Traditional handbook on Christian perfection and consecrated life

I’ve been looking all over for this, in an electronic format I mean.

Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues
In Two Volumes

Volume One
Volume Two

by Fr. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J.
translated from the original Spanish by Joseph Rickaby, S.J.

If every priest and religious (and lay persons too, as appropriate) the world over would read this “handbook” and work diligently, in the grace of God, to apply Rodriguez’s instruction in their daily lives, the Church would undergo a radical transformation and truly be capable of fulfilling the demands of the New Evangelization.

This is a forgotten classic that was used in the training of countless religious brothers and priests (not just Jesuits!) and many diocesan priests for over four centuries. Women’s congregations referenced it too, but it embodies a rather masculine spirituality.

It was written in the early 1600s by Fr. Alphonsus Rodriguez (not the same as the lay brother, St. Alphonsus Rodriguez), and translated newly from the Spanish originals in the early 20th Century by another Jesuit father named Joseph Rickaby.

Rodriguez served as novice master in Spain for over 30 years, and for about the same length of time he was in charge of giving weekly spiritual conferences to other professed Jesuits. Needless to say, his wisdom and insights were highly respected in those early years of the Society of Jesus. When he had reached the last years of his life, his superiors asked Fr. Rodriguez to compile all his notes into a single work that could be used by future generations of Jesuits who were being trained in the religious life. He more than generously responded to the request.

Sadly, like a lot of good things, this magnificent work was shelved if not tossed out of seminaries and religious houses following the cultural revolution in the 1960s.

Well … it should make a comeback! I’d love to see someone re-master the text and publish it in paperback, hardback and e-book editions (Kindle, iBooks, etc.).

Apparently, one factor that somewhat hampers such a project is that the American edition is still under copyright until sometime in the 2020s. But this British edition, per British copyright law, is already in the public domain (awesome!).

So please, have at it, all of you, and share the links as you will.

Note: I found and posted a link to an excerpt from a different edition earlier today, but that document contains only the 5th Treatise from Vol 1, On Prayer. This is the full-text of the 2-volume British printing of Rickaby’s translation, which contains the whole of what was originally published as 3 volumes in Spanish back in 1609.

( I’ve repeated some of what I put in my other post, but only because it’s relevant to the whole work as much to that one excerpt. )

I would NOT recommend this book to most people. It includes teachings that are not current, and some things that could be harmful to people.

There is very little in the way of instruction from the 17th century that would be relevant today, that is not already taught by our church.

Dear Old Medic,

Can you give us some concrete examples?

Brother Paul

'St Gregory tells us of his aunt Gordiana, that when her two sisters Tharsilla and Emiliana reprehended her for the levity of her manner, and for her not observing that modesty and reserve so requisite in a person of her profession, she, while the reprehension lasted, put on so serious and composed a countenance, that she seemed to take the admonition in good part, and with an intention to profit of it: but in a little time, this feigned reserve entirely vanishing, she resumed her former manners, spent her time in idle conversations, and thought of nothing, but of amusing herself with some seculars who were pensioners in the same monastery. Just as the bow, though bent, when the string is loosened, quickly restores itself to its natural form, in like manner the impressions made on this young lady’s mind were quickly effaced, as they had been made by an external cause, whose source lay not in her heart.

The affair of christian perfection is not a business to be done by constraint; it is the heart which must undertake it. Speaking to the young man in the gospel, our Saviour tells him. If thou wilt be perfect; in order to show us that the root of perfection is in our will. For if we have not a sincere desire of becoming perfect, all the care and attention of our superiors will avail nothing - Here we can find the answer to the question put by St. Bonaventure, when he asks: why was one superior sufficient formerly for one thousand religious, nay for four or five thousand, who, according to St. Jerome and St. Austin, lived under one abbot; and, now-a-days, one superior is scarce sufficient for ten religious, nay even for a smaller number. The reason is, because formerly the religious cherished an ardent desire of perfection, and this kindling in their hearts, they applied themselves with all possible zeal, to their spiritual advancement.

The Just, says the Wise Man, shall shine, and shall spread like sparks of Jive among reeds. By this metaphor, the Holy Ghost explains very clearly, with what ease and speed, just men advance in the paths of virtue, when their hearts are once inflamed with this divine fire. They shall spread like sparks of fire among reeds. Imagine to yourselves how quick the flame rushes among reeds, when they are set on fire, and you will conceive, how the just advance in virtue, when their hearts are once inflamed. This was the case with the ancient hermits, who, for this reason, were so far from having need of a superior to spur them on in their duties, that they needed one to moderate their zeal.

But if we feel not these desires in our hearts, so far from one superior being sufficient for ten religious, ten superiors, notwithstanding their united efforts, would not make one religious man perfect against his will. For what will it avail to visit his chamber; to see that he makes his meditation and prayer, at the time appointed? The visit being past, cannot he amuse himself as he pleases? And even whilst he is on his knees, cannot he direct his thoughts to his studies, to business, to trifles? When he is afterwards to give an account of the state of his conscience, cannot he say what he pleases, and conceal what is most essential to be revealed? Cannot he make us believe, that his conscience is in a good state, while, perhaps, it is in a state of all others the most deplorable?

It is in vain, then, we take all possible care and precaution to make a man virtuous, unless he sincerely desires, and strenuously endeavours to become so himself.’

*Reading a little of it, I like the emphasis on the necessity of hunger and thirst after justice and spiritual perfection. * :slight_smile:

I’ve used, a link shortening service, to create two shorter links to the two volumes:



I wished I had done it this way earlier, as the shortened links point to a better view of the same two documents (hosted on Google Docs) – you get a menu bar which will allow you to download the original PDFs (click “File” and look in the menu pop-down) and a few other nice features.

Well, I can’t go back and edit the original post, but here you go:

Volume One
Volume Two
revised links

" There is no doctrine, however good in itself, that may not be made bad use of by one who does not know how to apply it properly."

No hay doctrina par buena que sea de que no pueda uno usar mal 5i no la sabe aplicar como conviene.

– TR. viii., CH. 30

Love that quote! :slight_smile:

Should read ‘sparks of fire’ above. The OCR fiddled that one and I missed it, generally it was very good with those books though.

The Old Medic, can you cite anything from the two volumes to which you object, or that you think is spiritually hurtful or dangerous, or that constitues false teaching or a doctrinal position that has been condemned or warned against by the Church’s magisterium?

I assume you had good motives for giving your dis-recommendation of this work, but it seems to me that such a strong statement ought to be backed up with some examples of what you find objectionable.

I would note a few things:

**1. **Pope Pius XI highly recommended this work as recently as 1924:

Most useful to read through and study will be the writings of St. Bernard, and of the Seraphic Doctor St. Bonaventure, as also of Alphonsus Rodriguez. So far from the virtue and efficacy of these works having failed and become exhausted by lapse of time, it seems to have grown and increased.
– Pius XI, Acta Ap. Sedis, vol. 16, p. 142, 19 March 1924

(emphasis added; the translator includes this quote in his Preface in vol. 1, so we can assume he correctly understood the Pope to have referred to the author of PPCV and not the sainted lay brother with the same name.)

**2. **The Society of Jesus commissioned this new translation of PPCV and published it in 1929, and their novices (as well as diocesan seminarians and the postulants and novices of other religious congregations) were formed with it (and with other materials too, of course) up until the cultural revolution in the 1960s. We can assume then that decision to use the text was based on an appreciation of its spiritual value up until the “crazy season” kicked into full gear and lots of solid spiritual works were tossed aside.

The same mentality that found Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ outdated found fault with PPCV too; and just as classics like the Imitation are making a comeback, so too can PPCV.

**3. **The widely respected scholar and literary critic John Reville, S.J., Ph.D., listed Rodriguez’s PPCV as one of the seven greatest spiritual works of the western Church in his introduction to St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life.

On a more personal note…

**4. ** Fr. Louis Guardiola of the Fathers of Mercy highly recommends this work; in fact, he is the one who introduced it to me back in 2004.

**5. ** I had a conversation with Fr. Richard Ho Lung, founder of the Missionaries of the Poor, back in 2006 during which I asked him what he thought of PPCV (as I was starting to dig into it after locating a copy, upon Fr. Guardiola’s recommendation), and Fr. Ho Lung stated that it was a “magnificent classic” and couldn’t recommend highly enough that I read it and take its teachings to heart.

Holy Name - I’d just like to thank posters like you for providing books like this. :thumbsup:

I’m still reading PPCV, it’s still one of my favorites – it’s more and more my goto book when I want a refresher on some topic of spiritual discipline, e.g. practicing the presence of God.

Anyone else been making use of the digitized books (linked in the first post of this thread) over the past couple of years?

Very old thread

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