Piarists And Jesuits

with confraternities which helped the poor and taught catechism. Although the Jesuit colleges scattered through Italy did not charge tuition, they did demand that prospective students could read and write. Seldom could working-class parents pay for elementary schooling, so their children usually could not attend Jesuit schools. Here was an obvious need, and Calasanz together with some companions started a school at Rome that taught poor students the four Rs - religion, reading, writing and arithmetic - plus enough Latin for students to get into the Jesuit colleges. They financed the school by begging and donations from wealthy churchmen. By 1610 they had 700 students, more than most Italian Jesuit colleges. The twenty members of the teaching staff included priests and pious laymen living together as a community. In 1617 Paul V authorized them to set up as a separate religious order whose members took a fourth vow to teach. During the next seventeen years they started thirteen schools in Italian cities. In 1631 they opened a school in Moravia. Fifteen years later there were thirty-seven communities with 500 Piarists.

Their classes usually met for five hours a day, with a break for lunch, and continued all year round except during the hottest part of summer. The growing demand for teachers, however, induced Calasanz to lower admission standards and require less training among his men. Most of the Piarists were lay brothers and taught elementary courses in Italian; the priests taught advanced students in Latin. This created divisions and tensions in the communities. The Jesuits, Barnabites and Somascans, who were also involved in teaching, often resented the Piarists. Noble patrons were their main source of financing, but some noblemen felt that educating the working class would lead to unrest. When critics questioned the orthodoxy of the order a commission of cardinals investigated it in 1642 and relieved the aging and autocratic Calasanz of office. Worse was to follow. The Piarists were forbidden to accept novices, and those with vows were permitted to seek entry into other orders. Two hundred left, three hundred stayed. But the Piarists also had supporters, and these prevailed. The papacy recognized them as a religious congregation in 1656 and as a religious order with solemn vows in 1669. Again they could take in novices, and their numbers reached 950 by 1676. Catholics who opposed the Jesuits invited the Piarists to Habsburg lands in Germany in the 1630s. During the eighteenth century they spread to Spain and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The Jesuits

The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits, SJ) was the most important religious order founded during the sixteenth century; it quickly outnumbered the other new

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