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The Jesuits II: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773.

THE JESUITS II: CULTURES, SCIENCES, AND THE ARTS, 1540-1773. Edited by John W. O'Malley, S.J., Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Steven J. Harris, and T. Frank Kennedy, S.J. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2006. Pp. xxxvi + 905 + 1 videodisc. $95.

These 40, broadly interdisciplinary studies explore the relationship of the Jesuits to music, science, architecture, and the arts, clearly but not exclusively focused on the 18th century. While the 17th century was the "golden age" of early Jesuit history, the 18th was an "age of disasters," culminating in the 1773 suppression of the "Old Society," a fact that adds a note of pathos to this collection. As was its first volume (The Jesuits and the Arts, 1540-1773, 2005), this text is profusely noted, and carries an excellent bibliography. It also includes a DVD of the Jesuit opera, Patientis Christi memoria (The Memory of the Suffering Christ).

O'Malley's excellent introduction suggests an integral link between the Jesuits' theological approach and their interest in subjects that were far beyond normal ecclesial concerns. The Jesuits developed a "civic and culturally aware spirituality" that inevitably and even necessarily found expression in cultures, sciences, and arts. More often implicit than explicit, more manifest in actions and manner than in words or doctrines, this distinctive Jesuit approach and spirituality is often referred to as "our way of proceeding" (modus noster procedendi).

Several studies were especially interesting. Judi Loach's chapter on Jesuit education and social change deals with Jesuit colleges and congregations, particularly in 17th-century Lyon. Through education, they influenced all aspects of social living, for both elites and lower classes. The schools emancipated those poor who were included, serving as paths of upward mobility.

The Jesuits were the only large religious order not to have a women's branch, yet three essays deal with the Jesuits and women. Elizabeth Rhodes discusses women's interest in the Jesuits in 16th- and 17th-century Spain, and Alicia Fraschina focuses on the life of a woman living under the informal Jesuit vows in Rio de la Plata in the New World. Haruko Nawata Ward contributes an essay on "women catechists and Jezebels" in the "Christian Century" in Japan (1549-1650). Especially this last is a little-known chapter in the history of Japan, based on the writings of Jesuits who facilitated the contribution of these women to the life of the Japanese Christian community, even though they accepted the women as co-workers only in a very limited way.

The chapters on China deserve special note for their new contributions to scholarship on cultural and scientific exchanges between China and Europe in the early modern period. Hiromitsu Kobayashi (chap. 12) writes on the influence of Jesuit painters beyond their work in the imperial Qing court. Kobayashi traces the dissemination of Western painting techniques to woodblock printing in the lower Yangzte River valley, concluding that the techniques used at the imperial court were disseminated much more widely than previously thought. Among Kobayashi's illustrations is that of a Jesuit-inspired image used in Spring Festival celebrations from the 1730s onward, an excellent example of intercultural borrowing in 18th-century China.

Catherine Pagini (chap. 30) investigates how Matteo Ricci and later Jesuits used clocks as a method to propagate the faith. "Propagating the faith through science" and the suggestion that the universe itself was God's clockwork were key components of Jesuit "proceeding." The metaphor suggested a Creator who brought order out of chaos. Ricci presented the first clock to the delighted Wan Li, Emperor in 1601, leaving to subsequent generations of Jesuits the task of explaining, making, maintaining, and repairing a large collection of Imperial docks. The making of clocks itself was seen as a spiritual exercise that brought science and religion together in the Jesuit mission.

Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia (chap. 34) deals with the last decades of the Jesuits in Beijing, especially focused on a changing sociology of conversion. With the persecutions that began in the mid-18th century, conversions among scholars and the elite became fewer. "One baptizes only poor folks," lamented one missionary. Hsia discusses the baptism of abandoned infants in some detail--a chapter that can be read as a cautionary tale foreshadowing subsequent Christian history in China.

While this volume demonstrates the unique and broadly ranged contributions of the Society of Jesus all over the world, it also notes that the Jesuit outreach also represented the imposition of a European modernity. This is the shadow side of Jesuit's "way of proceeding." Even as we appreciate and commend the Jesuit contribution to cultural and scientific exchanges, we must recognize the ways they also represented the emerging power of Europe. In the words of Phillippe Lecrivain, S.J., from the first volume of this set (268): "We return to the two significant expressions of modernity that have characterized encounters with the other--either respect for what is other, or the attempt to constrain what is other. Which of these approaches characterized the Society of Jesus? We would like to say the first, but we must also admit to the second."


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Author:Wickeri, Philip L.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2008
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