Jesuit glossary

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Peter Schineller, S.J.

Any group that is several hundred years old will develop its own culture, history and vocabulary. So the Society of Jesus has inherited, created, and handed on a number of customs, traditions, and practices. This booklet is an attempt to gather some of these various headings. It could be called Jesuit vocabulary, Jesuit-

speak, Jesuit literacy, Jesuit glossary, the Jesuit culture, or, as we call it more simply, a Jesuit Dictionary. May it serve as an introduction to Jesuit culture, to our ways of proceeding, and to our world view.

Of course the items listed vary in importance. Many are humorous, in Latin, coming from a past era. Others point to the specific nature and character of the Jesuit mindset. Those included here are part of the tradition of the New York Province, but shared by Jesuits around the world in varying degrees. Indeed, many of the items listed are not specifically Jesuit, used only by Jesuits, but are part of the larger Catholic tradition. But they have found frequent usage in the Society.

For whom is this helpful? It can help as one is reading a book about Jesuits or by a Jesuit, and one runs into a strange word or phrase. It can also be helpful to young Jesuits as they hear of the traditions of the “older fathers.” It can be of help to our increasing number of lay colleagues or lay collaborators, as we introduce them to our way of proceeding and our spirituality.

Surely, there are many items omitted, and surely, some could be expanded, modified or improved. The compiler is open to suggestions and corrections.

These overlap - some go in several categories…












EXPRESSIONS words in English used by Jesuits in our way, from our tradition particular to Jesuits

Annotation. Explanatory notes or introductory observations, found at the beginning of the Exercises, Nos. 1-20. These advise and guide the retreat director in his encounters with the retreatant.

Anonymous Christian. A phrase used by Karl Rahner to describe a non-Christian who is supported, touched by the hidden grace of God and lives a good life and is on the way to salvation.
Application of the Senses. In the Exercises, one repeats the prayer material by reflecting on each of the five senses and applying them to the material at hand, normally some event of the life of Christ. It first appears in the Exercises in a meditation on hell (Nos. 65-70)
Ascetory. The study hall in the old novitiates. A word not found in Websters, even if the word ‘refectory’ is.
Biretta. A black cap or hat, with three corners, worn only by those with vows.  A stiff, square hat with three ridges on top worn by clerics in church and on other occasions.

Black Pope. A term sometimes given to the Superior General of the Jesuits because he is

chosen for life (like the pope) and customarily wears a black habit or soutane. This was first applied to Fr. General Roothaan because of his power or influence with the Pope of his day.
Chastity of the angels, the. . A phrase from the Constitutions, describing the quality

of the Jesuits life of chastity. He should “endeavour to imitate the angelic purity by the purity of the body and mind” (Constitutions 547).

Company of Jesus. The Spanish language calls us ‘company’. (Compañia de Jesús German and English stress ‘society’ (Gesellschaft Jesu). Company is a good description of the Society of Jesus, meaning literally those who share bread (com-panis).

Corollary. A statement, thesis, or position that follows from a previous statement or is implied, contained in it.

Delate. Normally one is delated to Rome, meaning a report sent to the Vatican or someone in Rome, usually criticizing some theologian or writer because of alleged error or heresy in his or her writings.

Double of the First Class. Traditional liturgical instruction for one type or level of feast to be celebrated.
Explicitate. A word created and used by Jesuits studying philosophy. It simply

means to “explicate.”

Externs. A word used by Jesuits to refer to outsiders, to non-Jesuits (everybody else!) as opposed to “ours, ” insiders or members of the Society of Jesus.
Faculties. Permission or license given by a religious superior for a priest to exercise his ministry, for example to preach and hear confessions.

First class Feast. Cf. the Custom Book for a list of such feasts (such as Christmas or the feast of St. Ignatius) and for a suggested possible menu for such feasts.

Friends in the Lord. “In the middle of January, there arrived here from Paris nine of my friends in the Lord.” Ignatius writes this in a letter from Venice, in 1537, and it is seen as an expression of the common life of the Jesuits.

Half-sheet. “Take out a half-sheet.” A technique in the Jesuit high school classroom – a short quiz on a half-sheet several days each week.
Jesuit. A member of the Society of Jesus. Ignatius insisted on the name Society of Jesus (rather than the name of any saint) as the name for group he and his companions formed.
Jesuitical. A word meaning one given to intrigue or equivocation. Unfair, foul!
Jug. Detention after school, in Jesuit secondary schools. It could be for being late or causing trouble. The origin of the word is disputed or unknown. Students had to memorize, march or write for an hour or two under the watchful eye of the Prefect of Discipline.
Least Society, this. Minima Societas. The first sentence of the General Examen, thus the first sentence of the Constitutions so describes the Society of Jesus as “this least congregation.”
Men and women for others. Jesuit education should form these, according to Fr. Arrupe. This is found in his address to Jesuit alumni on 31 July, 1973.

Narthex. A porch or vestibule of a church, before the proper entrance, as it was at Loyola Seminary, Shrub Oak.

Novena of Grace. Nine days, March 4-12, of special prayers to St. Francis

Xavier to obtain special favors and graces. It usually also involves preaching on the life and mission of Xavier.

Ours. Nostri. members of the Society of Jesus as contrasted with ‘externs.’

Passive voice. A Jesuit has passive voice at a meeting/congregation if he can be voted for or elected to some position. But he himself cannot vote. He has active voice if he can both vote and be voted for.

Portico. A covered walkway, suitable for taking a walk back and forth on a rainy day.

Prelect, prelection. An ingredient of Jesuit pedagogy. At the end of a class or day, the teacher prelects or gives students a preview of what they will be reading, studying for homework or their next assignment.

Preprandials. This refers to the time and drink before dinner (prandium is Latin for dinner). Now a common feature of the daily order.
Rabat. A clerical collar. Pronounced “rabee”. Clerical black vest black with white collar, worn by a priest.
Rector. Director of a Jesuit community, the man in charge.
Scullery. The area where dishes are cleaned and stored.

EVENTS IN JESUIT HISTORY key moments, dates
Cardoner, vision at. At the river Cardoner in 1522 Ignatius had his life-altering insight or vision, more significant for him than all his other experiences of God. It was while here that the ideas for what are now known as the Spiritual Exercises began to take shape.
CG 32. The 32nd General Congregation of the Jesuits, held in 1975. It issued many decrees, including Decree 4 of CG 32, “Our Mission Today: The Service of faith and the Promotion of Justice.” Faith linked to justice must be a hallmark of all Jesuit ministries. This was a challenge issued to Jesuit institutions, missions, and individuals.
Chinese Rites Controversy. Malabar Rites Controversy.  Inculturation was a key to evangelization in India and China. A debate during the late 17th and first half of 18th century concerning the compatibility of certain Chinese practices with Christianity. Three main points were the correct name of God, the veneration of Confucius and the veneration of ancestors. The Jesuits were in favor of allowing the Chinese Christians take part in those ceremonies. Dominicans thought that they were “idolatrous”. The Chinese Rites were forbidden by Clement XI in 1715. As a reaction, emperor Kangxi banned Christian missionaries (1721). Pius XI allowed the veneration of ancestors in 1935.
“Corporation of the Catholic Gentlemen of Maryland.” A group organized and incorporated during the time of the Suppression that was entrusted with land, etc. of Georgetown. They were also the Corporation of the Roman Catholic Clergymen. “The Roman Catholic Gentlemen of Maryland” is the official corporate title of the Maryland Province.
Deliberations of 1539. Deliberatio primorum Patrum. From March to June 1539 the first companions and Ignatius met in Rome, made decisions, and produced a document that led to the founding of the Society of Jesus. Cf. Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits. June 1974.

Dominus ac Redemptor. The brief promulgated by Pope Clement XIV suppressing the Society in 1773.

Exposcit debitum. The second bull, issued by Pope Julius III, 21 July, 15550, which confirmed the first approbation of the Society that had been given in the bull of 27 September 1540, entitled Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae.
Formula of the Institute. The original charter of the Jesuit order. The First Formula of

1540. A brief outline, it consisted of “five chapters” and became the basis of what the pope approved in approving the foundation of the Society of Jesus.

New Society, the . The Society of Jesus so called after its Restoration by Pope Pius VII in 1814.
Old Society. The Society prior to the Suppression by Pope Clement XIV in 1773.

Thus 1540-1773. Perhaps a total of 85,000 men lived and died in the Old Society.

Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae. Papal Bull of 27 September, 1540, Pope Paul III gives the Society official status in the Church
Restoration. The Society was restored on 7 August, 1814 by the Bull of Pius VII, Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum. Also celebrated now as the Reestablishment of the Society.
Suppression. The Suppression of the Society of Jesus was ordered by Pope Clement XIV in his brief, Dominus ac Redemptor issued on 21 July, 1773. It lasted for 41 years until 1814. See also Restoration.
Viva Cristo Rey! Words, shout of Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J. as he faced execution in Mexico on the eve of the feast of Christ the King, on November 23, 1927.

FORMATION terms, events, actions that link to our long training and formation - many are historical, not used today - aspects, ingredients of training

Angel, archangel. Second year novices appointed to welcome and guide the incoming class of first year novices.

Bands. A group of three novices or scholastics, assigned by the leader, the manuductor or beadle, to walk together and converse during the time of recreation.
Beadle. Bidellus in Latin. The leader assigned by the teacher or superior in a classroom or over a group of Jesuits, such as Juniors.

Break Day. A day of change, relaxation during the long, 30 day retreat. It occurs three times, between the four weeks of the Exercises. In our day, the novices played soccer and this was the only time we did so. The fact and reality of the first break day was normally kept as one of the secundi secrets.

Candidacy. The term to describe the first week or so at the novitiate for the new men who are called “candidates.”
Chapter. “An exercise of fraternal correction made in public,” according to the novitiate handbook. A weekly meeting where novices publicly mention a fault or two they have noticed in a brother novice as that novice kneels before the group. Sometimes it was called lapidatio meaning the time to throw stones at one another.
Coadjutor Brother. A member of the Society of Jesus who pronounces three vows. Now they are more usually called “formed brothers.” Their vocation is to Jesuit community and mission, but not to ordained priesthood.

Common stock. Clothing or other items that you could take and use as you needed. For example, a large bin of socks. You reached in and picked out two.

Corn bread and stew. (panem aureum) Famed in the American Assistancy for breakfast 2-3 days a week. Much appreciated in winter time, when covered with maple syrup or honey. Cf. Rick Curry, The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking. There are variations in the recipe, and whether it was lamb or beef stew.
Defects. Faults one sees in oneself, or others point to. See culpa.
Dimissorial letter. An official letter from a Provincial to a bishop affirming that x is qualified and can be ordained to the priesthood. Such letters testify that the subject has all the qualities demanded by canon law for the reception of the order in question, and request the bishop to whom they are addressed to ordain him. (see Canon 1015).
English permissions. Occasional times during the year when Jesuits are allowed to write letters in English rather than in Latin.
Exclaustration. Permission to live outside a Jesuit community for a specified length of time - not more than three years. You remain a religious, and under a superior.
Exhortation. Domestic exhortation. A spiritual talk given perhaps by the Spiritual Father to the community. It is announced at dinner: “This evening there will be an exhortation in the domestic chapel at ….o’clock.”
Experiments. Also called ‘testing experiences.’ These six actions are found in the General Examen at the beginning of the Constitutions, No. 67ff. These are undergone by novices and by tertians.

1. Making the Spiritual Exercises for one month

2. Serve in a hospital for one month.

3. Spend one month on pilgrimage.

4. Work in the house on humble tasks.

5. Explain Christian doctrine to youths.

6. Preach and hear confessions in accord with one’s status.
Final vows. By a Jesuit are solemn vows and normally taken after one is ordained, if one is a Jesuit priest. It significes one’s final incorporation into the Society. . One professes three or four vows, the fourth being a vow of special obedience to the Pope which is not taken by all,
First Vows. Simple and perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience taken at the end of the two years of novitiate.
Fourth vow. After the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, some Jesuit priests pronounce a fourth vow of special obedience to the Pope in regard to mission.
Fusion. A special time when Jesuit juniors and novices, or those of different grades could meet and talk and recreate.
Garth. An enclosed garden area, for example at Loyola Seminary, Shrub Oak.
General Examen. The first part of the Constitutions. It contains a description of the Society of Jesus, and the type of candidates we look for.

Grades. One’s status or grade in the Society of Jesus. Thus Jesuits with three or four vows, or a novice without vows. “Breaking grades” meant talking to one of another grade without permission.

Holy Innocent. The youngest novice in a particular year is dubbed this. The Feast of the Holy Innocents on 28 December is a special feast for novices, including a first class feast. The holy innocent is sometimes called the Benjamin of the group.
“Hodie Christus Natus Est.” A Latin Christmas hymn to open the midnight Mass on Christmas Day. Posssibly also to awaken the first year novices at 11:30 PM. This was a surprise and a “secundi secret.” You got up in time to make Midnight Mass.
House of Probation. A place for testing one’s vocation. The novitiate was the two year program of initial formation, done at a house of probation.
Humble gesture. To go on one’s knees and kiss the ground, floor as one begins prayer or begins the day. Pope John Paul II did this on arriving in a new nation.

Incardination. The process of a religious priest, such as a Jesuit, becoming a member of, accepted into a diocese, and thus subject in obedience to the local bishop.

Indifferent. Indifferentes. This describes one who enters the Jesuits indifferent as to whether he will become a Jesuit priest or Jesuit brother.
Informationes. An evaluation form on a person being considered for the mission,s for a new assignment, for becoming a superior, ordained, or for special studies. It is normally filled out by one’s peers.
Juniorate. The period of study following novitiate, primarily devoted to classics and

humanities. Now called ‘collegiate studies.’ Those in it were called Juniors.

Laicization: The process by which a man ordained to holy orders is relieved of the obligations of orders and the ministry and is returned to the status of a lay person.
Leave of absence. Permission granted by a provincial that a Jesuit may live for a specified period of time outside of a house of the Society of Jesus. He still observes his vows. Maximum length is one year and it is usually granted to help resolve a vocation crisis.
Litanies. Traditionally were common prayers recited every night consisting of the Litanies of Loretto and of the saints and varied prayers. This was replaced on Sunday by Compline and by Benediction.

Long Black Line. A familiar description or characterization of how Jesuits of old dressed the same and did everything in line, in groups, and in silence, for example on the way to chapel or the dining room.

Martyrology. A listing of the saints whose feasts are celebrated on a particular day. This was read in the dining room every evening. Several entries evoked laughter, such as the 10,000 martyrs buried in Cologne. It concluded each evening with “and in other places, of many other holy martyrs, confessors and virgins.”

Master of Novices. Pater Magister. The Jesuit in charge of the formation or training of the novices, and the one who approves them for first vows.

Modesty of the Eyes. Rule 3 of the Rules for Modesty. Eyes should be kept downcast, and not wander about.
Novice. The first two years of Jesuit formation, followed by Juniorate, Philosophy, Regency, theology, tertianship. Traditionally the entire course up to priestly ordination, took 13 years. It was once called once ‘a 13 year windup for one wild pitch.’
Order of religion. An alphabetical list of the Jesuits who entered on a certain day. We were given places in the ascetory (study hall) and napkin boxes, etc. in the order of religion.
Penance table. Mensa penitentiae. Chairs are removed from on table, and after you get the permission of the rector, you took the meal kneeling rather than sitting. This might be possible once or twice a week during Lent, for example.
Poets, Rhets, Rhetoricians. Poets were in their first year of Juniorate after taking vows. Rhets (Auditores Rhetoricae) were in the second year after novitiate.
Postulancy. The first week of the novitiate which ended with a triduum and the giving of the habit. For brother candidates, it lasted six months.
Postulant: One of several names used to designate a candidate for membership in a religious institute during the period before novitiate.
Presumed permission. When you do something which normally you should ask permission to do, but you cannot find or see the Superior, you presume his permission.
Refectory refectorian - the large dining room in a Jesuit house of formation.
Regency regent - usually teaching – 3 years between phil and theo

Sometimes is a period for special studies

Renovation, renewal of vows. Twice a year, those without final vows were expected to make a triduum, three days of prayer, and then renew their vows. Since even first vows were perpetual, this was a ceremonial renewal.
Rule of touch. Sometimes called “tactus”. “noli me tangere” – do not touch me. Rule for Jesuit novices (Common Rule 32) so that even when playing softball, we did not tag to make an out, but only had force plays at second base, for example.
Rules for Conversation. This includes topics we can talk about in time of recreation.

Gathered by Nadal, these were read out to Jesuits in formation twice a year. We can talk of the virtues, and “of the contrary vices, except that contrary to chastity.” And finally, “of such things as may edify and unbend the mind – having little of speculation and much of affection – are religiously agreeable and agreeably religious.”

Sacred Silence. This began at the end of evening recreation around 7:30 and

continued until after breakfast the next morning. Extra special silence.

If you spoke, it was called “breaking silence.”
Second table. Sit down meal for those who served at first table, or who came in late (of course with a valid reason)
Short course/long course. Brighter scholastics were in the long course, with tougher

Professors. Short course did the minimum. Sometimes a year was divided into an A and a B class.

Solemn profession. Those who took four vows, thus including the solemn vow to

obey the Pope in regards to mission.

Status. The annual list of new assignments or appointments made by the Provincial.

Years ago, it came out in June. The word status is pronounced with short ‘a” as in Latin.

Temporal coadjutor. A term no longer to be used. A Jesuit brother, as contrasted with a priest who may be a spiritual coadjutor. In accord with CG 34, Complementary Norm 326 No. 4 states: “…In the future to use the term “brother” or “Jesuit brother” but not the term “temporal coadjutor,” in our official or ordinary texts.
Tertian instructor. Tertian Master. Similar to the novice master, he is in charge of the tertians – their director.
Tertianship. The 15th and final year of forma Jesuit training. Called “tertian-ship or

‘third probation’ as it Is the third year of specifically spiritual training, with the

two years of novitiate being the first two years. It comes after ordination for priests. One studies the Jesuit Constitutions, makes the long, 30 day retreat and goes on

extended apostolic assignments. Also called the “school of the heart” after years of the head in intellectual studies. Recently beatified Jesuit Fr. Bernard de Hoyos, who died as a tertian in 1735 is being called the patron of tertians.

Third probation, tertianship. For priests, after ordination there is one more year of formation before final vows. Somewhat similar to novitiate (first probation) tertianship involves making a 30 day retreat, experiments/experiences, and studying the Constitutions. It is called “the school of the heart” in the Constitutions 516.
Tones, toni class. Sunday afternoon speech class “they contain all the tones in

use in the pulpit.” This dates back to the time of Ignatius and the Roman College, and

was memorized in Latin (Non ignoratis, Christiani, quonam pacto fragilis…) and in English (You must know, dear Christians, that man has fallen into sin…)
Tribune. At St. Andrew on Hudson, the upstairs area in the chapel, overlooking the main chapel, where guests and women could attend Mass, as it was not considered part of the cloister.

Villa. Holiday spot or holiday time.

“Wrinkles on the forehead and much more on the nose are to be avoided.” Rule 5 of the Rules of Modesty or Rules of Deportment drawn up by Ignatius in the last two years of his life. At least they point to the importance of non-verbal communication.

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