“Two hours on my knees and I should never think of it again.”

A question to you knowledgeable readers.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, is known to have said something about how he would accept the suppression of the Jesuits.  The quote is something like:

“Two hours on my knees and I should never think of it again.”

Can anyone come up with a citation?  Where? When?  To whom?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. lucy says:

    http://www.victorshepherd.on.ca has a piece but I don’t know how reliable that is

  2. Shellynna says:

    Shoot an email or private Facebook message to Fr. James Martin, S.J., of America (http://www.facebook.com/FrJamesMartin). He used that story in his recent book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. In Fr. Martin’s recounting of the story though, St. Ignatius said that he would need 15 minutes for prayer to compose himself and then he’d be on his way.

  3. Joe in Canada says:

    I don’t have my books here, but I think it was ’15 minutes of prayer’. This link has a quotation but no reference: http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/IGNAITU2.HTM ‘When someone asked what his feelings would be if the Pope should decide to suppress the Company of Jesus, “A quarter of an hour of prayer,” he answered, “and I should think no more about it.”‘

  4. digdigby says:

    I copied the quote from Kenelm Digby (Mores Catholici) some time ago:
    “St. Ignatius examined himself to inquire how long his affliction would last if his life’s work, the Society of Jesus, were suddenly dissolved. Provided it was not his fault, he estimated that a quarter hour of recollection and prayer would be sufficient to free him of any disturbance this might cause him.”

    I will try to find the footnote and give more information if I can. It seems to me Ignatius was eight times holier than you estimated!

  5. Seraphic Spouse says:

    This is so awesome. What an amazing attitude! It’s something I’ve really needed to hear. Thanks, Father Z, and thanks, St. Ignatius! [You still haven’t really heard it. We still need a real citation, and not just a rumor that he said it, or something like it.]

  6. Folks, I need a REAL citation.

  7. JKnott says:

    Father I don’t think this is a real citation in that the questioner is not named but it shows up in the following bio:
    Taken from “Lives of Saints”, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

    In his famous letter to the Portuguese Jesuits on the virtue of obedience, he says that it brings forth and nourishes all the other virtues; he calls it the distinguishing virtue of the Jesuits. True obedience reaches to the understanding as well as to the will, and does not suffer a person even secretly to complain of or to criticize any command of his superior, whom he must look upon as vested with the authority of Jesus Christ. Even when broken with age and infirmities, Ignatius said that, if the Pope commanded it, he would with joy go on board the first ship he could find, though it had neither sails nor rudder, and immediately set out for any part of the globe. When someone asked what his feelings would be if the Pope should decide to suppress the Company of Jesus, “A quarter of an hour of prayer,” he answered, “and I should think no more about it.” His perpetual lesson was: “Sacrifice your own will and judgment to obedience. Whatever you do without the consent of your spiritual guide will be imputed to willfulness, not to virtue, though you were to exhaust your bodies by labors and austerities.”

  8. Shellynna says:

    Folks, I need a REAL citation.

    But Father, but Father! That’s why I suggested writing to Fr. James Martin, S.J. Since he used the story in his own recent book, he may be able to give you the original source. If that doesn’t work, call up a research librarian at a Catholic university library. Research librarians look up stuff like this for patrons all the time.

  9. JKnott: I am hoping we can find a true citation for this quote. Eventually some Jesuit might spot this and chime in.

  10. nairb says:

    Fr. Z: Trying to go perhaps closer to the source, I searched in Spanish and found the following homily by Fr. Leonardo Castellani:


    The quote he uses is:

    «Si mi Compañía se deshiciese como la sal en el agua; pero si mi Compañía, que me ha costado tantos esfuerzos, luchas y sufrimientos se deshiciese como la sal en el agua, me bastaría hacer un cuarto de hora de oración para quedar de nuevo tranquilo y en paz».

    My quick translation into English:

    “If my Society were to fall apart such as salt in water; but if my Society, which has cost me so many efforts, fights and sufferings were to fall apart such as salt in water, to do one quarter hour of prayer would be enough for me to be once again tranquil and at peace.”

    The homily has no citations for this quote, however. I hope this helps!

  11. digdigby says:

    Sorry! Digby gives his source (without a footnote) as St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (companion of Ignatius). A very reliable source indeed but don’t have the language skills to research further.

  12. hicks says:

    This is a tough one to track down. Time and Newsweek both have articles with the quote rendered: “If the whole Society should come to an end, it would take fifteen minutes for me to regain my composure.” The link below displays Google Books scans of both articles.


  13. Brad says:

    The saint was referring to his time spent doing yoga stations of the cross.

    The citation is in the book called “easter us home!”

  14. Brooklyn says:

    Father, I don’t know if this helps or not, but I found this by someone named Victor Shepherd.

    “Nothing was dearer to Ignatius than the Jesuit order. Yet when he was asked how he would react if a hostile pope were to disband it he replied, “Two hours on my knees and I should never think of it again.”

    The little Spaniard known for his laughing eyes exemplified the apostle’s word, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)”


    Maybe we can contact Victor Shepherd and ask him where he got the quote from?

  15. Brooklyn says:

    Interesting: Victor Shepherd appears to be a Protestant preacher, but seems to have great admiration for Ignatius of Loyola.

  16. The remark seems to reflect the spirit of Ignatius’s 1553 “Letter on Obedience,” addressed to the Portugese members of the SJ. Quickly skimming an incomplete Google-books version, I couldn’t find it, nor any passage much like it.

    In the Castellani sermon , which is from 1966, the remark is presented as a response to a question from “those around him,” after a medical examination, rather than something that Ignatius himself said in writing. This is the sort of thing which is sometimes remembered (or invented) by the friends of a famous man when they sit down to wrote about him.

    I wonder, therefore, whether the remark might be found in an early biography, or one of the commentaries on the letter to the Portugese members, written by an associate of St. Ignatius.

  17. Incidentally, the remark — in its quarter-hour form — is used in an article called “The Sacrament of the Present Moment,” by M.F. Egan, in The Irish Monthly, Vol. 65, No. 764, Feb., 1937, pp. 111-117. This is quite a bit earlier than the various sermons floating around the web. However, it would require somebody with access to JSTOR to determine whether Egan offers any actual citation to Ignatius.

  18. hicks says:

    The sermon that nairb posted might provide the context for the quote, at least, though I’m leaning toward this quote being a later attribution. Google translates (in more or less readable English) the relevant portion as saying:

    “But San Ignacio, once the doctor had said that to avoid any disappointment, and asked what these things might give him the biggest disappointment was collected for a moment and replied: “If my company is blotted out, as the salt water, but if my company, which has cost me so much effort, struggle and suffering is blotted out, as the salt in the water, I would suffice to make a quarter of an hour of prayer to get back in comfort and peace. ” And indeed, after having shaken the bones, the next day he went to see the pope, the pope made ??him wait 14 hours and then could not but receive half an hour and, on leaving the Holy One, Paul IV was not friended but he was warned, before it had seen a man of powerful character whose gaze made ??him lower his eyes.”

  19. Joe in Canada says:

    in the meantime this is from the Memorial (section 93) by Louis Goncalves da Camara, who transcribed his autobiography. Cardinal Carafa had founded the Theatines, and had said that the Society of Jesus was so similar to the Theatines, that there would be no reason for the Society to exist; thus there was fear that he might suppress the Society. When Cardinal Carafa was elected as Pope Paul IV, St Ignatius was visibly upset. He went into the chapel for an extra prayer time. When he came out he was as cheerful as if his favourite candidate had been elected. And afterwards, when the new Pope was not well-received in Rome, St Ignatius went around telling everyone about the good things the Pope had done and was doing. (my rough translation)

  20. Joe in Canada says:

    (I could have been clearer: my translation from ‘was visibly upset’ on. What comes before that is my intro)

  21. darelmass says:

    Per Rev. Church’s comment above:

    The Irish Monthly article mentioned contains no citation for this statement: “St. Ignatius said of himself that he believed, should his Society be utterly destroyed, that a quarter of an hour’s prayer would suffice to restore his soul to tranquillity and acceptance.”

    The brief article is based on a book, L’Abandon a la Providence Divine by Fr. Jean Pierre de Caussade, S.J. A translated English version was published as recently as 2010 by Christian Classics.

    The French text appears to be on-line here, but I cannot find any mention of the quote by St. Ignatius of Loyola, much less a citation.

  22. TrueLiturgy says:

    Father, I have searched JSTOR and many other databases but have come up empty in regards to the Irish Monthly article. Sorry :-/

  23. gaudete says:

    As Joe in Canada already said, it’s from the Memorial, Mem. 182,
    that means p. 143 in “Recuerdos Ignacianos: Memorial de Luis Gonçalves da Câmara; Versión y comentarios de Benigno Hernández Montez, S.J.” (http://books.google.com/books?id=u6Up7LDsix4C):
    “Yo he pensado en qué cosa me podía dar malencolía, y no hallé cosa ninguna, sino si el papa deshiciese la Compañía del todo: y aun con esto, yo pienso que, si un cuarto de hora me recogiese en oración, quedaría tan alegre y más que antes.
    (my rough translation: ‘I have thought what could render me melancholic, and not found anything, if not that the pope suppressed the SJ completely: and even with that, I think, if I had a quarter of an hour in prayer, I’d be as happy and even more as before.’)

    [Excellent. We have some solid info now. I am impressed. Good job everyone!]

Comments are closed.