Who was Ignatius of Loyola?
Ignatius of Loyola (Inigo Lopez De Recalde) is the founder of the Jesuit order. He was born at the castle of Loyola, near Aspeitia (16 m. of San Sebastian) in the province of Guipuscoa, Spain, probably Christmas night, 1491. He died at Rome July 31, 1556.
Ignatius came from a knightly family, spent his youth at the court of Ferdinand, had few educational advantages, and early entered the army. He was highly sentimental and fond of stories of chivalry. Severely wounded at the battle of Pampeluna (May 20, 1521); he was for months an invalid in his father's castle. During this period of severe suffering a life of Christ and legends of the saints came into his hands. He read them with avidity, and became fired with an ambition to follow Christ in a life of self-denying labor and to emulate the heroic deeds of Francis of Assisi, Dominic, and other great monastic leaders. Amatory and ambitious thoughts he attributed to Satan, and aspirations after holiness and Christian service to the Holy Spirit. He resolved to devote his life to the conversion of infidels in the Holy Land.
Statue of St. Ignatius Loyola by Juan Martínez Montañés, c. 1610
Chapel, Seville University
On recovering Ignatius exchanged clothes with a beggar and visited the Dominican monastery of Montserrat (March 25, 1522), where he hung his military accouterments before an image of the Virgin. He soon entered the monastery of Manresa, where he practised the most rigorous asceticism with frequent confessions and masses and the performance of the most disagreeable and menial tasks. He is said to have had visions of the Trinity, of the mystery of the creation, of the union of deity and humanity in Christ (in the Eucharist). The contemplation of any religious act or meditation on any of the great facts of redemption brought before his susceptible mind realistic images of the events concerned. The Virgin became the object of his chivalrous (almost idolatrous) devotion.
Greatly concerned about his sins and the sins of the world, he pictured most vividly the continuous conflict between Christ and his hosts and Satan and his hosts. Military imagery played a prominent part in his religious contemplations. Before he left Manresa he had wrought out his "Spiritual Exercises," which were to exert a potent influence in the winning and training of converts and in revolutionizing the methods of propagandism in the papal Church; "the mill into which all Jesuits are cast; they emerge with characters and talents diverse; but the imprint remains ineffaceable" (Cretineau-Joly).
In the summer of 1523 Ignatius left Manresa for Jerusalem via Barcelona and Venice. He journeyed wholly without money or supplies. On September 4 he visited the Holy Sepulcher. Finding no way to maintain himself in missionary work in Palestine, he returned to Venice (January 1524), convinced that he could accomplish little without scholastic training.
Ignatius of Loyola at his studies
Early in the year he went to Barcelona and took his place (though 33 years old) among the school-boys to learn the rudiments of Latin. In two years Ignatius was able to enter the University of Alcala, and in the autumn of 1527 he removed to the University of Salamanca. At both universities he incurred the censure of the authorities through his efforts to win converts among the students by inducing them to subject themselves to courses of training in the "Spiritual Exercises."
Early in 1528 Ignatius entered the University of Paris where he remained over seven years, perfecting his literary and theological education and winning associates. For disturbing the students by getting them absorbed in the "Spiritual Exercises" he narrowly escaped disgraceful punishment at the hands of the authorities. He spent the vacations in the Netherlands among his fellow countrymen, who generously supplied his wants. By 1534 he had won to his mode of life and inspired with his purpose and enthusiasm Peter Faber, Francis Xavier (q.v.), Alfonso Salmeron, Jacob Laines, and Nicholas Bobedilla (Spaniards), and Simon Rodrigues (a Portuguese).
On August 15, 1534, these brethren with Ignatius, in the St. Mary's Church at Montmartre, vowed on the completion of their studies to enter upon hospital and missionary work in Jerusalem, or, opportunity failing, to go without questioning wherever the pope might direct. Early in 1585 Ignatius went to Spain to attend to some business matters for Xavier, Lainez, and Salmeron, not wishing, it may be, to expose them to the temptations of home and family or to interrupt their studies. It was arranged that the companions should meet him at Venice in January 1537. He visited the castle of Loyola, but chose to abide at the alms house. His preaching in the community attracted wide-spread attention. While he was in Spain his companions gained three recruits, Claude Le Jay, Jean Codure, and Pasquier-Brouet, all able and well-educated. The reunion at Venice occurred as prearranged. They found it no easy matter to gain papal approval of their enterprise.
Caraffa, under whose auspices the Theatines had been constituted for a similar purpose, tried to persuade Ignatius and his companions, who had attracted his attention by their zealous and self-denying labors in the hospitals and among the poor and outcast, to join the older order. Aware of the sentiments of Caraffa, Ignatius thought a visit to the Pope inadvisable; but Paul III, when he learned of their zeal and their purposes, sent for them, gave them his commendation, and permitted them to be ordained priests. They were ordained at Venice by the bishop of Arbe (June 24).
Just at this time the emperor, Venice, and the pope declared war against the Turks and made Ignatius's proposed mission impracticable. The company now devoted themselves with great zeal and success to preaching and charitable work in various parts of Italy. With Faber and Lainez, Ignatius made his way to Rome in October 1538, under a deep impression (based on a vision) that the pope would approve of the constitution of the new order. He found the pope conferring with some of the cardinals regarding a reformation of the city. Paul III received Ignatius and his two companions with open arms, appointed Faber and Lainez to chairs in the Sapientia college, and charged Ignatius with the task of reforming Rome.
Pope Paul III confirms the Society of Jesus, 1540
Early in 1539 all seven of his coadjutors were in Rome. With consuming zeal and wonderful acceptance they preached in the market places, the streets, and in such churches as were open to them; in the universities they sought to win the students; in caring for the multitudinous poor and sick their labors were abundant. The evenings they spent in prayer and in perfecting their organization and plans. Charges of heresy that had been made against them now received little attention in the general applause. Several of the associates were sent by the pope on important missions, which they performed to his entire satisfaction. Xavier and Rodriguez were invited to the Portuguese court. The former was encouraged to go as a missionary to India; the latter became the king's counselor.
The time for the confirmation of the order had arrived. A congregation of cardinals reported favorably upon the constitution presented, and Paul III. became convinced that it was the work of the Holy Spirit. He confirmed the order through the bull Regimini militantis (September 27, 1540), but limited the number of its members to sixty. This limitation was removed through the bull Injunctum nobis (March 14, 1543). Ignatius was unanimously chosen general by the members who were then in Rome, and with great solemnity they pledged him absolute obedience and recognized him as "holding the place of God" in relation to them.
From this time onward the life of Ignatius was identified with the history of the Company of Jesus. No doubt he had much to do with the preparation of the "Constitutions," "Rules," "Institutions," etc. Many of his letters have been preserved. His tract "On the Virtue of Obedience" and his "Spiritual Exercises" best set forth the spirit of the man and of the order as he founded it. As general he spent most of his time in Rome, where, in close touch with the pope and the curia, he directed the work of the order that soon became world-wide in its scope. It is probable that no man ever combined so much of religious enthusiasm, often verging on fanaticism, with such fixity of purpose and such a wise adaptation of means to ends. He identified the "greater glory of God" to which he professed devotion, with the universal triumph throughout the world of the papal Church, which he wished to see brought up to his own standard of zeal and self-sacrifice.
Text reprinted from A.H. Newman, "Ignatius of Loyola," in Philip Schaff, ed., The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. V (1953), pp. 447-48. The text is in the public domain. Formatting, images and further resources added by ReligionFacts.com.