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To Father Lorenzo Of Modena

On Universal Charity


Rome, May 16, 1556

summary | text of letter

          Fr. Lorenzo of Modena is known principally from this letter. He had been stationed in Ferrara, and when transferred to Modena he gave rosaries to his many penitents as a remembrance of his stay in that city, plus a spiritual document that he had written, which was not free of error. Ignatius received word of this and, thus, he writes to him. He views Lorenzo's gesture as an act of charity, but one somewhat adulterated by human affection. Ignatius instructs him that a Jesuit's charity must be universal, that is, it must be the same for all individuals, no matter what their place of origin, etc. Charity does not prefer one group over another, nor one individual over another. To mix personal preference or human affection with charity is to render it imperfect. When we find ourselves doing this, we must purify our charity. Our apostolate should embrace all, not just those devoted to us. The language of the letter is Italian [Ep. 11:408-409].


          The peace of Christ.

          Beloved in Christ, Father and Brother, Lorenzo of Modena.

          We have learned that you have given rosaries and a certain dialogue, full of errors, to, I do not know, how many ladies, who are devoted to you. If that was done without the superior's permission of the superior, it was done badly and for many reasons. Nevertheless, you ought to know that our Society, since it practices a universal charity with regard to all nations and all individuals, does not approve particular affections toward one group or toward this or that person, except when ordinary charity demands it. The Society considers such a mixture of human affection with charity as something imperfect. These gifts and the unnecessary letters seem to be a sign of such affection. The proper spirit of the same Society is also that it does not wish that other persons have such mixed affections toward us. When we meet it, we must purify it as much as possible, or not give occasion to manifest it to these men or women; with them we should have limited relations.

          Enough to advert you to this. I heartily commend myself to your prayers.

          From Rome, 16 May, 1556.