What is a Jesuit: 5 Facts About the Catholic Order Known For Education

The selection of Pope Francis is putting Jesuits front-and-center as people seek to understand more about the new leader of the Catholic Church. I recall my days at a Jesuit high school well.

The Jesuits are an order of the Church, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century. Ignatius originally gathered with six other students at the University of Paris and founded the order, calling themselves the Company of Jesus. Perhaps because of their origins at the university, Jesuits are associated with several characteristics.

They are known for believing deeply in the power of education, the importance of good deeds and taking care of the poor, and are generally considered a liberal branch of the Church.

Even in their early years, Jesuits walked the line between reform and conservativism. At the time of the counter-reformation, they preached obedience to scripture but also recognized the church was in serious need of reform. Perhaps that's the signal the church is sending with the selection of Pope Francis: the importance of both obedience and reform. 

Six facts:

1. The Society of Jesus is an order of the Catholic Church.

It was founded by this man, St. Ignatius of Loyola.

2. Jesuits originally referred to themselves as the "Company of Jesus." 

They took their first vows at Montmartre in Paris in 1534.

3. Jesuits have a hierarchical structure.

They are organized into geographic areas which "provincial superior" reports to the society's "Superior General." 

4. The name "Jesuit" was first applied "derisively."

It was meant to be critical of those who named Jesus too much in public.

5. Jesuits don't have to wear a habit.

They are recommended to dress according to the culture where they live. 

Source: Jesuit.org