed to yield to God’s will through the voice of his confessor, a Franciscan in Rome named Fra Teodosio da Lodi. This insightful man told Ignatius on Easter Sunday in 1541 that he was God’s choice to lead the new Society of Jesus. And so he did. For years afterward, Ignatius celebrated Mass in a Franciscan chapel in Rome, perhaps the very same room where God had spoken to the new Jesuit with a Franciscan voice.

Now, 500 years later, it seems to be happening again.

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Christopher M. Bellitto, PhD, is associate professor of history at Kean University in Union, New Jersey. His books include 101 Questions and Answers on Popes and the Papacy and Renewing Christianity.
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