The Historiography of Jesuit Pedagogy
(13,225 words)

Claude N. Pavur, S.J.

Last modified: January 2017


Overview: Jesuit Pedagogy and the Ratio studiorum

Pedagogy here refers not to the didactics or methods of instruction but to the whole educational “concept”—the aims, ideas, methods, practices, structures, arrangements. “Jesuit pedagogy” is therefore synonymous with “the idea of Jesuit education.” It refers to what has typically been known as the studia Societatis, the studies of the Society. This essay selectively surveys some of the most important moments in the history of how this idea has been expressed.

For almost the entire history of the Society of Jesus, literature on the idea of its studies has been closely tied to the plan known as the Ratio studiorum (hereafter abbreviated as RS).1 Jesuit education cannot be entirely reduced to what is expressly articulated in this document, nor can all teaching done by Jesuits be considered directly derivative of it, but it is nevertheless where we find the fullest, sharpest, most concrete, and most generally held notion of Jesuit education over the longest time period.2 No other universal formal plan for Jesuit education has superseded it. Noteworthy also is the fact that the RS had a substantial pre-history: it followed a lengthy, well-deliberated sifting of many decades, stretching from the Society’s first residential colleges (where, even in 1540, the Society had particular expectations of its younger members) and from ad hoc teaching, as in Goa (1542) and Gandía (1546), and from its first full institutional undertaking in Messina (1548). Even earlier there had been the experiences of Ignatius of Loyola (c.1491–1556) and the early companions in the 1520s at Alcalá and Paris, where the “ordo et modo Parisiensis” had made a lasting favorable impression on them.3 In fact, the Parisian program could well be called the earliest form of Jesuit education: not only did all the founders take degrees at the University of Paris but right after the founding of the Society, Ignatius preferred it as a training ground for his new recruits.

The RS was intentionally issued as an ever-present ideal rather than as an immutable set of laws: it prescribed what Jesuits should be trying to do in schools unless circumstances demanded adaptations.4 Whatever the academic variations appearing over the next three and a half centuries, the RS was always considered the authoritative reference point. So when Father General Jan Roothaan (1785–1853, in office 1829–53) sent out to the restored Society an updated version in 1832, his cover letter made it quite clear that the earlier plan, the Ratio of 1599, had such substance, status, and proven success that the new document should not in any way diminish the old one’s authority.5 Even as late as 1957, a general congregation praised the RS as something to be universally known, highly esteemed, and put into practice in the Society’s programs for formation.6

The RS was more than a guide for running schools: it was simultaneously Jesuit education’s defining charter and the Society’s last great foundational document. It made educational concerns for both Jesuits and non-Jesuits an integral part of the Society’s Institute, with a formational infrastructure that produced teachers and a supervisory superstructure that provided quality control.7 Called for by the Constitutions as an extension of itself, particularly part 4, the RS governed both Jesuit schools and the academic formation of all scholastics in the Society for several centuries (that is, 1599–c.1965).8 Jesuits and non-Jesuits were together engaged in the “studia Societatis.” The Society therefore used these studia not only as one way to fulfill directly its mission of helping souls but also as a replication mechanism in which younger generations attained the expertise needed to give freely again what they had received, whether directly, in their own participation in the apostolate of education, or indirectly, through what they brought to their other ministries. It turned out that the studia were also effective as a recruitment mechanism for the Society, even though such a use was expressly against the spirit and the letter of the code.9 Young and idealistic men at an impressionable time of life had visible examples of one possible vocational path constantly before their eyes, and this option took shape in specific individuals—the Jesuits, with all their differences of personality and talent.

Thus an important part of the Jesuit educational system was inwardly directed (ad intra), ultimately for outward (ad extra) purposes. The order’s identity and mission were explicitly invested in training people who would by that training be able to carry on its educational work. Such a commitment progressively bolstered the order’s educational character as well as its achievement and wide geographical propagation. It was in the Jesuits’ own ad intra formational program that the RS held sway for the longest time: up until the mid-1960s, all Jesuit scholastics were obliged to follow the traditional RS sequence of “Letters” (taking courses in classical languages and literature in institutions often known as “juniorates”), philosophy (following a Scholastic course in “philosophates”), and theology (learning Thomistic positions and approaches in “theologates”).10 Between the years of philosophy studies and those of theology there were usually three to five years of regency (magisterium), during which the scholastics would practice teaching in the Society’s mode, that is, within the ambit of the RS. These four periods of formation constituted the preponderant bulk of all the preparation for Jesuit priestly ministry. Only the two-year novitiate and the tertianship (usually done after ordination for six to twelve months) fell outside the scope of this plan. It is for good reason that to this day the term for Jesuits preparing for the priesthood is “scholastics,” that is, “people who are going to classes (Latin scholae).”

Given the lasting dominance of the RS, we might handily map the entire career of the understanding of Jesuit education in these stages: (1) emergence of the RS; (2) practical adaptations of the RS; (3) late modernity’s challenges to the RS; (4) deprecation and loss of the RS, with some attempts to re-conceive the Jesuit educational project. Now that the RS has celebrated its fourth centennial and received fresh new translations into several languages, it is becoming again a topic of study and reflection, and we may be standing at the beginning a fifth period, (5) a revaluation of the importance of the RS.11 The historiography of Jesuit pedagogy follows the lines of the career just outlined. It proceeds from the mostly internal Jesuit documentation in the early period to allied documents, again mostly internal, to support the proper appreciation and functioning of the RS. After the Society had become a subject of controversy, was suppressed, and then restored to run influential schools once again, adversarial secularizing and modernizing thought tended to produce tendentious representations of Jesuit education. These evoked some extended apologias and more comprehensive positive expositions of the educational concepts and practices cultivated in the Society’s schools. Soon after the mid-twentieth century, however, there was again a reaction against the idea of the RS, a forgetting of it, diminishment of it, or even a flight from it. This time the reaction occurred within the order itself in the name of adaptation. Circumstances had changed so radically as to require a thorough rethinking of the Society’s educational work. Yet internationality, opposition to “Eurocentrism,” and other cultural, social and political changes, agendas, and diversity all cumulatively made the very idea of a single educational charter in the tradition of the RS look like a fantasy. Assumed to be irrelevant and antiquated, the RS faded further and further from view. Reflection on the contemporary practices of Jesuit education attempted to integrate current ideas and methods and to call up themes from the tradition as they appeared to be useful. But in the early twenty-first century, now that the RS is no longer “living,” historical analysis may provide for new understandings and objective assessments of the RS and its tradition.


Key Texts from the Earlier Literature on Jesuit Pedagogy

Official Expressions of the Idea

The Constitutions and the Ratio studiorum are the primary documents that officially both establish and express the idea of Jesuit education, and so they merit some attention in this context. Of the two documents, it is the RS that gives the most explicit and detailed view of Jesuit pedagogy by laying out the structure, contents, governance, and practices of studia Societatis, stating the rules for every office and for all the major procedures (admissions, corrections, exams, contests, disputations, study-groups) to be used for the entire program. But in the first rule for the provincial it also rises above details to give the larger idea of the education:

The final goal of the Society’s studies— 1. Since one of the leading ministries of our Society is teaching our neighbors all the disciplines in keeping with our Institute in such a way that they are thereby aroused to a knowledge and love of our Maker and Redeemer, the Provincial should consider himself obliged to do his utmost to ensure that our diverse and complex educational labor meets with the abundant results that the grace of our calling demands of us.12

Jesuit education is seen here as a leading ministry of the Society especially entrusted to the provincials, helping neighbors by teaching them a range of certain relevant subjects in a manner designed to evoke a specific intellectual and spiritual effect. This description reveals a constitutive feature of the Society’s spirituality: docta pietas. Learning the disciplines is to be in service of people’s spiritual health or salvation (salus), and it is also something vital to the Society itself. The Ratio of 1586 had put it this way: “Clearly two things are the safeguard and chief support of our Society, fervent zeal for devotion (ardens pietatis studium) and an outstanding studied knowledge of reality (praestans scientia rerum).”13

An earlier source for the idea of Jesuit education can be found in the fourth part of Ignatius’s Constitutions (1558), which dealt with the academic formation of both Jesuits and non-Jesuits and the running of schools. The preamble to Part 4 significantly situates the idea of Jesuit studies:

The end steadfastly pursued by the Society is to aid its own members and their neighbors in attaining the ultimate end for which they were created. For this, in addition to the example of one’s life, learning and skill in expounding it are required. Hence […] it will be necessary to provide for the edifice of learning and of skill in employing it so as to help make God our Creator and Lord better known and served.14

The dual target is explicit: the service is for the Society’s own members and for its neighbors. These words are partially restated in chapter 5, where a definite criterion and content are indicated (albeit with an “escape clause,” that is, the words, “generally speaking”):

Since the end of the learning which is acquired in this Society is with God’s favor to help the souls of its own members and those of their neighbors, it is by this norm that the decision will be made, both in general and in the case of individual persons, as to what subjects ours ought to learn and how far they ought to advance in them. And since, generally speaking, help is derived from the humane letters of different languages, logic, natural and moral philosophy, metaphysics, scholastic and positive theology, and Sacred Scripture, these are the subjects which those who are sent to the colleges should study.15

Here specific contents and the reason for them are given straightforwardly. The RS organized the material into three stages or “courses of study” which became canonical in the tradition: “Letters” (that is, grammar, language, composition, humanistic studies, rhetoric), philosophy, and theology.


Before the Ratio studiorum of 1599

Expression of the basic idea of the studia Societatis goes back to the early generations of the Society, when it was engaged in working out the details of many different academic plans and related educational documents. A large number of these are now critically edited and available in the Monumenta Paedagogica.16 The story of the long road to the final version of the Ratio studiorum of 1599 is given by László Lukács (1910–98) in his introduction to MHSI volume containing the critical editions of the rationes of 1586, 1591, and 1599.17 A few early documents will demonstrate how the historiography of Jesuit pedagogy began small and occasional, with Jesuits’ own short summary presentations, sometimes in quest of external support or permission to operate within a given domain. There are also rules and reports about the educational work to the Society’s curia, formational reflections (as with Bonifacio, below) and large-scale systematic overviews (see Possevino, below).

Ignatius of Loyola and Juan Alfonso de Polanco (1517–76) gave a famous summary of the Jesuit educational project in a letter of December 1, 1551, to the provincial of Spain, Antonio Araoz (1515–73). It outlined the methods used to establish schools, and then it listed the major advantages for Jesuits (teachers and scholastics), for non-Jesuits studying there, and for the populace of the region served by the school.18

Jerónimo Nadal (1507–80) unwittingly created a “kernel” of Jesuit education when he composed the first rules for the Jesuit college at Messina in 1548. The document primarily covered (1) morals and (2) the structure and contents of the studies. Even mathematics, Greek, and Hebrew were represented in the largely Latin curriculum. We also have Nadal’s conferences on Jesuit studies, given to the scholastics in Coimbra in 1551. In the eleventh conference, he made clear that studies are essential to the Society: without the academic dimension, “it [that is, the Society] would not be able to go on” (no podría proceder), and without learning, “we would not be able to help our neighbor” (sin letras no podríamos ayudar al prójimo).19 Studies are integral to the Jesuit Institute.

Pedro de Ribadeneyra (1526–1611) published a life of Ignatius in several Latin and Spanish editions between 1571 and 1605. He not only surveyed the many schools that had sprung up with the help of benefactors, but he also explained the Society’s rationale for undertaking this kind of work, replying to those who did not consider teaching boys to be a fitting use of the energies of a religious order.20 Ribadeneyra prescinded from details of the education to stress his understanding of the main reason for the Society’s involvement: “the proper calling and present state of the Church.”21 That is, education is a worthy enterprise that the Christian community has always valued and promoted, and it is a most effective means of achieving authentic reform in the face of the religious, ecclesial, and moral confusions of Ribadeneyra’s day.

Juan de Bonifacio (1538–1606) published in 1576 the first full Jesuit educational tract, Christiani pueri institutio adolescentiaeque perfugium (The education of the Christian boy and a shelter for his adolescent years).22 The third edition added a major section (book 4) on manners.23 It presented a classically-based Christian humanistic approach, with the core idea being the inseparability of virtue and “letters” in a good education: “I do not see how virtue can be guaranteed without learning or learning without virtue.”24

Antonio Possevino (1533–1611) in 1593 published Bibliotheca selecta de ratione studiorum in historia, in disciplinis, in salute omnium procuranda (A selected library concerning the plan of studies in history, in the disciplines, in procuring the salvation of everyone), a large encyclopedic bibliography and comprehensive overview of orthodox Catholic education.25 It covered many areas of learning (for example, law, medicine, poetry, painting, rhetoric, architecture, geography). The first part, entitled “Cultura ingeniorum” (The cultivation of talents), discusses the pedagogical principles of Jesuit humanism.


Some Leading Works on Jesuit Education after the Ratio studiorum up to 1965

The complete program or “idea” of Jesuit education has very rarely been the subject of a unified investigation, perhaps precisely because of the very large scope of the full plan. The official documents seemed adequate for the purposes of realizing the educational project. The relevant details were interpreted and handed on in given locations to those who needed to know them for particular professional purposes. Francesco Sacchini (1570–1625) wrote Paraenesis ad magistros scholarum inferiorum Societatis Iesu and Protrepticon ad magistros scholarum inferiorum Societatis Iesu, books of advice (paraenesis) for and exhortation (protrepticon) to professors of the lower classes, but these did not address the philosophical or theological years that were structurally integral to the larger idea of “Jesuit pedagogy.”26 When someone says that the goal of Jesuit education is eloquentia perfecta, for example, we must realize that the speaker is looking only at the first stage, the literary part of the studia, and not at the entire plan. Of course, one might argue that Jesuit schools had their widest cultural impact in the literary course (roughly, the high school years plus two years of what is presently called college in the United States), so that for most people outside the order’s own formational program, Jesuit education essentially was the literary part of the scheme.

Even official initiatives could be of restricted scope, as for example, the tenth decree of Congregation 14 (1696), which directed that “teachers of humane letters, over and above the rules guiding their teaching, are to have an instruction and a systematized method of learning, in accord with which they should conduct their own private studies, even as they were devoting their efforts to teaching others.”27 The congregation asked Joseph de Jouvancy (1643–1719) to adapt for this purpose a handbook he had published as Christianis litterarum magistris de ratione discendi et docendi (For Christian teachers of literature, on the method of learning and teaching).28 The result was a widely popular and much reprinted booklet known as Magistris scholarum inferiorum Societatis Iesu de ratione discendi et docendi (For Jesuit teachers of the lower classes, on the method of learning and teaching).29 This guide used what Sacchini had written and expanded well beyond it. It is often cited in later studies.

I will survey here a few notable works that have been particularly indicative or influential in presenting the idea of Jesuit education, beginning with those by Robert Schwickerath (1903), Allan Farrell (1937), François Charmot (1943), George Ganss (1954) and John W. Donohue (1963), all Jesuits (as are most of the scholars mentioned in this essay). These writers were able to rely on the publications of the Society’s Institutum Historicum (Historical Institute).30 However they wrote before the larger collection of volumes in the MHSI, particularly the seven edited by Lukács that appeared between 1965 and 1992. Of course these scholars still had access to the Society’s archives and all published work dependent upon such materials, as, for example, the large collection of pedagogical documents gathered by Georg Michael Pachtler in four volumes.31

At the start of the twentieth century, an American Jesuit scholar, Robert Schwickerath (1869–1948), making use of Pachtler’s collection as well as other original documentation, composed Jesuit Education: Its History and Principles Viewed in the Light of Modern Educational Principles.32 This large-scale study aimed to correct many of the misconceptions and faulty presentations that were popular at that time, particularly from those outside Catholic traditions. Schwickerath was particularly well versed in the literature, as his bibliography sufficiently illustrates.33 He heaped special praise upon Jouvancy, noting that in 1752 Superior General Ignazio Visconti (1682–1755, in office 1751–55) wanted all Jesuit teachers to have a copy of his handbook; it was considered by some “a pedagogical gem” which had been “highly praised by Rollin and Voltaire.”34 Apologizing for his sometimes polemical tone, the author directly countered several popular historians of education, such as Gabriel Compayré (1843–1913), Franklin V. N. Painter (1852–1931), Levi Seeley (1847–1928), and others who seemed to have gone astray in numerous respects, especially because of their distance from the primary source material. For example, Schwickerath directly dissolves Compayré’s assertion that Jesuit education was preoccupied with “purely formal studies” to the nearly complete neglect of history.35 Since educational theory was in ferment around him, Schwickerath found it important to take up certain issues in particular: the elective system, classical education based on Latin and Greek, the place of college relative to high schools and universities, and questions relating to moral and religious formation.36 He was quite aware of the debate that had been going on between the presidents of Harvard University and Boston College, with Charles W. Eliot (1834–1926) of Harvard arguing for electivism and attacking an education that in his opinion was a fossilized and stultifying.37 Like Timothy Brosnahan (1856–1915), the Jesuit president of Boston College, Schwickerath ardently defended the vision of the RS and many of its methods, as for example, the prelection. Furthermore, he proposed that some of the educational practices being promoted in his time were actually well supported in the RS.38 The book is divided into two large parts, the first covering the history of the Jesuits’ educational system up through the nineteenth century, and the second presenting the principles of the RS and evaluating them in relation to contemporary educational controversies. Schwickerath’s study is an important one historiographically because of the author’s wide knowledge both of the Jesuit sources and of the body of mainstream modern historical criticism that call for so much revision. Reading Schwickerath helps us realize that (1) Jesuit education and the approach of the RS were subjected to much faulty criticism; (2) the RS still had able apologists at the beginning of the twentieth century; (3) there needed to be a turn in the twentieth century to a more careful study of the historical sources and record for balanced historical judgment; and (4) the positive achievements of Jesuit education were considerable, not infrequently appreciated even from outside the order, partly because they were based upon sound pedagogy.

Another landmark study appeared in 1938: The Jesuit Code of Liberal Education: Development and Scope of the Ratio studiorum by Allan P. Farrell (1896–1976).39 Whereas Schwickerath had largely surveyed the post-RS traditions of Jesuit education, Farrell looked carefully into the pre-RS history and documentation from the life of Ignatius, through the early schools and Diego Ledesma’s (1519–75) first attempts to create a ratio studiorum, to the three great educational plans of 1586, 1591, and 1599. And like Schwickerath, he was not only a Ratio-enthusiast but also a true believer in the perduring relevance of the thinking behind that document and hence its power to remedy some of the major educational problems of his day. The major portion of this very thoroughly researched and detailed volume was devoted to the step-by-step historical evolution of the RS in the sixteenth century, but the last chapter, “The Ratio Studiorum and Contemporary Education,” presented as strongly stated a pro-RS position as one might imagine being composed in the mid-twentieth century.40 In Farrell’s view, the Jesuit educational tradition had suffered great diminishment in the face of growing electivism, departmentalism, specialization, the scheme of credit-hours, curricular proliferation, and the loss of the required collegiate study of the classical languages. All too optimistically, Farrell predicted the imminent end of electivism in American education, and all too idealistically he supported the feasibility of a required classical course that would develop rhetorical abilities more than skills of translation or comprehension. Farrell stressed the importance of the formation of the will as well as the intellect in Jesuit education, the value of Latin and Greek classics and Scholastic philosophy, and the theological dimensions that lift the enterprise to a higher level: “Humanism that does not reach upward to God and find its completeness in Him is not genuine humanism at all.”41 Beyond the “fundamental methodology” of the RS that is “adaptable to the teaching of any branch in the curriculum [and] extensively used in modern pedagogy,” he listed eight still-significant principles lying deep in the RS. These had been made explicit only in the Ratio of 1586, but they were presumed in what was written thereafter. Farrell expresses them as follows:

1. Subordination of subjects of secondary importance to those of prime importance. 2. Clear-cut organization of successive objectives to be attained by the student. 3. Ample opportunity afforded the student by way of repetition to organize in his own mind the knowledge he has thus far gained. 4. The use of objection and discussion and, within proper limits, of emulation, as essential parts of the teaching technique, in order to guard against an attitude of passivity or mere absorption of classified information. 5. Making provision for a variety of class exercises, written and oral, to keep interest aroused and to demand of the student evidence of mastery. 6. Stimulating at every stage development of the power of written and oral expression in accordance with the highest ideals in the intellectual and moral order. 7. Personal interest in and contact with the student for the purpose of inspiring and encouraging him to achieve distinction in both learning and virtue. 8. Measuring the academic achievement of the student, not by time, but by achievement.42

Such a study shows us that, although the RS was no longer the cultural force that it had once been, there still remained, at least in some quarters in 1938, a very lively, even passionate, commitment to what some regarded as perennial values of traditional Jesuit education. This impression is confirmed in Morton A. Hill’s very brief survey of anglophone writing on the RS during the first half of the twentieth century.43 This paper indicates that the RS was a topic of lively discussion in the pages of the Jesuit Educational Quarterly and elsewhere during that time and that the material sometimes merges with considerations of educational history or broader contemporary issues in Catholic education.44 Hill included in his survey four master’s theses done at Fordham University on the RS between 1942 and 1950.45

Two more books from the first half of the twentieth century also deserve mention. The first is William J. McGucken’s The Jesuits and Education: The Society’s Teaching Principles and Practice, Especially in Secondary Education in the United States, which makes a contribution by describing the American adaptations of the principles and practices of the RS.46 In tracing the development of the modern American Jesuit high school, he showed how circumstances might force a change in the details of the RS while the primary purpose of “the formation of Catholic youth” might be retained.47 The second book of note is Francis P. Donnelly’s Principles of Jesuit Education in Practice, which is almost entirely devoted to the study of language, literature, and composition as it should be practiced in the tradition of the RS.48 Donnelly saw the overall educational scheme this way: “The art of composition should be the primary objective of the high-school course in literature; criticism the primary objective of the early college course, and science the primary objective of the later college and university.”49 Noting that the Society’s Epitome directs its members to follow the “principles of sound training which are found in the Constitution of St. Ignatius and in the Ratio,” Donnelly stated purpose was to “formulate some of these principles of the Ratio and to show how they are applied practically to the teaching of the classics and of the vernacular.”50

For Donnelly, McGucken, Farrell, Schwickerath, and many others, a strong classical course is assumed to be a standing feature of the education, and it usually praised as something to be retained, “even counter-culturally.”51 Part of the rationale is that the Greek and Latin classics are tools by which one can learn the arts of composition: “Did not Greek literature largely create Latin literature? Was not Cicero, as Newman himself testifies, Newman’s master in English? Why then may not Latin and Greek still form writers?”52

At the midpoint of the twentieth century, the most comprehensive work on Jesuit education appeared: La pédagogie des jésuites: Ses principes, son actualité, by François Charmot (1881–1965).53 This ambitious and masterly synthesis presented many of the major academic dimensions of Jesuit education, recapitulating many of the most important sources and earlier writers from the times of Ignatius and the founding charters of the Society of Jesus. What distinguishes this work is not only the large range and use of sources but also an unprecedented attention to issues of what we might call spirituality (not specifically the spirituality of Christianity as much as that of the interior personal domain of the intellectual, psychological, and creative, as suggested by the Latin animus or German Geist).54 This book was one of the first to develop the implications of a connection between Jesuit teaching methods and those of the Spiritual Exercises.55 It also expands upon certain dynamics of increasing reach—individual, interpersonal, and cultural. A brief survey of Charmot’s major headings is most revealing. The first part treats education as a mission of the church entrusted to the Society, its formational power, the vocational aspects of the Jesuit undertaking, and all that is required in the formation of the teachers. The second and third parts analyze aspects and elements of the method of teaching, situating both the teachers and students in light of a paradigm suggested by the Spiritual Exercises. Leading topics are the importance of authority, adaptation, activity; the need to learn to educate oneself, the place of feeling, of thinking, of deeply appropriating; and the arts of writing and speaking. The fourth part attends to psychological dynamics at play: enthusiasm, honor, interest, appetite, emulation, and contest. And finally Charmot turns to Christian humanism, discussing collaboration with God, the example of the teachers, the union of the members of the faculty (who would likely all be Jesuits at the time of his writing), the spirit of the college, Christian life, and lastly integral Christian culture.

Charmot’s scope was broad as well as deep, perhaps too much so for most of those who were soon finding themselves in situations that were soon so very different, after cumulative adaptations and variations, even including the steady diminishment of Jesuit faculty after Vatican II (1962–65). The rapidly changing circumstances, in addition to an academic culture increasingly invested in other directions on secularizing lines, may have led to the relative neglect of La pédagogie des jésuites. There seems little record of any extensive reception of Charmot’s text in anglophone writings on Jesuit education, except that he is credited as a significant source for the composition of the “Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm” of 1993.56 But even with the seismic transformations of culture in the mid-twentieth century and later, it is hard to understand how Charmot’s work has escaped translation into English for the last seven decades: cultural changes could not negate either the historical value or the perennial educational insights that he surveyed. Indeed, in times of change, educators had all the greater need of the best lights that they could find, and this study was certainly one of those.

But something was also new here. Charmot was heavily and explicitly indebted to a long line of authors writing within the ambit of the RS, and so his text is quite continuous with the insights of earlier ages. Real progress, he says, requires looking back: “the sap of the past needs to rise up into the branches.”57 Yet there is a noticeable shift in the treatment of Jesuit education, one that would increase steadily over the next fifty years. Charmot directly engaged the reality of the RS in his preface, making it quite clear that indeed the letter of the Ratio was at that time in part outdated or worn out (usée), but “The Ratio is above all a spirit. The ‘letter’ can be corrected, filled out, organized on a new plan.”58 Such a turn was being made in the institutions as well. Thus the RS, whose “letter” was full of concrete details, does not seem as pointedly present here as it was for Schwickerath or Farrell or Donnelly. But the further the details of the RS receded from view, the more difficult became the question of how to perceive, grasp, and retain its spirit in order to produce the results that should be expected. Would the new purveyors know the old manuals—or even the summaries of them in Charmot’s very new book—well enough to share, even analogically, in the essential educational genius that was to stand behind all adaptations? Would the new educators have the necessary grounding to make the appropriate judgments and keep the system “in character” in changed conditions?

Even before Charmot’s study, the historiography of Jesuit pedagogy had begun to enter a new stage, one marked by an increasing distance from its long attachment to the RS. The emphatic title of a short and sketchy article published in 1940 by Hugh McCarron (1893–1952) was “Not the Ratio.”59 It began with the blunt statement, “The chief guide of the Jesuit system of education is not the Ratio studiorum but the Spiritual Exercises.”60 Part of the argument was that the prior Jesuit interest was in the life of the person, and Jesuit involvement in education was derivative of that. The Spiritual Exercises was “the notebook which created the spirit that animates Jesuit education.”61

The deepening eclipse of the RS as the most proximately relevant guide for Jesuit education is noticeable in the important study that appeared in 1954, Saint Ignatius’ Idea of a Jesuit University (second edition, 1956).62 But for the author, George Ganss (1905–2000), the key to the spirit of the RS was to be found not so much in the Spiritual Exercises as in the Constitutions, particularly its fourth part. The RS was like a school bulletin, full of variable (and disposable) specifics; the larger principles had to be found in the Constitutions.63 And the difference between the two was decidedly a grand one: “The Constitutions are related to the Ratio Studiorum as the sun is to the moon.”64 Ganss summarized the main Ignatian educational principles under these headings:

(1) an awareness that education is a means to the end of his Society (that end being the salvation and perfection of the students, who would promote the same for others and thus transform the world); (2) a care to impart a scientifically reasoned Catholic outlook on life; (3) a training of the whole person to the excellence of all his faculties; (3) a conscious effort to make education both intellectual and moral; (4) a preservation of the preeminence of theology supported by philosophy; (5) abundant self-activity of the students; (6) personal interest of the professors in the students; (7) a transmitting of old truths and a discovering of new ones; (8) a care to have the training psychologically fitted to the ages of the students; (9) a devising of means truly adequate to achieve the ends envisaged; (10) a care for timeliness, through adaptation of procedures to places and times; (11) an alertness to gather the best elements emerging in the educational systems of the day; (12) a care to preserve, discard, and add according to contemporary needs; (13) a courageous yet prudent spirit of experimentation and discussion; (14) a care to have a complete code of a liberal education; (15) a care to educate the complete person towards both wisdom and charity.65

Ganss concluded the body of his book with a reiteration of the need for adaptability and change; implicit was the need for a readiness to abandon any details that did not seem likely to be effective in present circumstances.66 The implication was clear: set aside the RS and look to these larger principles; go back to the Constitutions.67

It should be noted that there still existed some exponents of the tradition of the RS, for example, Matthew J. Fitzsimons (1899–1975), who criticized Ganss for failing to mention “the most significant and progressive development in American Jesuit education, and unique, perhaps, in the entire Society,” namely the 1948 Instructio.68 Fitzsimons thought that the spirit of the Constitutions might well be found here.69 Writing from the Ateneo de Manila University, Miguel A. Bernad (1917–2009) also expressed both praise for and deep reservations about Ganss’s study.70 He allowed the characterization of the early Society’s “eagerness to experiment,” but he claimed the full picture must also include “Ignatius’s certainty of the goal to be aimed at.”71 By the time of his review, Bernad had published a summative article listing what he saw as ten essential Jesuit educational principles:

(1) great respect for the value inherent in scholarship; (2) study as a means to a higher end; (3) the importance of solid comprehension of what is studied; (4) the need for method and systematic progress; (5) focus or the removal of obstacles that hinder mastery; (6) care of one’s health in studies; (7) the need for a general education and the subordination of lesser subjects to more important ones; (8) abstaining from pomp in winning academic credentials; (9) need for mastery of oral and written expression; (10) following the doctrine most approved and the best scholars available, learning a little well rather than many things less well.72

Such listings by Bernad here and Ganss above indicate the desire to seize upon the essential and lasting principles, particularly for the sake of authenticity and effectiveness in the face of accommodation. Something important was at stake for the order; the historiography of Jesuit pedagogy from within the Society tended to be an apostolically interested one, just as non-Jesuit (secular or non-Catholic) writings of the nineteenth century tended towards the critical or polemical.

The reactions of Bernad and Fitzsimons to Ganss’s book suggest an awareness that more still needed to be done on the topic. In 1959, in an effort to articulate more clearly the perduring core of the tradition, the Jesuit Educational Association (USA) commissioned a professor in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University, John W. Donohue (1917–2010), to write a thorough study, published in 1963 as Jesuit Education: An Essay on the Foundations of Its Idea.73 As the subtitle indicates, the focus was on educational theory, explicit or implicit in the origins and developments of the Jesuit tradition. Donohue did acknowledge three major sources: the Spiritual Exercises, the Constitutions, and the legislative tradition, particularly the RS.74 But he took a philosophical tack, entitling the first part of the book “The Context of the Idea,” and the second, “The Content of the Idea.” That idea transcended all the concrete details of that Renaissance program of learning in terms of which the early Society had done its pedagogical thinking. Donohue did name a historical innovation in early Jesuit education: its distinctive arrangement of elements, namely, “a certain originality in the school program itself, a firm belief in the value of order, graduated curricula and tested methods and finally, a staff of teachers devoted to their work and professionally well prepared.”75 But for Donohue as for Charmot, the important reality was rather what grounded the various historical manifestations. The “true source of vitality in Jesuit education is indicated by the answer to a why rather than a what,” and this factor, “the Society’s enduring purposes and motives,” is what has given continuity to the Jesuit educational work across space and time.76 This turn away from specific contents, methods, and curricula marked a decisive step further away from the RS as the authoritative embodiment of or guide for Jesuit education.77 The stress was put on greater freedom: that is, on flexibility, adaptability, and creativity, all operating in terms of certain larger purposes and perduring wider contexts (of church, society, and culture), and on the basis of fundamental anthropological realities, like the universal dynamics of cognition and volition. Jesuit education aims above all at nurturing intellectual, moral, and social maturity, with the moral sphere being given primacy. These are to lead the student to the love of God that promotes service and ultimately spreads the graces of salvation.78


After 1965: Losing the Ratio studiorum

In that very period during which Lukács was publishing his seven volumes of definitive critical editions of the early Society’s pedagogical documents, the RS seems to have been fully retired, deprecated, and largely forgotten except in name. Most telling are some lines written by Robert J. Henle (1909–2001) in 1967:

There is no way in which Jesuit education can be defined as a set of specific traits. I myself have made various attempts so to define it, but I finally became convinced that the effort was futile. I think we must say that Jesuit education is education given by Jesuits. Jesuit education cannot be described in a set of specific educational traits, specific subjects, procedures or methods; it can be described in terms of Jesuits, in terms of Jesuit character.79

John W. Donohue quoted these words approvingly in America magazine in 1985 with the comment, “Certainly Jesuit education cannot be defined in terms of the Ratio. That was only one of many Renaissance school plans, Protestant as well as Catholic, all of which looked alike on paper.”80 Such sentiments would have been utterly incomprehensible to a Schwickerath, a Farrell, or a Donnelly earlier in the same century.81 This attitude made it hard to imagine any large-scale study of the “idea of Jesuit education” that might improve very much on Donohue’s study from 1963.

Indeed there had been seismic historic changes coming in and around Vatican II that helped power the prevailing direction away from the RS. The year Henle’s article appeared was also the year that marked the first “separate incorporation” of an American Jesuit institution of higher learning, Saint Louis University: final responsibility for the school was put into the hands of a predominantly lay board.82 The Land O’ Lakes statement also appeared in 1967, declaring “true autonomy and academic freedom” for Catholic universities qua universities, operating within the standing secular paradigm for universities.83

Furthermore a perhaps equally momentous change was taking place in Jesuit formation: a major stage of the traditional academic preparation was virtually suppressed. Almost every American province lost the entire juniorate period (a two-year period after the two-year novitiate, usually conducted in a separate institutional space and mostly focused on Latin, Greek, and English language and literary study). Jesuit formation for scholastics therefore no longer followed that perduring stadial scheme of the RS: Letters–philosophy–theology. This pattern had had its origins in the biography of Ignatius of Loyola himself, and it had been the recognized standard for all of the Society’s existence up to that point.84 This changed entailed another major loss of particular content and therefore of Jesuit investments and competencies in the classroom: Latin and, for the Society, Greek language and cultural studies, though mandated by the new code of canon law (1983) and later by the Society’s own Complementary Norms (1995), de facto disappeared entirely from the common scholastic program.85

Donohue’s and Henle’s philosophically framed approaches to Jesuit education were representative of a generational shift in attitude that continued on for decades. In 1989, another leading Jesuit educator, William McInnis (1923–2009), questioned and opined as follows:

Obviously Jesuit education is one form of Catholic education. But is there something distinctive (though not articulated) that sets it apart from Dominican, Franciscan, or diocesan educational systems? […] Our problem is not that we do not have one clear answer, but that we have not engaged in systematic, serious thought. […] The search for the uniqueness of Jesuit education has always ended in frustration.86

Here the idea of that distinctive tradition established by the fourth part of the Constitutions and the RS and hundreds of years of Jesuit institutional practices seems utterly lost, perhaps because philosophical approaches and new apostolic-cultural imperatives were overriding a particular sense of the history. The new generation was standing on the other side of an epochal cultural break that made the past harder to evaluate. Even a leading historian of the Society, John W. O’Malley (1931– ), followed this trend, writing in 2015 of the RS as being merely an “in-house document” that had clearly been useless for a very long time.87 This understanding of the RS is quite far from that foundational document and perennial guide celebrated in the first half of the twentieth century and praised as a living reality and standard by the thirtieth general congregation in 1957.88



The new “post-Ratio” stance contributed to and was accompanied by changes in the historiography of Jesuit pedagogy: (1) particularly as Lúkács’s critical editions became available in the Monumenta Paedagogica, the presentation of the idea of Jesuit education could be treated by scholars in more purely historical terms (that is, rather than as part of an “apostolically engaged” or apologetic kind of representation); (2) non-Jesuit scholars indeed began to do more work in this field (e.g, Scaglione, Grendler), as has been true of Jesuit studies more generally;89 (3) without the dominance of the RS as the educational charter, thinking on “Jesuit education” (which remained a quite relevant topic in Jesuit educational institutions) tended to be more “essayistic” and partial rather than large-scale and comprehensive like the treatises of Schwickerath, Farrell, and Charmot;90 (4) without the RS as a controlling framework encompassing many particulars, more emphasis could be put on the Spiritual Exercises and on “what is Ignatian” as the source of the distinctive principles and character of Jesuit education, particularly in the apostolically engaged writing that looked to serviceable norms for operation or evaluation.91

It was probably the lack of the RS’s perceived apostolic usefulness that led the Society’s educators to shelve it in the first place. Since the fourth part of the Constitutions was closely linked to it, to what other authoritative source could practitioners go, then, other than the Spiritual Exercises and the broader concept of what is “Ignatian”? Charmot and others had already indicated the importance of the spirituality for Jesuit schools. For Robert Newton, the Exercises are the “original source of the Jesuit educational tradition.”92 And yet the Exercises had not been written with formal schooling in mind at all. The Constitutions did not explicitly make them any kind of operational guide. Ignatius’s spiritual notes from Manresa (1522) had been written years away from his exposure to university life in Paris (1528). Moreover, the academic exercises and structures of the university that were going to impress the early Jesuits were already in operation at Paris and elsewhere even as Ignatius was sketching out his spiritual handbook, so there seems no easy way to derive very much of a distinctive idea of Jesuit education from this ascetical manual.93 The proximate guide for Jesuit schools could only be something like the RS, which was composed for the particular sphere and intentionalities of the studia Societatis.

But progressive secularization along with other cultural and societal upheavals so greatly challenged the Society’s rethinking of Jesuit education that even at the most general level of  the old structure of “Letters–philosophy–theology” there was a great difficulty: trends in the curriculum over the twentieth century showed a massive universal devaluation of precisely these areas in higher education, the very ones in which Jesuit education was most heavily invested for centuries.94 The principle of adaptability is overtaxed if essential structures and contents must be jettisoned or minimized. It is one thing not to read Cicero in Latin, and quite another to have one’s entire college theology requirement reduced to one or two courses that might not even focus on Christianity. In 1991,William P. Leahy wrote that American Catholic higher education “urgently requires a coherent, convincing theory of education and articulate, persuasive proponents of it.”95

The quest to refine “the theory” and to identify the primary abiding principles of Jesuit education and then to integrate these with a new set of practices in Jesuit education continues. No single model or document or understanding has proven “authoritative.” In fact, given the largely decentralized structure in the Society today, the consensus seems to be that there will be nothing ever again in the line of the RS, so the idea of Jesuit education must look for new modes of thought. In the early 1970s, a serious attempt to make a way forward with the American Jesuit higher educational institutions failed to produce any noticeable winning results.96 Nevertheless, the long Jesuit history of a distinctive tradition in education has continued to exert pressure, so that essays and documents keep being produced. Five contributions deserve special mention. Most important is Michael J. Buckley’s historical and philosophical collection of essays, The Catholic University as Promise and Project: Reflections in a Jesuit Idiom.97 A simple summary is impossible, but it is worth noting that Buckley has set a very high standard for understanding the tradition and its possible directions. His very rich collection of essays stands as the most advanced, most comprehensive thinking on the idea of Jesuit education since John W. Donohue’s study from 1963. It treats the full range of themes of mission, social justice, humanism, philosophy, and theology.

There have also been at least four official attempts to define Jesuit education more clearly. In 1986, a summary document was issued by the International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education (established by the Society in 1980 mostly with secondary education mostly in mind). Entitled “Go Forth and Teach: The Characteristics of Jesuit Education,” it attempted to provide not a new RS but rather an instrument for establishing a common vision, a common sense of purpose, and a standard against which educators in the tradition might measure themselves.98 Many of the traditional and recent formulae are listed, along with salient points from the history and literature of Jesuit education. In 2013, American Jesuit higher education composed a much briefer parallel document, “Some Characteristics of Jesuit Colleges and Universities: A Self-Evaluation Instrument.”99 Each institution was invited to review itself under seven large categories: leadership’s commitment to the mission; the academic life; a Catholic, Jesuit campus culture; service; service to the local church; Jesuit presence; and integrity. The third document, “Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach” (1993) has been been put forward as a new Ratio.100 It does not list characteristics but rather attempts to identify a kind of transcendental method, that is, a radical process applicable to all curricula, subjects, and grade-levels. The key elements are context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. The scheme as a whole is known as the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm or “IPP.” It especially looks back to the Spiritual Exercises and to certain other strands of social and philosophical thinking far more than it does to the RS, which is partly defined by a concreteness that is very far from the IPP’s high abstraction. The most recent document, “Our Way of Proceeding: Standards and Benchmarks for Jesuit Schools in the 21st Century” was issued by the recently established national office for American Jesuit high schools, the Jesuit School Network (2015).101 It articulates many standards to help schools think through, measure, and document their Jesuit identity in coordination with a “sponsorship review process.” The five domains covered are (1) Jesuit and Catholic Mission and Identity, (2) Governance and Leadership, (3) Spiritual Formation, (4) Educational Excellence, and (5) Faith That Does Justice. The results of these four documents are largely in the hands and judgments of the local communities to which they are addressed. They all point to the ongoing effort to portray the idea of Jesuit education and to carry it on as a living tradition well-rooted in older sources.


Final Reflections and Questions

Historians of Jesuit education have much to do, particularly after Lúkács’s annotated critical editions in the Monumenta Paedagogica. The present essay has sketched out a few major features of one part of the landscape and provided a core narrative, but much more material remains, even for a fully adequate historiographical survey.102 This rapid overview might nevertheless sufficiently show that the historiography is deeply implicated in a wide range of topics with various levels of relevance both to the historical narrative and to the ongoing self-fashioning in Jesuit educational institutions.

More localized research could ask whether in given situations the tradition of the RS maintained its position as some kind of “perceived” core, even with the inevitable adaptations. Or did the modifications fundamentally alter a particular community’s attitude toward the normative core? Did the Society’s leadership in various regions and at the central curia in Rome keep aiming for a particular legislated ideal in the restored Society (following Roothan’s lead, mentioned above), or did it have a growing appreciation for creative license?103  What, in short, was the value of uniformity, and how widely or deeply was it championed? Even the RS explicitly allowed for flexibility, after all. How far was this flexibility in fact taken in various regions around the world?

Historians might well ask too about how informed were those who have been transforming the structures in accord with the demands of late modernity? How great an impact have the major works discussed in this essay had on the active understanding and discourse of the practitioners and revisers? What has been the actual level of absorption both of the official documentation and the major works from Schwickerath (1903) to Buckley (1998)? Also, how well has a knowledge of this tradition informed the new intensity of interest in social issues? What are the guidelines, sources, and authorities being used in dealing with politically and socially controverted topics?

Because the tradition is still alive, part of the historiography will remain “apostolically engaged.” That is, it will be rooted in the Society’s official self-understanding and its sponsored practices. This emic stream will probably also continue as long as the idea of Jesuit education is a viable concept. For the concept to remain viable, however, the leadership may have to come to terms with the need for more focus, content, and structure than has yet been achieved in the post-Ratio period. Can there in fact even be a post-Ratio Jesuit education if the RS is best understood as a (or as the) major constitutive document of the tradition? (Consider the prospect of a post-Spiritual-Exercises Ignatian spirituality: is it really possible?) Can Jesuit education forgo larger authoritative or legislative guidance of some kind and still claim to be operating in the tradition that was so signally marked by the RS? If not, how is that guidance to be understood?

It is possible that Jesuit education may itself evolve into a wide range of very different forms. In such an event, the historiography will take into account these new directions, their sources, their motivations, and their expressions. If the concept of Jesuit education becomes so hopelessly broad and diverse as to become largely meaningless, this new situation might at least be well described. What will be said to survive in each of the schools professing allegiance to “the Jesuit tradition”? Some might take the hallmark of Jesuit education as “excellence,” or education for rhetorical mastery, or a concern for social justice, or cura personalis, or the study of classical languages, or interdisciplinarity, or philosophy and theology requirements, or a vital retreat- and sodality-oriented campus ministry, or some such particular feature, substituting the part for the whole. What then becomes of the concept of Jesuit education?

Particularly for the sake of counter-secularizing interests, the idea of Jesuit education might continue to merge more and more with spirituality. Such a direction suggests the importance of clarifying the relationship that Jesuit education has historically had to the Exercises. Nothing prevents the tradition from taking new turns and making new amalgamations; the question is rather one of how justifiable and coherent and widely accepted will new approaches be. Or will the use of the Exercises as a key to Jesuit education finally be judged to be misguided, partly on the basis of historical studies? Perhaps a more relevant kind of spirituality will be found in that other kind that Ignatius himself found available in his day, the spirituality of docta pietas.

Another question will have to do with content: for example, the classical course (particularly as grounding for rhetorical abilities) has been eliminated. Should there be no replacement for this long-standing defining feature of the tradition, not even one adapted to a wider, “updated” range of classics and communicative education? Will people informed by the tradition easily cast off the idea of a core high-quality long-approved canon (formerly centered largely but not exclusively on Cicero/Aristotle/Thomas/Scripture), one that not only challenged students by setting for them a very high standard of thought and articulation but also gave them an important “common cultural alphabet” of great educational and communal import?

Studies of Jesuit education have failed to attend sufficiently to the ad intra formational dimensions of the RS. This programmatic infrastructure was absolutely necessary for the Society to train the teachers and administrators competent to carry on its vision through particular tasks that functioned within a coherent larger plan. Without any organized formational revision within the Society (or some kind of parallel formation program for non-Jesuit colleagues), will any new self-understanding of Jesuit education tend to be limited, vague, confused, idiosyncratic, or short-lived?104 Will the same will be the case if there is too much practical assimilation to secularizing practices? Historians will be able to use the many mission statements composed by individual institutions to attain some insight into the range of understandings of the tradition at the local levels.

Some will say that any Ratio-like “constitutional” type of charter is now either utterly impossible or completely undesirable. On the other hand an approach that effectively joins many concrete particulars to spirit and goals may fall well within the realm of possibility, particularly if the Society comes to the view that the RS, as a foundational document both for Jesuit education and for the Jesuit order itself, simply cannot be put aside, at the very least as an operational model that can exert a kind of historical-exemplary pressure on contemporary reformulations.105 To try to capture the “spirit” of the RS without any descent into concrete particulars might prove to be unworkably idealistic (and actually quite foreign to the spirit as well as to the practices of the tradition). Most likely, the idea of Jesuit education will (1) continue to evolve and sharpen into a new form or into many different local forms; (2) remain somewhat eclectic, unfocused, secularized, or diverse; or (3) all but disappear as a living reality. In any case, historians will have ample material for relevant and valuable research and reflection.


For more bibliographical information, consult Boston College Jesuit Bibliography: The New Sommervogel Online (NSO).


^ Back to text1. The original title was Ratio atque institutio studiorum Societatis Iesu (Naples: Tarquinio Longo, 1598). It was issued in January of 1599, so it is often called “the Ratio of 1599,” to distinguish it from the review-version sent out in 1586 and from the trial version produced in 1591. The English version cited here will be The Ratio Studiorum: The Official Plan for Jesuit Education, ed. Claude Pavur (Saint Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2005).

^ Back to text2. There should be a distinction between the spiritual work of mercy and charity, “educating the ignorant” or teaching Christianity to children and unlettered people (mentioned in the Society’s earliest formula) and the more systematic, institutionally integrated, corporately managed enterprise properly called “Jesuit education.”

^ Back to text3. Gabriel Codina, “The ‘Modus Parisiensis,’” in The Jesuit Ratio Studiorum: 400th Anniversary Perspectives, ed. Vincent J. Duminuco, S.J. (New York: Fordham University Press, 2000), 28–49. Codina mentions that Ignatius and several who later went to Paris first discovered the modus parisiensis at Alcalá (38).

^ Back to text4. Constitutions, no. 455: “[The plan of studies] ought to be adapted to places, times, and persons, even though it would be desirable to reach that order as far as this is possible.” The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and Their Complementary Norms: A Complete English Translation of the Official Latin Texts, ed. John W. Padberg (Saint Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996).

^ Back to text5. For the Latin text of this document, see Georg Michael Pachtler, Ratio studiorum et institutiones scholasticae Societatis Jesu per Germaniam olim vigentes collectae, concinnatae, dilucidatae, ed. Karl Kehrbach, Tomus 2, Ratio studiorum ann. 1586, 1599, 1832, Monumenta Germaniae Paedagogica 5 (Berlin: A. Hofmann & Comp., 1887), 228–33.

^ Back to text6. “All should know well and greatly esteem the Ratio studiorum; and its method and rules should be carefully observed in the education of our young men.” John W. Padberg, Martin D. O’Keefe, John L. McCarthy, eds. and trans., For Matters of Greater Moment: The First Thirty Jesuit General Congregations (Series I — Jesuit Primary Sources, in English Translations, No. 12), 678 (Decree 66, no. 85, para. 2).

^ Back to text7. The gathering of foundational documents in a volume entitled Institutum Societatis Iesu (the Institute of the Society of Jesus, Florence: Ex Typographia A SS. Conceptione, 1892–93) included the RS.

^ Back to text8. Of course there was a kind of ratio-plan in nuce before 1599, with fragments being put into place as early as 1548. The de facto expiration date of the Ratio studiorum in Jesuit formation might be fixed differently in various locations. In the late 1960s in the United States, most of the juniorate programs (two years of study undertaken in a specific formational community and focused on classical languages and literatures) were terminated or radically reorganized. Another marker might be the date of the last Latin disputation in philosophy studies: in the New Orleans province’s philosophate at Spring Hill College (Mobile, Alabama), this was January of 1965.

^ Back to text9. See RS, no. 330: “In private conversations as well, he will impress on them the same things pertaining to devotion, but he will do this in such a way that he does not appear to be enticing anyone to our form of religious life. But if he does notice anything along this line, he should send the person off to his confessor.”

^ Back to text10. And indeed even in 2016 (the time of this writing) there are still alive some who can remember having had classical studies (Greek and Latin), the (philosophy) arts course (including a course on what was called cosmology), and Thomistic theology, with oral exams in Latin. Until shortly after mid-century, some works were still being published in Latin (for example the early works of the Canadian philosopher Bernard Lonergan [1904–84]). One could not say that the RS was entirely a dead letter in 1960 despite the need for revision. The first full translation of the Constitutions from Latin into English was published only in 1970 (Ignatius of Loyola, The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, trans., intro., and commentary George E. Ganss [Saint Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1970]).

^ Back to text11. László Lukács’s critical edition of the Latin text in MHSI, vol. 129, appeared in 1986; it was followed by translations in Spanish, 1986; French, 1997; Polish, 2000; Italian, 2002; English, 2005; Japanese, 2008; Ukrainian, 2008; and Portuguese, 2009.

^ Back to text12. RS, no. 7.

^ Back to text13. “Duo plane sunt Societatis nostrae praesidia ac firmamenta, ardens pietatis studium et praestans rerum scientia.” Pachtler, Ratio, 27.

^ Back to text14. Constitutions, no. 307.

^ Back to text15. Ibid., no. 351.

^ Back to text16. The Monumenta Paedagogica (abbrev. MP) are a subset of volumes in the Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu (abbrev. MHSI), 157 volumes (Madrid; Rome: 1894–). Some of the items of the MP have recently been translated from the Spanish, Italian, and Latin in Jesuit Pedagogy, 1540–1616: A Reader, ed., Cristiano Casalini and Claude Pavur, No. 1 in Series: Sources for the History of Jesuit Pedagogy, ed. Robert A. Maryks (Chestnut Hill, MA: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2016).

^ Back to text17. Ratio atque institutio studiorum Societatis Iesu, 1586 1591 1599, MHSI, nova editio, 129 (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 1986).

^ Back to text18. Casalini and Pavur, Jesuit Pedagogy, 55–59.

^ Back to text19. Pláticas espirituales del P. Jerónimo Nadal, S.I., en Coimbra (1561), ed. Miguel Nicolau (Granada: Facultad Teológica de la Compañía de Jesús, 1945), 124.

^ Back to text20. Pedro de Ribadeneyra, The Life of Ignatius of Loyola, trans. Claude Pavur (Saint Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2014), nos. 351–87.

^ Back to text21. Ibid., no. 353.

^ Back to text22. Salamanca: Matías Gastias, 1576.

^ Back to text23. Burgos: Philip de Junta, 1586.

^ Back to text24. Ibid., 112, cited in Javier Vergara, Ciordia, “La edición de Burgos de 1588 del Christiani pueri institutio adolescentiaeque perfugium, obra clave del humanismo jesuítico hispano,” Historia de la educación 31 (2012): 81–103, here 91.

^ Back to text25. Rome, from the Typographica Apostolica Vaticana: Domenico Basa.

^ Back to text26. Rome: Giacomo Mascardi, 1625.

^ Back to text27. Padberg, Matters, 364.

^ Back to text28. Paris: no press, 1691.

^ Back to text29. Florence: Michele Nestenius, 1703.

^ Back to text30. MHSI, volume 19, published in 1901, gathered educationally-related documents under the title Monumenta Paedagogica. It is entirely separate from the new MP series mentioned above.

^ Back to text31. Ratio studiorum et institutiones scholasticae Societatis Jesu per Germaniam olim vigentes (Berlin: Hofmann, 1887–94); volumes 2, 5, 9, and 16 of Monumenta Germaniae Paedagogica, 62 volumes, ed. Karl Kehrbach et al. (Berlin: A. Hofmann & Comp., / Weidmann, 1886–1938).

^ Back to text32. Jesuit Education: Its History and Principles Viewed in the Light of Modern Educational Problems, second edition (Saint Louis, MO: B. Herder, 1903).

^ Back to text33. Schwickerath also helped produce German translations from the Latin of some early Jesuit educational documents: Der Jesuiten Sacchini, Juvencius und Kropf: Erlaüterungsschriften zur Studienordnung der Gesellschaft Jesu, ed. Robert Schwickerath, Josef Stier, Franz. Zorell, vol. 10 in Bibliothek der Katholischen Pädagogik (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1898).

^ Back to text34. Schwickerath, Jesuit Education, 434–35.

^ Back to text35. Ibid., 125, citing Compayré, The History of Pedagogy, trans. W. H. Payne (Boston: D. C. Heath & Co., 1889), 144–45.

^ Back to text36. Ibid., Preface, iii–iv.

^ Back to text37. See Kathleen A. Mahoney, Catholic Higher Education in Protestant America: The Jesuits and Harvard in the Age of the University (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), especially Chapter 2, “Time: The Harvard Law School Controversy and the Modern Imperative.”

^ Back to text38. See for example, Schwickerath, Jesuit Education, 509–10, where he talks about an experiment in the teaching of Latin in Germany which had to be reversed because of the bad results with student learning. Speaking of the principles involved, Schwickerath says, “These are the principles on which the Ratio and Jouvancy had insisted centuries ago.”

^ Back to text39. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1938.

^ Back to text40. Ibid., 401–28.

^ Back to text41. Ibid., 422.

^ Back to text42. Ibid., 403–4.

^ Back to text43. Morton A. Hill, “Twentieth-Century Thought on the Ratio Studiorum,” Jesuit Educational Quarterly 14, no. 4 (1952): 225–39. This article briefly scans some RS-related reviews and studies from 1900 to 1950.

^ Back to text44. Hill mentions T. Corcoran, Studies in the History of Classical Teaching: Irish and Continental, 1500–1700 (London: Longman’s, 1911), which is primarily about the innovative language methodology of the Irish Jesuit William Bathe (1564–1614); the book devotes its second half to a study of the practice of classical teaching after the Renaissance, carefully depicting the working of a Jesuit college classroom in the seventeenth century. Educational books written by Jesuits but with a wider scope than the RS are William McGucken, The Catholic Way in Education (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1934) and Jaime Castiello, A Humane Psychology of Education (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1936). See Hill, “Twentieth Century Thought,” 229 and 231.

^ Back to text45. Ibid., 234–36.

^ Back to text46. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1932. See Hill, “Twentieth Century Thought,” 228.

^ Back to text47. McGucken, The Jesuits and Education, 169.

^ Back to text48. New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1934.

^ Back to text49. Ibid., 20.

^ Back to text50. Ibid., 1.

^ Back to text51. For example, McGucken, though he spoke so well about adaptability, wanted a type of Renaissance school (“a Vittorino school”) with six years of Latin for boys (Hill, 3); Jaime Castiello (fn44 above) wrote, “For Catholics, a classical tradition is not a matter of luxury, but almost a necessity. If, for others, Latin is a dead language, for Catholics it can never be dead…” (Castiello, Humane Psychology, 184). Schwickerath devoted Chapter 12 to a discussion of classical studies in Jesuit education; see especially Jesuit Education, 346–60.

^ Back to text52. Donnelly, Principles, 18.

^ Back to text53. Paris: Aux Éditions Spes, 1943; 2d ed., 1951.

^ Back to text54. Ibid., 12: Charmot expressly admits limiting his book to the intellectual education of the young, and yet he still reveals something of his primary interest in spirituality. The titles of his books are quite indicative of his range of interests: see the bibliography available at, (accessed September 19, 2016).

^ Back to text55. Charmot, Pédagogie des jésuites, 137: “We need to first insist on the very close relationship that exists between the principles of the Exercises of St. Ignatius and the pedagogical principles of the Ratio. One might be surprised at first that an ascetical book might also be a pedagogical one. This surprise quickly vanishes upon reflection [translation mine].” Charmot finds support for this position in E. Böminghaus’s Geist der Gesellschaft Jesu und ihr pädagogisches Werk: 75 Jahre Mare Stella Matutina. Festschrift Band I. (Feldkirch, Austria: Selbstverlag der Stella Matutina, 1931), 24–42. He also directs the reader generally to what Nadal says on the topic in the appendix to his book, perhaps thinking of this passage: “Our scholastics might draw a greater profit from their studies and their course if they dispose themselves according to the method of the Spiritual Exercises.” See Charmot, Pédagogie des jésuites, 534–35 (citing from Jéronimo Nadal, Orationis observationes, no. 117–74 and 202, in Epistolae P. Hieronymi Nadal Societatis Jesu ab anno 1546 ad 1577: Selecta Natalis monumenta in ejus epistolis commemorata, Monumenta Natalis IV, MHSI, vol. 47 [Madrid–Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu: 1898–1964]).

^ Back to text56. See Richard LaBelle, Rich Enough: What the Jesuits Have Written About Education (self-published, 2014), 165–66. LaBelle points out here that most of the influence of Charmot derives from the sixth chapter of La pédagogie des jésuites, which comprises twenty-nine chapters.

^ Back to text57. Charmot, Pédagogie des jésuites, 12.

^ Back to text58. Ibid., 10.

^ Back to text59. Hugh McCarron, “Not the Ratio,” Jesuit Educational Quarterly 3, no. 2 (September 1940): 79–81.

^ Back to text60. Ibid., 79.

^ Back to text61. Ibid., 81.

^ Back to text62. Saint Ignatius’ Idea of a Jesuit University: A Study in the History of Catholic Education (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1954; second edition 1956). References will be to the second edition.

^ Back to text63. Ibid., 206.

^ Back to text64. Ibid., 211.

^ Back to text65. Ibid., 191–200. These words are drawn almost verbatim from Ganss’s text.

^ Back to text66. Ibid., 201.

^ Back to text67. Ganss included his own fresh translation of Part 4 of the Constitutions, significantly entitling the section “The Principal Document.” Ibid., 281–345.

^ Back to text68. Matthew J. Fitzsimons, “The Spirit and the Letter,” Jesuit Educational Quarterly 17, no. 4 (March 1955): 213–24, here 223, referring to the Instructio pro Assistentia Americae de ordinandis universitatibus, collegiis, ac scholis altis et de praeparandis eorundem magistris [New York: Jesuit Educational Association, 1948]. Fitzsimons studied the history of this document in “The Instructio: 1934–1949,” Jesuit Educational Quarterly 12, no. 2 (October 1949): 69–78.

^ Back to text69. It “provides for the organization of our education on a national basis, for the Jesuit Educational Association with National Secretary and Regional Directors of Studies, for efficient and modern administration of our high schools and colleges and universities, and the preparation of teachers for them.” Ibid., 224. Fitzsimons explicitly favors the RS, a careful study of which, he says “will reveal it as a very great document.” Ibid., 223.

^ Back to text70. “The Idea of a Jesuit University,” Philippine Studies 6, no. 1 (March 1958): 123–28.

^ Back to text71. Ibid., 128.

^ Back to text72. Miguel A. Bernad, “The Ignatian Way in Education,” Philippine Studies 4, no. 2 (1956): 195–214.

^ Back to text73. New York: Fordham University Press, 1963.

^ Back to text74. Ibid., xiii, xvii.

^ Back to text75. Ibid., 39.

^ Back to text76. Ibid., 9.

^ Back to text77. Donohue’s stance comes through in such sentences as “The full philosophy of education subscribed to by a Jesuit School is not to be found wholly or even chiefly in any Jesuit documents.” Also: “This unity and continuity will not be detected on the plane of curricula and concrete procedures, for civilizations change and so do their demands on the school.” Ibid., 82, 83.

^ Back to text78. Ibid. 130.

^ Back to text79. Robert J. Henle, “Jesuit Aims in Higher Education,” Jesuit Educational Quarterly 29, no. 4 (March 1967): 213–29, here 219.

^ Back to text80. John W. Donohue, “Notes on Jesuit Education,” America 153, no. 11 (October 26, 1985): 252–58, here 255. See (accessed September 19, 2016).

^ Back to text81. Just two years before Henle’s article, a very different stance had been taken by William D. Ryan, “Is There Anything Distinctive About Jesuit Education?” Jesuit Educational Quarterly 28, no. 1 (June 1965), 58–60. The distinctiveness consisted in a “combination of elements,” notably: elements of government, commonalities of culture and motivations, spirituality, and a heritage of instrumentalities traditionally associated with Jesuit education.

^ Back to text82. “A Louder Voice for Laymen,” Time, 89, no. 5 (Friday, February 3, 1967). Henle was already widely known personality. He had been the author of a series of Latin textbooks and a Latin grammar popular in American Jesuit high schools in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1967, at the time of the separate incorporation, he was the academic vice-president at Saint Louis University, and in July of that same year he became a signer of the Land O’ Lakes statement.

^ Back to text83. “The Idea of the Catholic University,” available at (accessed September 19, 2016). The first paragraph of the document is pointed: “The Catholic University today must be a university in the full modern sense of the word, with a strong commitment to and concern for academic excellence. To perform its teaching and research functions effectively the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself. To say this is simply to assert that institutional autonomy and academic freedom are essential conditions of life and growth and indeed of survival for Catholic universities as for all universities.”

^ Back to text84. Ignatius began his study of language and literature in Barcelona in 1524 and he reviewed these studies at the Collège de Montaigu in Paris in 1528–29. He always insisted on the value of this study for the scholastics.

^ Back to text85. Canon 249, available in English at and in Latin at (accessed September 19, 2016). The Society’s Complementary Norms of 1995 are published with the Constitutions, ed. Padberg. The relevant number is Part IV, no. 86, page 153.

^ Back to text86. William McInnis, “The Current State of the Jesuit Philosophy of Education,” in Jesuit Higher Education: Essays on an American Tradition of Excellence, ed. Rolando E. Bonachea (Duquesne University Press, 1989), 26–45, here, endnotes 22 and 28 on 182. McInnis, like Henle, was a well-known figure in Jesuit education: he was president of Fairfield (1964–73), the University of San Francisco (1972–77), and then the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (1977–89).

^ Back to text87. John W. O’Malley, “Jesuit Schools and the Humanities Yesterday and Today,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 47, no. 1 (2015): 1–34, here 2. Of the restored Society’s efforts in the United States, O’Malley wrote, “The Ratio studiorum of 1599 was hopelessly out of date and impracticable, and all efforts to revise it failed utterly.” Ibid., 27. This article is available at (accessed September 19, 2016).

^ Back to text88. See fn6 above.

^ Back to text89. Aldo Scaglione, The Liberal Arts and the Jesuit College System (Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1986); Paul Grendler is a well known Renaissance scholar who has written many items about Jesuit education; see, for example, “Jesuit Schools in Europe: A Historiographical Essay,” Journal of Jesuit Studies 1, no. 1 (2014): 7–25 (doi: 10:116/22141332-00101002).

^ Back to text90. For some examples of collections of essays and short pieces on Jesuit education, see Jesuit Higher Education: Essays on an American Tradition of Excellence, ed. Rolando E. Bonachea (Duquesne University Press, 1989); Duminuco, The Jesuit Ratio Studiorum; Jesuit Education 21: Conference Proceedings on the Future of Jesuit Higher Education, ed. Martin R. Tripole (Philadelphia: Saint Joseph's University Press, 2000); A Jesuit Education Reader, ed. George W. Traub (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2008); Jesuit Education and the Classics, eds., Edmund P. Cueva, Shannon N. Byrne, and Frederick Benda (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009); and the magazine Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education, available at (accessed September 19, 2016).

^ Back to text91. See, for example, the use of the phrase “Ignatian pedagogy” (Sharon J. Korth, “Precis of Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach,” in Traub, Jesuit Education Reader, 280–84). An example of a widespread appropriation from Ignatian spirituality is “magis” (see Barton T. Geger, “What Magis Really Means and Why It Matters,” Jesuit Higher Education 2, no. 16 (2012): 16–31. See especially Robert R. Newton, “Reflections on the Educational Principles of the Spiritual Exercises: Summary Conclusions and Questions for Teachers,” in Traub, Jesuit Education Reader, 274–79; originally published in 1977 by the Jesuit Secondary Education Association (Washington, DC). Newton explains the underlying assumption that “since the Spiritual Exercises provided the experience that formed the Jesuit spirit and gave it method and direction, an analysis of the Spiritual Exercises as an educational treatise would shed light on the fundamental principles of Jesuit education.” Ibid., 274.

^ Back to text92. “This exploration is given added impetus by the realization that the contemporary rediscovery of the original method of the Spiritual Exercises has led to a renewal and rearticulation of the authentic Jesuit charism and vocation. A return to the Spiritual Exercises as the original source of the Jesuit educational tradition could be expected to generate analogous benefits.” Ibid., 274.

^ Back to text93. Peter Schineller (1939–) has in fact shown the differences between the spirituality of the Exercises and that of the Constitutions in his “From an Ascetical Spirituality of the Exercises to the Apostolic Spirituality of the Constitutions: Laborers in the Lord’s Vineyard,” in Ite inflammate omnia, ed. Thomas M. McCoog (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2010), 85–108. The spirituality of the RS would be an even further step in the direction taken by the Constitutions.

^ Back to text94. David John Frank and Jay Gabler, Reconstructing the University: Worldwide Shifts in Academia in the Twentieth Century (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006). The humanities (now redefined to include philosophy and theology) have lost the most ground in the curriculum: the greatest losses are in classics (down 87%), philosophy (down 71%), and theology (down 60%). See the table on 105.

^ Back to text95. Adapting to America: Catholics, Jesuits, and Higher Education in the Twentieth Century (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1991), 156.

^ Back to text96. “Project 1: The Jesuit Apostolate of Education in the United States: Agreements and Decisions: A Step on the Way,” Washington, DC: Jesuit Conference, 1975. This summary report mostly looked to future developments for the assistancy’s preference for “a corporate national apostolate.” It began by saying that detailed decisions could not be made as they had been for secondary education (no. 1, ibid., 11), and that “there is still need for much more development and clarification in regard to the nature, scope, and objectives of a corporate Jesuit apostolate on the local, provincial, and national levels” (no. 4, ibid., 12). Each local community was to come up with “a concrete plan of action” (no. 5, ibid., 12). There will need to be “further collaborative work on the part of provincials, presidents, rectors, and Board chairmen” (ibid., 29). Project 1 had been a “strategic planning process” conducted from 1973 to 1975, “involving five university-trained men and costing perhaps three-quarters of a million dollars” (Joseph Tetlow, “Intellectual Conversion: Jesuit Spirituality and the American University,” in Spirit, Style, Story: Essays Honoring John W. Padberg, S.J., ed. Thomas M. Lucas [Chicago: Loyola Press, 2002] 93–115, here 93).

^ Back to text97. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1998.

^ Back to text98. Washington, DC: Jesuit Secondary Education Association, 1987. The description given here is based on the words of Superior General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach’s accompanying letter of December 8, 1986, 1–3, here 1. This document is reprinted in Duminuco, Jesuit Ratio Studiorum, 161–230.

^ Back to text99. Published by the American Jesuit Colleges and Universities (Washington, DC, 2013). It is available at (accessed September 19, 2016).

^ Back to text100. Vincent J. Duminuco, “A New Ratio for a New Millennium,” in Duminuco, Jesuit Ratio studiorum, 145–60. The text of the document (Rome: International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education, 1993) is reprinted in this same volume, along with three appendices, ibid., 231–93.

^ Back to text101. The document, published in late 2015, is available at the JSN’s website, (accessed September 19, 2016). The JSN has replaced the JSEA (Jesuit Secondary Educational Association) which had been founded in 1970, along with the higher educational unit, AJCU (Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities) out of the earlier JEA (Jesuit Educational Association), which had dealt with Jesuit educational work in the United States from 1937–70. See Paul A. FitzGerald, The Governance of Jesuit Colleges in the United States, 1920–1970 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984).

^ Back to text102. For example: Thomas Hughes, Loyola and the Educational System of the Jesuits (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1892); J.-B. Herman, La pédagogie des jésuites au XVIe siècle: Ses sources, ses caractéristiques (Louvain: Bureaux du recueil [UCL], 1914); Bernhard Duhr, Geschichte der Jesuiten in den Ländern deutscher Zunge [bis 1773], 4 Bände in 6 Teilbänden (Herder, Freiburg im Br. 1907–1928); François de Dainville, L'éducation des jésuites (XVIe-XVIIIe siècles) (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1978).

^ Back to text103. See fn5 above.

^ Back to text104. One might analyze the needs as involving infrastructure (training teachers by having them learn what they will be giving); structure (the program itself: its contents, its disposition, and its delivery); and superstructure (an authoritative oversight body that keeps the whole picture and the desired ends in mind as adjustments are made).

^ Back to text105. See, for example, the author’s “Towards a Revised Ratio Studiorum for Jesuit Colleges” (2015), available at (accessed September 19, 2016). For the RS as a foundational document see the author’s “The Curriculum Carries the Mission: The Ratio Studiorum, the Making of Jesuit Education, and the Making of the Society of Jesus,” available at (accessed September 19, 2016).

Cite this page
Claude N. Pavur, S.J., “The Historiography of Jesuit Pedagogy”, in: Jesuit Historiography Online. Consulted online on 30 March 2017 <>
First published online: 2016

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