‘Met wijsheid, voorzichtigheid en gematigdheid vooruitgaan’: De (im)materiële erfenis van een eeuw georganiseerd retraitewerk door Nederlandse jezuïeten, 1900-2000

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Between 1908 and 1966 the Dutch Jesuits founded five retreat institutions in
the Netherlands to support the laity with spiritual care and to enable them
to undergo (a part of ) the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius van Loyola (the founder
of the Jesuits). Notwithstanding the enormous popularity of these retreat
activities, especially in the first half of the twentieth century, this phenomenon
has hardly been subject to academic research. With this article, being
a part of my postdoc-research project at Tilburg University, I hope to give
a start to this study. At the turn of the century, the group retreat work the
Dutch Jesuits introduced for the male laity in the Netherlands originated in
Belgium and France. During the years to follow this work became exceptional
popular among Catholics living in the southern provinces of the Netherlands.
Due to a high organisational level of Catholic social and political institutions
and the involvement of the Catholic upper-class and local parish priests the
propaganda of the Jesuits for their retreat work in the Southern provinces
was extremely effective. The (industrial) employers as well as the Jesuits regarded the retreat work as a splendid opportunity to ‘civilize’ the Catholic
working-class and to keep them away from communism and socialism. As
a consequence of new theological and spiritual insights, after World War II
things started to change in the traditional retreat work. In the fifties and sixties
the retreats were transformed into meetings of spiritual reflection and
counselling, at last becoming socio-cultural training courses from the seventies
onwards. The lack of a straightforward underlying theological vision for
these transitions on which all Jesuits could agree on, the rising costs, and the
declining number of Jesuits members, resulted in 1974 in the ending of their
participation in this group-organized work. However, retreats given on an individual basis continued and from the nineties new initiatives were launched
to popularize the Spiritual Exercises using digital techniques and the internet.
Original languageDutch
Article number3
Pages (from-to)203-239
JournalTrajecta. Religie, cultuur en samenleving in de Nederlanden / Religion, culture and society in the Low Countries
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Dutch Jesuits
  • retreat work
  • Spiritual Exercises
  • religious institutes
  • theological changes

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