Although the Counter-Reformation can only be understood as a diverse movement, it is above all the Society of Jesus (better known as the Jesuits) which came to dominate it, and in many ways personify it. The most prominent of the new orders, the Jesuits stood by the motto ad majorem dei gloriam (to the greater glory of God). There complete loyalty to the church and its leadership were a feature throughout this time period, this is again shown, this time in the Jesuit handbook we ought always be ready to believe that what seems to us white is black, if the hierarchical church so defines it.
The Jesuits crossed national and cultural boundaries at a time when there was a great deal of turmoil and resentment against the papacy. Throughout, the society managed to maintain a unified missionary endeavour, and endeavour to help others but also campaign for the good of the papacy. The Jesuit movement was founded by a Basque gentlemen soldier, Don Inigo Lopez de Loyola (St Ignatius). His military life was put to a halt when he became lame on the battlefield. From this point on he underwent a mystical religious conversion.
This was triggered when he read a book about the lives of saints hilst recovering. He continued to fight, but this time for the Mother of Christ and the salvation of souls. Loyola can be considered a second-generation reformer like Calvin, albeit a Catholic one. Both men were educated in the same college in 1528. Loyola was one of the most dramatic and important characters in sixteenth century history. His starting point was through the lowest form and perhaps purest form of religious salvation and education; he lived the life of a hermit near Manresa, near Catalonia.
After this he went of on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Loyola was preoccupied through two major sources, through his own spiritual education for example in Paris (1528-35) but also with the composition of the works that were to become the handbook of the Jesuit movement, Spiritual Exercises.. In Paris in 1534 Loyola formed the pious fraternity that was soon to become the founder members of the Jesuits. The group took vows of poverty and chastity as well as vows of absolute obedience to the Pope.
In 1535 the group left Paris for Italy and spent the appalling winter of 1538-9 in Rome tending to the sick and looking after the poor. A Papal Bull of 1540 by Pope Paul III formally established the society. With the official recognition of the society brought about the naming of Loyola as General. Loyola had a number of influences and clear beliefs. Thomas A Kempis and leading Spanish mystics, e. g. Garcia de Cisnerol, influenced him. He believed that man is a free agent and may find God where he will.. Loyolas military influences shone through, particularly with the regimental fashion that things were carried out.
The founding members put together a number of clear aims. To begin with the ntention was to forsake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to convert the Muslims; however all access to the Holy Land was barred by the outbreak of the war with the Ottoman Turks. Missionary activity was at the heart of the Jesuit society, this involved helping the needy but also in the process carrying the word to non-believers fighting for God in faithful obedience.. Loyola believed that his members should be able to adapt to local circumstances.
But saying this Loyola believed that the Jesuit members should not only preach Catholic ideas but also some individual Jesuit ideas like persons of considerable mportance; their primary task was to save the souls of other people.. This accompanied with the fact that they had some sympathies for humanists like Erasmus did not always make them one hundred percent in favour from the papal leaders. The Jesuit movement is renound for its educational institutions; this clearly made education one of its aims. People should be educated and informed.
Among the laity the Jesuits were concerned chiefly with the education of the nobility and those of wealth and influence. But they did conduct trade schools and in mission countries, schools for the poor. One of the aims instilled into the Jesuits by the papacy was an important one, to combat the power of the infidel Turks. For 150 years the Jesuits were leaders in European Education. The extent of this success is shown by the fact that they even began to teach non-Jesuit pupils. At first they set up training facilities in Bologna (1546), Messina (1548) and Palermo (1549).
Rapid growth of education institutions throughout Europe followed. Later they carried the struggle into more hostile territory, at the end of the sixteenth century 155 colleges in Habsberg. The educational system applied by the Jesuit members had strong French influence. This is closely linked to the cosmopolitan character of the founding Jesuits, but also linked to Loyolas educational experiences in Paris. In the missionary field growth was equally great. At first things started liberally but Jesuits like St Francis Xavier set the example with journeys around the East Africa to the Far East.
When he arrived in Japan in 1549 he commented, This land is full of idolatries and enemies of Christ.. It was from these types of mission that lessons were learnt. So increasingly the troubles in Europe were of major concern. There work abroad could be considered as a diversion of effort: the heretics nearer home posed more of a serious threat. St Peter Canisus was the most successful Jesuit agent in the reconquest of Southern Germany and central Europe for Catholicism. The Jesuits used a number of methods to consolidate and reclaim lost souls.. They used methods of preaching, in the early years large crowds often gathered to listen.
Also more innovative methods were used such as printing and visual arts to campaign for papal matters. But above all the Jesuits were the educators of many and this was in turn their major weapon against the spread of Protestantism. The Society of Jesus was not founded with the avowed intention of opposing Protestantism. Neither the papal letters or approbation nor the constitutions of the order mentioned this as an object of the new foundation. There are a number of clear conclusions that can be drawn. The Jesuits were a dynamic, and almost regimental force; they were the educators of the aristocracy and confessors of princes.
At a time when the Church was in urmoil and distracted by a number of sources the Jesuits acted almost live a cavalry force to consolidate the church in Southern Europe and reclaim these so called lost souls in Protestant North. People felt betrayed by the papacy, The Jesuits used a number of techniques to cohere these people back to the Roman Catholic way of thinking. Their missionary work outside of Europe developed Christianity throughout the known world. I started by saying the Jesuits dominated Europe, one can conclude that without the aid of the Jesuits the situation in Europe for the papacy would have considerably worse.