41 – The distorted tendency of emphasizing asceticism, silence and penance has become widespread even within the Society of Jesus

Jesus tells us in the Gospel that, ‘A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit’(Mt 7: 18). Evidently, any botanist who claims a tree to be defective, even though it visibly produces appetizing and nutritious fruit, would be considered mad. He would be taken as a liar or a charlatan for making such an unfounded affirmation.

This is also what happens within the spiritual garden of the Church. Throughout the centuries, diverse schools of spirituality – as so many trees – have been planted there, and have produced magnificent and varied fruits. Besides nourishing the members of their respective foundations, some of them have also extended their benefits to other religious families, and even to the lay faithful, who have had the opportunity to profit from the sacred sap of grace that flows forth with diverse manifestations, continually encouraging people to seek the perfection of charity, that is, sanctity.

One of the particularly privileged trees of this generous sort was the one planted by Saint Ignatius of Loyola through his Spiritual Exercises. With a quick look at a list of saints from the last five centuries one can see what fruits this method has produced, and why the founder of the Company of Jesus is honored with the title of Patron of the Spiritual Exercises.

Now then, what should we think of Francis’ affirmations regarding the traditional and official manner of performing the spiritual exercises?



Quote A

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study


I – The Importance of Asceticism, Silence and Penance within the Spiritual Exercises
II – The Importance of Asceticism in the Church


I – The Importance of Asceticism, Silence and Penance within the Spiritual Exercises

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Motives for the practice of external penance during the Spiritual Exercises
Asceticism in the important ‘Additions to make the exercises better’ by Saint Ignatius
The Sentire cum Ecclesia not only requires the performance of penance, but also that it be praised

Pius XI

Recollection in the Exercises is the best remedy for curing levity and thoughtlessness
The Ignatian method: its primacy among other spiritual exercises

Pius XII

The perseverance of the Spaniards during the war was due in part to the Spiritual Exercises
The Exercises are efficacious when fidelity to the Ignatian spirit and method are conserved

Pius XI

The Ignatian method reforms and teaches obedience to God

Pius XII

An increased desire for greater mortification is one of the effects of the Exercises

John Paul II

A spirituality that has resisted the wear of time and still shows vitality

Pius XI

Exercises performed in private are preferable to those practiced publically

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

A positive form of liberty is not possible without asceticism

Pius IX

Those who perform the Exercises should be free from exterior occupations

Leo the Great

Penance liberates from concupiscence of the flesh and favors meditation

John Paul II

The Holy Spirit acts through those who practice silence and mortification
A lack of silence puts interior peace at risk

Pius XI

Solitude attracts humanity particularly during turbulent epochs

Benedict XVI

It is necessary to educate the faithful in the value of silence and recollection

II – The Importance of Asceticism in the Church

 Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

Souls who dedicate themselves to penance are the glory of the Church

Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes

Asceticism is necessary in order to live the evangelical counsels

Pius XI

Great efforts are necessary to overcome the effects of Original Sin
No one is exempt from the responsibility to expiate sins

Council of Trent

Those pardoned should grow in virtue by means of mortification

Catechism of Trent

The incorruptible crown is not obtained without mortification


He who does not seek mortification puts his eternal salvation at serious risk
The Gospel demands an intense mortification of the passions among Christians

John Paul II

It is necessary that one discipline the will with penance to obtain interior order
Everyone should seek forms of penance according to their personal necessities
Silence and solitude are lasting elements of priestly formation

Paul VI

A priest is obliged to practice a virile asceticism

Pius XI

The Poverello of Assisi was one of the greatest penitents


Those who seek the easy life do not understand the meaning of faith

Pius XI

In order to defeat the evils tormenting the world today, a crusade of prayers and penance is necessary
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