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THE present translation of the Exercises of St. Ignatius has been made from the Spanish Autograph of St. Ignatius. The copy so designated is not indeed in the handwriting of the Saint, but has a good number of corrections made by him and is known to have been used by him in giving the Exercises.
St. Ignatius of Loyola was a man without any great pretensions to education at the time he wrote this book. His native language was not Spanish, but Basque. His lack of education and his imperfect acquaintance with pure Spanish are enough to make it clear that a refined use of any language, and more especially of the Spanish, or, in general, anything like a finished or even perfectly correct, style is not to be expected in his work. Literary defects he removed to some extent, perhaps, as he continued to use and apply the book, but he is known never to have been fearful of such faults. His corrections found in this text are clearly made with a view to precision more than to anything else.
The Autograph of St. Ignatius was translated by Father General Roothaan into Latin and was reproduced by Father Rodeles in his edition of the Spanish text. But the original was not available to ordinary students. In 1908, however, Father General Wernz allowed the entire book to be phototyped, and in this way it was spread throughout the Society of Jesus in a large number of copies. It is one of these which has been chiefly employed by the present translator, who has, besides, made frequent use of the Manuscript itself.
After considerable study of the matter, it seemed best to make this translation as faithful and close a reproduction of the Spanish text as could be. To do so it was necessary at times to sacrifice the niceties of style, but it was thought that those who would use the book would easily forego the elegancies of diction if they could feel sure they were reading the very words of St. Ignatius. Any other form of translation than the one adopted could hardly be kept from being a partial expansion, illustration or development of the original, and would therefore have proved, to some extent, a commentary as well as a translation. This the translator has earnestly sought to avoid, preferring to leave the further work of commentary to another occasion or to other hands.
Another reason for aiming at absolute fidelity rather than style was the fact that the Exercises are mostly read, not continuously for any time, but piecemeal and meditatively. Literary finish would therefore not be much sought or cared for in the book, but accuracy is. For this a certain neglect of style seemed pardonable in the translation, if only the real meaning of the writer could be made clear. Perhaps some may even find a charm in the consequent want of finish, seeing it reproduces more completely the style of St. Ignatius.
The process of translating in this way the Autograph text is not as simple as it might seem. The first difficulty is to make sure of the exact meaning of St. Ignatius. This is obscured, at times, by his language being that of nearly 400 years ago and being not pure Spanish. Occasionally, in fact, the Saint makes new Spanish words from the Latin or Italian, or uses Spanish words in an Italian or Latin sense, or employs phrases not current except in the Schools, and sometimes even has recourse to words in their Latin form. To be sure, then, of the meaning, one must often go to other languages and to the terms adopted in Scholastic Philosophy or Theology. The meaning clear, the further difficulty comes of finding an exactly equivalent English word or phrase.
In accomplishing his task, the translator has made free use of other translations, especially of that of Father General Roothaan into Latin, that of Father Venturi into Italian, and that of Father Jennesseaux into French, and has had the use of the literal translation into Latin made, apparently, by St. Ignatius himself, copied in 1541, and formally approved by the Holy See in 1548.
Besides the last-mentioned Manuscript and printed books, the translator has to acknowledge, as he does very gratefully, his obligations to the Very Rev. Father Mathias Abad, Father Achilles Gerste and particularly Father Mariano Lecina, Editor of the Ignatiana in the Monumenta Historica S.J., for aid in appreciating the Spanish text, to Fathers Michael Ahern, Peter Cusick, Walter Drum, Francis Kemper and Herbert Noonan for general revision of the translation, and above all to Father Aloysius Frumveller for an accurate collation of the translation with the original.
In conclusion, it is well to warn the reader that the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are not meant to be read cursorily, but to be pondered word for word and under the direction of a competent guide. Read straight on, it may well appear jejune and unsatisfactory; studied in the actual making of the Exercises, the very text itself cannot fail to yield ever new material for thought and prayer.
ELDER MULLAN, S.J.
German College, Rome,
Feast of St. Ignatius, 1909.5
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