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Jesuits [Hardcover]

Jean Lacouture

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1 Jan 1988
"Destined to become a classic of Jesuit studies". Kirkus Reviews

Jean Lacouture's "multibiography" follows five hundred years of world history, dramatically portraying the priests of the Society of Jesus as remarkable individuals who flourished and struggled through changing times. Lacouture adds powerful brush-strokes to existing portraits of the men whose global humanism continues to mark our civilization.

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LAME MAN PULLED himself along the banks of the Llobregat River. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Critical but edifying: the enigma remains. 25 Aug 2000
By Joseph S. O'Leary - Published on Amazon.com
What makes the Jesuits tick? No doubt the answer lies in the spirit of abnegation and service inculcated by the Spiritual Exercises, with the extraordinary sense of creative freedom that flows from it. Xavier, Ricci, Teilhard, the Jesuit martyrs in El Salvador, and many other of Lacouture's subjects enact this gospel paradox before our eyes in his vivid pages. Yet, with a slightly irritating Gallic coyness, Lacouture also insinuates a darker side to the Jesuit experiment. Conscious of how naturally blind obedience comes to the human animal and how calamitous its role has been in recent history, Lacouture suggest that the glorification of obedience to the Pope and to the superior has been a tragic shackle on Jesuits and their church (particularly after the nineteenth century restoration of the Society, under the auspices of ultramontanism and political reaction). Lacking theological qualifications, Lacouture does not query the biblical basis of the cult of obedience, contenting himself with vague allusions to masochism. That dark strain in his narrative reaches a painful climax in his account of John Paul II's treatment of Pedro Arrupe. The Jesuit exclusion of women (even of Madeleine Sophie Barat's Sacred Heart Sisters, formed on Ignatian principles) also comes in for some judicious criticism. Apart from a knowing pen-portrait of De Lubac, the book does not pay much attention to the great line of Jesuit theologians and philosophers. Their external lives would add little color to this multibiography, yet their intellectual adventures were perhaps as exciting as anything recounted here. On all fronts the Society of Jesus represents a precious heritage of Christianity and of Western civilization, and one can only pray for whatever radical adjustments are required to prevent it being squandered.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, engrossing 23 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I picked this book up because of a growing interest in the life of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (portrayed in "Jesuits"). I was hoping to get a 'fleshed out' story of his life and Order, and figured knowing _something_ about Jesuits would be a good place to start.
What I didn't expect was a brilliant book, heavily researched and written like a novel. Lacouture is witty, engaging and provocative in his recounting of centuries of Jesuit history. His attention to de Chardin was beautiful, but I found a whole society worth viewing in this 'multibiography'.
This is highly recommended to people who enjoy history, the story of the Church, reading in general, chocolate, little furry animals and nice words. In other words, all of you.
BTW, I'm an atheist. This is fascinating even without a spiritual draw. And Lacouture is very objective and fair in his writings.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling history 28 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Uninfluenced by internal church politics and emotions, Jean Lacouture's book takes you on a most fascinating tour through one of the church most compelling histories. Objective but never moralistic, lengthy but never boring, Lacouture recreates the time and the very space in which the Jesuits emerged, oversaw and finally fell victim to their own success. The most comprehensive part, as far as I see it, is when the author describes the French connections of the Jesuits. The most compelling part, however, is Lacouture's description of their overseas endeavours in Asia and South America. Although rich in content and imagination, the Jesuit reductions in South America deserve more attention that a single chapter. Only by travelling to these overseas places, I guess, the author was able to capture the climate in which the Jesuits lived. I recommend this book strongly for anybody interested not only in church history but also in the academic debates of the centuries covered by the book. Rgds, Johannes van de Ven
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars reads like a novel...a wonderful book about jesuits 12 Aug 2001
By McGrath-Muniz - Published on Amazon.com
This book, which the author did not intend to make comprehensive, is the best general history of the jesuits I've read so far...it is fair in it's assessments of the society of jesus; and it aims to be fair...it does not intentionally aim for the sensational yet entertaining writing of Malachi Martin's book-this is more serious reading; the author approaches the lives of select Jesuits throughout history, starting with the founder-Inigo de Loyola; and taking the book through Francis Xavier in Japan, Matteo Ricci in China, and my favorite part of the book: the Jesuits in south america among the guarani-for anyone who loved the film "the Mission"-this chapter is worth obtaining the book alone! However, the story of the Jesuits suppression is a gripping page turner as well as how the society survives under some surprising protectors of Orthodox and Lutheran backgrounds...the chapter on teilhard de chardin made me want to dig up some of his works right away....but where the book really touched me was with the new Ignatius-Pedro Arupe- the father general who was not dealt so kindly by the current conservative pope...the book also includes some black and white photos of well known jesuits which help in associating a face with the histories behind them...beautiful book, which may stir the reader in further jesuits readings to complete the subject that was tackled here with admittted ommissions...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must reading for all of us who work with Jesuits 3 Oct 2005
By Steven D. Berkshire - Published on Amazon.com
The book is written in a novel format with each chapter being a true story of Jesuits who represent the times. The author is very objective and while he praises the Jesuits throughout history, he also points out their flaws. The historical accounts and the social context of each puts a real face on the Society of Jesus. The reader comes to identify with and understands better why these men were both loved and feared, how they took courageous stands, yet backed down when they should have stood strong. It is a social history as well as a political history of the Church as well as the Jesuits.
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