Vincent J. Duminuco, S.J., Ed.: The Jesuit Ratio Studiorum: 400th Anniversary Perspectives

(New York: Fordham University Press, 2000)

When Ignatius of Loyola began the school for young Jesuits in Rome in 1551, three years after their first institution began at Messina in Sicily, he already had thirty houses of study up and running. What later became the Collegio Romano and eventually the modern Gregorian University almost immediately fell on hard times. At the point of bankruptcy and with Ignatius' papal benefactor on his deathbed, he wrote to St. Francis Borgia that the matter was largely in God's hands. Within the next decade, the Roman College grew to over 1,000 students.

It is not easy to avoid the temptation to lift this man's work up as a model for educators. His diligence is matched by his patience. Those with whom he chose to surround himself are matched only by Ignatius' own personal ingenuity. His magnetism is described by his acquaintances and his legend fueled a phenomenal growth within the Jesuits. At his death in 1556 there were about 1,000 Jesuits in the world. A decade later there were 2,770. By 1599, there were 8,272. The Society of Jesus remains a testament to its founder, and the effect of Jesuit education, in almost every corner of the Earth, is without equal.

Ignatius' own magnanimity is codified, to an extent, in some of the early documents of the order. But one of the lasting gifts to the Society of Jesus, its generations of students, and to educational culture generally is the Ratio Atque Institutio Studiorum Societatis Iesu, "The Plan and Methodology of Jesuit Education," officially adopted in 1599. Although Ignatius never conceived of it, it bears the stamp of his insight into the need for both spiritual and mental development. Claudio Aquaviva, the Superior General at the turn of the century, approved its use as the definitive effort to bring some uniformity to an educational network that was international, pluralistic, and growing. It sought to instill a basic Christian humanism. Its rules for instruction and descriptions of offices within any given institution stood in place throughout the world until the mid-twentieth century, despite efforts to change the Ratio in the nineteenth century.

On October 14-15, 1999, a seminar took place at Fordham University's Graduate School of Education. The book edited by Vincent Duminuco, S.J., the Director of the International Jesuit Educational Leadership Project, is the result of that seminar celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of the Ratio. It is roughly halved between the presentations of eminent scholars, both Jesuit and lay, and two seminal documents that now appear for the first time for a general audience.
Historians John O'Malley, S.J., (author of The First Jesuits) and John Padberg, S.J., the Director of the Jesuit Institute of Historical Sources, join scholars Gabriel Codina, S.J., and Rosemary De Julio in building an impressive core of historical essays. The latter two are particularly worthy of note. Codina provides readers with a penetrating chronicle of the Ratio's immediate parentage, the Modus Parisiensis, which influenced the early members of the Jesuit order, including Ignatius himself. Di Julio's contribution stands out by tracing the spiritual and intellectual benefits obtained when two women, Mary Ward and Madeleine Sophie Barat, sought to adopt the Ratio for their own communities. Two other Jesuits, Howard Gray and George Aschenbrenner, consider Ignatian spirituality with special reference to pedagogy. Louis Pascoe, S.J., John Elias, and Jenny Go are respondents who all broaden the reader's understanding of the Ratio's intricacies. The editor provides some concluding remarks on the effects of the Ratio paradigm as it is enacted globally, together with an update on movements for a new Ratio for a new millenium.

It is this last contribution that pivots into the two publications of the Jesuit curia in Rome, "The Characteristics of Jesuit Education" (1986), and "Ignatian Pedagogy: A Practical Approach" (1993). Duminuco describes the activities of the Jesuit Father Generals, Pedro Arrupe and Peter Hans Kolvenbach, and their interest in seeing modern applications of the Ratio. After widespread consultation in the 1980s, a consensus emerged on the identity of Jesuit education. When it was released in 1986 Kolvenbach did not indicate that the initial "theory" document was a new Ratio, but it was gradually recognized that the complementary "praxis" document combined to form a supplement to the old Ratio that had not previously existed.

If in fact these documents contain new wine, they are a balm to old skins. The texts are preceded by useful introductions. To "Ignatian Pedagogy" are added three appendices. These deal with overriding pedagogical principles that are extrapolated from Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises, an address by Kolvenbach, and a brief list of methods that will assist teachers in using the Ignatian paradigm.

For those interested in Ignatian spirituality, the history of Jesuit education, contemporary Ignatian pedagogy, and the future of these schools, this book is indispensable reading. -- Patrick J. Hayes, '00