Saturday, July 31, 2021

St. Ignatius of Loyola

St. Ignatius of Loyola: The Founder of the Jesuits

St. Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish Catholic priest and theologian who lived in the 16th century. He is best known for founding the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, a religious order that played a key role in the Counter-Reformation and in spreading Christianity around the world. He is also famous for writing the Spiritual Exercises, a book of meditations and prayers that has influenced many spiritual seekers and leaders.

Early Life and Conversion

St. Ignatius was born in 1491 in Loyola, a castle in the Basque region of Spain. He was the youngest of 13 children from a noble and wealthy family. His mother died when he was seven years old, and he was raised by his older brother. He grew up with a passion for military glory and worldly pleasures, and became a knight in the service of the king of Castile.

In 1521, while defending the citadel of Pamplona against the French, he was wounded by a cannonball that shattered his right leg and damaged his left. He was taken to his ancestral home to recover, where he underwent several painful surgeries to fix his leg. During his long convalescence, he asked for books of chivalry and romance to read, but there were none available. Instead, he was given two books: one on the life of Christ and one on the lives of the saints.

As he read these books, he began to feel a new attraction to the spiritual life. He noticed that while worldly thoughts left him restless and dissatisfied, thoughts of God and heaven filled him with peace and joy. He also experienced visions and dreams that confirmed his calling to follow Christ. He decided to abandon his former way of life and dedicate himself to God.

Pilgrimage and Education

After he recovered from his injuries, St. Ignatius left his home and gave away his clothes and money to the poor. He kept only a simple garment and a staff, and set out on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On his way, he stopped at a town called Manresa, where he stayed for about a year in a cave near a monastery. There, he practiced rigorous penance, prayer, and meditation, and received many insights and graces from God. He also wrote down his spiritual experiences and methods in a notebook that later became the basis of his Spiritual Exercises.

St. Ignatius continued his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but was told by the Franciscans there that he had to return to Europe for his own safety. He obeyed reluctantly, and decided to pursue further education in order to serve God better. He studied Latin, grammar, philosophy, and theology in various schools in Spain and France, enduring poverty, hardship, and persecution along the way. He also gathered a group of companions who shared his vision of forming a new religious order.

Foundation of the Jesuits

In 1534, St. Ignatius and his six companions made vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience at Montmartre in Paris. They also vowed to go to Jerusalem if possible, or otherwise to offer themselves to the pope for any mission he would assign them. They called themselves "friends in the Lord" or "the Company of Jesus". In 1537, they traveled to Rome to seek approval from Pope Paul III for their new order.

The pope gave them a provisional approval in 1540, and confirmed it in 1543 with the bull Regimini militantis Ecclesiae (To the Government of the Church Militant). The Society of Jesus was officially born, with St. Ignatius as its first Superior General. The Jesuits were unique among religious orders for their emphasis on education, missionary work, loyalty to the pope, and flexibility in adapting to different cultures and circumstances. They also followed a distinctive spirituality based on St. Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises, which aimed at helping people find God's will in their lives.

Legacy and Canonization

St. Ignatius spent most of his later years in Rome, overseeing the growth and administration of his order. He also wrote many letters and instructions to guide his fellow Jesuits in their apostolic work. He died on July 31, 1556, at the age of 64.

He was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1609, and canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. His feast day is celebrated on July 31 by Catholics around the world. He is the patron saint of the Basque provinces of Gipuzkoa and Biscay, as well as of soldiers, spiritual retreats, educators, students, writers, journalists, among others.

St. Ignatius of Loyola is widely regarded as one of the most influential saints in the history of the Church. His life and writings have inspired countless people to follow Christ more closely and to serve Him more faithfully. His motto, Ad maiorem Dei gloriam (For the greater glory of God), expresses his desire to do everything for the love and honor of God.

Our current Pope Francis is a member of the Society of Jesus or Jesuits.  


Certainly! Here are some references and sources regarding the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola:

  1. Britannica: St. Ignatius of Loyola (born 1491, Loyola, Castile [Spain]—died July 31, 1556, Rome [Italy]) was a Spanish theologian and mystic. He was one of the most influential figures in the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation during the 16th century. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Paris in 1534. His early life was marked by military service and a transformative experience after being hit by a cannonball during the defense of Pamplona. His spiritual awakening led him to write the influential work "The Spiritual Exercises"1.

  2. World History Encyclopedia: Ignatius of Loyola (l. 1491-1556) was a Basque soldier who became a Catholic priest and theologian. A mystical experience convinced him that he was called to the service of Christ. He founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) to defend the Church and spread its message. Ignatius played a significant role in the Catholic Counter-Reformation2.

  3. Wikipedia: Ignatius of Loyola (venerated as Saint Ignatius of Loyola) was a Spanish Catholic priest and theologian. Along with six companions, he founded the religious order of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and became its first Superior General in Paris in 1541. His feast day is observed on July 313.

 The Life of St. Ignatus of Loyola

Ignatius of Loyola: The Life of a Saint

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