University Offers 'Jesuit Blueprint' Online

By Kathleen Sullivan
Staff Writer

The 400-year-old blueprint for Jesuit schooling, the Ratio Studiorum, is now available from Boston College through the World Wide Web.

The BC Web site has a digitized version of the English translation of the Ratio by Allan P. Farrell, SJ. The site also includes an essay on the historical significance of the Ratio, a bibliography of material relating to the Ratio Studiorum and Jesuit education and links to related web resources. Boston College is believed to house the only electronic version of document.

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, discussed with BC library administrators the idea of creating an online version of the Ratio Studiorum in the wake of the Ratio's 400th anniversary, which was celebrated on campus in 1999 with an exhibition at Burns Library.

"We wanted to do it here at BC because the Ratio is fundamental to our existence as a Jesuit and Catholic university," said University Librarian Jerome Yavarkovsky. By putting the Ratio Studiorum on the Web, Boston College can now "deliver the translation to the desktop of any scholar who wants it," he said. "It takes a scarce book and makes it ubiquitous."

The online Ratio is just another way the Universities Libraries have "transformed scholarship for the digital era," said Yavarkovsky.

Called "the Magna Carta of Jesuit education," the Ratio Studiorum was introduced by the Jesuits in 1599 as a needed curricular guide for their rapidly expanding network of schools. The Ratio laid out the organization of Jesuit institutions to the smallest detail, while establishing a uniform course of study over at least 13 years.

While some of its guidelines are no longer strictly adhered to, scholars say the Ratio continues to stand at the heart of Jesuit education at Boston College and hundreds of other Jesuit colleges, universities and high schools around the globe.

"The Ratio of the Jesuits was different in that it was meant as much for the education of lay students as for Jesuits," said Weston Jesuit School of Theology church historian Rev. John W. O'Malley, SJ, whose essay on the Ratio appears on the Boston College Web site.

"But it also was different because the 'plan of studies' now included the humanities - literature, history, drama, and so forth - as well as philosophy and theology, the traditionally clerical subjects. This meant that the Jesuit Ratio assumed that literary or humanistic subjects could be integrated into the study of professional or scientific subjects; that is, it assumed that the humanistic program of the Renaissance was compatible with the scholastic program of the Middle Ages."

The Ratio had a profound impact on the nature and direction of the Society of Jesus, as well as the academic culture of European civilization, according to Fr. O'Malley. Jesuit schools became their cities' cultural centers, producing plays and ballets and maintaining astronomical observatories.


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