“Friends in the Lord”

Catharine Randall

in Black Robes & Buckskin

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780823232628
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823240449 | DOI:
“Friends in the Lord”

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Women played a small but crucial role in the Relations. During the foundational days of the order, such powerful women as Vittoria Colonna gave succor, shelter, and financial support to Ignatius's earliest followers, Fathers Jay and Rodrigues, who also, through her, came into contact with the Italian Evangelicals or spirituali. Jesuits heard women's confessions, becoming confessors who could incline the potential patronesses' hearts to give money and material aid to the Jesuit mission. Ignatius maintained an extensive correspondence with many (usually noble and well-positioned) women throughout Europe. Indeed, it is a little-known fact (intended to be a well-kept secret) that the Jesuit order actually had one female member—Infanta Juana of Austria—who died in 1578, still a member of the Society of Jesus. Women also occasionally joined the Jesuits as unofficial street preachers, as in Padua in 1556 when three or four women were encouraged by Jesuits to feed, preach, and minister to prostitutes in the area.

Keywords: Relations; Jesuit missionaries; women; Vittoria Colonna; spirituali; Infanta Juana of Austria

Chapter.  9706 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Christianity

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