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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER VI THE PRISONS AT ALCALA AND SALAMANCA

The Autobiography Of St Ignatius by Saint Ignatius Loyola

CHAPTER VI THE PRISONS AT ALCALA AND SALAMANCA

After the space of four months, Ignatius, who did not remain at the hospital, was taken from his lodging by a public officer, who cast him into prison, with the command not to depart until otherwise ordered.

This took place during the summer months, and as the discipline of the prison was not very strict, an opportunity of visiting him was afforded many persons, to whom he explained the principles of Christian faith and the Exercises, as was his wont when enjoying perfect freedom.

Many persons of rank were anxious to help him, but he did not wish to avail himself of their offers. One person especially, Lady Teresa de Cardena, sent frequently, offering to deliver him from prison. He replied in these words, |He, for whose love I am imprisoned, will free me when it may be His good pleasure.|

He passed seventeen days in prison, -- yet was totally ignorant of the cause, -- when Figueroa came to question him. Among other things, he asked whether he commanded the observance of the Sabbath.

Among those who had frequently come to see Ignatius were two persons, a mother and daughter, the latter of whom was young and beautiful. These, especially the daughter, had made great progress in the spiritual life, and although ladies of rank, had determined to make a pilgrimage alone and on foot, and beg their way to the shrine of Veronica, in the city of Jaen.

This occasioned so great a sensation throughout the city of Alcala that Dr. Giruellus, who was the guardian of the two women, thinking that Ignatius was the cause of their action, ordered him to be cast into prison.

As the Vicar was willing to be fully informed, Ignatius said: |These women made known to me their desire of going about from place to place to assist the poor they found in the different hospitals. I, however, disapproved of their design, on account of the daughter, who was quite young and beautiful, representing to them at the same time that if they felt strongly urged to assist the poor, Alcala presented a broad enough field for their labors, and they could satisfy their devotion by accompanying the Blessed Sacrament as it was being carried to the sick.| When Ignatius had finished his account, Figueroa and the notary departed, after writing down what had taken place.

Calisto, a companion of Ignatius, and who on recovering from a severe illness had heard of the imprisonment of Ignatius, hastened from Segovia, where he was staying, and came to Alcala, that he, too, might be cast into prison.

Ignatius advised him to go to the Vicar, who received him kindly, and promised to send him to prison. It was necessary, he said, for him to be detained until the return of the women. It could then be seen whether or not their account agreed with what he and Ignatius had stated.

As the confinement was undermining Calisto's health, Ignatius, through the intervention of a professor who was a friend of his, obtained his liberation.

When Ignatius had been in prison forty-two days, the women returned. He was once more visited by the notary, who made known to him the condition on which he was to regain his freedom. It was this: He and his companions should wear the same style of clothing as the other students, and refrain from preaching the truths of faith until they had finished four more years of study. Ignatius, indeed, had made more progress in his studies than the rest, yet he confessed that he had not been solidly grounded. And this he was always wont to say whenever he was questioned.

When Ignatius heard the judgment passed upon himself and his companions, he was at a loss what to do, for he saw very little chance of advancing the salvation of souls, hindered as he was for no other reason than that of not having completed a full course of study.

He finally resolved to trust the entire affair to the good sense and judgment of Fonseca, Archbishop of Toledo, whom, after leaving Alcala, he found at Valladolid.

To the Archbishop, then, he made known everything with the utmost fidelity, and said that, although it was not a matter pertaining either to his court or judgment, he determined to act as the Archbishop should advise.

The Archbishop received him cordially, approving his intention of going to Salamanca, and assuring him that he would find friends there. Supplying him with everything necessary for his journey, he dismissed him.

When sentence had been pronounced against them at Alcala, Ignatius promised obedience, but at the same time observed that they were too poor to provide themselves with new clothing. Hearing this, the Vicar himself supplied what they needed, and they set out for Alcala.

Four of his companions had already taken up their abode at Salamanca. When he reached the city Ignatius went to church to pray, and was recognized by a pious lady, who, asking his name, conducted him to his companions. About ten or twelve days after their arrival at Salamanca, a Dominican monk, to whom Ignatius had made his confession, pressed him to visit the convent, as some of the Religious wished to see him.

Ignatius accepting the invitation |in the name of the Lord,| his confessor thought it well for him to come to dine the Sunday following, at the same time adding that many questions would be put to him. On Sunday, therefore, as was appointed, the pilgrim came in company with Calisto.

When dinner was over, the Superior, together with the confessor and others, conducted Ignatius to a chapel, and after expressing his pleasure at the good account received of him and his apostolic zeal, manifested a desire of hearing a more full and exact account of his teaching.

He was first questioned in reference to his studies. Ignatius answered that he had spent more time in studying than his companions, yet he confessed that his knowledge was not very extensive, as he had never laid a solid foundation.

|Why, then, do you preach?| broke in the monk. |We do not preach,| replied Ignatius; |we are wont to talk familiarly about divine things with some, in much the same as after dinner we converse with our host.|

|About what divine things?| continued the monk; |this is the very point upon which we wish information.|

|About different virtues and vices,| rejoined Ignatius, |endeavoring to inculcate a love of virtue and a detestation of vice.|

|How comes it,| said the monk, |that you who are not learned should presume to converse upon virtue and vice? No one is wont to engage in such a task unless he has acquired knowledge or has been taught by the Holy Ghost. You confess ignorance of letters; it follows then that He has been your director. We wish to learn, therefore, what He has been pleased to make known to you.|

Ignatius at first made no reply, as he felt such reasoning was without value. Soon, however, breaking the silence, he remarked that there seemed no reason why he should say more upon the subject. As the monk still pressed him, giving as a reason the fact that many were once more thrusting forward the erroneous doctrine of Erasmus and others, Ignatius answered, |I will add no more to what has already been said, unless questioned by those who have a right to expect an account from me.|

Previous to the present proceedings the monk wished to know why Calisto was so strangely clothed, for, although of tall stature, he went about almost barelegged, holding a staff in his hand, and wearing a cloak much too short, and a hat of enormous size. The whole costume formed a rather ludicrous picture.

Ignatius replied that although at Alcala they were ordered to dress as the other students, Calisto had charitably given his clothes to a poor priest.

The monk showed himself displeased at this, remarking, |Charity begins at home.|

But to return to our former narrative. When the monk saw Ignatius fixed in his resolution, |You shall remain here,| he said, |and we shall easily find a way of compelling you to make everything known.| Immediately all the monks withdrew, the subprior signifying his wish that Ignatius should remain in the chapel. The matter was then laid before the judges. Both Ignatius and Calisto remained three days in the monastery, taking their meals with the community, before any decision of the judges was made known to them. During this time the Religious frequently visited their cells, and Ignatius never failed to speak with them in his accustomed manner. This caused the monks to be divided in their opinion of him, and many, indeed, showed themselves very kindly disposed.

On the third day a notary came to conduct them to prison. They were not put with the common criminals, but their place of confinement was nevertheless very repulsive. In the centre of the cell there was a pillar to which was attached a chain but a few feet in length, and so riveted to the prisoners that when either moved the other was obliged to follow him. They passed that night without any sleep. On the following day, however, the report spread that they were prisoners. The people then hastened to supply them with all they needed.

Ignatius, as may readily be supposed, lost no opportunity of speaking upon spiritual things with those who came to see them.

They were each separately examined by a friar, to whom Ignatius delivered all his writings. Among these were his Spiritual Exercises, that it might be seen whether or not they contained any false doctrine. When asked about his other companions, he told who and where they were. They were arrested also, and confined in separate apartments from that in which Ignatius was placed.

Although help was offered on this occasion, he declined to accept it.

After a few days he was called into the presence of the judges and professors, who made him answer many questions, not only on his Spiritual Exercises, but even on articles of faith, as, for example, the Trinity and the Blessed Sacrament, requiring him to explain these mysteries.

So clear and exact was his explanation that his examiners could not find the least flaw in his doctrine. He was equally correct in the answer to the friar who proposed a difficulty in Canon Law.

In every case he said that he did not know the decision of the professors.

When ordered to speak on the first commandment, he gave so full and exhaustive an explanation as to leave to his hearers no further chance of questioning him.

Although he had not completed his studies, he frequently showed the difference between a mortal and a venial sin of thought. While speaking about his Exercises, he was closely questioned. To their questions, however, he replied, |What I say is either false or true; if false, condemn it.| The doctrine remained uncondemned.

Francis de Mendoza, afterward Cardinal of Valencia, was one of those who came to the prison to visit Ignatius. One day, while accompanied with the friar, he asked him whether the prison and chains were not insupportable. |I shall give,| said Ignatius, |the reply made to-day to a woman who bewailed my lot. For the love of Jesus Christ, I gladly would wear all the handcuffs and chains that could be found in Salamanca. And if you consider this an evil, you show that as yet you are not desirous of suffering imprisonment for the love of Our Lord.|

About this time it happened that all the inmates of the prison managed to escape, leaving only Ignatius and his companions. When this became known it caused a reaction in their favor, and they were placed for the time in a large building adjoining the prison.

On the twenty-second day of their imprisonment they were summoned to hear their sentence.

Although they were declared to be free from reproach both in their lives and their doctrines, and were allowed to continue their work of teaching the Christian doctrine and of speaking on spiritual subjects, yet they were forbidden to draw any distinction between mortal and venial sin, until they should have spent four more years in study.

Although Ignatius was unwilling to accept the sentence, because, though condemned in no respect, he was nevertheless prevented from assisting his neighbor, he declared that he would submit as long as he remained in Salamanca.

Recommending the affair to God, Ignatius began to deliberate on his future plan of action. He considered it a waste of time to remain at Salamanca, as the restriction laid upon him prevented him from assisting those for whose salvation he wished to labor.

He resolved, accordingly, to set out for Paris for the purpose of there continuing his studies.

While studying at Barcelona, Ignatius was in doubt whether, after completing his studies, he should enter some Religious Order, or go from place to place, according to his custom.

He decided to enter upon the religious life. His next step was to find some Order where the primitive fervor had not relaxed, as he felt that there he would be more sure of satisfying his desire of suffering and assisting others spiritually by bearing, for the love of God, any injury or insult to which he might be subjected.

Even while at Salamanca these desires were ever present to him. To this end he directed all his studies, endeavoring at the same time to persuade others to adopt a like course, and to strengthen in their good resolutions those who had already embraced it.

When he had resolved to go to Paris, he communicated his design to his companions, telling them to remain where they were, until he could find a means of helping them in their studies.

Many persons of rank endeavored to dissuade him from departing, but all to no purpose.

Placing the few books he possessed upon a little ass, he took leave of his companions about fifteen or twenty days after they came out of prison.

Those who met him at Barcelona sought to deter him from going to France, as at that time the war between the two countries was raging with great fierceness. Notwithstanding the many acts of cruelty inflicted by the French upon the Spaniards, many of whom had been impaled, he persevered in his intention.

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