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What is a Jesuit?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A Jesuit is a member of the Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic religious order which was established in 1534. The Jesuits are among the most active Roman Catholics, with ministries on every continent except for Antarctica. They engage in a wide range of activities, from working on social justice issues to providing education and training to aspiring priests. Membership in the Society of Jesus is restricted to men, although women can serve alongside the in organizations like the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC).

The founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, was a knight before he founded the organization in 1534. He incorporated many of his experiences as a warrior into the founding precepts of the society, stressing the idea of creating an organization with a strong central base of power and a highly mobile, adaptable membership. The Jesuits have displayed a remarkable ability for adaptation and adjustment over the centuries since the establishment of the Society of Jesus. The endurance of this religious order seems to suggest that St. Ignatius may have had the right idea.

In 1540, the Society of Jesus applied to the Pope for approval, and the organization was given the blessing of Paul III. St. Ignatius of Loyola and his fellow founders were ordained as priests, and the Jesuits began to expand and grow from this point forward. Today, in order to join this society, a candidate must undergo a long “formation” process in which he is consistently challenged and encouraged to explore to confirm that he really wants to join the order.

The Jesuits are famous for their involvement in early settlement of Asia and the Americas. Their priests were sometimes on the ground before other explorers, and they rapidly spread Christianity to many regions of the world. Their involvement in international affairs became controversial at times, leading to a brief suspension of the order in 1773, which was reversed in 1814.

Today, the Society of Jesus is probably most famous for its role in education. Jesuit educational institutions for people of all ages can be found all over the world, offering a very high quality of education to students. Jesuits are also involved in active missionary work, and many of them have become passionate advocates for social justice, with service to the poor being a critical aspect of the Society of Jesus. Many also work as researchers, historians, and of course, priests.

The Jesuit commitment to faith is often celebrated in the Roman Catholic community, as are the services which they perform not just for Roman Catholics, but for all people in need. One of the major initiatives of the Jesuits in the 21st century has been the revitalization of the Church and the Catholic faith, with priests working to address issues facing the Catholic Church while continuing to advocate for the poor and needy of the world.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

By anon977302 — On Nov 10, 2014

I understand that Jesus tells us to love everyone as we would love ourselves. We are all one in his and God's eyes. I truly get that and love everyone to the best of my ability. However, I'm quite sure Jesus doesn't mean for us to accept each other's sins? He tells us to repent and ask for forgiveness and sin no more. But this pope, to me, is not making that clear. He tells us to welcome homosexuals and gives them no reason to believe that they have to stop their sin and that we Catholics have to accept them sin and all. I mean, we accept people with their sins, but they usually have the intent of stopping their sin, but these groups the pope is welcoming do not have that intent.

They have gay pride parades , and they will be in the St. Patrick's Day parade in NYC. Does that sound like a group of people acknowledging their sins and being sorrowful over them and wanting forgiveness? No, they are not. In fact, they hijacked God's rainbow and now his sanctity of marriage. How are we to accept this? This is what has me not wanting to follow this Pope. And the streamlining of annulments and allowing divorced people to receive communion. It sounds like he's dumbing down our morals so to make it easier for people, when I see this as leading lambs to the slaughter. misguiding them into thinking they will be good little Catholics and will receive forgiveness. Not from what I've been reading. Jesus is very clear on what we are to do to receive forgiveness and entry into heaven.

It's not easy, and this pope should not make it seem so. Am I wrong on this? I am struggling with this because I was baptized Catholic and the only formal education I received in my faith was my catechism and I walked away and never went back until four years ago. I've learned a lot, but with all of this going on I'm confused. I'm doing a study on James with Jeff Cavins with my church. I've been doing those kinds of studies.

By anon325123 — On Mar 14, 2013

Of course there is a higher power, please feel free to call that power God. Science is great at answering many "How" questions, but not so great at answering the really important "Why" questions. Why are we here? Why is there a Universe? Even if the Universe started with a "Big Bang", why? Where did all of that mass in the universe come from. There was time (who created "time"?) even before the Big Bang. Try to consider the unfathomable number of factors (environmental, biological, universal, etc.) that have to be just perfect for you to exist. Feel comforted that it was all planned by an intelligence we can't even begin to imagine.

By anon325051 — On Mar 13, 2013

anon289083: you posted this: "I feel far from God, like he's not there."

If you have never done this, then simply get on your knees and ask Jesus (with all your heart) to show you that He is real. I know He will do that for you, but only once in your life.

After that, you need to read the Bible and believe, and understand we walk on FAITH, not FEELINGS. The world and many feel-good religions walk on feelings, so do not be swayed.

Study the Bible every day. If you don't have time, try calling the Daily Word every day at 706-855-WORD to hear 1-2 chapters of the Bible; this is an easy way to keep in your faith in this very busy world.

May God bless you.

By anon325019 — On Mar 13, 2013

John 6:37 Anon Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me. I will never turn away anyone who comes to me. - Jesus

Don't feel far from him cause he calling out to you. Return to him, get into the Bible for yourself, and see if he won't meet you there. He loves you and forgives you. He also asks you to believe in him and as you receive the Lord so walk in him a.k.a. follow him/Christ. Hope you are encouraged.

By anon325016 — On Mar 13, 2013

@rbsteel... that is a question for a Catholic official.

@anon289083 - Maybe you can see about this too.

By anon325012 — On Mar 13, 2013

I agree with anon315711

By anon325009 — On Mar 13, 2013

God Bless the New Pope, Francis I---a Jesuit from The Americas.

By anon315711 — On Jan 25, 2013

I have no time for the Jesuits or the satanic, fascist, criminal cabal that runs the Roman Catholic Church. They are all deceivers, liars and manipulators, the true spawn of Satan / Cronus himself. St. Malachy was correct in his prophecy of the popes. The sooner these satanists lose their seat of power -- which will be very soon -- the better this world will be.

By anon289083 — On Sep 02, 2012

Do the Jesuits have the power to restore faith to one who has lost it? If one does not believe and has lost his faith, is an encounter with or wisdom learned from the Jesuits a possible way to once again find God?

I feel far from God, like he's not there.

By anon81417 — On May 01, 2010

Only by an indulgence from The Pope himself.

By rbsteel — On Dec 28, 2008

can a man who was not married in the catholic church and has divorced this marriage become a Jesuit Priest?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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