The college in Modena opened in 1552, and Philip Leernus1 was its second rector. He wrote to Ignatius protesting his unsuitableness to the task especially because of the dryness of soul he was then experiencing. In this letter of encouragement, Ignatius exhorts him to have confidence in God and in His divine gifts. What is important is solid virtue, and spiritual relish does not make a man perfect nor is it necessary in the divine service. The letter was written in Italian [Ep. 6:109-110].
The peace of Christ.
My dear Father Master Philip:
The office of rector which your reverence holds is in good hands. You ought to be on your guard that your desire for humiliation does not yield to the spirit of faintheartedness. We should not have a petty regard for God's gifts, though we may and should despise our own imperfections. Let your reverence be of good heart and let your companion, Master Giovanni Lorenzo2 help you when he can. Do not lose heart or belittle yourself. Be assured that we have a higher esteem of God's gifts in your reverence than you yourself have.
As to that blindness or dryness of soul which you think you find in yourself, it may easily come from a lack of confidence, or faintheartedness and, consequently, can be cured by the contrary. Above all remember that God looks for solid virtues in us, such as patience, humility, obedience, abnegation of your own will—that is, the good will to serve Him and our neighbor in Him. His providence allows us other devotions only insofar as He sees that they are useful to us. But since they are not essential, they do not make a man perfect when they abound, nor do they make him imperfect when they are absent.
I will say no more, except to pray that Jesus Christ our Lord may be your strength and the support of us all.
From Rome, December 30, 1553.
Leernus was born in Flanders about 1525, in the small town of Leerneur, near Liège. His family name was Faber, but he was known in the Society as Philip Leernus, after his native town, as well as Philip of Flanders. He was a priest at the time of his entrance into the Society in Rome in October 1550. He was first stationed at the college in Ferrara and became rector at Modena at the end of 1553. He died in Modena on February 26, 1558.
Giovanni Lorenzo Patarini was born on December 25, 1527, in Piacenza, Italy, and entered the Society on April 21, 1551. He studied at Bologna, was ordained there in March 1552, was then stationed in Ferrara and moved to Modena with Philip Leernus. He died in Naples on November 7, 1557.