May 8th 1853 - Roothaan John Philipp
† in Rome
The abolition of the Society of Jesus by Pope Clemens XIV in the year 1773 was one of the most unusual measures of church history, and for the members of the Order a very painful event.
But nevertheless: The social order, which was embodied in the princes and their authority, approached to its fall. Also the Society of Jesus was deeply connected with that social order. A time that was quite differently in its social structure pushed forward.
Only two countries refused the announcement of the abolition breve: Prussia under Friedrich II, and Russia under the tsarina Katharina II. They refused not for religious reasons, but from school-cultural motives. Thus the Society of Jesus continued to exist under tacit permission of the pope. The prominent figure of the Order in those difficult times became Father Johann Philipp Roothaan.
He came from Amsterdam and was the youngest of three sons of a physician's family. The father had immigrated from Frankfurt and in the Dutch Diaspora converted from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism. John Philipp was born on November 23th 1785. As a young student he travelled to Russia, to enter there in 1804 into the Society of Jesus. After his training and ordination (1812) he was active in the teaching profession and gave at the same time preached retreats, at that time a still little known and practised, but very promising pastoral method on the basis of the Spiritual Exercises.
After the re-establishment of the Society of Jesus for the whole church in the year 1814 by Pope Pius VII, and after the banishment of the Jesuits from all areas of the Russian realm by ukase of Tsar Alexander I from March 25 1820, Roothaan worked especially in Brig (Switzerland). There he got in autumn 1823 his appointment as Rector of the College for Aristocrats in Turin.
When Father General Aloisius Fortis had died on January 27th 1829, Roothaan became Vicar General of the Order, then Provincial for Italy, and few months later, on July 9th 1829 the XXIth General Congregation elected him General of the Order. For twenty four years he led the eventful destinies of the Order in the spirit of his motto 'Fortiter et suaviter' (strongly and mildly).
Also after the re-establishment of the Order the opposition against the Society of Jesus remained great. There were persecutions, banishments, expropriations and suppressions of any kind. During his Generalate Father General Roothaan got one bad news after the other. In Madrid the mob destroyed in 1834 the college and murdered fifteen Jesuits. Banishment also occured in Lisbon. In France the fight for school liberty raged. The year 1848 was particularly bad. Almost whole Europe was afflicted by revolutions. Roothaan had to flee like after him Pope Pius IX. Roothaan was for two years travelling as a refugee. In January 1850 he returned via France to Rome.
Roothaan had a natural gift for the post of Superior. The clarity and width of his spirit, the intelligence of his judgement, the unerring and calm determination of his nature - all that was chastened and refined by his striving for perfection. He was filled with a deep God intimacy, with an always honest and keen adjustment of his will to the holiest will of God. That is the secret of his authority and his influence.
He died in the repute of holiness on May 8th 1853. When Pope Pius IX got the news of his death he said: 'We lose a saint, and that is for our time an irreplaceable loss.'
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