Born: Oct. 23rd, 1491
Died: July 31st, 1556
FEast: July 31st
The Jesuits, soldiers, educators and students, retreats
Ignatius was born with the name Inigo Lopez de Loyola in Northern Spain as the youngest of 13 children in the year 1491. His parents were minor nobility and lived in a large estate, but when his mother passed away right after he was born, Ignatius was sent to live with the local blacksmith's wife. He grew up there until the age of 7 when his father remarried and he was able to bring his children back to the estate.
He soon was sent to work as a page for a relative on the royal court, where he fell in love with the materialistic lifestyle, learning fencing and military exercises, partying, dressing fashionably, reading romances, and pursuing fame. It is said in one story that his reputation allowed him to escape punishment from anything he had done wrong, including killing a man in a duel.
When he was 18, Ignatius formally was able to join the military and fought in many battles, even becoming an officer. His life took a turn, however, when a cannonball shattered his leg in one battle, and he was taken back to his father's home where he underwent surgeries without anesthesia and remained in bed for a year. While recovering from extreme pain and wondering if he would even survive, he read books as the only way to pass the time.
Unfortunately for him, there were no romances, so he was forced to read on Christianity and the lives of the saints. His competitive nature was still strong, but his heart had begun to turn towards these new ideas, resulting not only in a conversion of his heart, but also one of his goals - to be the greatest saint he could be.
When he had recovered well enough, he decided to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land but had not even left Spain when he was moved to give all his rich clothing to a poor man by the road, and to leave his sword and other military items at a shrine of St. Mary. He lived nearby for about a year, begging for food to get by, working at a hospital, and praying for hours a day. He also spent much time in a cave, reflecting and meditating.
Finally, he was able to continue his pilgrimage to the Holy Land as he had first planned, but could not stay long because of hostility in the area and members of the Franciscans asking him to return. Though he was devastated because he thought this would be the best plan for his life, he returned and decided he would become a priest.
To do this, however, he needed a further education, and so he entered school with children to begin at the most basic level. He spent the next 11 years learning in schools across Europe, which was severely difficult for him not only because of his complete lack of previous knowledge but also because - this being the time of the Spanish Inquisition - he was questioned, beaten, and jailed many times for his thoughts and deviating ideas.
While studying in Paris, however, Ignatius was roommates with two men named Francis Xavier and Peter Faber. These three together with three others took vows of religious life and formed what is now called The Society of Jesus. In 1540, the Pope made the Order official, and Ignatius was elected the leader.
As part of the Order, a vow was made in obedience to the Pope, so the original members were sent around Europe, creating schools and seminaries. Ignatius wrote letters to members as the Order grew, and they traveled as far as Brazil and Japan. Ignatius stayed in Rome, however, attending to the local sick and needy.
In 1548, after more questioning, the Pope gave official approval to Ignatius for his book "The Spiritual Exercises" to be published, which he had begun during his time in the cave. The publication of this book lead to a rise in the popularity of retreats taken to complete the exercises.
As he grew older and increasingly more unable to work due to health problems, Ignatius also suffered a case of "Roman Fever", a type of malaria. Though doctors were not concerned, Ignatius asked for his final sacraments and passed quietly the next morning without any commotion. He was canonized in 1622.
You changed your mind - and your Life because of it - many times. Sometimes we are stubborn that we’re right, or we find safety and comfort in sticking to what we have always done and believed. Show us how we can change and evolve, while still being ourselves and loving God just as much.
Ignatius - possibly still a little cocky, but focused and dedicated due to his competitive nature - studies and writes even while imprisoned in this icon. Nothing at all could stop this man, despite the incredible number of times he was threatened and either physically, intellectually, or theologically pushed back.