Perhaps it is an indication of the looming European Summer Holiday - but a curious historical footnote is that today marks two letters, issued twelve years apart, on Jesuits and Swimming. It is an interesting insight into the changes in religious life, and also into the Generalate of Fr Ledechowski, who issued both letters. Today's letter in 1927 was a warning of the dangers of swimming to the modesty of religious life, banning Jesuits from swimming in health resorts and also from swimming with women. It was issued a year after a similar letter from the Congregation for Religious Life.
These letters must be understood in the context of the early twentieth century. Recreational Swimming in artificial pools was a fairly new phenomenon, with competitive swimming, for men only, slowly becoming popular in the Olympics. There was still a common suspicion that 'mixed bathing' was wrong, even though the popular seaside bathing of the time was dominated by very modest bathing costumes. Nude swimming had been banned in Britain in 1860 - and Women at the sea side often used 'Bathing Machines'. The costumes - often one piece - had shifted from being 'bathing gowns' for women to more figure hugging costumes and in the 1920's in America were becoming associated with beauty competitions (still disreputable). It wasn't until after WWII that the bikini would become popular.
It was up to Fr General Wlodimir Ledóchowski to steer the Jesuit through this changing world of social mores. Born into Polish / Austrian Aristicracy, from an outstanding family ( with a Saint as a sister, who founded the Ursulines, and another sister a Blessed, who founded a missionary order). He was elected the 26th General of the Society on 11 February 1915 on the second ballot, at the age of 45. He established the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Pontifical Russian College as well as the Biblicum. He saw a growth in freedom, influence and reputation of the Society after the Concordat between the Church and the Italian Government was ratified. Property was returned to the Society making it possible for the Jesuits to build a new Gregorian University and a new General Curia about a hundred meters from St. Peter's Square with property acquired from the Vatican.