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(Imitation of Christ. Book III., ch. 19.)
(Imitation of Christ. Book III., ch. 10.)
Compendium of same, 854
(Imitation of Christ. Book II., ch. 12.)
(Imitation of Christ. Book IL, ch. 7, 8.)
The publication at Rome, in 1548, of the Book of Spiritual Exercises by the illustrious Founder of the Society of Jesus marks a new era in the History of Mystic Theology. Many saints before Ignatius had, no doubt, written works replete with the unction of the Holy Spirit, and admirably calculated to guide souls safely along the rugged path of Christian Perfection; but we may, nevertheless, affirm without hesitation, that the ecstatic recluse of Manresa was the first to reduce the maxims of the Spiritual Life to a well-ordered and logically connected system, and to elevate Asceticism to the dignity of a science in the strict acceptance of the term.
The approving voice of the Christian Church, for more than three centuries, has borne ample testimony to the splendid success with which the saint accomplished his difficult task. Popes, and cardinals, and bishops; the cloistered religious and the man of the world; great saints and great sinners; bold soldiers and brilliant statesmen; learned doctors and humble mechanics; persons of both sexes, of every age, and rank, and condition, and in all parts of Christendom, have experienced the salutary influence of the Exercises upon their souls, and bear testimony to their efficacy in terms which seem to border almost on the language of exaggeration (a).
Among the many holy and learned Jesuits who have expounded the Spiritual Exercises of the illus. trious Founder of their Society, Father Aloysius Bellecio deservedly holds a foremost place. His treatise has won the warm commendations of the most experienced masters of the spiritual life, for the clearness and logical precision of the method which he has adopted, for the weight and solidity of his sentences, for the appropriate and vigorous eloquence of his style, and for the pious unction which flows in every page, and which cannot fail to soften the heart even of the most obdurate sinner, if he only read the work attentively and with the proper dispositions.
Father Bellecio composed his treatise in Latin, and this circumstance made it, for most people, a sealed fountain; owing, however, to the zeal and active industry of his brother Jesuits, it has been translated into many modern languages. Two Italian
(a) See "Introduction," pp. 5-10, infra.
translations have appeared, and of these I have chosen for presentation to the English-speaking public that which was published in 1842, from the pen of Father Anthony Bresciani—himself a child of S. Ignatius, and a man of European fame in the world of letters. Three reasons, principally, influenced me in making this choice. First, Father Bresciani has occasionally abridged the text of Bellecio where he considered it unnecessarily diffuse, and has thus made the work more suitable for the general use of the faithful. Secondly, he has added to each meditation a compendium of the same, so that the reader may take in with a single glance, as it were, all that he had been meditating. Finally, he has slightly modified some few opinions put forward by Father Bellecio, which seemed to him too rigid; his object being not to discourage souls, while inspiring them with a salutary fear of God's judgments.
Of the English translation now offered to the public, little need be said, I have always considered that the chief excellence of a good translation consists in fidelity to the original. Wherefore, I have endeavoured to adhere to the text of Father Bresciani's work as closely as the difference of idiom (and it is very marked, indeed), between the English and Italian languages would permit; and I claim no merit for this little volume beyond the modest one of faithfully reproducing in an English dress the admirable work of the great Italian Jesuit.