JESUIT ROOTS AND SHOOTS
A Guide to Beginnings in the Society of Jesus
HEDWIG LEWIS SJ
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Jesuit Roots and Shoots is an informative and inspiring little book on the Who’s Who and What’s what in relation to the origins of the Society of Jesus. It is a compilation of researched articles on the historical origins of some of the events and enterprises, the initiatives and endeavours, of the Society of Jesus. Most of the articles were published in an abridged form in a column called ‘Roots’ in JIVAN, the Jesuit Magazine for South Asia, over three years, January 2012 to December 2014, covering 30 issues.
The author, Hedwig Lewis SJ, states in the Foreword that one of the reasons that motivated him to publish this compilation. “was the realization of the paucity of such material on the internet or in print. Of course, the topics I have chosen are very specific and somewhat unconventional. They may not appear generally on a ‘table of contents’ or listed in ‘indices’ of books. It is difficult to find ‘readymade’ resources on these subjects. All that is available are in bits and pieces, here and there. I decided, therefore, to make my articles available in a more comprehensive form, for convenient reading and easy recall.”
The book is laid out in a user-friendly format, with apt subheadings and paragraph spacing. The flowing and simple style makes for compelling and effortless reading. Though the contents are seemingly familiar, they contain nuances that can surprise even seasoned Jesuits. Moreover, there are topics that many may have merely glossed over in the past, but will find refreshing and informative.
Every one of the thirty articles in JIVAN exposed ‘roots’ or ‘beginnings’ in the Society of Jesus on which we still depend. However, as the author explains, they had to be compressed in a single page. This book provides space to do justice to the topic at length as well as to give credit to the sources/references used. “The column was not pre-planned, so the topics appeared haphazardly, drawn from the inspiration of the moment. This compilation is well structured. There are new topics that fill the gaps where necessary, to preserve the continuity of events.”
Some interesting inclusions are brief biographies of our founding fathers, reflections on the “spiritual landmarks” such as the Holy Cave at Manresa, Cardoner, and La Storta, inspiring insights on our “Heavenly Patrons”: St Joseph, Maria della Stada, All SJ Saints, and chapters on Jesuit education and social action.
As a ‘guide’, the book takes the reader across the wide expanse of the Jesuit landscape, digging up ‘roots’ and examining ‘shoots’ that lie along the path. The book explores the various “beginnings” of this religious order, as well as the environment in which the roots evolved to shoots. The first seeds were sown in 1540 in Rome, sprouted and, over the centuries, the Society of Jesus has spread to every corner of the planet, establishing veritable gardens with herbs that heal and flowers that delight, fields with nourishing crops, and fruit-bearing trees with wide reaching branches.
Jesuit Roots and Shoots is intended to bring to light several aspects of the foundational elements of the Society of Jesus that tend to remain ‘underground’ in the memories of Jesuits. Hopefully, it will familiarize those who share the Ignatian foundations, as well as inform all friends and associates, with what lies at the roots of the Ignatian/Jesuit character and charism, institutions, ministries, and endeavours.
Last June  the author celebrated the 50th anniversary of his joining the Society of Jesus. “The occasion evoked flashbacks of my life as a Jesuit. I remembered the novitiate conferences when we were guided into finding our ‘roots’… We felt grounded in religious life… So I thought it would be would be worth my while to share these with you, in the hope that it will help deepen your love for and commitment to the Society of Jesus.”
Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ receiving a copy of the book in Lebanon
book’s roots are in Gujarat Jesuit Samachar and Jivan. In Dec 2011
Fr Hedwig wrote to me saying that trying to collect ‘Ignatian Ripples’ for GJS
he has come up with a treasury of Ignatiana, three of which he has shortened
into articles that will fit a page of Jivan and asked if I would publish
them in Jivan. I suggested that, without stopping with three, he
continues to write a one-page regular column which we can call ‘Roots’. He did
so from Jan 2012 to Dec 2014. Now adding ‘shoots’ to these roots, he has
published them as a book. Its value is obvious.