SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA (1491-1556)
Ignatius: I was a soldier before my radical conversion. I could not even believe it that there are more than thirty-thousand Jesuits priests and religious all over the world now. Anyhow, it was really my motivation to form an army for the Lord, and it is realized now and it’s getting bigger and wider…
JF: So do you mind telling us your life story?
Ignatius: Oh well, I never dreamed to be saint. More so of a great saint. I was born with a golden spoon in my mouth in the castle of Loyola in Spain in 1491. I come from the noble and ancient Basque family of Don Beltran Ya’fiez.
JF: So do you mean that you’re not even wanting to serve the Lord of lords? The King of all kings? At least at first?
Ignatius: No, not really. Being one of the youngest of a dozen children, I had choice between religious or military life.
JF: Is that so? And so what did you choose?
Ignatius: Well, obviously being a soldier. A military… At 24, I became a full-fledged soldier, dressed extravagantly, dreaming of romance, fighting and duelling and you name it.
JF: Wow!!! You’re really enjoying your life huh?
Ignatius: Sort of, but in 1521, all was shattered.
JF: Why? What happened?
Ignatius: I was in a defense position in the Spanish Citadel of Pamplona, when a cannon ball broke my leg, which was never to heal properly.
JF: Oh, I’m very sorry for you… So what happened after then?
Ignatius: I was recuperating when I had this convalescence. I used to read books and books. But in the room where I was, there was nothing there except this fourteenth-century life of Christ and a Spanish version of the pious tales of the Golden Legend. So I took it, and read it, just to ease my boredom. I never knew that was the point of my conversion. My mind wavered between the world and the spirit. Then I had a vision of our Lady and the Infant Christ. And so I made a decision.
JF: So, what did you do then?
Ignatius: As soon as I left, I went to the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat. There I made a general confession, left my sword and dagger before our Lady’s altar, and gave away all my earthly goods.
JF: Wow, that was a pure conviction for me, so….
Ignatius: I spent a year living on alms in the town of Manresa, during which time I received many divine illuminations on matters of doctrine. Then I made a trip to the Holy Land.
JF: Were you really sure then of your decision? And of what you’re doing?
Ignatius: I thought I was. As soon as I realized that without education I would have little success in winning souls to Christ, I entered school, at 31 years old, can you believe that? I was in the lowest class and among the youngest students. For eleven years I studied, living in the utmost poverty and begging food at Barcelona, Alcala’, Salamanca, and Paris I was relying on the help and care for by many generous people around.
JF: So, how did you go with your studies?
Ignatius: While studying, I preached, and a handful of men, including Francis Xavier, became my disciples, oh well, friends so to speak. When I received the degree of master of arts from the University of Paris in 1534, I met these six men at the chapel on Montmartre. There we received Holy Communion from the one priest of the group, Peter Faber. Then we vowed a trip to the Holy Land and took vows of chastity and poverty.
JF: Why Holy Land?
Ignatius: We wanted to see the pope at that time, to confirm our group as soldiers of Christ.
JF: Wow, that was a daring move!!!
Ignatius: Indeed! The trip proved impossible because of war, and in the spring of 1537. Anyway, after an interview with Pope Paul III, our group was given permission to be ordained. It was not until 1538 that the companions, who had been preaching in pairs, met again in Rome. There, after much prayer, we decided that if our plan was approved we would form ourselves into a religious body.
JF: As it would happen quite usually. Anyway…go on…
Ignatius: In 1540, the Society of Jesus became a reality, and I was chosen the first general. The rule I established seemed, at the time, revolutionary. My disciples were to be ascetics in the world, not in the cloister. We were to be teachers and preachers, trained scholars able to meet argument with better argument. we were to renounce all rank, temporal or ecclesiastical. we were to live under the intense discipline and perfect obedience which has always been their distinctive characteristic. Special obedience was vowed to the Holy Father in the matter of missions.
JF: It seemed very hard to live with indeed!!!
Ignatius: After the foundation of the society, I never left Rome. I’ve got many things to do as I thought. A thousand projects occupied my agile mind. Anyhow, I lived to see my followers penetrate the corners of the known world.
JF: One of your great works is the Book of Spiritual Exercises, how did you come up with that?
Ignatius: It all begun in Manresa, where I had spent a year of prayer and penance. Those revelations there are a product of my prayers and penance.
JF: You should be very happy now, that on your death in 1556, your cause multiplied so rapidly that it makes up sixty-seven Jesuit houses, and over a thousand members. You’re the man, Ignatius. You’re the saint. Forming a society of men, with the same goal of service and sanctity is indeed remarkable of you. See how the Society of Jesus motivates the world in terms of Catholic Education!!! It’s unparalleled so far, as far as I am concerned. But even without all this, you would still take your place among the great saints, for your heroic virtue, your absolute dedication of your life and energies to Christ, your mystic graces, and your spiritual guidance. Cheers Ignatius!!!
Ignatius: All for the Greater GLORY of GOD….