Feastday: July 31st
Patron of: Basque Country, Military Ordinariate of the Philippines,
Society of Jesus, soldiers, Educators and Education
Born Inigo Lopez de Loyola in 1491, he was the youngest of thirteen children. His mother died when he was
just seven, and he was then raised by Maria de Garin, who was the wife of a blacksmith. His last name,
"Loyola" was taken from the village of his birth.
Despite the misfortune of losing his mother he was still a member of the local aristocracy and was raised
accordingly. Inigio was an ambitious young man who had dreams of becoming a great leader.
The young Ignatius also gained a reputation as a duelist. According to one story, he killed a Moor with whom
he argued about the divinity of Jesus.
Ignatius fought in several battles under the leadership of the Duke of Najera. He had a talent for emerging
unscathed, despite participating in many battles. His talent earned him promotions and soon he commanded
his own troops.
In 1521, while defending the town of Pamplona against French attack, Ignatius was struck by a cannonball in
the legs. One leg was merely broken, but the other was badly mangled. To save his life and possibly his legs,
doctors performed several surgeries. There were no anesthetics during this time, so each surgery was painful.
Despite their best efforts, Ignatius' condition deteriorated. After suffering for a month, his doctors warned
him to prepare for death.
On June 29, 1521, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Ignatius began to improve. As soon as he was healthy
enough to bear it, part of one leg was amputated which while painful, sped his recovery. During this time of
bodily improvement, Ignatius began to read whatever books he could find. Most of the books he obtained
were about the lives of the saints and Christ. These stories had a profound impact on him, and he became
more devout. Among his profound realizations, was that Evil brought him unpleasant thoughts while God
brought him happiness. Ignatius discerned God's call, and began a new way of life, following God instead of
By the spring of 1522, Ignatius had recovered enough to leave bed. On March 25, 1522, he entered the
Benedictine monastery, Santa Maria de Montserrat. Before an image of the Black Madonna, he laid down his
military garments. He gave his other clothes away to a poor man.
He then walked to a hospital in the town of Manresa. In exchange for a place to live, he performed work
around the hospital. He begged for his food. When he was not working or begging, he would go into a cave
and practice spiritual exercises.
His time in prayer and contemplation helped him to understand himself better. He also gained a better
understanding of God and God's plan for him.
The ten months he spent between the hospital and the cavern were difficult for Ignatius. He suffered from
doubts, anxiety and depression. But he also recognized that these were not from God.
The next year, in 1523, Ignatius made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. His goal was to live there and convert non-believers. However, the Holy Land was a troubled place and Church officials did not want Ignatius to complicate things further. They asked him to return after just a fortnight.
Ignatius realized he needed to obtain a complete education if he wanted to convert people. Returning to Barcelona, Ignatius attended a grammar school, filled with children, to learn Latin and other beginning subjects.
In Spain, the Inquisition accused Ignatius of preaching without any formal education in theology. Without this training, it was likely that Ignatius could introduce heresy by way of conversation and misunderstanding.
Ignatius was questioned three times by the Inquisition, but he was always exonerated.
Ignatius eventually earned a master's degree at the age of 44. When he subsequently applied for his doctorate, he was passed over because of his age. He also suffered from ailments, which the school was concerned could impact his studies.
While at school in Paris, Ignatius roomed with Peter Faber and Francis Xavier. Faber was French and Xavier was Basque. The men became friends and Ignatius led them in his spiritual exercises. Other men soon joined their exercises and became followers of Ignatius.
Pope Paul III received the group and approved them as an official religious order in 1540. The band attempted to elect Ignatius as their first leader, but he declined, saying he had not lived a worthy life in his youth. He also believed others were more experienced theologically.
The group insisted however, and Ignatius accepted the role as their first leader. They called themselves the Society of Jesus. Some people who did not appreciate their efforts dubbed them "Jesuits" in an attempt to disparage them. While the name stuck, by virtue of their good work the label lost its negative connotation.
Ignatius imposed a strict, almost military rule on his order. This was natural for a man who spent his youth as a soldier. It might be expected that such rigor would dissuade people from joining, but it had the opposite effect. The order grew.
The Society of Jesus soon found its niche in education. Before Ignatius died in 1556, his order established 35 schools and boasted 1,000 members. The order was responsible for much of the work of stopping the spread of the Protestant Reformation. The Society advocated the use of reason to persuade others and combat heresy.
Today, the Society of Jesus is known for its work in educating the youth around the world. Several universities have been founded in the name of Ignatius and in the traditional Jesuit spirit. The Jesuits also perform many other important works around the globe.
Ignatius' passed away on July 31, 1556, at the age of 64.
Prayer of St. Ignatius
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.