John O'Malley gives us the most comprehensive account ever written of the Society of Jesus in its founding years, one that heightens and transforms our understanding of the Jesuits in history and today. Following the Society from 1540 through 1565, O'Malley shows how this sense of mission evolved. He looks at everything--the Jesuits' teaching, their preaching, their casuistry, their work with orphans and prostitutes, their attitudes toward Jews and "New Christians," and their relationship to the Reformation.
All are taken in by the sweep of O'Malley's story as he details the Society's manifold activities in Europe, Brazil, and India.A magnificent achievement both of synthesis and interpretation.A masterly account of the first generation [of Jesuits]...carried out with an economy and insight that compel admiration.Neither fazed nor overwhelmed, Father O'Malley never loses sight of the forest among the myriad trees...In this book three tenacious myths bite the dust. The first is that Ignatius had a detailed blueprint for his companions...A second myth is that the Jesuits were founded to combat the Reformation and to spearhead its Roman Catholic riposte, the Counter-Reformation...The third myth is that the Jesuits were founded as the pope's shock troops...Far from being a simple chronicle, it is an account of how the Jesuits, led by the internal dynamism of the Holy Spirit, responded to unpredictable events and new needs.This is a major study of the first crucial years of one of the most important institutions of modern Europe. Perhaps the price of the impact of the Society of Jesus is that both hagiographical and demonic myths have encrusted its early history. This learned and eloquent study scrapes away those myths in order to tell the complex, almost improvisational history of the first twenty-five years of the Society of Jesus...No study in any language provides such an authoritative and fascinating picture.This is surely the best book ever written in English on the first Jesuits and the early Society of Jesus. It may well be the best book on that topic ever written in any language. This is a work that is deeply original, always clear, often brilliant.
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