St Joseph Pignatelli, S.J.

(entered heaven on November 11th, 1811)

Dear Seth,

I think “outlawed” may be an exaggeration.  Ok, the campus ministry office’s budget cuts have left your group homeless.  Fine. But that doesn’t mean that you have to give up doing what you’ve been doing.  Are Catholics on campus any less in need of support and formation in their faith? Is campus culture any less in need of consistent, intelligent, and effective challenges to its relativistic hegemony?  Certainly not. So you must rise to the occasion. It is our lot as Christians to have to face apparently crippling circumstances as we strive to make Christ known and loved. Why? Because we are CHRISTIANS, followers of CHRIST, who inaugurated his Kingdom by being rejected, tortured, unjustly condemned and executed.  And, as he put it himself, “the disciple is not greater than the master…” He had his cross, and you will always have yours if you’re really following him. Adverse circumstances give you a chance to prove your Christian metal, just as they did for today’s saint.

The Spanish nobleman lost both his parents while only a boy and spent his childhood in a Jesuit boarding school, where he and his younger brother both heard the call to religious life.  Joining the Society of Jesus, they dedicated themselves to its high ideal of “doing everything for the greater glory of God.” Conditions were tough even in the seminary, though, and he developed tuberculosis, which stayed with him, weakening and burdening him with pain, for the rest of his life.  After ordination, he took up a series of teaching positions, and he served as chaplain to prisoners and criminals on death row. He only worked four years as a priest before Charles III expelled him and all Jesuits from Spain. The King gathered them at the port of Tarragona, crowded them on to 13 ships, and banished them.  France and Portugal did the same, and six years later Pope Clement XIV officially dissolved the entire Order. The Jesuits were no more.

Is that not an “adverse circumstance”?  And how did St Joseph react? Did he give up?  Hardly. He found solutions. He kept the Spanish Jesuits together and encouraged the formation of new societies under the auspices of which they could at least continue to pray and teach the faith (they were forbidden from carrying out their priestly ministry, however), groups like “The Society for Faith in Jesus.”  And while the Order languished on the outside, St Joseph worked tirelessly to convince powerful Catholic leaders to work towards its restoration, which finally occurred in 1814, three years after his death.

By his foresight, his faith, and above all his determined efforts, the internal structure and vigor of the Jesuits survived its most severe trial.  He is called their Savior and Restorer. He may be a good patron for your current challenge. I’ll be asking him to pray for you.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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