From the Archives: Celebrating Jubilees

October 10, 2022

Last year (2021) marked 500 years since Ignatius of Loyola was struck by a cannon ball at the Battle of Pamplona. A moment that was to change his life as, during his recovery, the former soldier had a spiritual conversion that eventually led to his founding the Society of Jesus.

A century later, in 1622, he was canonised by Pope Gregory XV along with his companion Francis Xavier. Thus, 2022 marks the 400th anniversary of his canonisation. Both of these significant anniversaries have been celebrated by the Jesuits worldwide this past year.

Looking ahead to 2023, there are several significant anniversaries coming up. Firstly, 21 January will mark 400 years since the establishment of the British Province of Jesuits. Although there were Jesuits working In England and Wales from Edmund Campion’s arrival in 1580, it wasn’t until 21 January 1623 that it became a Province. Secondly, later in the year, there is the 175th anniversary of the opening of both St Beuno’s and St Francis Xavier Church in Liverpool. There are plans afoot to commemorate these milestones.

It may therefore be prudent to reflect on why it is important to celebrate jubilees and what we can learn from them.

Obviously, they remind us of the significant moment being commemorated, of the event and the emotions of that time. Perhaps more importantly, anniversaries also allow us to reflect on how far we have come since then and the journey we have travelled on the way.

For those who are religious, by considering the achievements made, it enables us to recognise the part God played in making this possible. The Ignatian Year just gone to celebrate the anniversaries linked with St Ignatius Loyola had as its motto ‘to see all things new in Christ’. This is a reminder that anniversaries are also an opportunity to reflect on the current situation we are in and to consider future aspirations.

Archives can play a vital role in commemorating anniversaries. They contain documentation of events which may not be recognised as significant until much later as well as records which show the development of a place or group. It was interesting to look through the Archives and discover that there have been numerous jubilees celebrated within the British Province over the past 400 years. These events show that Jesuits value the significance of marking and celebrating anniversaries.

Finally, here are just a few examples of past jubilee celebrations that were found in the Archives:

Cake (1904)
Logbook entry (1940)

In 1904, to mark the 50th centenary of the Definition of the Immaculate Conception, the cook, Br Thomas Meynell SJ, made a cake in the shape of the temple at Manresa, Roehampton. His addition of a figure of Our Lady to the cake to mark the occasion resulted in a statue of Our Lady being added to the actual dome in the grounds. You can read more about that here.

Pamphlet (1973)

1940 marked the 400th anniversary since the Society was founded in 1540, but due to the war it seems to have been a rather subdued commemoration as evidenced by the Manresa logbook entry for the day.

1973 marked both 350 years of the English Province having been founded in 1623 and 200 years since the Suppression of the Society in 1773. A pamphlet with a very brief overview of the Province’s history was produced for this occasion.

More recently, 2003 marked the Bicentenary of Restoration. The Archives contain quite a lot of records for this event including an entire ring binder for the organisation for the many varied events throughout the Province, and of course there are copies of the order of services held.

A book was also commissioned - Promising Hope (a copy of which can be purchased from the British Jesuit Archives:

Promising Hope: Essays on the Suppression and Restoration of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, edited by Thomas M McCoog SJ, Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2003 Paperback, 479 pages, £14.50 | Services (jesuitarchives.co.uk)

This blog was written by Rebecca Somerset, Archivist for Jesuits in Britain. You can learn more about the British Jesuit Archives here.

Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash

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