The Society's First Crisis - The Second Edition of the Spiritual Exercises – Published in Ignatius' Lifetime

Ignatius, of Loyola, Saint (1491-1556)

Exercitia spiritvalia.

Coimbra: João de Barreira, 1553


Sextodecimo: [1], 2-238, [1] pp. Collation: A-P8. With the woodcut Jesuit emblem on the title page.

SECOND EDITION of the "Spiritual Exercises", following the first ed. of 1548. This is the only other edition printed during the author

This is the rarest of all 16th century editions of the text. Bound in 17th c. full vellum, soiled. Internally, a very fine copy with just a few contemporary pen marks. The colophon leaf is bound before the title page. On the front free endpaper, in a 17thc. hand, is a copy of the poem known as "Anima Christi", sometimes erroneously attributed to Ignatius, who included it in his autograph of the "Spiritual Exercises":

Anima Christi, sanctifica me./ Corpus Christi, salva me. / Sanguis Christi, inebria me. / Aqua lateris Christi, lava me. / Passio Christi, conforta me./ O bone Iesu, exaudi me./ Intra tua vulnera absconde me./ Ne permittas me separari a te./ Ab hoste maligna defende me./ In hora mortis meae voca me./ Et iube me venire ad te,/ Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te / In saecula saeculorum.

A fine copy of the extremely rare second edition of the "Spiritual Exercises", printed at Coimbra for the use of the Jesuits of Portugal. This significant edition was printed at the time of the Society's first crisis, when six years of disturbances in the Order's Portuguese province resulted in the removal of Simâo Rodrigues as provincial, an examination of all Portuguese Jesuits by the Miguel de Torres (whom Ignatius had sent as visitor), the promulgation by Jerónimo Nadal of the newly composed Constitutions, and the publication of Ignatius' famous "Letter on Obedience."

In this context, printing the "Spiritual Exercises" makes obvious sense. Whereas Ignatius' letter emphasized the importance of obedience, and the "Constitutions" provided the framework for orderly governance, the "Spiritual Exercises" provided the fundamental framework for deciding to follow Christ and pursuing continued spiritual growth.

 It was sorely needed. As early as the mid-1540's, before Portugal had even been designated an official Jesuit province, Ignatius had been made aware of certain penitential practices performed by Jesuits in that country. "The practices included severe fasting and self-flagellation in the streets, not a common practice at the time in Portugal, but letters also reported instances of truly bizarre behavior such as taking a corpse into one's room to meditate on death."(O'Malley, The First Jesuits, p. 330) By the time of Torres' visitation in 1552, the level of aberrance must have been quite high. In a two-month period Torres examined every Jesuit in the province and somewhere between thirty-three to over one hundred were dismissed or chose to depart. According to Nadal, about sixty of them were from the college at Coimbra. One can imagine that those who remained were provided with a copy of the "Exercises."

"The 'Spiritual Exercises' encapsulated the essence of Ignatius' own spiritual turn-around and presented it in a form meant to guide others to analogous changes of vision and motivation. Ignatius used the 'Exercises' as the primary means of motivating his first disciples and prescribed it as an experience for all who later entered the Society of Jesus. Although at no point intended exclusively for Jesuits, the 'Exercises' remain the document that told Jesuits on the most profound level what they were and what they were supposed to be. Furthermore, the 'Exercises' set the pattern and goals of all the ministries in which the Society engaged, even though it was not always explicitly recognized as doing so. There is no understanding the Jesuits without reference to that book." (Ibid. p. 4)

"The 'Exercises', though undoubtedly influenced by the ascetic teachings of Garcia de Cisneros of Montserrat and the Brothers of the Common Life, form a unique book, inspired by a remarkable fixity of purpose and designed for a clearly defined and practical end: the moulding of character by the precepts of the Gospel. Its asceticism is not one of resignation and withdrawal, but full of a positive recognition of active life. It is this characteristic in particular which made the book such a powerful influence when it became (with the Constitutiones, on which Ignatius was still at work when he died) the handbook of the Society of Jesus, which is devoted to educational, missionary and other active works. St Ignatius introduced many innovations when founding the Society of the Jesuit Order; the abandonment of such traditional forms of worship as chanting the divine office, a monarchical rather than collegiate constitution, and much simpler vows. These elements, together with the spiritual power of the 'Exercises', gave the Order its militant character and enabled it to exercise its great influence on the world. As a work of religious inspiration the impact of the 'Exercises' has been almost as great outside the Society of Jesus as within" (PMM).

De Backer-Sommervogel, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, Vol. V, col. 61; Simões 380; Cat. Res. Coimbra 1278; D. Manuel 78; Anselmo 123