Ten Things You Didn't Know about the Jesuits

Since this list is getting some play on the web, I figured I would post it here...since I wrote it.  I had cobbled together this top-ten list for the promotion of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, and it will appear in the paperback edition some time next year.  Let me know if I left anything out (nice stuff, that is.)  Or, heaven forfend, if I made any mistakes.  Anyway, enjoy what we used to call in grammar school "Fun Facts to Know and Tell."

Ten Things You Didn’t Know (About the Jesuits)


1. They invented the trap door. Without the Jesuits, the Wicked Witch of the West wouldn’t have been able to disappear so suddenly in The Wizard of Oz. With a long history of participation in theater and the arts, Jesuits also perfected the “scrim,” the sheer curtain still used in many theaters today.

2. They discovered--or at least first reported and introduced to Europe--quinine (called “Jesuit bark” in the 16th century), which is used today for anti-malarial drugs and also in tonic water. Without the Jesuits, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy your gin and tonic--or at least with so little guilt.

3. Their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491—1556), the Spanish-soldier-turned-mystic may be the only saint with a notarized police record: for nighttime brawling with intent to cause bodily harm. (Needless to say, this came before his conversion.)

4. Their dictionaries and lexicons of the native languages in North America in the 17th century were the first resources Europeans used to understand these ancient tongues, and they still provide modern scholars with many of the earliest transcriptions of the languages.

5. They located the source of the Blue Nile and charted large stretches of the Amazon and Mississippi Rivers.

6. They educated, among others, Descartes, Voltaire, Moliere, James Joyce, Peter Paul Rubens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Fidel Castro, Alfred Hitchcock, and Bill Clinton—not to mention Bing Crosby, Vince Lombardi, Robert Altman, Chris Farley, Salma Hayek, and Denzel Washington.

7. They founded the city of Sao Paolo, Brazil.

8. There are 35 craters on the moon named for Jesuit scientists. And Athanasius Kircher, a 17th-century Jesuit scientist, called “master of a hundred arts” and “the last man to know everything,” was a geologist, biologist, linguist, decipherer of hieroglyphics, and inventor of the megaphone.

9. They inspired the film On the Waterfront, based on the groundbreaking labor-relations work of Jesuit John M. Corridan, who worked in New York City in the 1940s and 1950s. His part was played by Karl Malden, who, last year, died 50 years to the day after Fr. Corridan.

10. They count 40 saints and dozens of blesseds among their members, including the globe-trotting missionary St. Francis Xavier. Their famous “former” members include Garry Wills, John McLaughlin, and Jerry Brown.

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Mani Chandy
8 years 5 months ago
As a follow up to Joe Garcia's comment above, I highly recommend the book Battlefield Chaplains: Catholic Priests in World War II by Donald F Crosby, SJ.  It's a fascinating and riveting read.  One of my favorites.

From the description: "Father Donald Crosby chronicles the little-known but crucial wartime role of Catholic chaplains and celebrates their compassion, courage, good humor, and humility. Their wartime efforts saved lives, provided comfort and hope, and renewed lost faith in a dark time. In the process, he shows, they also forged the beginnings of what would become the widespread ecumenical spirit of cooperation among Catholics, Protestants, and Jews that followed the war's end."
Gerelyn Hollingsworth
8 years 5 months ago
6.  Fidel Castro

Those who are familiar with Fidel's education by the Jesuits at Belén in Havana may not know about his earlier years at another Jesuit school, Colegio de Dolores, in Santiago.

The Boys from Dolores: Fidel Castro's Schoolmates from Revolution to Exile, by Patrick Symmes, is a fascinating book.  A look at the Castro brothers, their classmates, Cuba in the '40s, etc.

Rick Malloy
8 years 5 months ago
Another thing people don't know about Jesuits.  They are in movies.  Bill O'Malley was in "The Exorcist" (He's the priest playing the piano when the kid comes into the adults' party).  Dan Berrigan was in "The Mission."  Anyone else know of other Jesuits who have appeared in movies? 

Also, a little known fact:  Angels in the Outfield (1951) was written by Jesuit Richard Grady (pen name “Richard Conlin” http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title.jsp?stid=16&category=Notes) and the 1994 remake with Danny Glover is one of the best baseball movies ever (along with Sandlot and Field of Dreams).  Grady’s story telling was a great way to get “religious” realities in front of the minds and hearts of people, and from there one can accompany people as they come to appreciate and deepen the truths of faith.  His story has lasted and maybe has had more impact than most theology being published in the 1950s.
Julio Vidaurrazaga
8 years 5 months ago
There  are MORE than 40 jesuit saints. do not be so modest....
BTW today is saint Alberto Hurtado sj ( + 1952) the great
CHILEAN Jesuit. I was pretty young,  but at home they spoke of
his funeral... It was something outsanndig, from the First Lady down!
Joe Garcia
8 years 5 months ago
Having studied under some of the Jesuits who were classmates of Fidel Castro, I once asked one if he ever prayed for Fidel he said "Daily. Especially Ps. 109:8."

And something else most people don't know about Jesuits is their overrepresentation in military chaplaincy. (A couple of days ago was the day Fr. Willie Doyle, SJ died on Frezenburg Ridge in Flanders duriing WW I.)

Pat Kenny
8 years 5 months ago
Following on from the comments of Joe Garcia and Mani Chandy, there is a new website and blog with a lot of information about Fr William Doyle SJ - www.fatherdoyle.com

It is updated daily.


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