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Jesuit Education

On the dust jacket of his book, The Jesuits, Malachi Martin wrote: "..... In that world where faith and power clash, the Society of Jesus has been the most fabled and fabulous, the most admired and reviled, in the practice of both. From its first beginnings during a revolutionary time almost exactly like our own, and down the four and a half centuries of the Society's existence, Jesuits have been both a puzzle and a model for the rest of the world. Friends and enemies, Catholics and non-Catholics, have all tried to unravel "the power and the secret" of these religiously trained and devoted men who stand as giants in every secular pursuit of mankind as well. In science and art, writing and exploration and teaching - and not least in world politics - Jesuits always aimed to be the best. And they were. They had a part to play in every major political alliance in Europe and America, in Asia and Africa. They became shapers not only of religious history, but of world history. Even Nazi generals dreamed of such a cadre of men; and even Lenin envied them."

  1. 1540 - Society of Jesus is formally approved by Pope Paul III.

    Nowhere in the SJ Order’s Constitution is it stated that education is to be given special importance. The original purpose did not include educational institutions.

    Still the Jesuits have come to be known in the public mind for their educational work and have acquired the reputation of being among the world’s best educators and educationists.

    The number of Jesuit colleges and universities in the world has now reached 114. 28 Universities in the United States. Many of these universities have traditions dating back many years. In Europe, the Gregorian University (Rome, Italy; founded 1551) is the most famous Jesuit university.

    Perhaps the best-known education in India is imparted by Jesuits. They conduct not less than 31 university colleges, 5 Institutes of Business Administration and 155 high schools spread throughout the country, almost all of them among its most reputed. In them, more than 300,000 students belonging to every religious, linguistic and socio-economic group, receive their education.

    The situation is the same wherever the Society of Jesus has established itself.

  2. How did this happen?

    The Portuguese established their capital in Goa in 1510.

    1542 - Francis Xavier landed in Goa in 1542. He was offered the St. Paul’s College. India became the birth place for world-wide Jesuit educational work.

    Xavier wrote to Ignatius about the success of St. Paul’s and how it had become an effective medium of spreading the Gospel. Ignatius was pleased and encouraged the work.

    1546 - A school in Spain was started- first for Jesuit entrants, later for others.

    1548 - Another school in Sicily was begun.

    1556 - Ignatius died. Before his death, he approved the foundation of 40 schools.

    Popes, bishops, and laymen alike told Ignatius that schools were needed, and Ignatius accepted the argument. By 1556 three fourths of Jesuits not in training were engaged in running schools. Some were schools for the Jesuits themselves, and many of their other pupils were children of the poor or the middle class. (Tuition was free.) However, they made a special effort to enroll the children of kings, nobles, and others in power, those who would set the policies and the tone of the society.

    1586 - A document called Ratio Studiorum (Guide to or plan of education), was produced by the Jesuits. It remains a classic till date.

    1773 – When the SJ was suppressed, Catherine the Great, the powerful and self-willed queen of Russia who had great esteem for Jesuit teaching methods refused to promulgate the Pope’s order.

    1986 - A document called “Characteristics of Jesuit Education” was released. 400 years after Ratio Studiorum.

  3. World View of Ignatius: The foundation for everything that happened and happens. It is found in the Spiritual Exercises and the Constitutions.

  • God is creator, the Supreme Goodness – Absolute reality. All other realities flow from God. He is present and labours in all things. He can be discovered in all events and history.

  • Every human person is loved by God. This calls for a response in freedom.

  • Sin is a reality and it blocks our freedom to respond spontaneously. We are strengthened by the redeeming love of God to engage in an ongoing struggle against sin.

  • Jesus is the model for human life. He is alive and active. He invites all human persons.

  • Response is an active commitment to Christ and to his mission.

  • This response is in and through the Church.

  • In the spirit of Magis.

  • Not only as individuals but as community of persons working in service – friends in the Lord.

  • Decisions based on a spiritual praxis – an ongoing personal and communitarian discernment process.

  1. Jesuit Characteristics: What keeps the Jesuits united and going?

    1. Undertaking any form of work.

    Ignatian Indifference

    2. In any part of the world.
    3. For the Greater Glory of God.
    4. Jesuit humanism (there is no condemnation of anything human). Willingness to use any branch of knowledge; nothing is taboo for a Jesuit.
    5. Obedience, certain flexibility to adjust/compromise.
    6. Pioneering attitude and tradition
    7. Team spirit – men on a mission – union of hearts and minds.
    8. Transparency/ apostolic availability.
    9. Simplicity/ No bureaucracy//No advertisement/ No commercialization/ Certain uniqueness which makes them different from others – the name (SJ & Jesuita), its objectives, way of life, administration, prayer life, formation etc.
    10. Stern discipline with freedom in life and ministry.
    11. Certain thoroughness/ completeness/finish in all they do.
    12. Magis – greater good to greater number of people (age-old maxim).


  2. Characterisitics of Jesuit Education (1986)

  • World-affirming – goodness, wonder and mystery of the world.

  • Total/integral formation of each one in the context of the community – intellectual, moral, physical, leadership qualities, team work, creativity, communication, human relationships, values etc. Promotes academic quality and excellence.

    “House System” – a Jesuit innovation. Youth Movements, IMCS, AICUF, LTS, CLC etc.

    Success in this field encouraged the Order to go in for more educational Institutions. That is why the Jesuit dictum – “Give us a boy, and we shall return you a man, a citizen of his country and a child of God”.

  • Religious / spiritual formation – Worship of God and reverence for creation.

  • Jesuit education as an instrument for life. Character formation, discipline with freedom.

  • Promotes dialogue between faiths, cultures and ideologies.

  • Personal care and concern – person centered curriculum etc.

  • Participation of student – opportunity for personal discovery.

  • Encourages life-long openness to growth.

  • Value-based and value-oriented.

  • Promotes realistic knowledge of self, the other and the world – awareness of social realities.

  • Christ as Model.

  • Promotes justice and serves faith that promotes justice.

  • Forms men and women for others (Arruppe).

  • Manifests an option for the poor.

  • Stresses lay-Jesuit collaboration.

  • A Praxis – On-going evaluation – Examination of work and its fruits.

    In 1993, 7 years after the Characteristics document was released, Fr. General raised the issue: this document is the statement of our inspiration in education. How can we insert the spirituality of the document into our lives and incorporate it into our classrooms?

    The outcome was Ignatian Pedagogy – A practical Approach.

    IPP – Ignatian Pedagogy Paradigm - Context, Experience, Re­flec­tion, Action, and Evaluation.

    To quote from Paul Johnson's History of Christianity,
    What in fact they did was to provide an educational service on Demand. If a Catholic prince or prince-bishop wanted an orthodox school, college or university established and conducted efficiently, he applied to the Jesuits; he supplied the funds and buildings, they trained personnel and techniques. They were, in effect, rather like a modern multi-national company selling expert services. And they brought to the business of international schooling uniformity, discipline, and organization that was quite new.

  1. Criticisms

    Jesuit educational methods have been criticized by some as being:

  • too rigid, too stereotyped, and geared chiefly to the elite, intelligent and the determined, owing to the excessive stimulation of ambition.

    Jesuits today are probably more aware of their educational approaches in the context of the national and local socio-economic realities. As a result there is a very different atmosphere prevailing in today’s Jesuit institutions, an atmosphere at once more relaxed, less formal, more pluralistic and more tolerant of individual idiosyncrasies.

  • Also, some observe that they have become worldly today. For the greater glory of God is replaced by for the greater glory of man/world/Jesuits themselves.

    "Though few in number, the basic principles that Loyola had set forth for his Company were powerful catalysts. Once his men harnessed their energies within his organization to the worldwide work, they produced a unique phenomenon of human history. That is why the eighteenth-century German theorist, Novalis wrote:

    "Never,", "never before in the course of the world's history had such a Society appeared. The old Roman Senate itself did not lay schemes for world domination with greater certainty of success. Never had the carrying out of a greater idea been considered with greater understanding. For all time, this Society will be an example to every society which feels an organic longing for infinite extension and eternal duration ....." (Malachi Martin, The Jesuits p. 27).



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