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To Father Claude Jay

A Secret Mission of Charity Rome, December 12 1545

summary | text of letter  | footnotes

          In this letter to Claude Jay1 Ignatius expresses the hope that the Society could act as an intermediary in bringing an errant brother back to the fold. A certain individual, who remains unidentified in the correspondence,2 approached Ignatius to speak to him about Fra Bernardino Ochino3 and to ask his help in bringing the Capuchin back to the Church. Ochino, one of the most celebrated preachers of that period, had come under the influence of Juan de Valdés,4 while Ochino was in Naples, and soon afterwards began to manifest Protestant tendencies in his preaching. Rather than answer the summons to Rome to explain himself, Ochino left Italy in September 1542, went to Geneva and there followed the Reformation. Ignatius felt that he could not take the matter up with the pope until he had some letter indicating Fra Bernardino's desire for reconciliation. Not waiting for the unidentified individual to procure such a letter from Ochino, Ignatius, on his own initiative, wrote to Jay, who was then at Dillingen in Bavaria, and about to go to the Council of Trent to represent Cardinal Otto Truchsess of Augsburg. Since Ochino was then ministering to the Italian Protestant congregation in Augsburg, Ignatius thought that perhaps Jay could visit him, sound him out, and promise him the Society's help in doing all it can for him. If Ochino should express fear, Jay was to assure him that Ignatius would speak for him, as would Diego Laínez5 and Alfonso Salmerón. The latter two were probably mentioned because they had been chosen by the pope to be his theologians at Trent (see letter #8). It is not known whether Jay visited Ochino, but we know that when Jay received Ignatius' letter, he was no longer in Bavaria but at Trent. Ignatius views this as a mission of charity of utmost importance and whose successful outcome would bring much glory to God. Ignatius' letter is in Spanish [Ep. 1:343-344].


          The purpose of this letter, which must remain confidential, is to give you information which will help you to understand and handle this important work of charity, whose success will mean so much for God's glory. Briefly, then, a person of great charity, who is well acquainted with Fra Bernardino came to speak to me and informed me of the affair. This individual's plan was to take a middle course and provide some satisfactory means whereby a pardon could be obtained. I answered that, if I had a letter from him, without which I did not think it possible to approach the pope or anyone else, I would do everything in my power. This person, thereupon, offered to write and ask for such a letter. Taking advantage of this, you might try to visit him for some reason or other, without letting him know of this request of mine. As you say, you are close at hand, and I think it would help to make such a visit, if you think it proper, and learn what you can from him. Assure him that we should be glad to help him, in all charity, in any way possible, if he would only grasp the opportunity of making use of our help in the Lord. In addition, you might try to move him, by asking him what he is about and what he can hope for, and tell him that everything can be arranged, and offer your services to see to it that the matter is favorably arranged here [Rome]. If he manifests signs of fear, promise him the good offices of the Society, for besides myself Master Laínez and Master Salmerón are also here. As to his person and all his concerns, he should think of us as of one mind with himself. Whether you get a letter from him, or whatever else you do in our Lord, he should not know that we have written you from here. Write us very briefly whatever happens.

          From Rome, December 12, 1545.

          By no means should that person know of this letter of ours.

1 Jay was born between 1500 and 1504 in Vulliets (today’s Vers les Jays), Savoy, France. As a youth he attended school with Pierre Favre. He was ordained a priest in 1528 and was conducting a small school when Favre visited him in 1533 and encouraged him to go to Paris to continue his studies. In Paris he made the Spiritual Exercises under Favre’s direction and pronounced his vows at Montmartre on August 15, 1535. He later worked in Italy (1537-1541) and in Germany (1542-1549). He attended the Council of Trent (1545-1547) and the Diet of Augsburg (1550). He died in Vienna on August 6, 1552.
2 Hugo Rahner (Saint Ignatius Loyola: Letters to Women [Freiburg, 1956] 132) identifies this individual as Vittoria Colonna, Marchioness of Pescara. She became acquainted with Fra Bernardino Ochino in Rome in 1534, and kept in contact with him. Ochino, in fact, wrote to her on August 22, 1542, to notify her of his apostasy from the Catholic Church. She moved to Rome in 1544 and, thus, seeks Ignatius’ assistance.
3 Ochino was born near Siena, Italy, in 1487. He entered the Observant Franciscans ca. 1504, and became provincial of the order. Seeking a stricter rule, he transferred to the Capuchins in 1534, and within four years rose to be the order’s vicar-general (1538-1542). During a preaching engagement in Naples (1536), he became acquainted with Juan de Valdés and adopted some of the latter’s theological opinions. After leaving Italy he ministered to Italians living in Geneva (1542-1545), and then in Augsburg (1545-1547). He next went to England (1547-1553) at the invitation of Edward VI, but with the accession of Mary Tudor to the English throne, he moved to Zurich and there ministered to an Italian congregation (1553-1563). When Ochino began to take on Anabaptist and anti-trinitarian tendencies, he moved to Bavaria and died at Slavkov (Austerlitz), ca. 1564.
4 Valdés was a Spanish humanist and theologian, born about 1490. Since one of his publications had aroused strong reactions because of its Erasmian tendencies, he left Spain and went to Naples, Italy, where he soon gained a large following. Though his teaching was never condemned, it did lean toward Protestantism. He died in Naples in 1541.
5 Laínez was born in 1512 in Almazán, Spain., He attended the University of Alcalá, arriving there (1528) after Ignatius had left for Salamanca. In 1532, together with Alfonso Salmerón, he went to Paris to meet Ignatius and was one of the original seven to pronounce vows at Montmartre on August 15, 1534. He served as papal theologian during the sessions of the Council of Trent, in 1547, 1551, and 1562. He was named provincial of Italy in 1552, made vicar-general on the death of Ignatius in 1556, and was elected Ignatius’ successor on July 2, 1558. He died in Rome on January 19, 1565.