The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus: A Critical Edition with the Complementary Norms - Paperback (Now In Pre-Order)

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Ignatius of Loyola
Barton T. Geger, S.J.
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Product Overview

The Society of Jesus is one of the most storied and controversial religious organizations in history. Its legacy is traceable largely to a single idea that was elaborated by Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), the founder of the Society: the Greater Glory of God. Far from a rhetorical battle cry of vague meaning, the greater glory of God was the Society’s very reason for being. Ignatius made it the criterion by which members of the Society, called “Jesuits,” were to choose their ministries in the service of God. It determined all of the Society’s internal structures and way of proceeding. Perhaps most significantly, it permeated Ignatius’s spiritual doctrine as a whole: how he understood everything from prayer and discernment to magnanimity, indifference, evangelical poverty, and what it means to be spiritually free. Nowhere is all this more clear than in the original Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, a book that Ignatius composed for the instruction and edification of Jesuits. When studied in conjunction with his Spiritual Exercises and written correspondence, one finds a way of living the gospel that is remarkably coherent, challenging, and capable of speaking to Jesuits—and to all Christians—in every generation.

Editorial Reviews

"An historic contribution to Jesuit and Ignatian spirituality and studies.  In particular, Fr. Geger's introduction is superb: a model of clarity, wisdom and good sense.  The entire volume is a worthy successor to the George Ganss, SJ, edition of the Constitutions, building on that earlier work but also deepening and extending it to include more insights on the ways that the Constitutions have been used over the centuries.  This new edition should be in the library of every Jesuit, every Jesuit colleague and every Jesuit friend around the world."

     - James Martin, S.J., author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything


"Geger’s edition of the Constitutions and Norms is a stand-alone achievement in the broad new area of scholarly interest in the Jesuits. It will be definitive for some time. 

Geger interprets the Constitutions and Norms and, in extensive footnotes and appendices, shows their roots in Spiritual Exercises. His work is so thorough that it could reasonably be called a “commentary.” Beyond that, he introduces what we now call “Ignatian spirituality”—the way Jesuits and their colleagues live out the principles, norms, and practices flowing from making Spiritual Exercises. Anyone interested in the Jesuit institute or in Ignatian spirituality—teacher, formator, student, mature disciple looking for spirituality—will cherish this “edition.” This is a fresh translation and a comprehensive study of The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, done with meticulous attention to the meaning of its special terms and to its successive historical contexts. The original text, correctly revered as a classic of Christian life, describes and legislates for the experience of the Jesuit charism. Geger has lived that experience for several decades. His passion here is to raise to full view “a charism based on first principles that is remarkably coherent, consistent, and applicable in every age.” He has done that admirably well. His clarity of thought and mastery of sources make his work keenly instructive and a pleasure to read and study. This “edition” is not likely to be replace for many years. 

Geger’s edition deals with Constitutions as the spiritual classic it is. His footnotes and appendices are tantamount to a commentary on the text—thorough, erudite, and sounding like the voice of experience (as is it).

    -Joseph Tetlow, S.J., Author of Finding Christ in the World : A Twelve Week Ignatian Retreat in Everyday Life, Choosing Christ in the World: A Handbook for Directing the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola According to Annotations Eighteen and Nineteen, Handing on the Fire: Making Spiritual Direction Ignatian


"Building on the significant work of Jesuit scholars in the past, Geger makes invaluable contributions to our understanding of Jesuit sources today.  In his typically lucid style, Geger makes the founding documents of the Society of Jesus come alive for contemporary readers and scholars.  More than just an updating, Geger’s work is a deepening of our understanding of the rich sources of Jesuit life and ministry.  Through his attention to detail, presentation of religious history, and appreciation for the style of Jesuit life and ministry, Geger offers fresh insights into the charism of the Society.  Geger’s introduction, appendices and even footnotes are required and satisfying reading for anyone trying to understand Jesuit mission today."

    - Kevin O’Brien, S.J., author of The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Daily Life


"Father Geger has given the Society of Jesus and indeed the whole Church a gift in this new edition of the Constitutions. In the tradition of Father Ganss, Geger illuminates the profundity of the Constitutions through a rich apparatus while allowing the text to shine through, refusing any interpretative school a monopoly. He thus aids Jesuits and all who value their Institute in the crucial twin tasks of ressourcement and aggiornamento set by the Second Vatican Council."

    -William McCormick, S.J., St. John’s College


"No matter how much times may change, the original text of the US Constitution is preserved from generation to generation. Yet adjustments and various changes have been made through amendments. Something similar is at work in the relationship between the Jesuit Constitutions, from the time of St. Ignatius, and the Complementary Norms that accompany them. Barton Geger, S.J., has done an excellent job of producing a new edition of Constitutions and Norms, in a volume that will be of great use both to Jesuits themselves, and also to the rapidly growing number of scholars, women and men, Catholics and others, producing an abundance of innovative work on Jesuit history. Many indeed are those who will owe Fr. Geger a significant debt of gratitude."

   -Thomas Worcester, S.J., Professor of History, Fordham University


"Kudos and a big Thank you to Fr. Bart Geger, S.J., for this historical-critical edition of the Formula of the Institute, The Constitutions, and the Complementary Norms. We now have in one volume the entire normative foundations of the Society of Jesus. Faithfully updating the long revered edition by George E. Ganss, Geger also provides a compelling and clear introduction to the evolving relevance of the Constitutions, since Vatican II.  In many ways with this volume, Geger leads us on a pathway so that we can enter into the world of the Constitutions not solely as they were crafted by Ignatius but as they re-emerged after the Council. As Ganns guided us for more than fifty years, Geger now accompanies him and takes us, assuredly, into the future. "

     - James F. Keenan, S.J., Director of Jesuit Institute, Vice Provost for Global Engagement, Boston College


"Fr. Bart Geger, S.J., has done a tremendous service by bringing this edition of the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus to us. This new volume provides a long-overdue update to the seminal 1970 edition by Fr. George Ganss, S.J. – an edition which has become very difficult to acquire in recent decades. Perhaps even more important, Fr. Geger has added his own introduction and appendices to this edition. He offers learned yet accessible perspectives on a text whose genre, history, and format can prove forbidding to readers – including any number of Jesuits. This book is destined to become the standard version of this crucial (and too often neglected) text. It is a required tool for scholars, a vade mecum for all Jesuits, and an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the Society of Jesus and its mission – past, present, and future. "

    - Timothy W. O'Brien, S.J., Associate Vice President for Mission, College of the Holy Cross


"Bart Geger introduces his translation with an acute observation:

“Knowledge of the Constitutions is therefore necessary in order to understand recurring themes and controversies in the Society’s history. Far more importantly, however, the book is vital to correctly interpret the spiritual doctrine of Ignatius himself, especially his ideas about how to discern God’s will, and the particular ideals and virtues that he desired –  and still desires – for all who embrace the principle and foundation upon which all  his doctrine stands.”

For more than fifty years, Jesuits and anyone interested in the history and spirituality of the Society of Jesus have profited from George E. Ganss’ translation of the Constitutions work into English, the first since an anti-papal, anti-Jesuit rendering in 1838. Its timing was apt as Jesuits responded to Vatican II’s exhortation that religious orders and congregations identify the specific charism of their founders, a conciliar reformulation of the humanist ad fontes. We have learned much about the origin, nature, and context of the Constitutions because of the subsequent recent blossoming of Jesuit historiography. For example, the uniqueness of the Society’s charism had been exaggerated during the heady post-conciliar era. Recent historical investigations have shown that the Society has more in common with other contemporaneous orders of clerks regular than initially recognized, e.g. the fourth vow is not confined to the Society of Jesus.

            Traditional iconography portrays Ignatius of Loyola in a black soutane with a book. If the book is named, it is usually the Constitutions or the Spiritual Exercises, the first more frequent than the second. Nonetheless, after Vatican II, as interest in the Ignatian spiritual tradition blossomed, little attention was directed towards the Constitutions. Geger corrects the imbalance by stressing the essential connection between these two famous books by Ignatius, a connection often ignored or overlooked in the proliferation of translations and editions of the Spiritual Exercises. A proper understanding of one requires an appropriate appreciation of the other. His new edition situates the Constitutions clearly in its sixteenth-century historical context and especially within the corpus of Ignatius’s correspondence, and argues that a combined study of the two seminal works reveals a coherent, challenging, systematic way of life, capable of speaking to all Christians. Ad maiorem Dei gloriam is more than a motto: it informed and determined all aspects of the life of the Society."

    - Thomas McCoog, S.J., Loyola University Maryland


"This critical edition allows the reader to have in one volume an updated vademecum of how the founder and his nearest companions conceived the body of the Society of Jesus.  As a former Procurator General and chief canonist for the Society of Jesus present at two General Congregations, I recommend this critical edition as a fresh rendering of the founding juridic documents revisited with painstaking attention to references and cross-references.  The work allows that the words of the Constitutions and related texts speak for themselves as composed, communicating beyond their times and rising anew in today’s setting so different from that of Ignatius and the early companions.  Recent decades have helpfully seen emergent interest in the spirituality of the Constitutions, a spirituality with (as the editor writes) the individual’s magnanimous heart and pure intention as cornerstones in service to the greater glory of God.  This presentation of the juridic foundation of the Society of Jesus grants easy access to the Constitutions’ internal logic that arouses the passionate, disciplined progression of the Jesuit in his unique particular vocation as an individual, and equally assures the development of the whole of the body of the Society in general.  All affiliated with the Society of Jesus in one manner or another will find in this volume a reliable rendition of its patrimony, so as to better understand the core of a religious institute that has moved on-the-ground through the ages in centered uniformity while accommodating to challenging conditions foreseen and unforeseen.  The helpful placing of the Complementary Norms apart from and after the founding documents allows the reader to proceed without visual interruption through the Constitutions’ core as it was, with the Norms offering a later lens.  Ignatius cared deeply about how to preserve the Jesuit body as it would necessarily self-adapt its mission within the Church apart from which it would be without meaning, assiduously and flexibly faithful to the inspired direction that guided the inception of the Society of Jesus.  This impeccably sourced presentation places the undiluted Constitutions in proper historical context as an original imperative aimed already at its genesis into an unknowable future, motivating a body seeking the Lord’s propitiousness in its care for souls."

    - Robert Geisinger, S.J., Promoter of Justice, Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Vatican and Professor of Canon Law, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome


"Geger’s critical and revised edition of the Constitutions will prove an indispensable help for Jesuits, for those presently involved in Jesuit works, and for those desiring to understand the structuring impulse of the apostolic body that Ignatius Loyola formed. Since Ganss published the first English-language translation in 1970, both the world and the Society of Jesus have undergone significant changes. This new edition responds in several apposite ways: by rendering the original Spanish in more idiomatic English, by surveying subsequent developments in Jesuit history and spirituality, by supplying historical and intellectual background that can no longer be presumed. Especially laudable are Fr. Geger’s efforts to place the Constitutions in the broader context of Spanish philology, other Catholic religious orders, and early-modern scholasticism. In the resultant footnotes and appendices he punctures many a tenacious myth about the distinctives of the Jesuit charism, making this new edition a must-have for those more interested in what Ignatius thought than in what his contemporary admirers wish he had thought."

-Aarol Pidel, S.J., Assistant Professor of Theology, Pontifical Gregorian University



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