The Society of Jesus (Societas Jesu, S.J.) is a Catholic order.
It was founded by St Ignatius of Loyola and nine companions in the early 16th century, and approved by Pope Paul III in 1540. The main goals of St Ignatius were the propagation of the Catholic Faith and the promotion of Christian Piety; as a tool for the latter he published his Spiritual Exercises.
The Society founded its first humanist school in Messina in 1548, and such schools became its most characteristic institutions.
In addition to the three vows taken by other order, the Jesuits take a fourth vow, obliging them to travel anywhere in the world for ministry according to the Holy Father's wishes.
Because the credibility of Catholic orders had been severely weakened at the time when the Society was founded, it was decided not to adopt a distinctive habit, but rather to dress as secular priests. To make it easier to work in various conditions outside a monastery, Jesuits are exempt from obligation to recite the Holy Office in choir.
The influence of the Society grew, and there was considerable opposition to them both from Reformed Christians and from Catholics. Academic studies remain important, and one of the most notable contributions is that of the Society of Bollandists, named after Fr. J. Bollandus, which publishes critical studies of the lives of saints.
In the 17th century, opposition to the Society from within the Church grew. Main issues in the controversies were their opposition to Jansenism and inculturation (the adaption of local customs to Catholic understanding and lithurgy), especially in connection with the Chinese Rites. The Society was banned from Portugal in 1759, and 5000 Jesuits were expelled from Spain in 1767. Pope Clement XIV gave in to pressure in 1773, and suppressed the Society. Despite the order of suppression, the order survived. A new noviciate was opened in Byelorussia in 1780 to secure its survival, and they were allowed to work in Germany, Austria and England.
The Society was formally restored in 1814 by Pope Pius VII.
Churches connected to the Jesuits
- Gesù, considered the main church of the Order
- Sant'Andrea al Quirinale (built for the Jesuit noviciate)
- San Robert Bellarmino
Jesuit Fathers used to serve the church Santo Stefano Rotondo.