POPE PAUL III’S APPROVAL OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS (1540)
Paul, the bishop, servant of the servants of God, for a perpetual memorial of this matter:
Of late we have learned that our beloved sons Ignatius de Loyola, Peter Faber, James Laynez, Claude le Jay, Pasquier Brouet, Francis Xavier, Alfonzo Salmeron, Simon Rodriguez, John Codure, and Nicholas de Boabdilla, priests, masters of arts, and graduates of the University of Paris, and students of some years' standing in theology, inspired, as they piously believe, by the Holy Spirit, assembled together and, forming an association, forsook the allurements of the age to dedicate their lives to the perpetual service of our Lord Jesus Christ and of ourselves and our successors, the Roman pontiffs.
Now for many years they have labored nobly in the vineyard of the Lord, publicly preaching the word of God under a tentative license, privately exhorting the faithful to a good and blessed life and stimulating them to holy thoughts, assisting in hospitals, instructing the young and ignorant in the truths essential for the development of a Christian, and performing all these offices of charity and acts for the consolation of souls with great approbation in whatever lands they have visited.
Whereas, moreover, we have found that the happier, purer, and more edifying life is that removed as far as possible from all contagion of avarice and modeled as nearly as may be upon evangelical poverty, and whereas we know that our Lord Jesus Christ will furnish the necessities of food and clothing to his servants who seek only the kingdom of God, therefore each and every member shall vow perpetual poverty, declaring that neither individually, nor even in common for the support or use of the society, will he ac-quire any civil right over any permanent property, rents, or incomes whatever, but that he will be content with the use only of such articles as shall be given him to meet his necessities. They may, however, maintain in universities a college or colleges with means or possessions to be applied reverence as far as is seemly….
Then, gathering in this beautiful city and remaining within its confines in order to complete and preserve the union of their society in Christ, they have drawn up a rule of life in accordance with the principles which they have learned by experience will promote their desired ends, and in conformity with evangelical precepts and the canonical sanctions of the fathers. The tenor of the aforesaid rule is as follows:
He who desires to fight for God under the banner of the cross in our society, - which we wish to distinguish by the name of Jesus, - and to serve God alone and the Roman pontiff, his vicar on earth, after a solemn vow of perpetual chastity, shall set this thought before his mind, that he is a part of a society founded for the especial purpose of providing for the advancement of souls in Christian life and doctrine and for the propagation of the faith through public preaching and the ministry of the word of God, spiritual exercises and deeds of charity, and in particular through the training of the young and ignorant in Christianity and through the spiritual consolation of the faithful of Christ in hearing confessions; and he shall take care to keep first God and next the purpose of this organization always before his eyes. . . .
All the members shall realize, and shall recall daily, as long as they live, that this society as a whole and in every part is fighting for God under faithful obedience to one most holy lord, the pope, and to the other Roman pontiffs who succeed him. And although we are taught in the gospel and through the orthodox faith to recognize and steadfastly profess that all the faithful of Christ are subject to the Roman pontiff as their head and as the vicar of Jesus Christ, yet we have adjudged that, for the special promotion of greater humility in our society and the perfect mortification of every individual and the sacrifice of our own wills, we should each be bound by a peculiar vow, in addition to the general obligation, that whatever the present Roman pontiff, or any future one, may from time to time decree regarding the welfare of souls and the propagation of the faith, we are pledged to obey without evasion or excuse, instantly, so far as in us lies, whether he send us to the Turks or any other infidels, even to those who inhabit the regions men call the Indies; whether to heretics or schismatics, or, on the other hand, to certain of the faithful.
Wherefore those who come to us shall reflect long and deeply, before they take this burden upon their shoulders, as to whether they have among their goods enough spiritual treasure to enable them, according to the Lord's precept, to carry out their enterprise, - that is, whether the Holy Spirit who impels them promises them so much grace that they may hope to support the weight of this profession with his aid; then, after they have, under God's inspiration, been enrolled in this army of Jesus Christ, day and night must they have their loins girded and themselves in readiness for the payment of their mighty obligation. Nor shall there be amongst us any ambition or rivalry whatsoever for missions and provines…. Subordinates shall, indeed, both for the sake of the wide activities of the order and also for the assiduous practice, never sufficiently to be commended, of humility, be bound always to obey the commander in every matter pertaining to the organization of the society, and shall recognize Christ as present in him, and shall do him to the needs and exigencies of the students; all control or supervision of any sort over the said colleges and students being vested in the commander and the society….
The foregoing is what, by the permission of our said Lord Paul and of the apostolic see, we have been allowed to set forth as a general ideal for our profession. We have taken this step at this time in order that by this brief document we might inform the persons who are inquiring now about our way of life, and also posterity, - if, by God's will, there shall be those to follow us in the path upon which (attended though it be by many grave difficulties) we have entered. We have further judged it expedient to prescribe that no one shall be received into this society until he has been long and thoroughly tried; but when he has proved himself wise in Christ as well as in doctrine, and exalted in the purity of the Christian life, then at length he shall be admitted into the army of Jesus Christ. May he deign to prosper our feeble undertaking to the glory of God the Father, to whom alone be ever praise and honor throughout the ages. Amen.
Whereas nothing may be discovered in the foregoing which is not pious or devout, in order that these associates, who have made their humble application to us may be the better forwarded in their religious plan of life for feeling themselves included in the grace of the apostolic see and finding their projects meeting our approval, we do, through apostolic authority, approve, confirm, bless, and fortify with a bulwark of everlasting power the whole and every part of the aforesaid organization, and we take these associates under the protection of ourselves and this holy apostolic see; . . . We will also that persons who desire to profess the rules of life of this society be admitted into it and counted with the said society up to the number of sixty and no more. To no man whatsoever be it permitted to infringe or violate this statement of our approbation, benediction, and justification. If any one shall presume to attempt it, let him be assured that he incurs the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed Peter and Paul, his apostles.
Given at St. Mark's