Saint Ignatius of
Founder of the Company of Jesus (Jesuits)
Majorem Dei Gloriam" "For the greater glory of God.”
Important Dates in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola
1491- Probable year of birth of Ignatius of Loyola.
1521- Collaborates in the defense of Pamplona attacked by
France. He is injured in his right leg and sent to Loyola for
recovery. During this time some religious books are taken to
him. He starts to discover new things reading the life of Jesus
and the saints. St. Ignatius experiences his first conversion.
He struggles interiorly with the desire for God and for the
1522- St. Ignatius starts a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our
Lady of Montserrat. He made a general confession at Montserrat,
leaving his vestments and sword. He continues his journey to
Manresa, where he starts his life of poverty, prayer, and
penitence. After some time of tribulation, scruples, doubts and
anguish, he has a singular experience of God that he will
recall all his life. He starts to write down his spiritual
experience, thereby starting what later on would be the "Book of
the Spiritual Exercises."
1527- During this year he is prosecuted twice and is
incarcerated. After his prison term he goes to Salamanca. Again
he goes through an inquisitive process and is prohibited from
preaching and teaching theology because of insufficient studies.
Ignatius decides to leave Salamanca, passes through Barcelona
and continues to Paris.
1538- Saint Ignatius celebrates his first Mass in the Church of
“Santa Maria la Maggiore” (St. Mary Major).
1540- Paul III confirms the foundation of the “Company of
1541- St. Ignatius starts writing the Constitutions of the
Company of Jesus and is elected superior general of the order.
After this moment St. Ignatius lives permanently in Rome.
1556- St. Ignatius dies and is buried in the place today called: “Church of Gesu” in Rome.
1609- Pope Paul V beatifies Ignatius of Loyola.
1622- Canonization of Ignatius of Loyola by Pope Gregory XV.
Important reflections from the Spiritual Diary of St. Ignatius
- "God love me more than I do myself."
- "Lord, what is it you want
- "Following you Jesus, I will not get lost."
- "Lord, sustain me
with your grace."
- "God will provide what He thinks is bests."
- "I don’t deserve,
Lord, all I receive."
- "Lord, I’m a child ! Where are you taking me?"
- "Give me Lord,
your love and your grace; this is enough for me."
- "Jesus, for nothing in the world will I leave you!"
- "Jesus be my guide, and help me."
Life of Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Saint Ignatius was probably born in 1491, in the Castle of
Loyola in Azpeitia, in the village of Guipuzcoa, near the
Pyrenees. His father, Don Beltran, was a knight of Oñaz and
Loyola, head of one of the oldest & most noble families of the
region. His mother’s linage was also eminent, Doña Marina Saenz
de Licona and Balda. Iñigo (name received at his baptism) was
the youngest of eight sons and three daughters of the couple.
Iñigo fought against the French in north of Castilla. His brief
military career ended abruptly on May 20th, 1521, when a bullet
from a canon hit his leg during the battle in defense of the
Castle of Pamplona.
After Iñigo’s injury the Spanish troops surrendered. The French
did not abuse their victory and sent the injured Spaniard on a
stretcher to the Castle of Loyola, his native place.
The broken bones in his legs did not heal well, and the doctors
considered the need to break them again and operate. Iñigo was
in favor of the operation and tolerated it heroically, for he
was anxious to return to his worldly affairs. Consequently, he
had a severe fever due to complications, so much so that the
doctors thought Iñigo would die before the feast day of Saints
Peter and Paul. Nonetheless, his condition improved even though
his recuperation lasted for several months.
The operation on his broken leg and knee resulted in a deformity. Iñigo insisted that the surgeons cut the
though he was counseled against it, because of the painful
process. He did not want to be held down and resisted this
butchering without complaint.
To avoid his right leg becoming shorter, Iñigo remained
several days with his leg stretched out by heavy weights.
Due to these methods, he was lame
for the rest of his life.
Trying to distract himself during the time of his recovery, Iñigo
requested some books of chivalry (adventures of war and horses,
which he always enjoyed). But the only books found in the Castle
of Loyola was a book on the history of Christ and a volume on
the life of the saints. Iñigo started to read them, and little
by little he started to have more interest in them, spending
entire days reading.
He used to say, “If those men were made of the same flesh as I,
I also can do what they did." Inflamed by fervor, he
proposed to go on a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady and
enter as a lay brother to a monastery. But such ideas were not
constant, and his anxiety of personal glory and his love for a
lady occupied most of his thoughts. When he returned to the
books on the lives of the saints, he understand his vanity and
the world’s glory and sensed that only God was able to satisfy his heart.
These fluctuations allowed Iñigo to observe
a difference in himself: the thoughts that came from God left him
full of consolation, peace and tranquility; the worldly
thoughts had some delight, but only left him with desolation and
emptiness. Finally Iñigo decided to imitate the saints and
began to do as many kinds of corporal penances as possible and to cry
for his sins.
The visit to the Blessed Virgin: purification in Manresa
One evening the Mother of God appeared, surrounded with light
and in her arms the Child Jesus. This vision deeply consoled
Ignatius. After his recuperation, he made a pilgrimage to the
Our Lady of Montessarat
Sanctuary, where he decided to live a life of penance. His goal
was to reach Holy Land, and for this journey he had to depart
from Barcelona which was close to Montserrat. However, the city of Barcelona was
closed due to contagious diseases in the region.
Therefore he had to wait in a small town called Manresa, not
fall from Barcelona and Montserrat. God had other urgent plans
for Ignatius at that moment in his life. He wanted to take
Ignatius to a deeper union with him in prayer and total poverty.
He lounged there, sometimes with the Dominicans in the convent
and other times in a shelter for the poor. In order to pray and
do more penance he would go to a near-by cave. He lived this way
for almost a year.
“For the purpose of imitating Christ Our Lord and to be more
like Him in truth, I choose poverty with Christ; poverty instead
of riches; more than honors, humiliations with Christ
humiliated. I want to be known for being idiotic and crazy for
Christ - He was the first to go through it before being known as
wise and prudent in this world." He decided to “choose the way
of God, instead of the way of the world."
After the consolation of the beginning, a period of spiritual
aridity came to Ignatius; prayer and penance did not remove this
sensation of emptiness encountered in the sacraments and the
sadness upon him. To all this was added the torment of scruples
which made him believe that all was sin; this took him to near
desperation. During this time in his life, Ignatius started to
notice and write down some of his experiences that later would
help for the book of “Spiritual Exercises.” Finally the saint
left that dark night, and profound spiritual joy followed the
This experience gave Ignatius the unique ability to help in
scruples and a great discernment of spirit in spiritual
He once confessed to Father Lainez that in one hour of prayer in
Manresa, he learned more than all the professors in the
university could teach him. At the beginning of his conversion,
Ignatius, still influenced by the mentality of the world, once heard a blasphemy from a moor against the Blessed Virgin Mary; he
doubted if he, being a Christian, should kill the blasphemer or
not. Because of intervention of Divine Providence he was
protected from committing this sin.
February 1523, finally, Ignatius departed for the pilgrimage to
Holy Land. He begged on his way, embarked from Barcelona, passed
through Rome during Easter, and sailed from Venecia towards
Chiprey and later to Jaffa. From port to mountains, and on donkeys
he traveled to Jerusalem, with the firm idea of staying there.
Finally at the end of his pilgrimage to Holy Places, a
Franciscan responsible for guarding them, ordered Ignatius to
depart from Palestine; he feared the Muslims persecution and
thought he might
be kidnapped. Therefore, he renounced his desire to stay in
Holy Land and obeyed without knowing what to do upon his arrival to
Europe. Again, Divine Providence had other designs for this
generous soul. In 1524, he arrived in Spain, and dedicated
himself to studying,
thinking this would be a way to better help souls.
A pious woman from Barcelona, named Isabel Roser, assisted him
while he studied Latin grammar in school. At the time, Ignatius
was 33 years old, and we can imagine the difficulty of studying grammar
at this age. In the beginning Ignatius was absorbed so in God that
he forgot every thing else; therefore, an attempt to conjugate the
Latin verb “amare“ ended up becoming a simple pretext to
think, “I love God and God loves me." Through all this the
saint progressed in his studies, even though he continued to
practice austerities and dedicated himself to contemplation. He also supported with patience and good humor the ridicules
from his class mates who were much younger then himself.
After two years of studying in Barcelona, he continued on to the
University of Alcala to study logic, physics and theology; but
so many classes only confused him, even though he studied day
and night. He stayed in an orphanage, lived from donations and
dressed in a grey habit. On top of his studies, he instructed children, organized spiritual meetings in the orphanage, and converted
numerous sinners with his reprimands full of
Many difficulties existed for him in Spain at the time. Ignatius lacked
the studies and authority to teach. He was accused before the
bishop’s general vicar, who imprisoned him during 42 days, until
finally absolving Ignatius and his companion of all
accusations; however, he still prohibited them from wearing a particular habit
and teaching for the next three years. Ignatius moved to Salamanca
with his companions. Shortly after, he was accused again of
introducing dangerous doctrines. After three weeks in prison,
the inquisitors declared him innocent. Ignatius considered the
prison, the sufferings, and the ignominy as trials that God sent
to purify and sanctify him.
When he was free again, he decided to leave Spain. In the middle
of winter he made a trip to Paris, arriving in February of 1528.
Studies in Paris
The first two years he dedicated to the perfection of Latin on
his own. During the summer time he traveled to Flandes, and even
to England, begging alms from the Spanish merchants established
in the region. With the help from his friends in Barcelona he
was able to study during the year. He stayed three and half
years in the School of St. Barbara, dedicated to philosophy. He
helped many of his companions to consecrate Sundays and feast
days to prayer and more Christian fervor.
But professor Peña believed that the preaching of Ignatius impeded his companions
from studying. He presented this complaint to Doctor Guvea, rector of the
college, who then condemned Ignatius to flagellation and discredited
him before his companions. Ignatius did not fear the sufferings
or humiliations, but he did fear his punishment might turn away
those who had started to walk in the Lord's path. Therefore, he went to talk to
the rector and explained with modesty the reasons for his conduct. Guvea did not respond, but took Ignatius by the hand,
to the classroom where all the students were gathered, and publicly
asked forgiveness for hearing and believing so easily the false
In 1534, at 43 years old, Ignatius obtained a Masters of Arts
degree from the University of Paris.
The Lord gives him his first companions
Ignatius' fervent words, full of the Holy Spirit, opened the
hearts of many of his companions. During this time six students
of theology joined Ignatius: Pedro Fabro, priest from Saboya;
Francisco Javier, from Navarra; Lainez and Salmeron, brilliant
in their studies; Simon Rodriguez, originally from Portugal; and
Nicolas Bobadilla. Moved by the exhortations of Ignatius, these
fervent students made vows to be poor, to be chaste, and to go and
preach the Gospel to Palestine; or if this was not possible,
than offer themselves to the Pope, so he may decide were they
should go to serve God best.
The ceremony took place in the Chapel of Montmartre, where all
received Holy Communion from the hands of Pedro Fabro, just
newly ordained. It was the day of the Assumption of Mary, 1534.
Ignatius maintained the fervor among his companions through
frequent spiritual conversations and with a simple rule of life.
Shortly after, his theology studies were interrupted because the
doctors ordered him to go and get fresh air due to the decline
in his health. Ignatius parted for Paris in the spring of 1535.
His family received him with great joy, but the saint refused to
stay in the Castle of Loyola and stayed in a poor house in Azpeitia.
Papal blessing; apparition of the Lord
Two years later, he reunited with his companions in Venecia. But
because of the war between the Venetians and the Turks, he was
prevented from embarking to Palestine. Ignatius' companions at this time
were 10 and were transferred to Rome; Pope Paul III received
them well and granted to those not yet priests the privilege to
receive the Holy Orders from any bishop. After the ordination,
they retired to a house close to Venecia with the purpose to
prepare themselves for the apostolic ministry. The new priests
celebrated their first Mass between the months of September and
October, except Ignatius, who waited more than a year because he
wanted to be better prepared.
Since no possibility on go to Holy Land remained, it was finally
decided that Ignatius, Fabro and Lainez would go to Rome and
offer their services to the Pope. They also agreed that, if asked
about the name of their association, they would respond that
they belonged to the Company of Jesus (Ignatius never used the
name “Jesuit”). This name started as a nickname because they
were determined to fight against vice and error under the banner
of Christ. During his trip to Rome, praying in the Chapel of “
La Storta,” our Lord appeared to Ignatius surrounded by a halo
and divine light, carrying a heavy cross. Christ said to him, "Ego vobis Romae propitius ero" (you will be favored in Rome).
Pope Paul III named Father Fabro professor of the University of
la Sapienza and entrusted to Lainez the mission of explaining Holy
Scripture. Ignatius dedicated himself to the preaching of
Exercises and to catechizing the people. The rest of his
companions worked in similar missions, even though they were not
fluent in Italian yet.
The Company of Jesus
Ignatius and his companions decided to form a religious
congregation to extend their work. They were to embrace the vows
of poverty, chastity, and obedience in imitation of the
Son of God, who became obedient till death. A superior general
needed to be named, one whom all would obey and one who would carry
obligation for the rest of his life with absolute authority subjected to the Holy See.
In addition to the vows mentioned above, another vow was added:
to go and work for the good of souls where ever the Pope sends
them. The obligation to sing together the divine office would
not be required in the new order, “so we will not be distracted
from the charitable works to which we have consecrated
By no means was prayer neglected, for each member was to pray at
least one hour daily.
The first work of charity consisted of "teaching children
and all men the commandments of God.“
The Pope named a
commission of cardinals to study the order. With the idea that
the Church had already enough religious orders, the cardinals
showed adversity. One year later their opinions changed, and Pope
Paul III approved the “Company of Jesus" by a Papal Bull on
September 27th, 1540.
Ignatius was elected first superior general of the new order and his
confessor, through a call to obedience, asked him to accept the mission. He
started to exercise this role on Easter Sunday of 1541, and a few days
later all the members made their
vows in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
Ignatius spent the rest of his life in Rome, consecrated to the
work of governing the order he founded. Among other things, he
founded a house to help accommodate neophyte Jews during
their catechetical period and other houses for repented women. On
one occasion someone said to him that true conversion for such
sinners is rare and not sincere. Ignatius responded, “I’m
willing to suffer anything for the joy of knowing that one sin is
prevented.“ Rodriguez and Francis Xavier departed to Portugal
in 1540. With the help of King John III, Xavier was transferred to
India, winning a new world for Christ. The priests Gonclaves and
Juan Nunez Barreto were sent to Morocco to instruct and help the
Christian slaves. Four other missionaries were sent to Congo,
some others to Ethiopia and the Portuguese colonies of South America.
A defense of the truth and order before Protestantism
At the Council of Trent, Pope Paul III named Father Lainez and Father Salmeronas his personal
Before leaving to their new assignment, St. Ignatius ordered them
to visit the sick and the poor; in disputes always show modesty
and humility; abstain from being pretentious or
showing pride in their sciences; and not argue much. However, without doubt the most famous of St. Ignatius' first disciples in
Europe was Saint Peter Canisio, known for his virtue and wisdom.
His is venerated in the Church today as a Doctor. In 1550, Saint
Francis Borja gave a large sum of money for the edification of
the Roman School. Saint Ignatius made of it a model school for
the rest in the order. He worked to establish there the best
teachers and to facilitate the best possible progress in the
The saint also directed his work to the foundation of the
Preparatory School of Rome, which trained and formed the priests
for missionary work in countries invaded by Protestantism.
During the saint's lifetime many universities, seminaries and
schools were founded in different countries. Saint Ignatius
placed the foundation for educational work that
distinguishes the Company of Jesus and that has developed so well through
In 1542, the first two Jesuit missionaries landed in Ireland,
but the attempt failed. St. Ignatius asked for prayers for the
conversion of England. Among the martyrs of Great Britain,
twenty-nine are Jesuits.
The presence, activity and good example of the Company of Jesus
in England proved the importance of their role during the
contra-reformation of the time. This movement had a double
purpose: to give new vigor to the life of the Church and to oppose
Revolution and disorder were characteristics of the reformation.
The characteristics of the Company of Jesus were obedience and solid
consistency. We can therefore affirm as historic truth that the
Jesuits attacked, rejected and defeated the Lutheran revolution.
With their preaching and spiritual direction, they re-conquered
many souls for Christ crucified. The message of the Company of Jesus
deserved and obtained the
confidence and obedience of souls. We cite
the following message about relations with Protestants, given by St. Ignatius to the priests of
the Company of Jesus who were leaving to found a school in Ingolstadt,
Germany: “Be careful in
preaching the truth in such a way that, if among the crowd there
is a heretic, thy preaching to them bean example of
charity and Christian moderation. Do not use harsh words, nor show
contempt for their errors.” The saint also wrote the same to
Father Broet and Salmeron when they departed for Ireland.
The Spiritual Exercises
One of the most famous and fruitful works of St. Ignatius was
the book of Spiritual Exercises. It is the master work in the
science of discernment. He started to write it in Manresa and
published it for the first time in Rome, in 1548, with the Popes
approval. The Spiritual Exercises are perfectly aligned
with the Church tradition - since the beginning of the Church, some Christians would go away from
the world to serve God better; as well, the practice of meditation is
also from the beginning of the Church. What we find new in the
book of the Spiritual Exercises is the order and
systematic way of meditations. St. Ignatius methodically, and
with perfect clarity, ordered and formulated the counsels and rules
Fathers of the Church had disseminated in many different works.
St. Ignatius' prudence and charity during his government won the
hearts of his subjects. He was affectionate with them as a
father, especially towards the sick, whom he personally
assisted by trying to give them the best possible material and
spiritual assistance. Even though St. Ignatius was the superior, he
knew how to hear his brothers with meekness, but without ever
diminishing his authority. In cases not so clear, he would
humbly submit himself to the counsel of others. He was strongly
opposed to using superlative (exaggerated) expressions and too many
categorical affirmations during a conversation. He knew how to
handle criticism with joy, and he also knew how to reprimand his
subjects when he saw the need. Particularly he reprimanded
those who became proud because of their studies or knowledge and
lukewarm in the service of God. On the other hand, he encouraged the studies, desiring that
professors, preachers and missionaries be men of knowledge.
St. Ignatius’ crown of virtue was his great love of God.
Frequently he repeated these words that are the motto of his
order: “All for the greater glory of God.“ To this end the
Saint referred all his actions and all his activities of the
Company of Jesus. He also said frequently, “Lord, what can I
desire apart from you?” He who truly loves never is inactive.
St. Ignatius placed his happiness in working for God and in
suffering for Him and His cause. Perhaps the “military spirit” of
St. Ignatius and the Company of Jesus has often been exaggerated, and
forgotten has been their compassion and gift of friendship.
During Ignatius' 15 years in the
government of the order, it grew from 10 to 1000 members,
extended to nine European countries, India and Brazil. During
those 15 years the Saint became ill 15 times; therefore, no one became
alarmed when he became ill one more time. He died suddenly on
July 31, 1556, without having time to receive the last
sacraments. He was canonized in 1622, and Pope Pius XI proclaimed
him Patron of the Spiritual Exercises and retreats.
The fountain of enthusiasm for Ignatius’ zeal for the salvation
of souls was ‘the love of God,’ the reason for which he worked
so hard in different missions, consecrated his life, spent much
prayers and vigils, shed many tears, and dedicated himself to hard work.
He did everything possible to win souls, embracing with love all
sinners sincerely repented. Frequently he would impose on
himself part of their penance and exhorted them to
offer themselves in perfect holocaust to God. He would tell
them that it was impossible to imagine the treasures of graces
God had reserved for those who give themselves completely from
“Take, Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, my
understanding, and my entire will. You have given them to me;
to you Lord, I return it. Dispose of me according to Your will,
and only give me your love and your grace; that’s enough for me;
I ask nothing more.“
Pope John Paul II said, “St. Ignatius knew how to obey when, in
midst of healing his wounds, the voice of God was heard with
force in his heart. He was sensitive to the inspiration of the
St. Ignatius is the great teacher in discernment of spirits
of spirits is the capacity to distinguish between the voice of
the Holy Spirit
and bad spirits. Events early on in Ignatius' conversion
helped him greatly in understanding and with discernments.
As a young man Ignatius was very fond of chivalry books and narrations full of
When he felt recuperated from his injury, he asked for some of these books to
read and to pass the time, but in that house there were none.
Instead he was given the book Life of Christ and another called
santorum, written in Spanish. He began to be interested in the things he was reading about
in these books. He would think on and off about what he read; but
old habits continued to lead him to think much on his past, and
he entertained his
imagination with vanities and habits that were part of his past
God’s divine mercy, however, was acting during this time,
gradually inspiring his will with other thoughts. Upon reading the life of
Jesus Christ or the saints, he would stop and think to
himself, "what if I were to do the same as St. Francis or St. Dominic?"
In this way his mind was always active. These thoughts would
last a long time until, distracted again, he would return to the
vain thoughts of the world. This succession of thoughts lasting
a long time.
But there was a difference - when he thought about the
things of the world, it would produce great
pleasure at the moment; but once bored and tired of it, he would return to reality
and feel sadness and aridity of spirit.
On the contrary, when he thought of the possibility of
imitating the austerities of the saints, he experienced lasting
and intense happiness and joy.
He did not notice these differences until, one day, the eyes of
his soul were opened and he began to admire the
difference he was personally experiencing. While some thoughts
left him sad, others, on the contrary, left him happy. This is how
he started to seriously reflect on the things of God. Later on
in his life, when he dedicated himself to the spiritual
practices, this experience helped him comprehend and understand
the discretion/discernment of spirits he would later teach others.
The Spiritual Exercises
The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises is to take souls to a
serious state of detachment from the world so they can choose, “without being driven by pleasure or repulsion, towards a general
course of life at a particular point or time of life. The
principle motive to guide this election in your life is what
leads to the Glory of God and the perfection of the soul."
Pope Pius XI said, “The Ignatian method of prayer guides the
soul through the way of self abnegation and of self control or
dominion of bad habits to the highest degree of contemplation
and divine love.”
The Spiritual Exercises have been and continue to be the
instrument that God uses to communicate His Spirit to
an innumerable number of souls towards holiness.
They begin by reflecting on the “Principle and Foundation“ of
all things. They show us the fundamental truths in which we should
edify our lives:
What is the origin of existence? What is life's purpose? What is
its value? These are the main question one should ask himself. The
answer is given by God in Genesis 1:26 when God said, “Let us
make man in our image, after our likeness.” God is love (1 John
4:16), and man is made in God’s image; therefore, he has been created to love with
his heart, like the heart of God. God created man to love with
all his heart, all his mind and strength
Man loves God before any thing when he adores, praises and
serves Him. In this line one's existence should be ordered. By its very nature love seeks union. God
created us to be His adoptive children in Jesus Christ and for
God’s plan consists in making us participants, on earth (through
faith and grace) and for eternity, in the life of the Trinity
Who is Love.
The principal and foundation of our lives is this: We have been
created to praise, adore and to serve God, and through this, save
Being aware of this principal and foundation, and ordering all
our lives in Him, we can construct upon solid rock, so in times
of torment our house will not crumble.
“Lord, Our God, you have raised up St. Ignatius of Loyola in
your Church to extend the glory of Your Name. Grant us that,
after combating here on earth under his protection and
following his example, we may also share with him in the glory
of heaven. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.“
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