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theology. Several factors led to a revival of the via antiqua, especially of Thomism, in the sixteenth century. Lutheranism pushed out Nominalism at many German universities where it had been strong. Several eminent Dominicans led a revival of Thomism, especially Cardinal Cajetan (Tommaso de Vio, 1469-1536) in Italy and Francisco de Vitoria (c. 1483-1546) in Spain. The Summa theologiae of Aquinas quickly replaced the Sententiae of Peter Lombard as the standard text in theology. The Capuchins chose St Bonaventure as their official theologian. The Discalced Carmelites and the Jesuits chose Aquinas. Loyola's choice of Aquinas was critical, given the spread of Jesuit schools. Although only the small advanced classes in those colleges taught philosophy and theology, many leading philosophers and theologians in Catholic Europe came from those schools.

The most influential early Jesuit theologians were St Peter Canisius (152197) and St Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621); both wrote polemical works against Protestants, catechisms republished in hundreds of editions, and popular devotional books. Francisco Suarez (1544-1606) was a major theologian but even more important for his philosophical and legal treatises.

Spiritual writings have always been more popular than theological works. Ironically Loyola's Spiritual Exercises (Latin edition at Rome in 1548) is the most influential and popular book ever written by a Jesuit; it has gone through some 5,000 editions in virtually all modern languages. Ironically, because Loyola was a precise but not a gifted writer; the book was not meant to be read, and Loyola ordered that it should not be given to anybody who had not already made the Spiritual Exercises. Those who have not made the Exercises will find it a maze of rules and meditations - it is somewhat like reading a cookbook: one must first bake the cake and eat it, and only then judge the recipe. The Spiritual Exercises is a manual to help directors guide people through thirty days of meditation and prayer (the Exercises) designed to reform their lives. In this the Exercises have proved amazingly successful, although those willing to dedicate thirty days were already well on the way to reform. Almost from the start, Jesuits have used shorter versions of the Exercises, three days to a week, for people who had less time available. Jesuit novices usually made the full Spiritual Exercises shortly after joining the order; later Jesuits made an annual eight-day retreat based on the Exercises so that the Exercises became the foundation of their spiritual lives. Among the many other Jesuit spiritual writers were Alfonso Rodriguez (1538-1616) and Luis de la Puente (1554-1624). The multi-volume works of them both were translated into many languages and were printed in more than 300 editions.

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