July 15th 1579 - Simão Rodrigues
† in Lisbon
Rodrigues came from the small town Vouzella in the north of Portugal. His parents were both of ancient stock. As a scholar of the Portuguese king he studied in Paris and joined the friend circle of Ignatius. He took part in the vows on Montmartre. Ignatius dared it with him, even if his difficult temper could clearly be seen already at that time. But he had also great talents, and could be fascinating in social intercourse.
In 1540 the Pope and the Portugese King asked Ignatius to cede missionaries to the Indian colonies. Ignatius accepted the request and destined also Simão Rodrigues. But Simão failed because of illness. He was replaced by Francis Xaver. Rodrigues stayed in Portugal and was in 1546 appointed Provincial of the new created Portugese Province. In few years he brought the province to great flower. Already in 1552 it had more than 300 members. That was a good third of the Jesuits of that time.
But Rodrigues' leadership was devoid of a clear and strict direction. He was too unsteady and too yielding, and not enough impartial. He was too much a friend of the king and of the court life. The discipline deteriorated to such an extent that a fatal crisis arose. All efforts of Ignatius were unsuccessful. Rodrigues understood it time and again to evade his invitations to a discussion in Rome. Finally it happened at the end of the year 1550/51. Rodrigues remained obstinate. He was removed as Provincial and replaced by Father Diego Mirón. Rodrigues did not acknowledge him. Also the skilful and energetic Spaniard Father Miguel de Torres reached as inspector not any agreement. Thus it came to the famous 'Obedience Letter' from March 26th 1553. About half the members of the Portuguese Province left the Order. Some of them left voluntarily, others were dismissed.
After much argument, and after the threat with excommunication by his successor Father Mirón, Rodrigues appeared on November 1st 1553 before Ignatius in Rome, and was received by Ignatius with indescribable love. Ignatius behaved toward Rodrigues quite tactfully, and with an unbelievable patience and cordialness, which surprised many Brethren. He got the best room in the house and many attentions. Both agreed upon an investigation by four consultants. These declared Rodrigues in nearly all points guilty; among other things by stubbornness, moodiness, disobedience, and a too independent stile of living. Various punishments and penances were imposed upon him. Rodrigues heard the judgement on his knees and agreed to everything.
Ignatius had reserved the right to confirm the judgement. He dispensed him from everything; only he was no longer allowed to return to Portugal. Ignatius had a peculiar, almost inexplicable affection for Simão Rodrigues. He could not have been kinder and more affectionate. Rodrigues spent the next years in a hermitage - Bessano/Upper Italy. The last correspondence between Ignatius and Rodrigues is the conciliatory after-effect in that tragedy of vagaries.
Francisco de Borja, the third General of the Society of Jesus permitted him the change of residence to Spain, and Mercurian, the fourth General, permitted in 1574 also his return to Portugal. There the penitent, who had become lonely, dedicated himself to literary work. Of special value is his comment on the beginnings of the Societas of Jesus, from Montmartre in 1534 up to the year 1540, when Pope Paul III confirmed the Order.
On July 15th 1579 Rodrigues' eventful life ended in Lisbon.
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