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St. Ignatius of Loyola

St. Ignatius of LoyolaAKA Inigo Lopez de Recalde

Born: 1491
Birthplace: Loyola, Castile, Spain
Died: 31-Jul-1556
Location of death: Rome, Italy
Cause of death: Fever

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Religion

Nationality: Spain
Executive summary: Founder of the Jesuit order

Inigo Lopez de Recalde, son of Beltran, lord of the noble houses of Loyola and Oñaz, was born, according to the generally accepted opinion, on the 24th of December 1491 at the castle of Loyola, which is situated on the river Urola, about one mile from the town of Azpeitia, in the province of Guipuzcoa. He was the youngest of a family of thirteen. As soon as he had learned the elements of reading and writing, he was sent as a page to the court of Ferdinand and Isabella; afterwards, until his twenty-sixth year, he took service with Antonio Maurique, Duke of Nagera, and followed the career of arms. He was free in his relations with women, gambled and fought; but he also gave indications of that courage, constancy and prudence which marked his after life. In a political mission to settle certain disputes in the province he showed his dexterity in managing men.

Despite the treaty of Noyon (1516), Charles V kept Pampeluna, the capital of Navarre. André de Foix, at the head of the French troops, laid siege to the town in 1521 and Ignatius was one of the defending garrison. In the hour of danger, the claims of religion reasserted themselves on the young soldier, and, following a custom when no priest was at hand, he made his confession to a brother officer, who in turn also confessed to him. During the final assault on the 19th of May 1521 a cannon ball struck him, shattering one of his legs and badly wounding the other. The victorious French treated him kindly for nearly two weeks, and then sent him in a litter to Loyola. The doctors declared that the leg needed to be broken and set again; and the operation was borne without a sign of pain beyond a clenching of his fist. His vanity made him order the surgeons to cut out a bone which protruded below the knee and spoilt the symmetry of his leg. He was lame for the rest of his days. Serious illness followed the operations, and, his life being despaired of, he received last rites on the 28th of June. That night, however, he began to mend, and in a few days he was out of danger. During convalescence two books that were to influence his life were brought to him. These were a Castilian translation of The Life of Christ by Ludolphus of Saxony, and the popular Flowers of the Saints, a series of pious biographies. He gradually became interested in these books, and a mental struggle began. Sometimes he would pass hours thinking of a certain illustrious lady, devising means of seeing her and of doing deeds that would win her favor; at other times the thoughts suggested by the books got the upper hand. He began to recognize that his career of arms was over: so he would become the knight of Christ. He determined to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and to practise all the austerities that he read of in The Flowers of the Saints. Expiating his sins was not so much his aim as to accomplish great deeds for God. During the struggle that went on in his soul, he began to take note of his psychological state; and this was the first time that he exercised his reason on spiritual things; the experience thus painfully gained he found of great use afterwards in directing others. One night while he lay awake, he tells us, he saw the likeness of the Blessed Virgin with her divine Son; and immediately a loathing seized him for the former deeds of his life, especially for those relating to carnal desires; and he asserts that for the future he never yielded to any such desires. This was the first of many visions. Ignatius proposed after returning from Jerusalem to join the Carthusian order at Seville as a lay brother. About the same time Martin Luther was in the full course of his protest against the papal supremacy and had already burnt the pope's bull at Worms. The two opponents were girding themselves for the struggle; and what the Church of Rome was losing by the defection of the Augustinian was being counterbalanced by the conversion of the founder of the Society of Jesus.

As soon as Ignatius had regained strength, he started ostensibly to rejoin the Duke of Nagera, but in reality to visit the great Benedictine abbey of Montserrato, a famous place of pilgrimage. On the way, he was joined by a Moor, who began to jest at some of the Christian doctrines, especially at the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin. Ignatius was no controversialist; and the Moor rode off victorious. The chivalrous nature of Ignatius was aroused. Seized with a longing to pursue and kill the Moor on account of his insulting language, Ignatius, still doubting as to his best course, left the matter to his mule, which at the dividing of the ways took the path to the abbey, leaving the open road which the Moor had taken. Before reaching Montserrato, Ignatius purchased some sackcloth for a garment and hempen shoes, which, with a staff and gourd, formed the usual pilgrim's dress. Approaching the abbey he resolved to do as his favorite hero Amadis de Gaul did -- keep a vigil all night before the Lady altar and then lay aside his worldly armor to put on that of Christ. He arrived at the abbey just about the feast of St. Benedict (the 21st of March 1522), and there made a confession of his life to a priest belonging to the monastery. He found in use for the pilgrims a translation of the Spiritual Exercises of the former abbot, Garcia di Cisneros (d. 1510); and this book evidently gave Ignatius the first idea of his more famous work under the same title. Leaving his mule to the abbey, and giving away his worldly clothes to a beggar, he kept his watch in the church during the night of the 24th-25th of March, and placed on the Lady altar his sword and dagger. Early the next morning he received the Holy Eucharist and left before any one could recognize him, going to the neighboring town of Manresa, where he first lived in the hospice. Here began a series of heavy spiritual trials which assailed him for many months. Seven hours a day he spent on his knees in prayer and three times a day he scourged his emaciated body. One day, almost overcome with scruples, he was tempted to end his miseries by suicide. At another time, for the same reason, he kept an absolute fast for a week. He tells us that, at this time, God wrought with him as a master with a schoolboy whom he teaches. But his energies were not confined to himself. He assisted others who came to him for spiritual advice; and seeing the fruit reaped from helping his neighbor, he gave up the extreme severities in which he had delighted and began to take more care of his person, so as not needlessly to offend those whom he might influence for good.

During his stay at Manresa, he lived for the most part in a cell at the Dominican convent; and here, evidently, he had severe illnesses. He recounts the details of at least two of these attacks, but says nothing about the much-quoted swoon of eight days, during which he is supposed to have seen in vision the scheme of the future Society. Neither does he refer in any way to the famous cave in which, according to the Ignatian myth, the Spiritual Exercises were written. Fortunately we have the firsthand evidence of his autobiography, which is a surer guide than the lines written by untrustworthy disciples. Ignatius remained at Manresa for about a year, and in the spring of 1523 set out for Barcelona on his way to Rome, where he arrived on Palm Sunday. After two weeks he left, having received the blessing of Pope Adrian VI, and proceeded by Padua to Venice, where he begged his bread and slept in the Piazza di San Marco until a rich Spaniard gave him shelter and obtained an order from the doge for a passage in a pilgrim ship bound for Cyprus, whence he could get to Jaffa. In due course Ignatius arrived at Jerusalem, where he intended to remain, in order continuously to visit the holy places and help souls. For this end he had obtained letters of recommendation to the guardian, to whom, however, he only spoke of his desire of satisfying his devotion, not hinting his other motive. The Franciscans gave him no encouragement to remain; and the provincial threatened him with excommunication if he persisted. Not only had the friars great difficulty in supporting themselves, but they dreaded an outbreak from the fanatical Turks who resented some imprudent manifestations of Loyola's zeal. Ignatius returned to Venice in the middle of January 1524; and, determining to devote himself for a while to study, he set out for Barcelona, where he arrived in Lent. Here he consulted Isabella Roser, a lady of high rank and piety, and also the master of a grammar school. These both approved his plan; the one promised to teach him without payment and the other to provide him with the necessaries of life. Here, in his thirty-third year, he began to learn Latin, and after two years his master urged him to go to Alcalá to begin philosophy. During his stay of a year and a half in this university, besides his classes, he found occasion to give to some companions his Spiritual Exercises in the form they had then taken and certain instructions in Christian doctrine. On account of these discourses Ignatius came into conflict with the Inquisition. He and his companions were denounced as belonging to the sects of Sagati and Illuminati. Their mode of life and dress was peculiar and hinted at innovation. But, always ready to obey authority, Ignatius was able to disarm any charges that, now and at other times, were brought against him. The Inquisition merely advised him and his companions to dress in a less extraordinary manner and to go shod. Four months later he was suddenly cast into prison; and, after seventeen days, he learned that he was falsely accused of sending two noble ladies on a pilgrimage to Jaen. During their absence, from the 21st of April 1527 to the 1st of June, he remained in prison, and was then set free with a prohibition against instructing others until he had spent four years in study.

Seeing his way thus barred at Alcalá, he went with his companions to Salamanca. Here the Dominicans, doubting the orthodoxy of the newcomers, had them put into prison, where they were chained foot to foot and fastened to a stake set up in the middle of the cell. Some days afterwards Ignatius was examined and found without fault. His patience won him many friends; and when he and his companions remained in prison while the other prisoners managed to escape, their conduct excited much admiration. After twenty-two days they were called up to receive sentence. No fault was found in their life and teaching; but they were forbidden to define any sins as being mortal or venial until they had studied for four years. Hampered again by such an order, Ignatius determined to go to Paris to continue his studies. Up to the present be was far from having any idea of founding a society. The only question before him now was whether he should join an order, or continue his wandering existence. He decided upon Paris for the present, and before leaving Salamanca he agreed with his companions that they should wait where they were until he returned; for he only meant to see whether he could find any means by which they all might give themselves to study. He left Barcelona and, travelling on foot to Paris, he arrived there in February 1528. The University of Paris had reached its zenith at the time of the council of Constance (1418), and was now losing its intellectual leadership under the attacks of the Renaissance and the Reformation. In 1521 the university had condemned Luther's Babylonish Captivity, and in 1527 Erasmus's Colloquies met with the same fate. Soon after his arrival, Ignatius may have seen in the Place de Grève the burning of Louis de Berquin for heresy. At this period there were between twelve and fifteen thousand students attending the university, and the life was an extraordinary mixture of licentiousness and devout zeal. When Ignatius arrived in Paris, he lodged at first with some fellow countrymen; and for two years attended the lectures on humanities at the collège de Montaigu, supporting himself at first by the charity of Isabella Roser; but, a fellow lodger defrauding him of his stock, he found himself destitute and compelled to beg his bread. He retired to the hospice of St. Jacques; and, following the advice of a Spanish monk, spent his vacations in Flanders, where he was helped by the rich Spanish merchants. At Bruges he became acquainted with the famous Spanish scholar, Juan Luis Vives, with whom he lodged. In the summer of 1530 he went to London, where he received alms more abundantly than elsewhere. As he could only support himself at Paris with difficulty, it was impossible to send for his companions in Salamanca. Others, however, joined him in Paris, and to some of them he gave the Spiritual Exercises, with the result that the Inquisition made him give up speaking on religious subjects during the time he was a student. At the end of 1529 he came into contact with the men who were eventually to become the first fathers of the Society of Jesus. He won over the Savoyard Pierre Lefèvre (Faber), whose room he shared, and the Navarrese Francis Xavier, who taught philosophy in the college of St. Barbara. Afterwards he became acquainted with the young Castilian, Diego Laynez, who had heard of him at Acalá and found him out in Paris. With Laynez came two other young men, the Toledan Alfonso Salmeron and the Portuguese Simon Rodriguez. Nicholas Bobadilla, a poor Spaniard who had finished his studies, was the next to join him. The little company of seven determined to consecrate their union by vows. On the 15th of August 1534, the Feast of the Assumption, they assembled in the crypt of the church of St. Mary on Montmartre, and Faber, the only one who was a priest, said Mass. They then took the vows of poverty and chastity, and pledged themselves to go to the Holy Land as missionaries or for the purpose of tending the sick; or if this design should prove impracticable, to go to Rome and place themselves at the disposal of the pope for any purpose. But, whatever may have been the private opinion of Ignatius, there was on this occasion no foundation of any society. The vows wre individual obligations which could be kept quite apart from membership in a society. A provision was made that if, after waiting a year at Venice, they were unable to go to Jerusalem, this part of the vow should be cancelled and they should at once betake themselves to Rome.

At this time Ignatius was again suffering from his former imprudent austerities; and he was urged to return for a while to his native air. He left Paris for Spain in the autumn of 1535, leaving Faber in charge of his companions to finish their studies. During the absence of Ignatius, Faber gained three more adherents. But before leaving Paris Ignatius heard once more that complaints had been lodged against him at the Inquisition; but these like the others were found to be without any foundation. When he arrived near Loyola he would not go to the castle, but lived at the public hospice at Azpeitia, and began his usual life of teaching Christian doctrine and reforming morals. Falling ill again he went to other parts of Spain to transact business for his companions. Then, sailing from Valencia to Genoa, he made his way to Venice, where he arrived during the last days of 1535. Here he waited for a year until his companions could join him, and meanwhile he occupied himself in his usual good works, gaining several more companions and meeting Giovanni Piero Caraffa, afterwards Paul IV, who had lately founded the Theatines. What happened between the two does not appear; but henceforth Caraffa seems to have borne ill will towards Ignatius and his companions. At Venice Ignatius was again accused of heresy, and it was said that he had escaped from the Inquisition in Spain and had been burnt in effigy at Paris. These charges he met successfully by insisting that the nuncio should thoroughly inquire into the matter.

After a journey of fifty-four days his companions arrived at Venice in January 1537; and here they remained until the beginning of Lent, when Ignatius sent them to Rome to get money for the proposed voyage to Palestine. He himself stayed behind, as he feared that, if he went with them, Caraffa at Rome, together with Dr. Ortiz, a German opponent in Paris and now Charles V's ambassador at the Vatican, would prejudice the pope against them. But Ortiz proved a friend and presented them to Paul III, who gave them leave to go to Palestine to preach the Gospel, bestowing upon them abundant alms. He likewise gave license for those not yet priests to be ordained by any catholic bishop on the title of poverty. They had returned to Venice where Ignatius and the others were ordained priests on the 24th of June 1537, after having renewed their vows of poverty and chastity to the legate Verallo. Ignatius, now a priest, waited for eighteen months before saying Mass, which he did for the first time on the 25th of December 1538 in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

The year of waiting passed away without any chance of going to the Holy Land. Finding it impossible to keep this part of their vow, the fathers met at Vicenza, where Ignatius was staying in a ruined monastery; and here after deliberation it was determined that he, Laynez and Faber should go to Rome to place the little band at the disposal of the pope. It was now that the Society began to take some visible form. A common rule was devised and a name adopted. Ignatius declared that having assembled in the name of Jesus, the association should henceforth bear the name of the Company of Jesus. The word used shows Loyola's military ideal of the duties and methods of the nascent society.

On the road to Rome a famous vision took place, as to which we have the evidence of Ignatius himself. In a certain church, a few miles before Rome, whilst in prayer he was aware of a stirring and a change in his soul; and so openly did he see God the Father placing him with Christ, that he could not dare to doubt that God the Father had so placed him. Subsequent writers add that Christ, looking at him with a benign countenance, said: "I shall be propitious to you"; while others add the significant words, "at Rome." Ignatius, however, says nothing about so important a matter; indeed he undersinod the vision to mean that many things would be adverse to them, and told his companions when they reached the city that he saw the windows there closed against him. He also said: "We must of necessity proceed with caution; and we must not make the acquaintance of women unless they be of very high rank." They arrived in Rome in October 1537; and lived at first in a little cottage in a vineyard and near the Trinit à dei Monti. The pope appointed Faber to teach Holy Scripture, and Laynez scholastic theology, in the university of the Sapienza. Ignatius was left free to carry on his spiritual work, which became so large that he was obliged to call his other companions to Rome. During the absence of the pope, a certain hermit began to spread heresy and was opposed by Ignatius and his companions. In revenge the hermit brought up the former accusations concerning the relations to the Inquisition, and proclaimed Ignatius and his friends to be false, designing men and no better than concealed heretics. The matter was examined and the legate ordered the suit to be quashed. But this did not suit Ignatius. It was necessary for his own good repute and the future of his work that a definitive sentence should be pronounced and his name cleared once and for all. The legate demurred; but on the pope's return sentence was formally given in his favor.

The life of Ignatius is now mainly identified with the formation and growth of his Society, but his zeal found other outlets in Rome. He founded institutions for rescuing fallen women, started orphanages and organized catechetical instructions. He obtained, after difficulty, the official recognition of his Society from Paul III on the 27th of September 1540, and successfully steered it through many perils that beset it in its early days. He was unanimously elected the first general in April 1541; and on the 22nd of that month received the first vows of the Society in the church of San Paolo fuori la mura. Two works now chiefly occupied the remainder of his life: the final completion of the Spiritual Exercises and the drawing up of the Constitutions, which received their final form after his death. These two are so constantly connected that the one cannot be understood without the other. In these he taught his followers to respond to the call; by the Spiritual Exercises he moulded their character.

The Book of the Spiritual Exercises has been one of the world-moving books. In its strict conception it is only an application of the Gospel precepts to the individual soul. Its object is to convince a man of sin, of justice and of judgment. The idea of the book is not original to Ignatius. At Montserrato he had found in use a popular translation of the Exercitatorio de la vida spiritual (1500), written in Latin by Abbot Garcias de Cisneros (d. 1510), and divided into three ways or periods during which purity of soul, enlightenment and union are to be worked for; a fourth part is added on contemplation. This book evidently afforded the root idea of the Ignatian and more famous book. But the differences are great. While taking the title, the idea of division by periods and the subjects of most of the meditations from the older work, Ignatius skilfully adapted it to his own requirements. Above all the methods of the two are essentially different. The Benedictine work follows the old monastic tradition of the direct intercourse of the soul with God. Ignatrus, with his military instinct and views of obedience, intervenes with a director who gives the exercises to the person who in turn receives them. If this introduction of the director is essential to the end for which Ignatius framed his Exercises, in it we also find dangers. A director, whose aim is only the personal advantage of the one who is receiving the exercises, will be the faithful interpreter of his founder's intentions: but in the case of one whose esprit de corps is unbalanced, the temporary and pecuniary advantage of the Society may be made of more importance than that of the exercitant. Another danger may come when minuteness of direction takes away the wholesome sense of responsibility. Apart from these abuses the Spiritual Exercises have proved their value over and over again, and have received the sincerest form of flattery in countless imitations. The original parts of the book are principally to be found in the meditations, which are clearly Ignatian in conception as well as method. These are The Reign of Christ, wherein Christ as an earthly king calls his subjects to war: and Two Standards, one of Jesus Christ and the other of Lucifer. Besides these there are various additions to the series of meditations, which are mostly the practical results of the experiences which Ignatius went through in the early stages of his conversion. He gives various methods of prayer; methods of making an election; his series of rules for the discernment of spirits; rules for the distribution of alms and the treatment of scruples; tests of orthodoxy. These additions are skilfully worked into the series of meditations; so that when the exercitant by meditation has moved his soul to act, here are practical directions at hand.

The exercises are divided into four series of meditations technically called "weeks", each of which may last as long as the director considers necessary to achieve the end for which each week is destined. But the whole period is generally concluded in the space of a month. The first week is the foundation, and has to do with the consideration of the end of man, sin, death, judgment and hell. Having purified the soul from sin and obtained a detestation thereof, the second week treats of the kingdom of Christ, and is meant to lead the soul to make an election of the service of God. The third and fourth weeks are intended to confirm the soul in the new way chosen, to teach how difficulties can be overcome, to inflame it with the love of God and to help it to persevere.

The Book of the Spiritual Exercises was not written at Manresa, although there is in that place an inscription testifying to the supposed fact. Ignatius was constantly adding to his work as his own personal experience increased, and as he watched the effects of his method on the souls of those to whom he gave the exercises. The latest critics, even those of the Society itself, give 1548 as the date when the book received its final touches; though Father Roothaan gives Rome, the 9th of July 1541, as the date at the end of the ancient manuscript version. Ignatius wrote originally in Spanish, but the book was twice translated into Latin during his lifetime. The more elegant version (known as the common edition) differs but slightly from the Spanish. Francisco Borgia, while Duke of Gandia, petitioned Paul III to have the book examined and approved. The pope appointed censors for both translations, who found the work to be replete with piety and holiness, highly useful and wholesome. Paul III on receiving this report confirmed it on the 31st of July 1548 by the breve Pastoralis officii cura. This book, which is rightly called the spiritual arm of the Society, was the first book published by the Jesuits.

The progress of the Society of Jesus in Loyola's lifetime was rapid. Having always had an attraction for a life of prayer and retirement, in 1547 he tried to resign the generalship, and again in 1550, but the fathers unanimously opposed the project. One of his last trials was to see in 1556 the election as pope of his old opponent Caraffa, who soon showed his intention of reforming certain points in the Society that Ignatius considered vital. But at this difficult crisis he never lost his peace of mind. He said: "If this misfortune were to fall upon me, provided it happened without any fault of mine, even if the Society were to melt away like salt in water, I believe that a quarter of an hour's recollection in God would be sufficient to console me and to reestablish peace within me." It is clear that Ignatius never dreamed of putting his Society before the church nor of identifying the two institutions.

In the beginning of 1556 Ignatius grew very weak and resigned the active government to three fathers, Polanco, Madrid and Natal. Fever laid hold of him, and he died somewhat suddenly on the 31st of July 1556, without receiving or asking for the last sacraments. He was beatified in 1609 by Paul V and canonized in 1628 by Pope Gregory XV. His body lies under the altar in the north transept of the Gesù in Rome.

His portrait is well known. The olive complexion, a face emaciated by austerities, the large forehead, the brilliant and small eyes, the high bald head tell their own tale. He was of medium height and carried himself so well that his lameness was hardly noticeable. His character was naturally impetuous and enthusiastic, but became marked with great self-control as he gradually brought his will under his reason. There was always that love of overcoming difficulty inherent in a chivalrous nature; and this also accounts for that desire of surpassing every one else that marked his early days. Whilst other Christians, following St. Paul, were content to do all things for the glory of God, Ignatius set himself and his followers to strive after the greater glory. Learning by his own experience and errors, he wisely developed a sovereign prudence which nicely adjusted means to the end in view. He impressed on his followers the doctrine that in all things the end was to be considered. Never would Ignatius have countenanced so perverted an idea as that the end justified the means, for with his spiritual light and zeal for God's glory he saw clearly that means in themselves unjust were opposed to the very end he held in view. As a ruler he displayed the same common sense. Obedience he made one of his great instruments, yet he never intended it to be a galling yoke. His doctrine on the subject is found in the well-known letter to the Portuguese Jesuits in 1553, and if this be read carefully together with the Constitutions his meaning is clear. If he says that a subject is to allow himself to be moved and directed, under God, by a superior just as though he were a corpse or as a staff in the hands of an old man, he is also careful to say that the obedience is only due in all things "wherein it cannot be defined (as it is said) that any kind of sin appears." The way in which his teaching on obedience is practically carried out is the best corrective of the false ideas that have arisen from misconceptions of its nature. His high ideas on the subject made him a stern ruler. There are certain instances in his life which, taken by themselves, show a hardness in treating individuals who would not obey; but as a rule, he tempered his authority to the capacity of those with whom he had to deal. When he had to choose between the welfare of the Society and the feelings of an individual it was clear to which side the balance would fall.

There was in his character a peculiar mixture of conservatism and a keen sense of the requirements of the day. In intellectual matters he was not in advance of his day. The Jesuit system of education, set forth in the Ratio studiorum, owes nothing to him. While he did not reject any approved learning, he abhorred any intellectual culture that destroyed or lessened piety. He wished to secure uniformity in the judgment of the Society even in points left open and free by the church: "Let us all think in the same way, let us all speak in the same manner if possible." Bartole, the official biographer of Ignatius, says that he would not permit any innovation in the studies; and that, were he to live five hundred years, he would always repeat "no novelties" in theology, in philosophy or in logic -- not even in grammar. The revival of learning had led many away from Christ; intellectual culture must be used as a means of bringing them back. The new learning in religion had divided christendom; the old learning of the faith, once delivered to the saints, was to reconcile them. This was the problem that faced Ignatius, and in his endeavor to effect a needed reformation in the individual and in society his work and the success that crowned it place him among the moral heroes of humanity.

    Society of Jesus
    Heresy Venice
    Heresy Rome
    Canonization by Pope Gregory XV (22-May-1622)
    Risk Factors: Malaria


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