Introducing Joseph Pignatelli SJ

13 November 2007 Wednesday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of Joseph Pignatelli SJ

Let me introduce the saint of the day. St. Joseph Pignatelli SJ is one of the most important figures in the history of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. He links two Societies of Jesus: the Old Society founded officially in 1540, and the New Society founded forty years after Clement XIV suppressed the order in 1773.

A brief history. St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuits. Its official recognition was on September 27, 1540 when Pope Paul III confirmed the order through the Papal Bull, Regimini militantis ecclesiae. The Jesuits then founded schools throughout Europe, since Jesuits were trained in theology and classical studies. They sent missionaries abroad to convert non-Christians to Catholicism. Sts. Francis Xavier and John de Brito were sent to India: Xavier, to Goa; De Brito to Madura. Jesuits founded cities like Sao Paolo and Rio de Janiero. The ruins of St. Paul Church in Macao attests to early Jesuit missions in the Orient. Finally, the Jesuits helped prevented the spread of Protestantism. These primary works of the Jesuits made them popular and their powerful influence led to their political suppression in July 1773. Pope Clement XIV signed a degree inhibiting our existence throughout the world. This ended the history of the Old Society of Jesus.

But Catherine the Great forbade the reading of the decree in her empire in Russia. The Jesuits then provided substantial work especially in education there where they were free. Eventually, Pius VII restored the Society in a Papal Bull, Solicitudo omnium ecclesarium on 7 August 1814. This marked the beginning of the restoration of the Society of Jesus.

St. Joseph Pignatelli, linked these two Societies. He worked for the restoration of the Order which came through in 1814. Having been preserved in White Russia, Pignatelli began rebuilding again with a few fathers from Russia by establishing colleges in Rome, Tivoli and Orvieto. Then the Jesuits began to be invited in other cities. There was tremendous growth after the suppression.

Now our lives. There are people in conflict: Former friends turned arch-rivals; family members at odds with each other; office workers in disagreement with one another over an item in the business meeting. Sometimes, cultural and age differences contribute to misunderstanding: the old churchgoer would like a quiet mass, and the younger massgoer would prefer rock music in church.

However, differences when handled properly results to effective, creative and interactive solutions. It is difficult to turn differences into great opportunities. When we are in conflict, we antagonize, compete, alienate, and disregard people, instead of becoming good community builders. Joseph Pignatelli proved that we can turn our conflicts into opportunities to form communities.

St. Joseph Pignatelli may have reasons to be angry at people who contributed to the suppression. However, Joseph Pignatelli was quiet and reserved, with a strong heart to fight the detractors of the Jesuits. He was prudent and diplomatic, qualities needed for peacebuilding and restoration.

We can use certain questions for reflection. Are you a restorer of relationships, bridging differences between friends and/or family members? Do you enable people to gather themselves from being broken? Are you a source of unity or conflict in a community?

In case of those who are ministering to the younger generation: are you able to bridge the old tradition with the present developing culture?

Here is a prayer from Joseph Pignatelli SJ, taken from the prayer book, Hearts on Fire: Journeying with Jesuits.

My God, I do not know what must come to me today.

But I am certain that nothing can happen to me

That you have not foreseen, decreed, and ordained from all eternity.

That is sufficient for me.

I adore your impenetrable and eternal designs,

To which I submit with all my heart.

I desier, I accept them all, and I unite my sacrifice

To that of Jesus Christ, my divine Savior.

I ask in his name and through his infinite merits,

Patience in my trials, and perfect and entire submission

To all that comes to me by your good pleasure. Amen.

Joseph Pignatelli SJ

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