A blast from the pre-Vatican 2 past: Jesuit spirituality “unsuitable” for English, the Anglican Benedictine told Roman priests in France

These Anglican priests were taught to pray that way, most of them “abandoned prayer altogether.”

Some years before Vatican II, Dom Gregory Dix was, rather daringly, invited by Cardinal Gerlier of Lyons to give a lecture on Anglican spirituality.

In the discussion, he was asked by an unidentified priest whether the Anglican clergy were taught Ignatian spirituality.

Dix replied that it was the only kind that most of them were taught, and that this was very unfortunate, as it was a type that was very unsuitable to English people, so that most of them, having tried it without success, abandoned prayer altogether.

“Father, that is a truly Benedictine sentiment,” said the questioner as he sat down.

“That,” whispered the meeting’s chairman to the speaker, “was the Father Provincial of the Society of Jesus.”

Et mois? It was less a response from a continental than from a Jesuit, who was right on, Jesuit prayer being is somewhat of a soulless thing, or can be understood that way — systematic, grimly prosaic and punishing to its practitioner, laying on burdens and offering at best a modicum of comfort to him or her.

Grit your teeth and keep on gritting, that sort of thing. Of course, tell Southwell and Hopkins it does not breed poetry, keeping in mind, however, that the latter was an English product through and through and came to the Society an Oxford product and in the Society suffered greatly from boorish or at least unappreciative superiors.

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