Today we remember the day 161 years ago when Jan Roothaan, the 21st Superior General of the Jesuits died. He was to lead the Society of Jesus at a crucial period in its restoration, overssing an increase in numbers from around two thousand to over five thousand. He was to serve as general for 21 years, during a turbulent period in Europe and further afield, with a series of revolutions that broke out in 1848 and led to many Jesuits once again being exiled and displaced. He himself was forced to flee Rome in disguise (link)
Roothaan, from Amsterdam, entered the Society in Russia as a young man after serving at the Jesuit church in Amsterdam . After formation he soon stood out as an excellent linguist and manager of missions. He was appointed the rector of a newly-founded college in Turin- where he attracted notice by learning flawless Italian soon after arriving and demonstrating excellent leadership skills in his new position. In July of 1829, Roothaan was named the twenty-first General of the Society of Jesus .
He is credited with strengthening the Society of Jesus in its spiritual and intellectual fronts at a time of substatntial growth inspite of the political instablilty. . He edited and had distributed a new edition of the Exercises of St. Ignatius according to the original text with an extensive introduction and explanatory notes. He wrote eleven general letters, nine of which emphasise unity and tried to lift the morale of the reemerging Society. He also raised the standards of studies, reforming the Bollandists and opening Civilta Cattolica. He expanded the activities of the Society's missions, especially the foreign missions. A collection of his letters are available to read online, via an archive at Georgetown University, click here.