Today in 1954, Pope Pius XII declared Joseph Pignatelli SJ a saint along side four others including Dominic Savio and Peter Chanel. Born into a Spanish noble family with an Italian mother, Pignatelli is considered to be the link between the Old Society and the Restored Society. When Charles III of Spain expelled the Jesuits in 1767, Pignatelli was put in charge of 600 Jesuits, who embarked in 13 ships from Tarragona for Civitavecchia. Thus began a 40 year odyssey full of physical hardships, heartbreaking rejections and continuous wanderings. Pignatelli is seen by many historians as the Jesuit who lived most intensely and personally the drama of the suppression of the Society of Jesus, the years of exile, and the life in hiding.
As a sign of his esteem, many generals are buried in the Pignatelli chapelin the Gesu, In 1997 Fr Arrupes body was moved there and Father Kolvenbach, in his homily, pictured Pignatelli and Arrupe as true successors of St. Ignatius Loyola. Kolvenbach linked Arrupe and Pignatelli as having the same passion in life “to maintain a creative fidelity to the spiritual experience of Ignatius........ Pignatelli reacts with a loving patience and understanding because he has seen in it the will of God whose ways are not always our ways, but are, however, always for our salvation" Reminding us that the mission of the Society of Jesus must always be in the church and for the church, Father Kolvenbach continued that , “despite their passionate love for the Society of Jesus, neither Joseph Pignatelli nor Pedro Arrupe considers the apostolic body of the Society as an end in itself. If they desire the restoration and renewal of the Society, its growth and apostolic well-being is for a mission that they want to receive from the Lord for and in his church. With Ignatius, both want to help persons ‘to meet their Savior and Creator.’ This explains their passion to be of help, above all, whenever the will of God in Jesus for the world is not yet known or badly known. To prepare the Society for this mission—the continuation of the mission of Christ—was the end and meaning of the lives of these two Jesuits whom we commemorate this evening.”
In a letter published anticipating this years anniversary, the current General Fr Adolfo Nicolas stated "Another important figure for this period was St. Joseph Pignatelli, who, during the difficult times of expulsion and homelessness, united, strengthened and encouraged his brothers. Even during the Suppression, he maintained communication, friendship, and hope among former companions. What does the witness of those who cared for their brothers during a time of crisis say to us today, who are called by GC 35 to live "community as mission"? What can we learn from his character? In a letter published on the bicentenary of his death in 2011, Fr General Nicolas spoke of his richly human and religious personality which continue to be of unquestionable value for our Society today and in the future. Drawing attention to a profoundly interior life "which he cultivated by means of an intense life of prayer." This was balanced by the common sense and great intellectual sensitivity of the man. He maintained an unbroken love for the Church and the Society in spite of the difficulties and suffering of the day, especially after the Society's suppression on July 21, 1773. Trusting in God's Providence, Pignatelli undertook the mission of keeping the dispersed Society united and tightly bound to the Holy Father, as St. Ignatius had intended. Father General's letter stresses that, in spite of many activities and the great number and variety of his concerns, he "never neglected those in need. Joseph Pignatelli searched out the poor and helped them with generous alms. He also visited those in prisons and hospitals to the point of becoming known as the father of the poor."