Friday, October 9, 2009

Jesuits And The Divine Office

This is from Shawn Tribes New Liturgical Movement.

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.
It is of course a well-known fact that the Jesuits have never had choral singing or recitation of the Office as part of their order’s way of life. Their two great Roman churches, the Gesù (1584) and Sant’ Ignazio (1650), have enormous sanctuaries, designed to be clearly visible from the entire nave; unlike the churches of older religious orders, neither one has any choir stalls.
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,
with the permission of Paul’s successor Pius IV, a Pope much more sympathetic to the Society and Ignatius’ vision for it.


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.
A Jesuit would never have to break off his studies, his teaching, his spiritual direction or time in the confessional to run off to Vespers at the church of his order. The idea was not that he was free to ignore the Divine Office, but rather, freer to participate in it, if he so desired, with those who retained the traditional choir obligations of the secular and religious clergy. The site which St. Ignatius chose for the Gesu’, the first church of his order in Rome, is a just few minutes walking distance from the parish of San Marco, the Pantheon, (one of the most important basilicas in Rome at the time,) the Silvestrine monastery at Santo Stefano, the Dominican church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, and the Franciscans at Santa Maria in Aracoeli on the Capitoline Hill. A member of the community at the Gesù could therefore chose to attend the celebration of the Office at any one of these quite easily, while retaining all the freedom necessary to do the specific work assigned him by his superiors.

Link (here) to read the rest of this great post

2 comments:

Rob Carter said...

There are few things more sad than watching a bunch of U.S. Jesuits try to say the Divine Office together.
I was once on a house retreat where a Dutch Jesuit invited the community to say the Lauds. He threw a small curve ball by asking us to do the Common of Saints for a particular feast. Confusion reigned. (Being Benedictine trained, I was OK)

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