We are starting a new weekly series, called (You guessed it) “Saint of the Week”. Every Monday, Dei Gratia (By the Grace of God), we will post a new article on the Saint whose feast day is that week. We will try to mix it up, by featuring some Saints who are well known, and some Saints who may not be as famous. Without further ado, here is our 1st Saint of the Week:
St. Ignatius of Loyola (Founder of the Jesuits)
Feast Day: July 31
Ignatius was born Iñigo in the family castle located in Guipúzcoa, Spain. The youngest of 13 children, he joined the Spanish army in 1517, and spent the next few years fighting the French. In 1521, while leading the defense of Pamplona against the french, a cannon ball smashed into his right shin, breaking it. He was taken to his father’s castle of Loyola, where he had been born. After undergoing a painful operation involving his leg being re-broken, set, and having to have a protruding bone sawed off, Iñigo was confined to his bed. Bored, he requested a book – a tale of knightly adventures, one that would please him the most. When such a book could not be found in the castle, he had to content himself to reading a book about the saints and their miracles, and another about the life of Christ. At first, these works pleased him little, but gradually he began to dream of a different kind of glory than human fame – Iñigo began to dream of the glory won by the saints in their service to Christ.
Iñigo began to live a life of penance. He made a pilgrimage to the Benedictine abbey of Montserrat. There abandoning his sword and all his dreams of military glory at the altar, he donned sackcloth – the poor dress of a pilgrim. he found a cave, and remained there for nearly the entire year of 1522.
The next year, now calling himself Ignatius, he set off an a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and remained there, suffering many trials, until 1524. After studying at many different schools, he finished at the University of Paris, and received his degree at the age of 43. While at the University, he convinced some of his fellow students to spend time praying and doing acts of charity. They were inspired by Ignatius’ dream of going to the Holy Land and living as Christ did. On August 15, 1534, Ignatius and his companions took vows of poverty and chastity.
In 1537, the companions met in Venice to begin their journey to Palestine. However, they were unable to continue to continue their journey because of a war that was being fought against the Turks. Instead, the went to Rome, where they were eventually ordained priests. They awaited an opportunity to go to the Holy Land.
A whole year later, finding that they could still not travel to Palestine, the companions decided to offer their services to the Pope. They called themselves the Company of Jesus. Pope Paul III wanted to send Ignatius and his companions as missionaries to different parts of Europe. To carry this out more perfectly, and to continue their ideals after they died, the Company of Jesus decided to form a religious order.
The new army would function like an army: At its head would be a superior general to whom every member vowed absolute, unquestioning obedience. The superior general would be subject to no one but the Pope. And the company added another rule: They would go wherever the Pope sent them. The Pope would be their “king,” and they would be his “army.”
Pope Paul III formally recognized the new order on March 14, 1543 – though, he didn’t call it the Company, but the Society of Jesus. Critics of the newly formed Society of Jesus called its members “Jesuits” – a name that was then considered an insult. Isn’t funny that it has now become the most common name for the members of the Society.
By the time St. Ignatius of Loyola died in Rome in 1556, at the age of 65, the Jesuits numbered over 13,000! His Society was the most effective force the Church had at the time to carry on the reforms that were called for by the Council of Trent.
Some famous Jesuits include:
- St. Francis Xavier
- St. Issac Jogues
- St. Aloysius Gonzaga
- St. Edmund Campion
- St. Peter Claver
- St. Robert Bellarmine
- Our current Pope: Pope Francis
St. Ignatius of Loyola, Pray for Us!
What are some other facts about St. Ignatius of Loyola?