February 16th : Venerable Louis de la Puente, SJ

Venerable Louis de la Puente, SJ

Born: November 11, 1554
Died: February 16, 1622

Louis de La Puente, lived to be the most esteemed ascetical writer of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. From him countless priests and religious learned about the spiritual life through his books. He was born at Valladolid, Spain. At the age of fourteen he finished his classical studies and matriculated at the University of Valladolid to begin his study of philosophy. After completing this course, he entered the Dominican College of St Gregory in 1572 for theology but also at the same time attended lectures of Fr Francis Suarez at the Jesuit College of St Ambrose. Fr Suarez who later became one of the most learned Jesuits of his age, was then beginning his teaching career. Louis was so inspired by Fr Suarez’ lectures and moved by the sermons of Fr Gutierrez, the rector of St Ambrose that he decided to switch from the Dominicans and enter the Society of Jesus. His two younger brothers however chose to become Dominicans. Louis entered the Jesuit novitiate at Medina del Campo on Dec 1, 1574.

As he had completed two years of theology prior to joining the Society, Louis was sent in 1576, while still a novice, to continue his studies at Valladolid where he pronounced his religious vows on Dec 8, 1576. He completed his theology in 1578 and was ordained on March 25, 1580. For the next five years, Fr La Puente taught theology at Leon and Salamanca before he was appointed master of novices and rector of the community at Villagarcia. He spent a good part of his priestly life engaged exclusively in the spiritual formation of younger Jesuits either as master of novices or as spiritual father. Through personal experience he learned how to direct souls, leading them in prayer and showing them how to seek virtue. Fr La Puente was blessed with the extraordinary gift of prayer, even to having visions, and was thus well prepared to lead others along the same path.

As his health was never strong, Fr La Puente had to relinquish his heavy administration burden as rector to become prefect of studies in 1602. During these years he turned to writing and published his “Meditations on the Mysteries of our Faith”, a very practical book where he provided material for meditative prayer on the end of man, the four last things, the life of Christ, and the divine attributes. This book was so well accepted that within a short time it was translated into several languages and through the years it had over 300 editions.

In 1609 Fr La Puente published his “Spiritual Guide”, a profound work on the contemplative and active lives, together with their various practices. He also published his biography of Fr Baltasar Alverez, his tertian instructor. His last book which he published in 1622 when he was sixty-eight was his commentary on “The Canticle of Canticles.” He spent the next two years in relative seclusion praying, as he was aware that his end was near, spending hours in the community chapel at St Ambrose. Shortly before his death, he asked for the last anointing and to receive Viaticum. Then on the evening of Feb 16, 1624, at half past ten, with his eyes fixed on the crucifix in his room, and his lips uttered the words: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit,” he peacefully went to eternal rest. So quiet and peaceful was his passing to God that the Jesuits in the room with him thought that he had fallen asleep.

Fr La Puente’s cause was introduced in Rome on October 4, 1667, and the decree recognizing his heroic virtue was published in 1759.