Why “Sodality”?

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When discussions were first taking place between the initiators of the Sodality it seemed that ‘society’, ‘company’, ‘companions’ were already in use by other Anglican groups; ‘confraternity’ seemed uninclusive and ‘sodality’ relatively unused by Anglicans. In the first survey of aspirants in the summer of 2015 there was support for ‘Sodality’ and although there was discussion about the name at the first meeting of the Formation Group there was no desire to change it. ‘Sodality’ seems to have stuck and seems to work.

‘Sodalist’ as a member of a Sodality is used by Jesuit Sodalities. Although Sodalities existed before the Society of Jesus, it was the founding of the first Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1557 by the Belgian Jesuit Jan Leunis in Rome, that marked their widespread popularity. At first they were for pupils in Jesuit schools and involved works of charity and devotions, daily Mass, weekly confession, monthly Communion, and half an hour of mental prayer each day.

(Source: The First Jesuits, John W. O’Malley, Harvard, 1993, p.197)

The Catholic Encyclopaedia has an entry on the term “Sodality” which it identifies as beginning in the twelfth century; it continues:

“From the era of the Middle Ages very many of these pious associations placed themselves under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin, and chose her for patron under the title of some sacred mystery with which she was associated. The main object and duty of these societies were, above all, the practice of piety and works of charity. The decline of ecclesiastical life at the close of the Middle Ages was naturally accompanied by a decline of religious associational life, the two being related as cause and effect. However, as soon as the Church rose to renewed prosperity in the course of the sixteenth century, by the aid of the Counter-Reformation and the appearance of the new religious congregations and associations, once more there sprang up numerous confraternities and sodalities which laboured with great success and, in many cases, are still effective.

Of the sodalities which came into existence just at this period, particular mention should be made of those called the Sodalities of the Blessed Virgin Mary, because the name sodality was in a special manner peculiar to these, also because their labours for the renewal of the life of the Church were more permanent and have lasted until the present time, so that these sodalities after fully three hundred years still prosper and flourish.”

The Jesuit Sodality of Our Lady in Ireland has an extensive website here. It includes information on holy Sodalists of the recent past such as this:

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Although SMMS does not identify itself with any one school of spirituality many of those aspiring to the Sodality would recognise this call from the Irish Sodality website:

“… every Sodality must be a group of Christians who, far from “retiring”, are still wide awake, who are still receptive to the more, who are not the drab uninspired citizens, the complacent bourgeois of God’s kingdom.” (Source)

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