Ignatius, whose love it was to be actively involved in teaching catechism to children, directing adults in the Spiritual Exercises, and working among the poor and in hospitals, would for the most part sacrifice his love for the next fifteen years--until his death--and work out of two small rooms, his bedroom and next to it his office, directing this new society throughout the world. He would spend years composing the Constitutions of the Society and would write thousands of letters to all corners of the globe to his fellow Jesuits dealing with the affairs of the Society and to lay men and women directing them in the spiritual life. From his tiny quarters in Rome he would live to see in his lifetime the Society of Jesus grow from eight to a thousand members, with colleges and houses all over Europe and as far away as Brazil and Japan. Some of the orignial companions were to become the Pope's theologians at the Council of Trent, an event which played an important role in the Catholic Counter Reformation.
At first Ignatius wrote his own letters, but as the Society grew in numbers and spread over the world, it became impossible to communicate with everyone and still run the new order. Therefore a secretary, Fr. Polanco, was appointed in 1547 to help him in his correspondence. We know that Ignatius wrote almost 7,000 letters during his lifetime, the vasty majority of them after he became the Superior General of the Jesuits. Ignatius considered the correspondence between members of the Jesuits one of the most important elements in fostering unity. Separation of Jesuits throughout the world was one of the greatest dangers of growth, apostolate and unity of the Society. He not only wrote, therefore, to all the houses of the Order, but he also required the various superiors throughout the world to write to Rome regularly, informing him of what was happening. This information could be passed on to the houses of the Society everywhere.
In his letters to members of the Society, he treated each one as an individual. He was overly kind and gentle with those who gave him the most problems. On the other hand, with those who were the holiest and humblest, he seemed at times to be too harsh, obviously becaue he knew they were able to take his corrections without rancor, knowing that Ignatius loved them and was looking only to their greater spiritual good. Fr. James Lainez, one of Ignatius' original companions, was the provincial in northern Italy. He had done a couple of things that put Ignatius on the spot, including making commitments that Ignatius could not fulfill. In addition, Lainez had expressed his disagreement to others about a change of personnel which Ignatius had made.
Ignatius wrote to Lainez through his secretary Polanco:
He, (Ignatius) has told me to write to you and tell you to attend to your own office, which if you do well, you will be doing more than a little. You are not to trouble yourself in giving your view of his affairs, as he does not want anything of the kind from you unless he asks for it, and much less now than before you took office, since your administration of your own province has not done much to increase your credit in his eyes. Examine your mistakes in the presence of God our Lord, and for three days take some time for prayer to this end.
So much for saints being all sugar and spice.
It was to Lainez' credit that he took this severe reproof with humility and grace, asking to be assigned several harsh penances, such as being removed from office and being assigned the meanest job possible in the Society. Ignatius never even referred to the incident again, leaving Lainez to carry on as before. Lainez was to succeed Ignatius as the second Superior General of the Jesuits.
A superior of somewhat less humility than Lainez could not see the importance of writing to Rome of all the happenings in his house. With tact and kindness, so as not to hurt the superior's feelings, but perhaps with a touch of sarcasm, Ignatius wrote:
It will not be a matter of surprise to you to learn that reproofs are sometimes sent out from Rome...If I have to dwell at some length on them, do not lay blame on your own desserts alone, but also on the concept that has been formed here of your fortitude, in the sense that you are a man to whom can be said whatever needs saying...you did well to observe obedience in the matter of writing every week...What you should have done was to try to find someone, once the letters were written, to carry and deliver them.
While zealous to bring people to God and to help them spiritually, Ignatius still remained a person of practicality and common sense. A Jesuit had complained of having trouble with overly pious people who monopolized his time for no good reason. Through Polanco, Ignatius instructed him on how to deal charitably with such people without giving offense.
Our father (Ignatius) made another remark as to how to free oneself from one whom there was no hope of helping. He suggests talking to him rather pointedly of hell, judgment and such things. In that case he would not return, or, if he did, the chances are that he would feel himself touched in our Lord.
There was a bishop who had great animosity to the Society. He refused to have this new Order in his diocese, and he excommunicated anyone who made the Spiritual Exercises. He was known as Bishop "Cilicio" by the Jesuits (that is, "the hairshirt bishop"). Ignatius told the Jesuits who were worried about his attitude to relax. "Bishop Cilicio is an old man. The Society is young. We can wait."