Several years ago, a Jesuit friend of mine moved into a house of his order for priests who are studying, teaching or working in Rome , at the same time as two young Polish Jesuits, also new to the Eternal City. The custom of this house was daily concelebration at one principal Mass for all of the residents.
After living there for a few months, the two Poles proposed to the rest of the community that they get together on occasion to read (not to sing) Vespers, perhaps one or two Sundays a month. The proposal was immediately rejected by the consensus of the community; as one of the older Italian Jesuits put it, “We do not do that,” referring not to that house specifically, but to the Society of Jesus as a whole.
When the order was very new, shortly after Saint Ignatius’ death, they were temporarily forced by Pope Paul IV, who never liked either Ignatius or his order, to accept the obligation to choral Office. Diego Laynez, one of the Saint’s first companions and his successor as Superior General, protested, but to no effect. In the true spirit of Ignatian obedience, the Jesuits began celebrating the Divine Office in choir; and in the true spirit of Ignatian independence, dropped it three years later,
In releasing his order from the communal celebration of the Office, Saint Ignatius was not motivated by disdain for or lack of interest in the public prayer of the Church.
As Fr. Robert Taft, himself a Jesuit, points out, “(t)he evidence for Ignatius’ personal devotion to the public hours and his daily attendance at them…is beyond challenge.” (The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West, p. 301) His purpose was rather to keep the members of the Society from being tied down to any obligation which might impede the apostolic works in which they would be engaged.
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