Saint Ignatius Loyola, Priest

Matthew 13:54-58

A prophet is only despised in his own country

Coming to his home town, Jesus taught the people in their synagogue in such a way that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? This is the carpenter’s son, surely? Is not his mother the woman called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? His sisters, too, are they not all here with us? So where did the man get it all?’ And they would not accept him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country and in his own house’, and he did not work many miracles there because of their lack of faith.


Jeremiah 26:1-9

Jeremiah preaches in the Temple of the Lord and is threatened with death

At the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word was addressed to Jeremiah by the Lord, ‘The Lord says this: Stand in the court of the Temple of the Lord. To all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the Temple of the Lord you must speak all the words I have commanded you to tell them; do not omit one syllable. Perhaps they will listen and each turn from his evil way: if so, I shall relent and not bring the disaster on them which I intended for their misdeeds. Say to them, “The Lord says this: If you will not listen to me by following my Law which I put before you, by paying attention to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send so persistently to you, without your ever listening to them, I will treat this Temple as I treated Shiloh, and make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.”’

The priests and prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah say these words in the Temple of the Lord. When Jeremiah had finished saying everything that the Lord had ordered him to say to all the people, the priests and prophets seized hold of him and said, ‘You shall die! Why have you made this prophecy in the name of the Lord, “This Temple will be like Shiloh, and this city will be desolate, and uninhabited”?’ And the people were all crowding round Jeremiah in the Temple of the Lord.


Psalm 68(69):5,8-10,14

In your great love, answer me, O God.

More numerous than the hairs on my head

are those who hate me without cause.

Those who attack me with lies

are too much for my strength.

How can I restore

what I have never stolen?

In your great love, answer me, O God.

It is for you that I suffer taunts,

that shame covers my face,

that I have become a stranger to my brothers,

an alien to my own mother’s sons.

I burn with zeal for your house

and taunts against you fall on me.

In your great love, answer me, O God.

This is my prayer to you,

my prayer for your favour.

In your great love, answer me, O God,

with your help that never fails.

In your great love, answer me, O God.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Mary’s divine motherhood

495 Called in the Gospels “the mother of Jesus”, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord”. In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).


Saint Ignatius of Loyola (Basque: Ignazio Loiolakoa, Spanish: Ignacio de Loyola; c. October 23, 1491 – July 31, 1556) was a Spanish Basque priest and theologian, who founded the religious order called the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and became its first Superior General. The Jesuit order served the Pope as missionaries, and they were bound by a vow of special obedience to the sovereign pontiff in regard to the missions. They therefore emerged as an important political force during the time of the Counter-Reformation.

Ignatius is remembered as a talented spiritual director. He recorded his method in a celebrated treatise called the Spiritual Exercises, a simple set of meditations, prayers, and other mental exercises, first published in 1548.

Ignatius was beatified in 1609, and then canonized, receiving the title of Saint on March 12, 1622. His feast day is celebrated on July 31. He is the patron saint of the Basque provinces of Gipuzkoa and Biscay as well as the Society of Jesus, and was declared patron saint of all spiritual retreats by Pope Pius XI in 1922. Ignatius is also a foremost patron saint of soldiers.

Early Life

Íñigo López de Loyola (sometimes erroneously called Íñigo López de Recalde) was born in the municipality of Azpeitia at the castle of Loyola in today’s Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Spain. He was baptized Íñigo, after St. Enecus (Innicus) (Basque: Eneko; Spanish: Íñigo) Abbot of Oña, a medieval Basque name which perhaps means “My little one”. It is not clear when he began using the Latin name “Ignatius” instead of his baptismal name “Íñigo”. It seems he did not intend to change his name, but rather adopted a name which he believed was a simple variant of his own, for use in France and Italy where it was better understood.

Íñigo was the youngest of thirteen children. His mother died soon after his birth, and he was then brought up by María de Garín, the local blacksmith’s wife. Íñigo adopted the surname “de Loyola” in reference to the Basque village of Loyola where he was born.

Military Career

As a boy Íñigo became a page in the service of a relative, Juan Velázquez de Cuéllar, treasurer (contador mayor) of the kingdom of Castile.

As a young man Íñigo had a great love for military exercises as well as a tremendous desire for fame. He framed his life around the stories of El Cid, the knights of Camelot, and the Song of Roland. He joined the army at seventeen, and according to one biographer, he strutted about “with his cape slinging open to reveal his tight-fitting hose and boots; a sword and dagger at his waist”. According to another he was “a fancy dresser, an expert dancer, a womanizer, sensitive to insult, and a rough punkish swordsman who used his privileged status to escape prosecution for violent crimes committed with his priest brother at carnival time.” Upon encountering a Moor who denied the divinity of Jesus, he challenged him to a duel to the death, and ran him through with his sword. He dueled many other men as well.

In 1509, at the age of 18, Íñigo took up arms for Antonio Manrique de Lara, Duke of Nájera. His diplomacy and leadership qualities earned him the title “servant of the court”, which made him very useful to the Duke. Under the Duke’s leadership, Íñigo participated in many battles without injury. But at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521 he was gravely injured when a French-Navarrese expedition force stormed the fortress of Pamplona on May 20, 1521. A cannonball hit him in the legs, wounding his right leg and fracturing the left in multiple places. Íñigo was returned to his father’s castle in Loyola, where, in an era that knew nothing of anesthetics, he underwent several surgical operations to repair his legs, having the bones set and then rebroken. In the end these operations left one leg shorter than the other: Íñigo would limp for the rest of his life, and his military career was ended.

Religious conversion and visions

During his recovery from surgery, Íñigo underwent a spiritual conversion which led to his experiencing a call to religious life. Hospitals in those days were run by religious orders, and the reading material available to bedridden patient tended to be selected from scripture or devotional literature. This is how Íñigo came to read a series of religious texts on the life of Jesus and on the lives of the saints. The work which most particularly struck him was the De Vita Christi of Ludolph of Saxony. This book would influence his whole life, inspiring him to devote himself to God and follow the example of Francis of Assisi and other great monks. It also inspired his method of meditation, since Ludolph proposes that the reader place himself mentally at the scene of the Gospel story, visualising the crib at the Nativity, etc. This type of meditation, known as Simple Contemplation, was the basis for the method that St. Ignatius would promote in his Spiritual Exercises.

While still convalescing, Íñigo resolved to dedicate the rest of his life to the conversion of Infidels in the Holy Land. In March 1522 he had recovered sufficiently to walk again, and he visited the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat, where, during an overnight vigil at the shrine, he experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. He then hung his sword and dagger before the statue of the Virgin.

From Montserrat he walked on to the nearby town of Manresa (Catalonia), where he lived for about a year, begging for his keep, and then eventually doing chores at a local hospital in exchange for food and lodging. For several months he spent much of his time praying in a cave nearby where he practiced rigorous asceticism, praying for seven hours a day, and formulating the fundamentals of his Spiritual Exercises.

Íñigo also experienced a series of visions in full daylight while at the hospital. These repetitive visions appeared as “a form in the air near him and this form gave him much consolation because it was exceedingly beautiful … it somehow seemed to have the shape of a serpent and had many things that shone like eyes, but were not eyes. He received much delight and consolation from gazing upon this object … but when the object vanished he became disconsolate”. He came to interpret this vision as diabolical in nature.

Period of study

In September 1523, Íñigo made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the goal of settling there. He remained there from September 3 to 23 but he was sent back to Europe by the Franciscans.

He returned to Barcelona and at the age of thirty-three began to attend a free public grammar school to prepare himself for entrance to a university. When his preparation was complete, he then went on to the University of Alcalá, where he studied Theology and Latin from 1524 and 1534.

There he encountered some women who had been called before the Inquisition. These women were considered alumbrados (Illuminated, Illuminati, or Enlightened Ones) – a group that was linked in their zeal and spirituality to Franciscan reforms, but had incurred mounting suspicion on the part of the administrators of the Inquisition. At one point, Íñigo was preaching on the street when three of these devout women began to experience ecstatic states. “One fell senseless, another sometimes rolled about on the ground, another had been seen in the grip of convulsions or shuddering and sweating in anguish.” This suspicious activity had taken place while Íñigo was preaching without a degree in theology. Íñigo was then singled out for interrogation by the Inquisition; however, he was later released.

After these adventurous activities, Íñigo (by now Ignatius) moved to Paris to study at the famous University. He studied at the ascetical Collège de Montaigu, where he remained for over seven years.

He arrived during a period of anti-Protestant turmoil which forced John Calvin to flee France. Very soon after his arrival Ignatius had gathered around him six key companions, all of whom he had met as fellow students at the University.— Francis Xavier, Alfonso Salmeron, Diego Laynez, and Nicholas Bobadilla, all Spanish; Peter Faber, a Savoyard; and Simão Rodrigues of Portugal. Peter Faber, a young man from Savoy in the south of France, and Francis Xavier, a nobleman from the eastern end of the Basque country, were his first roommates, and would become his closest associates in founding the Jesuit order.

“On the morning of the 15th of August, 1534, in the chapel of church of Saint Peter, at Montmartre, Loyola and his six companions, of whom only one was a priest, met and took upon themselves the solemn vows of their lifelong work.”

Later, they were joined by Saint Francis Borgia, a member of the House of Borgia, who was the main aide of Emperor Charles V, and other nobles.

Ignatius obtained a master’s degree from the University of Paris at the age of forty-three. In later life he was often called “Master Ignatius” because of this.

Foundation of the Jesuit Order

In 1539, with Saint Peter Faber and Saint Francis Xavier, Ignatius formed the Society of Jesus, which was approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III. Ignatius was chosen as the first Superior General of the order and invested with the title of Father General by the Jesuits.

Ignatius sent his companions as missionaries around Europe to create schools, colleges, and seminaries. Juan de Vega, the ambassador of Charles V at Rome, met Ignatius there. Esteeming Ignatius and the Jesuits, when Vega was appointed Viceroy of Sicily, he brought Jesuits with him. A Jesuit college was opened at Messina, which proved a success, and its rules and methods were afterwards copied in other colleges.

In 1548 Ignatius was briefly brought before the Roman Inquisition for examination of his book of Spiritual Exercises. But he was released and the book was finally given papal permission to be printed. It was published in a format such that the exercises were designed to be carried out over a period of 28–30 days.

Ignatius, along with the help of his personal secretary Juan Alfonso de Polanco (es) wrote the Jesuit Constitutions, adopted in 1554, which created a monarchical organization for the order, and stressed absolute self-denial and obedience to the Pope and to superiors in the catholic hierarchy, using the motto perinde ac cadaver – “as if a dead body”, i.e. that the good Jesuit should be as well-disciplined as a corpse. But his main principle became the Jesuit motto: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam (“for the greater glory of God”).

During the years 1553–1555, Ignatius dictated his autobiography to his secretary, Father Gonçalves da Câmara. This autobiography is a valuable key for understanding his Spiritual Exercises. It was kept in the archives of the Jesuit order for about 150 years, until the Bollandists published the text in Acta Sanctorum.

The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius

Spiritual Viewpoint

Ignatius identified the various motives that lead a person to choose one course of action over another as “spirits”. A major aim of the Exercises is the development of discernment (discretio), the ability to discern between good and evil spirits. A good “spirit” can bring love, joy, peace, but also desolation, to bring one to re-examine one’s life. An evil spirit usually brings confusion and doubt, but may also prompt contentment to discourage change. The human soul is continually drawn in two directions: towards goodness but at the same time towards sinfulness.

According to the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, “choice” is the center of the Exercises, and they are directed to choosing God’s choice, i.e., ultimately to a self-abandonment to God. The Exercises “have as their purpose the conquest of self and the regulation of one’s life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment.”

“Discernment” is very important to Ignatian thought. Through the process of discernment, the believer is led toward a direct connection between one’s thought and action and the grace of God. As such, discernment can be considered a movement toward mystical union with God, and it emphasizes the mystical experience of the believer. This aspect of the Spiritual Exercises reflects the trend toward mysticism in Catholic thought which flourished during the time of the counter-reformation (e.g., with Teresa of Ávila, Francis de Sales, and Pierre de Bérulle). However, while discernment can be understood as a mystical path, it can also more prosaically be understood as a method of subjective ethical thought. The Exercises emphasize the role of one’s own mental faculties in deciding what is right and wrong.

Source: Wikipedia