Thinking with the Church, Rules for

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Written by St. ignatius of loyola, the Rules for Thinking with the Church are proposed to the individual as one of various practical means to attain the overall purpose of the spiritual exercises. Since the rules were written for Catholics of the 16th century, their intrinsic nature and interpretation reflect somewhat the religious atmosphere of the time.

The Rules for Thinking with the Church are not a theological treatise. No effort is made to establish absolute principles. Certain biblical truths are presupposed, but the rules in themselves are nothing other than practical means for Catholics to remain faithful to the Church and defend themselves against the innovations of the reformers. Rules 1 to 9 are for all Catholics. Rules 10 to 18 are primarily for those who have charge of instructing the faithful.

In the light of their historical origin, a summary of the rules can be forthright and clear. Rule 1 reminds Catholics that the understanding of the divine law is given to them by the Church rather than through private and subjective interpretation of Scripture. Rules 2 and 3 encourage the faithful to receive the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist, to partake in liturgical and other services, including the Divine Office and other prayer at fixed times. Rules 4 and 5 reaffirm the excellence of the religious life with its vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity. Rules 6 to 8 encourage the faithful to the continued practice of traditional Catholic piety outwardly expressed by the veneration of saints, pilgrimages, indulgenced works, and external penance. Rule 9 concludes this first group with the exhortation to praise and understand the laws of the Church, to defend them, not criticize them.

In the second group rule 10 counsels teachers and preachers against dwelling on the shortcomings of those in authority. Public criticism in sermons fosters murmuring and scandal among the faithful. Rule 11 recommends positive theology, as well as the scholastic method in theology and the scholastic theologians. They are excellent means for understanding and defending the divine truths. That vanity among preachers and teachers may be avoided, rule 12 forbids all comparisons between the living and the saintly geniuses of the past. Rule 13 contains the famous hyperbole with which St. Ignatius stresses unconditional submission to the teaching of the Church. In case of conflict between the latter and one's own intellect, the defined teaching of the Church must prevail: "What seems to me white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church so defines." Rule 14 recommends moderation in dealing with the nature of predestination, faith, and grace. Immoderate emphasis of these elements of salvation may lead the faithful to fatalism, neglect of good works, and underestimation of the power of man's free will (rules 15, 16, 17). Finally, granted that the supreme motive for a Christian life is the pure love of God, when this fails to be a motive Catholics should be moved to the observance of the law by the filial and even servile fear of God (rule 18). Although written in the 16th century, these rules have never lost their practical value for Catholics even to the present time.

See Also: ignatian spirituality.

Bibliography: j. de guibert, The Jesuits: Their Spiritual Doctrine and Practice, ed. g. e. ganss, tr. w. j. young (Chicago 1964). p. dudon, St. Ignatius of Loyola, tr. w. j. young (Milwaukee 1949). w. sierp, "Recte sentire in ecclesia," Zeitschrift für Aszese und Mystik 16 (1941) 3136.

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