Poco oltre la soglia: racconti autobiografici di aspiranti gesuiti a metà Seicento
N. 3, LUGLIO-SETTEMBRE
Just beyond the threshold: autobiographical stories of aspiring Jesuits in the mid-seventeenth century
The collection of more than eighty questionnaires and autobiographical stories of vocation compiled by candidates to enter the Society of Jesus during the period of first probation, covering the years 1636-1643, conserved in the Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu, offers us the opportunity to learn new types of «Egodocuments». Very young novices, youths and adults are subjected to an examination to find if they are qualified to become Jesuits. The source is important because they are texts written largely by teenagers and young people, whose voice is rarely heard directly in documents before the end of the eighteenth century, and because the interior and exterior discernment of a vocation in the early modern period is an aspect of religious experience very little studied so far. The essay is an initial approach to such documentary material. A presentation of the source, its characteristics and difficulties of interpretation, is followed by an analysis of the responses and autobiographical narratives by novices about their origins, their lives before entering the novitiate, family relationships, their social lives, their feelings of childhood and death, and their projection towards religious experience in the Society of Jesus.