August 7, 2014 — Today, on the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits and their lay colleagues conclude a nine-day novena commemorating the anniversary. Two hundred years ago, Pope Pius VII issued the bull Sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum, which re-established the Society of Jesus in the universal Church after it was suppressed by papal brief for 41 years. To join the Jesuits in praying the last day of the novena, click here, or to download a PDF of the novena, click here.
Jesuit Father General Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, is emphasizing that the anniversary is a time for prayer, saying, “I believe the best mode of entering spiritually into this special year … is to seek the grace proposed by St. Ignatius: to ask the Lord for ‘an interior knowledge of all the good I have received, so that acknowledging this with gratitude, I may love and serve His Divine Majesty in everything.’ In other words, we do not wish our attention to be focused solely on the past. We wish to understand and appreciate our past better so that we may go forward into the future with renewed fervor and zeal for our life and mission today.”
Jesuit Father James Grummer, regional assistant for the USA and General Counselor at the Jesuit Curia in Rome, said, “The novena gives us a chance to think about what happened in the past, to give thanks for what happened and to learn from what happened so we can better serve the Church in the future.”
Created by several young Jesuits studying in Rome, the novena includes prayer, song, Scripture passages, texts from the Society’s history and tradition, petitions and time for silence. “The idea for the novena is that Jesuits from all over the world will be able to pray over the same texts at the same time,” Fr. Grummer added.
The novena takes anywhere from 10 – 15 minutes each day and is flexible enough that, “people can take their time with it or drop some parts out — whatever works best for each person or community,” according to Fr. Grummer.
The Society is also commemorating the bicentennial of the restoration in several other ways. This fall at Rome’s Church of the Gesù, Pope Francis will preside at a prayer service in thanksgiving for the last two centuries that the Society has been able to serve the Church.
Because the suppression lasted 41 years, Jesuits who lived to see the restoration were elderly. “The Jesuits who had been disbanded sometimes stayed together, working together,” said Fr. Grummer, “but except in the Russian Empire, where Catherine the Great refused to promulgate the bull of suppression because she wanted Jesuits to teach, the Society had to be rebuilt from scratch in 1814. If the restoration hadn’t happened, there wouldn’t be the Society of Jesus we know today.”
Several conferences are being held this year to examine this complicated and interesting time in the Society’s history. Boston College held “Jesuit Survival and Restoration” in June, and Loyola University Chicago will hold a conference in October focused on new research in the two-hundred-year history of restored Jesuit activity in America.