Saint Ignatius’ Advice For E-Mailers & Bloggers


Well, not exactly . . .

I’ve been reading Saint Ignatius’ letters for a project I’m working on, and it struck me today that his guidelines for Jesuits writing letters back and forth–and making distinctions between what should be public and what private–are well applicable to electronic correspondence today. Once again, Ignatius seems a bit ahead of his time. He writes (to Pierre Favre, a.k.a. Peter Faber):

“I will describe what I myself do and, I trust in the Lord, will continue doing in this regard so as to avoid mistakes when writing to members of the Society [of Jesus]. I make a first draft of the main letter, reporting things that will be edifying; then, after reading it over and correcting it, keeping in mind that it is going to be read by everybody, I write or have someone write it out a second time. For we must give even more thought to what we write than to what we say. Writing is permanent and gives lasting witness; we cannot mend or reinterpret it as easily as we can our speech. And even with all this I am sure I make many mistakes, and fear doing so in the future. I leave for the separate pages other details that are inappropriate for the main letter or lacking in edification. These pages each one can write hastily ‘out of the overflow of the heart,’ with or without careful organization. But this may not be tolerated in the main letter: it must be composed carefully and edifyingly, so that it can be shown around and give edification.”

Saint Ignatius was the most prolific letter writer of his time. So, he knew a thing or two about writing letters. And his advice is well-taken for those of us too whose writing “gives permanent and lasting witness.”

Advertisements