Category Archives: Jesuit History

#288 – The Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism

The Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism – Xǔ Guāngqǐ, Lǐ Zhīzǎo, and Yáng Tíngyún worked with Jesuit missionaries such as Fr. Matteo Ricci, SJ to bring the knowledge of Western science and Catholic faith into China. However, for these Three Pillars, adoption of Christianity was not seen as something new – rather it was seen as a return to the Chinese traditions of the past.

Links for Xǔ Guāngqǐ:
Video of Xǔ Guāngqǐ’s Tomb
Video presentation on the relationship of Matteo Ricci and Xǔ Guāngqǐ
Video documentary on Xǔ Guāngqǐ – trailer, part 2/4 of the full documentary

Image of statue and painting of Xǔ Guāngqǐ
Image and statue of Matteo Ricci and Xǔ Guāngqǐ

Articles on Xǔ Guāngqǐ can be found here and here

Links for Lǐ Zhīzǎo:
Article on Lǐ Zhīzǎo can be found here
The map of the world made by Matteo Ricci, SJ and Lǐ Zhīzǎo

Links for Yáng Tíngyún
Article on Yáng Tíngyún can be found here

Fontana, Michela. Matteo Ricci: A Jesuit in the Ming Court. Rowman & Littlefield, 2011.
Standaert, N. Yang Tingyun, Confucian and Christian in Late Ming China: His Life and Thought. BRILL, 1988.
Wang, Xiaochao. Christianity and Imperial Culture: Chinese Christian Apologetics in the Seventeenth Century
and Their Latin Patristic Equivalent
. Studies in Christian Mission v. 20. Leiden ; Boston: Brill, 1998.

Photo of Church built by Lǐ Zhīzǎo and Yáng Tíngyún

Check out the other great podcasts at the Starquest Production Network
Check out the Catholic New Media Conference this summer!
If you can’t make the conference, you can still participate through a “Virtual Ticket“!

Send e-mail questions and comments to

To listen, just click on the link below:
podcasticon#288 – The Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism”


#277 – Cenodoxus and the Dangers of Pride

During the Counter-Reformation, Jesuits used theater to warn of the dangers of Hell and the guide to the glories of Heaven. Performances of Jacob Bidermann, SJ’s Cenodoxus were no exception, causing some audience members to do penance and leading others into religious vocations.

Websites about Cenodoxus and Jacob Bidermann can be found here and here and here.
Cenodoxus performed by the Augsburger Puppets

Best, Thomas W. Jacob Bidermann. Twayne’s World Authors Series ; Germany TWAS 314. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1975.
Bidermann, SJ. Jakob. Cenodoxus. Translated by D. G. Dyer. Edinburgh Bilingual Library 9. Edinburgh: University Press, 1975.
Bloemendal, Jan. “Receptions and Impact: Early Modern Latin Drama, its Effect on the Audience and its Role in Forming Public Opinion.”  Neo-Latin Drama: Forms, Functions, Receptions. Olms, 2008. 7-22.
Dyer, Denys. Jacob Bidermann a Seventeenth Century German Jesuit Dramatist. Cambridge, 1950.
Gorman, Michel John. “Mathematics and Modesty in the Society of Jesus: The Problems of Christoph Grienberger.”  The New Science and Jesuit Science: Seventeenth Century Perspectives. Archimedes. Dordrecht ; Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003. 1-120.
Herdt, Jennifer A. Putting on Virtue: The Legacy of the Splendid Vices. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.
Loyola, SJ. Ignatius. The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola: An American Translation from the Final Version of the Exercises, the Latin Vulgate, into Contemporary English. New York: J.F. Wagner, 1968.
Martin, Dennis D. Fifteenth-Century Carthusian Reform: The World of Nicholas Kempf. Studies in the History of Christian Thought v. 49. Leiden ; New York: E.J. Brill, 1992.
Miola, Robert S. “Jesuit drama in early modern England.” Theatre and Religion: Lancastrian Shakespeare. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003. 71-86.
Murdoch, Brian. Adam’s Grace: Fall and Redemption in Medieval Literature. Woodbridge, UK ; Rochester, NY: D.S. Brewer, 2000.
Parente, James A. Religious Drama and the Humanist Tradition: Christian Theater in Germany and in the Netherlands, 1500-1680. Studies in the History of Christian Thought v. 39. Leiden ; New York: E.J. Brill, 1987.
Sinn, Christian. “The Figure in the Carpet: Metadramatical Concepts in Jacob Bidermann’s Cenodoxus (1602).” The Play Within the Play: The Performance of Meta-Theatre and Self-Reflection. Internationale Forschungen Zur Allgemeinen Und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft 112. Amsterdam ; New York: Rodopi, 2007. 61-76.
Wild, Christopher J. “Jesuit Theater and the Blindness of Self-Knowledge.” A New History of German Literature. Harvard University Press Reference Library. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004. 270-274.

Eustache Le SueurRaymond Diocres Repond Apres sa Mort

Be sure to vote for Catholic: Under The Hood for the Best Catholic Podcast for 2001 at!
Check out the other great podcasts at the Starquest Production Network

Send e-mail questions and comments to

To listen, just click on the link below:
podcasticon#277 – Cenodoxus and the Dangers of Pride

#273 – The Coonan Cross Oath

During the Age of Exploration, the encounter between the Thomas Christians of India and the Portuguese led to a tragic schism whose effects are still felt today. Against the threats of Latinization, the Thomas Christians struggled to preserve their faith and traditions.

Website of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
Website with much information on the Thomas Christians
Another website with much information on the Thomas Christians
A Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church site with much information on the history of the Thomas Christians
A painting of the Coonan Cross Oath can be found here.
Video of the Qurbana/Liturgy of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
Video of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Liturgy
Vatican Radio program on the Syro-Malabar Church

Frykenberg, Robert E. Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present. Oxford University Press, 2010.
Mundadan, A Mathias. The Syro-Malabar Church: An Overview. Sacred Heart Provincial House, 1995.
Neill, Stephen. A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Tisserant, Eugène. Eastern Christianity in India: A History of the Syro-Malabar Church from the Earliest Time to the Present Day. Orient Longmans, 1957.
Vadakkekara, Benedict. Origin of Christianity in India: a historiographical critique. Media House Delhi, 2007.
Vithayathil, Varkey J. The Origin and Progress of the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy. Oriental Institute of Religious Studies, 1980.

Image of St. Thomas Cross by Robin Klein
Image of the divisions of the Thomas Christians by Joehoya3

Check out the other great podcasts at the Starquest Production Network

Send e-mail questions and comments to

To listen, just click on the link below:

podcasticon#273 – The Coonan Cross Oath

Today in Catholic History – The Restoration of the Society of Jesus

On 7 August 1814, Pope Pius VII issued the bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum or “The care of all churches” which ended Clement XIV’s 1773 suppression of the Society of Jesus and restored the order throughout the world.

Clement XIV had been compelled to suppress the Jesuits due to the strong feelings against them by the various governments of Europe. The Society of Jesus was seen as the most powerful and public element of the Catholic Church in the years before the French Revolution, a time in which secular governments wished to enhance their position relative to that of the papacy. The desire to confiscate Jesuit wealth also encouraged the movement toward suppression.

When the governments of Europe threatened to break away from the Catholic Church unless the Jesuits were suppressed, Clement XIV felt he had no choice but to give into their demands. However, while the Jesuits were suppressed throughout the world, the Orthodox Russian Empress Catherine II refused to permit their suppression in her domain and there the Society of Jesus would survive until their later restoration.

Pius VII read the bull publically from the Jesuit church Il Gesu in Rome showing his great support for the Society of Jesus as a key element of his opposition to the forces of revolution which had contributed to the Napoleonic Wars. The Jesuits were to become tools in the new conservative movement that spread throughout Europe. Those nations that had previously sought the end of the Jesuits had also come to see the forces of the French Revolution as a greater threat.

Today in Catholic History – Exposcit Debitum

On 21 July 1550, Pope Julius III issued the Bull Exposcit Debitum [The Duty Requires] giving final approval to the foundation of the Society of Jesus/Jesuits. This document continues to be the defining text for the mission and charism of the Society of Jesus today.

The Bull clearly reflects the spirituality of the Jesuit as a “soldier of God” and “to strive especially for the defense and propagation of the faith”. Exposcit Debitum also expresses the particular obedience the Jesuit owes to the Holy Father as:

For the sake of greater devotion in obedience to the Apostolic See, of greater abnegation of our own wills and of surer direction from the Holy Spirit, we have nevertheless judged it to be supremely profitable that each of us and any others who will make the same profession in the future should, in addition to that ordinary bond of the three vows, be bound by this special vow to carry out whatever the present and future Roman Pontiffs may order which pertains to the progress of souls and the propagation of the faith; and to go at once, without subterfuge or excuse, as far as in us lies.

The language of the Bull reflect both St. Ignatius’ belief that the Protestant Reformation was a threat to the Catholic Church, thus the need to defend the faith, and Pope Julius’ understanding that the Jesuits would be instrumental in spreading the faith to non-Christian lands, thus the need to propagate the faith.

Today in Catholic History – Ex Quo Singulari

On 11 July 1742, Pope Benedict XIV issued the bull Ex Quo Singulari which addressed the issues of Catholic missionary activity in China and the Chinese Rites Controversy.

Following the example of Matteo Ricci, the Jesuit missionaries in China sought to present the Catholic faith in a way more compatible to traditional Chinese practices so as to encourage conversions in that country. One particularly problematic aspect of the Jesuit method of evangelization was in regards to Chinese veneration of their ancestors. The Jesuits taught that the Chinese practice was compatible with Catholic belief because it was a social and not a religious ritual. However other missionaries in China such as the Franciscans and Dominicans argued that the Jesuits were not teaching the Catholic faith properly and appealed to the pope. The other missionary orders wanted to present a Catholic faith and practice which would be exactly the same as it was in the countries of Europe.

In Ex Quo Singulari, Benedict XIV sided with the Franciscans and Dominicans against the Jesuits and forbade any further discussion of the issue. Papal policy led to a marked decline in conversions in China and indeed the Chinese Emperor would tell a visiting papal delegate, “You destroyed your religion. You put in misery all Europeans living here in China. You desecrated the honor of all those, who died long ago.” The Emperor would also ban all Catholic missionary activity.

In 1939, Pius XII would reverse this policy to permit the veneration of deceased family members and the Catholic Church would again begin to flourish until the Chinese Communist revolution in 1949.

On the Chinese Rites Controversy

Today in Catholic History – The Baptism of Chitomachon

On the 5th of July, 1640, having been sufficiently instructed in the mysteries of faith, he [the Tayac or Emperor Chitomachon] received the Sacramental waters with solemnity in a little chapel, which for that ceremony and for divine worship he had erected in Indian fashion out of the bark of trees.

These are the words of Fr. Thomas Hughes, S.J. describing the baptism of Chief [Tayac] Chitomachon [Kittamaquund] of the Piscataway and his wife by Fr. Andrew White, S.J. Also present was the governor of the Province of Maryland, Leonard Calvert.

Chitomachon began receiving catechism after being cured of an illness with the aid of medicine provided by Fr. Andrew.

After baptism, Chitomachon received the Christian name of Charles and his wife that of Mary. Chitomachon and his wife also received the Sacrament of Marriage on this same day, a Cross was erected to memorialize the event and a Litany to the Blessed Mother was said. The chapel in which Chitomachon was baptized was the first chapel in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Chitomachon would die shortly after his baptism in 1641, but other Piscataway would later also accept Christianity from Fr. White.

Today in Catholic History – Synod of Diamper

On 20 June 1599, the Synod of Diamper began in Udayamperoor/Diamper in Kerala, India] under the leadership of Archbishop Aleixi de Menezes.*

When the Portuguese encountered the Thomas Christians after the arrival of explorer Vasco de Gama in 1498, the Thomas Christians were part of the Assyrian Church of the East or Chaldean Church.* As a result of Portuguese missionary activity many Thomas Christians were influenced by the rituals and practices of the Roman Catholic Church and in 1552 a group of Thomas Christians entered into communion with the Pope.

However, the Portuguese hierarchy in India wanted to bring the Thomas Christians into closer jurisdiction of the Latin hierarchy and replace the Assyrian/Chaldean liturgy with that of the Roman Catholic Church. Many of the local customs were condemned as heretical and many of the liturgical books of the Thomas Christians were ordered corrected or were burnt.

The Archbishop summoned all priests to the Synod of Diamper under pain of excommunication. 130 priests and 660 laymen met at the Synod which lasted until 26 June 1599. The Synod, presided by the Archbishop of Goa, condemned the Chaldean Patriarch who was in communion with Rome to be a heretic and a schismatic, Thomas Christians were not to accept any bishop except one immediately chosen by Rome, and the Latinization/adoption of Roman Catholic traditions and practices was confirmed.

More recently, the studies of Bishop Jonas Thaliath has demonstrated that the Synod of Diamper was invalid on the grounds that the Synod was convoked without the proper authority from Rome and did not follow Canon Law.

The effect of the Synod was to provide a greater push toward the further Latinization of the Thomas Christians and to separate them from their historic ties to the Chaldean Church. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, “The only case in which an ancient Eastern rite has been willfully romanized is that of the Uniat Malabar Christians, where it was not Roman authority but the misguided zeal of Alexius de Menezes, Archbishop of Goa, and his Portuguese advisers at the Synod of Diamper (1599) which spoiled the old Malabar Rite.”

Moreover, hostility from the Thomas Christians to the Portuguese treatment led to the Koonan Kurishu Satyam (Koonan Cross Oath) in 1653. At which some of the Thomas Christians swore that they would not obey the Portuguese bishops or the Jesuit missionaries. This will lead to a split among the Thomas Christians between the Syro Malabar Catholic Church which followed the Synod of Diamper and the Syriac Orthodox which did not.

The history of the Syro-Malabar Church

*The native Christians of India called themselves Thomas Christians because there tradition states that they were evangelized by Thomas the Apostle.

Today in Catholic History – Augustin Bea becomes first president of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity

On 6 June 1960, Cardinal Augustin Bea became the first president for the newly established Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, a department within the Curia responsible for promoting ecumenical relations. Pope John Paul II will later change its name to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Initially, the responsibilities of the Secretariat were to help other Christians follow the course of the upcoming Second Vatican Council. Today the Pontifical Council is responsible for working with the World Council of Churches, to send representatives to major events associated with other Christian denominations and in turn invite representatives of those denominations to major events in the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Bea was to become very influential in the Second Vatican Council, especially in the document Nostra Aetate, which condemned anti-Semetism. He also had a great influence upon Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, which permitted modern methods of Biblical interpretation and was Pius’ confessor.

While Bea was supportive of union, he was also aware of the great challenges ahead, saying: “There is no need to fool ourselves about the prospects for union. There are veritable mountains to scale. In addition to the work of the divine spirit of union, there must be cooperation of all the baptized in a long and patient effort, gradually to come closer and to understand each other.” So Bea himself would set an example by answering more than 2,000 letters a year as President of the Secretariat and becoming good friends with the heads of other Christian denominations.

#234 – Martyrdom and Apostasy

Shusako Endo’s book Silence describes the trials and persecutions of the Japanese Catholic Church during the late 1500s and 1600s. But what Endo describes in fiction, Fr. Cristóvão Ferreira, SJ found very real.

Hubert Cieslik, S.J. The Case of Christovao Ferreira. The true story behind Endo Shusaku’s best-selling novel Silence.
Silence by Shusaku Endo
SQPN’s Catholic New Media Celebration

Painting – The Martyrdom of Saint Andrew by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Be sure to check out the CUTH blog for more on the history of the Catholic Church

Send e-mail questions and comments to or leave voice mail at 1 740 936 4354

To listen, just click on the link below:

podcasticon#234 – Martyrdom and Apostasy