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10. The Ascetic Drive

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Chapter Summary

Early in 1545, Ignatius received troubling news concerning the Society's outpost in Coimbra, a city in central Portugal that was the seat of the kingdom's oldest university. Ignatius is attuned to a crucial paradox at heart of asceticism, oriented as it is at once towards the perfection and towards overcoming of self, the self's perfection being contingent, precisely, on this overcoming. Self-centered even in its rejection of selfcenteredness, the ascetic life could seem to be opposed to the concern with the salvation of others, making it possible, perhaps, to speak of an opposition between asceticism and an instrument defined by such a concern. Ignatius' reflection on obedience, which begins with this assertion, is among the most polemical aspects of his legacy. The fact that he speaks of obedience in connection with an attempt to ensure that the instrument remains operative can only serve as further indication of the metaphor's significance.

Keywords: asceticism; Coimbra; Ignatius; obedience; salvation; Self-centered



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