Eloquentia Perfecta

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Eloquentia Perfecta, a tradition of the Society of Jesus, is a value of Jesuit rhetoric that revolves around cultivating a person as a whole, as one learns to speak and write for the common good.

Steven Mallioux, a Professor of Rhetoric at LMU, concluded that "an optimal orator would combine written and oral language concepts such as morality or ethics and intelligence." [1] This concept has expanded from education in Jesuit colleges and preaching this tradition and guiding Spiritual Exercises to courses in American Colleges such as Loyola Marymount University, University of San Francisco, and Fordham University.

LMU's core curriculum provides a few aspects that construct Eloquentia Perfecta, the first being that "It incorporates the traditional mode of rhetoric through writing, reading, speaking, and listening." The second aspect is, "The remediation of this form of rhetoric in terms of adapting to the information age and its digital elements." [2]


Ancient History[edit]

In ancient Athens, they had a goal of "perfect eloquence" in their education system, which was long before the Jesuits existed. They believed that speech had great power and could achieve many things with "perfect eloquence" way of speaking. Isocrates taught the "art of word" in his school that he opened and continued with words are needed to express one's thoughts.[3]


Jesuit education is believed by many Jesuits that the late sixteenth century's Ratio Studiorum was the founding document of Jesuit education. Under Ratio Studiorum, "perfect eloquence" was renamed Eloquentia Perfecta.[3] Ratio was developed from an idea from Ignatius of Loyola vision of education which had a baseline of classical humanities with a Renaissance focus. In addition, there was some math and history. As students go up to higher education, there is an integration of the study of science, logic, philosophy, and theology. With each progressive year of education, the Jesuit values of Eloquentia Perfecta is integrated into the curriculum. The goals were not explicit but Eloquentia Perfecta are the ides of "developing an eloquent and mature. For example, when students gave speeches, they had to adapt to different audiences and be able to speak in a variety of styles to persuade the audience.[4]


As education of the eighteenth century arose, Jesuit education in France was revised with the addition of sciences, plays, speeches, and the discussion of philosophical ideas. Along with the revision, however, Jesuit education maintained the practices of lectures, critical thinking, public speaking, as well as challenging students with quizzes and exams. The differences between traditional thinking and modern thinking provided a divide during changing times in the Enlightenment. The goal of education remained as the education aimed to strengthen the students communication skills with leadership skills, emotions, and eloquence. Students who attended Universities in the eighteenth century had the option of only getting a master's degree, however towards the end of the century, universities had incorporate BAs (Bachelor of Arts) and BSs (Bachelor of Science) degrees that students could get. If the student wanted to continue their education then they could get their master's as well.[4]


American Jesuit liberal-arts-colleges in the mid-twentieth-century had a new major discipline incorporated into their educational system. In college, students would have to take two thirds of their college requirement credits on liberal education and the other third on their major. Before the twentieth century, students had to learn about classical core education, however, it has changed to a professional field which includes nursing, business, and education. Furthermore, there are still studies in rhetoric and logic that students are required to take involving speech and debate. In the education system, some teachers still use earlier Jesuit colleges methods where they provide lectures and exams while others use more recent methods like discussion and question-answer from students. Graduates from college during this time period say that the most crucial benefit they got out of their educational experience was that they "learned to think", which means integrating concepts from the old and new ideas in society in involving a person's mind and character.[4]


Jesuit Rhetoric[edit]

In 1599, the Society of Jesus was presented with Ratio Studiorum, which included Jesuit educational framework and rules for the professors of rhetoric.[5] Within this framework was the values of Eloquentia Perfecta which was, and continues to be, taught in Jesuit schools worldwide. These schools aim to promote Eloquentia Perfecta by educating their students into ideal orators by incorporating critical thinking, civic responsibility, and ethics into a Jesuit rhetoric curriculum.

Gert Beista, the author of The Beautiful Risk of Education, explains that there are three objectives to Jesuit rhetoric that focuses on, "reconnecting with the question of purpose in education." The first is that Jesuit rhetoric provides students with the knowledge, skills, and judgment that enables them to ‘‘do something’’ within their current society such as training for real-world issues with eloquence. The second of the three objectives is socialization where Beista states that, "Through education, we become members of and part of particular social, cultural and political orders." The last objective is what Beista likes to call, subjectification. This term is characterized to be the opposite of socialization, in which its emphasis is on individualization and independence in one's thinking and actions.[5]

Eloquentia Perfecta in Jesuit Colleges[edit]

Although Jesuit rhetoric promotes the study of Eloquentia Perfecta, by midcentury in the United States, Jesuit rhetorical studies differed little in comparison to rhetorical studies in non-Jesuit Schools. This is due to the similarity of the fundamental study of Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian. After the American Civil War, however, non-Jesuit colleges began to differ in the curriculum. This divergence was due to the molding of non-Jesuit schools by the elective system, while Jesuit colleges conserved classical courses involving Greek and Latin literature.

With the advancements of Jesuit rhetoric, Jesuit colleges introduced three important rhetorics written by Jesuits. These three rhetorics included Ars Dicendi by German Jesuit Joseph Kleutgen, A Practical Introduction to English Rhetoric, and The Art of Oratorical Composition both written by a Belgian-born Jesuit, Charles Coppens. Coppens taught at multiple American Jesuit colleges including the Jesuit seminary St. Stanislaus in Missouri. He defines the three terms rhetoric, oratory, and eloquence. Coppens states that rhetoric is, “the art of inventing, arranging, and expressing thought in a manner adapted to influence or control the minds and wills of others.” He defines oratory as, “the branch of rhetoric which expresses through orally.” Lastly, he defines eloquence as, “the expression or utterance of strong emotion in a manner adapted to excite correspondent emotions in others.” [6]

Ignation Pedagogy[edit]

The Ignatius of Loyola created a document of the Spiritual Exercises, a sequence of meditations that have been utilized in universities. These spiritual practices have been around since the sixteenth century and have been more accessible to people around the world as it was published over 4,500 times. Jesuit Spiritual Exercises have been the groundwork of Ignation pedagogy, also known as the Ignation pedagogical paradigm. Ignition pedagogy, which started in 1980's, is the discipline that cultivates a person's understanding, behavior, and contemplation.[7]

Eloquentia Perfecta in Modern Times[edit]

Adaptation to Rhetorical Changes in Eloquentia Perfecta[edit]

Many scholars might have the assumption that the original traditions of Eloquentia Perfecta have been erased in the later century, both through religious and academic teachings. However, though the term has been altered to fit modern society communication, the traditional teachings of the topic are very much alive. Through both digital technology and verbal communication, Eloquentia Perfecta continues to carry on the original goal of rhetorical eloquence to spread justice to all. Many of the Jesuit scholars have had to really adapt to new medians of expression and constantly have to recreate lesson plans for students to adapt to current societal standards. As stated by Morgan T. Reitmeyer and Susan A. Sci in their article, How To Talk Ethically: Cultivating the Digital Citizen through Eloquentia Perfecta, "News is no longer something to simply consume; rather it is something to which we are compelled to respond within a wide array of media." [8] As social justice has become a social phenomenon for current day societies, mainly because news is so easily accessible through digital devices, people are feeling more compelled to speak with Eloquentia Perfecta to portray their message.

Eloquentia Perfecta in the Digital Age[edit]

As many Jesuit-affiliated universities have created a required course for all incoming first year students to take on Eloquentia Perfecta, the goal of Eloquentia Perfecta teachings remain, which is to spread the oral and written justice to people all over. Our society's culture today is a place for people to share their voices publicly using all different types of technology. Many of the digital platforms (i.e. Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram) allow people to integrate their personal insight and moral judgments to their followers. There are many famous people whom use their public voice on these platforms in society to relay eloquent, and justice messages to the public. Many of these messages relate to real-life issues within different cultures around the world.[9]


One prime example of Eloquentia Perfecta, being Jeannie Gaffigan, a writer, actress, and Catholic comedian, was awarded the Inaugural Eloquentia Perfecta Award from Fordham’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE) and the Paulist Press in October 2016. The award was given to Gaffigan because of her constant dedication to capturing the core significance of humanity. As a public figure, and social activist, she shines light on the idea that humanity is full of flaws that must be addressed. She bases her career on bringing people from all over the world together through skepticism, errors and uncertainty. As she receives much of her inspiration through Catholic religion, one of her most inspirational quotes to live by is by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of Society of Jesus, which reads, “Love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than in words,” and spreads this faith through her many social platforms.[10]

Eloquentia Perfecta and Other Rhetorical Phrases of Past and Modern Tradition[edit]

"Eloquentia Perfecta."

Eloquentia Perfecta is the most fundamental goal of all of these four practices listed below. The perfect eloquence is achieved through literature of many different cultures, where one must first understand other cultural and rhetorical languages to master this practice. These practices were all created in the early ages of Jesuit teachings, yet all still are related to modern day times. Eloquentia Perfecta is ultimately the only quality in which one must have to fulfill any sort of leadership role. Many believe that it is more important to have perfect eloquence in language and communication than it is to have any sore of technology-based skills in higher up positions in society.[11]

“The fly in the bottle.”

This metaphor first came alive by Ludwig Wittgenstein in 1914. It originally was used to help students get out of their comfort ones and expand their critical thinking skills by becoming exposed to different languages and cultures. It have been adopted into modern day education where educators can push students to think about the questions of life that don't necessarily apply to their particular areas of skill.[11]

“Heritage and Perspective.”

"Heritage and Perspective" became a popular value in school, as it teaches past-recognition. It is based on the idea that modern day citizens are formed by the past and must grasp the concept that the past is still relevant to today's world. Without the knowledge of the past it is hard to understand some of the current situations in which an individual in society might get caught up in.[11]

“We are not born for ourselves alone.”

Father Pedro Arrupe made the assertion that all students must become people of the world who help people to truly reach the fundamental goal of academic Jesuit teachings. He meant this in a rhetorical and philosophical way and not only referred to pure Jesuit practice. Women and men should be serving others to truly reach the Jesuit-practice goals.[11]

“The spirit of finesse.”

This phrase became well known by Henri Marrou, as he dubbed it as the opposite of “geometric spirit.” This phrase is made to push its followers into a humane mentality. It is meant to “weave webs with words that reflect the webs we weave with our lives, which are not neat geometric patterns but broken in places and filled with knots and tangles.” [11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mallioux, Steven (2013). "A Good Person Speaking Well: Eloquentia Perfecta in U.S. Jesuit Colleges: A Brief Genealogy". Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education: Vol. 43, Article 6.: 10.
  3. ^ a b O'Malley, John W. (May 16, 2011). "Eloquentia: a short history". America. America Press, Inc. 204: 17.
  4. ^ a b c Leigh, David (2016). The Changing Practice of Liberal Education and Rhetoric in Jesuit Education, 1600-2000. New York, NY: Fordham University Press. pp. 125–137. ISBN 978-0-8232-6453-7.
  5. ^ a b Mailloux, Steven. "Jesuit Eloquentia Perfecta and Theotropic Logology". Studies in Philosophy and Education. 34.
  6. ^ Mailloux, Steven (2016). Rhetorical Ways of Proceeding: Eloquentia Perfecta in American Jesuit Colleges. United States of America: Fordham University Press. pp. 162–170. ISBN 9780823264520.
  7. ^ Gannett, Cinthia (2016). The Unfinished Business of Eloquentia Perfecta in Twenty-First-Century Jesuit Higher Education. New York, New York: Fordham University Press. p. 277. ISBN 978-0-8232-6453-7.
  8. ^ Parmach, Robert J. (September 1, 2013). "Talking Back: Eloquentia Perfecta: A Way of Proceeding". Article 24. 46.
  9. ^ Reitmeyer, Morgan T; Sci, Susan A. (March 1, 2013). "How To Talk Ethically: Cultivating the Digital Citizen through Eloquentia Perfecta". Article 19. 43.
  10. ^ "Catholic Comedian Jeannie Gaffigan Accepts Eloquentia Perfecta Award". Fordham Newsroom. Retrieved 2017-04-21.
  11. ^ a b c d e O’Malley, John S.J (March 1, 2013). ""Not for Ourselves Alone:" Rhetorical Education in the Jesuit Mode With Five Bullet Points for Today". Article 4. 43.