Friday, May 1, 2015

La Profesa, the Church where Jesuit Novices "professed" their vows.

The Jesuits were not one of the first religious orders or congregations to come to Nueva España to evangelize, to preach the message of Christ to the natives of the New World. Together with Cortes in 1519, came the first Franciscan Missionaries. In the next few years, the Dominicans and the Augustinians followed. At this point, Saint Ignatius of Loyola was commuting between Paris, Rome and Spain, forming his first group of Jesuits.
Hernan Cortes and his son were among first to ask the Jesuits to come to Nueva España. However the first Jesuits didn't come to Mexico until the last decades of the XVI Century.
Portrait of the Dolorosa or Our Lady of Sorrows with two of her greatest advocates,
Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Philip Neri, in the Pinacoteca of the Profesa Church

Their first novitiate was here, in downtown Mexico City, one city block west of the Zocalo Plaza where the Cathedral is. As the novitiates lived here and eventually professed their vows here, the Church became known as the La Profesa. This Church was founded by the Jesuits in the early XVII century, but with the edict of Carlos III of Spain in 1767, the Jesuits were forced to leave this church and every other Church and school in the Spanish Colonies and mainland, and forced to leave the country. Almost at the same time, a tragedy befell the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Felipe Neri, as their Church, some three blocks sourth, in an Earthquake, collapsed.
The façade of the first Church of Saint Felipe Neri,
damaged by an earthquake in the XVIII Century and presently the
Lerdo Tejada Library

The Congregation of Saint Felipe Neri approached the viceroy, and offered to purchase La Profesa, and the viceroy accepted.
View of the Church La Profesa from the roof
 of the building on the opposite corner.
It was a good match. Few congregations had a better mutual understanding than the Order of  Felipe Neri and the Jesuits. In fact, Saint Ignatius Loyola and Felipe Neri knew each other, and they admired one another. Felipe Neri liked Loyola's concept of his Spiritual Exercises and many of the churches founded or administered by Felipe Neri, or later on by his followers, became houses of retreat, where Spiritual Exercises were held regularly. This was the case in hand with La Profesa Church, that became an important center for Spiritual Exercises, done just like Saint Ignatius had conceived them. Some contemporary Jesuits asked Saint Ignatius Why don't you invite Felipe Neri to become a Jesuit, to which Saint Ignatius replied Felipe has another mission.
Another view of the Church of the Profesa,
from the side entrance on Madero Street.
La Profesa is not a very large church, but in a certain sense, it is a very rich poor Church. You might think the concept of rich poor is very contradictory, but nonetheless a valid description. Father Cano is presently the pastor of La Profesa, a wonderful and brilliant priest, with a Church full of treasures, which do not belong to the Church, but to la nación, to the country of Mexico, but the expense of the upkeep of all these arts and treasures must come out of his pockets and the meager collections his parishioners give him. This problem is not unique to Mexico. Many churches in Italy endure the same situation.

In the upcoming months, we will talk more about La Profesa and about its Pinacoteca or collection of paintings.

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