Ignatius of Loyola

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Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius of Loyola, also known as igo Lpez de Loyola (December 24, 1491? – July 31 1556), was the principal founder and first Superior General of the Society of Jesus, a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church professing direct service to the Pope. Established to strengthen the Roman Catholic Church, initially against Protestantism during the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent Catholic Reformation, members of the Society of Jesus are called Jesuits.

Ignatius of Loyola was beatified and then canonized to receive the title of Saint on March 12, 1622. His feast day is July 31, celebrated annually. He is the patron saint of Guipuzcoa and Biscay as well as of the Society of Jesus.


Early life

Ignatius was born at the castle of Loyola, near Azpeitia, 16 miles southwest of San Sebastin in the Basque province of Guipzcoa, Spain. The youngest of 13 children, Ignatius was only seven years old when his mother died. In 1506, Ignatius became a page in the service of a relative, Juan Velázquez de Cullar, treasurer (contador mayor) of the kingdom of Castile.

In 1517, Ignatius took service in the army. Severely wounded at the Battle of Pampeluna (May 20, 1521); he spent months as an invalid in his father's castle.

Religious aspiration

During this period of recuperation he came to read a number of religious texts on the life of Jesus and the saints. He became fired with an ambition to lead a life of self-denying labor and to emulate the heroic deeds of Francis of Assisi and other great monastic leaders. He resolved to devote himself to the conversion of non-Christians in the Holy Land.

During this time he drafted his Ejercicios espirituales (Spiritual Exercises), which describes a series of meditations to be undertaken by future Jesuits. These were to exert a strong influence in changing the methods of propaganda in the Church; "the mill into which all Jesuits are cast; they emerge with characters and talents diverse; but the imprint remains ineffaceable" (Cretineau-Joly).

On recovering he 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, Catalonia where he practised the most rigorous asceticism.

He is said to have had visions. The Virgin became the object of his chivalrous devotion. Military imagery played a prominent part in his religious contemplations.

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Engraving of Ignatius, from Wishart's 1900 A Short History of Monks and Monasteries

Studies in Paris

In 1528 he entered the University of Paris where he remained over seven years, extending his literary and theological education and disturbing the students by attempting to interest them in the Spiritual Exercises.

By 1534 he had six key followers - Peter Faber (French), Francis Xavier, Alfonso Salmeron, Jacob Laines, and Nicholas Bobedilla (Spaniards), and Simon Rodrigues (a Portuguese).

Foundation of the Society of Jesus

On August 15, 1534, he and the other six in St. Mary's Church, Montmartre founded the Society of Jesus - "to enter upon hospital and missionary work in Jerusalem, or to go without questioning wherever the pope might direct". In 1537 they travelled to Italy to seek papal approval for their order. Pope Paul III gave them a commendation, and permitted them to be ordained priests. They were ordained at Venice by the bishop of Arbe (June 24). They devoted themselves to preaching and charitable work in Italy, the renewed war between the emperor, Venice, the pope and the Ottoman Empire rendered any journey to Jerusalem inadvisable.

With Faber and Lainez, Ignatius made his way to Rome in October, 1538, to have the pope approve the constitution of the new order. A congregation of cardinals reported favorably upon the constitution presented, and Paul III 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).

Father General of the Jesuits

Ignatius was chosen as the first Superior General of his religious order, invested with the title of Father General by the Jesuits. He sent his companions as missionaries around Europe to create schools, colleges, and seminaries.

In 1548 Spiritual Exercises was finally printed, and he was briefly brought before the Roman Inquisition, but was released.

Ignatius wrote the Jesuit Constitutions, adopted in 1554, which created a monarchical organization and stressed absolute self-abnegation and obedience to Pope and superiors (perinde ac cadaver, "[well-disciplined] like a corpse" as Ignatius put it). His main principle became the Jesuit motto: Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam ("for the greater glory of God").

The Jesuits were a major factor in the success of the Counter-Reformation.

During 1553-1555 Ignatius dictated his secretary father Gonçalves da Câmara his life. This autobiography is a valuable key for the understanding of his Spiritual Exercises. But this report has been kept in the archives until about 150 years, when the Bollandisten published the text in Acta Sanctorum. Meanwhile exists a critical edition in Vol.I (1943) of the Fontes Narrativi of the series Monumenta Historica Socieatatis Iesu.

He died in Rome.

A neighbourhood in Bilbao and the corresponding Metro Bilbao station San Inazio are named after him.


St Ignatius is a principle character of the opera Four Saints in Three Acts by composer Virgil Thomson and librettist Gertrude Stein.

References and external links

es:Ignacio de Loyola eo:Ignaco LOJOLA fr:Ignace de Loyola id:Ignatius Loyola it:Ignazio di Loyola nl:Ignatius van Loyola ja:イグナチオ・デ・ロヨラ pl:Ignacy Loyola pt:Incio de Loyola sk:Ignc z Loyoly sl:Ignacij Lojolski sv:Ignatius av Loyola zh:依納爵


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