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Saint Ignatius

Saint Ignatius Loyola – Founder of the Jesuits

Saint Ignatius ASaint Ignatius was born in his family castle in Guipuzcoa, in the Basque region of Spain.  He was the youngest of thirteen children. His baptismal name was Inigo. When he was old enough, he first became a page in the household of the regional royal treasurer, and then pursued a military career.

In 1521, he fought against the French in one of their regular incursions into northern Spain. A cannon ball, and a series of botched operations on his shattered leg ended his military career. 

During his recuperation, he read a popular “Lives of the Saints” anthology, and he decided to dedicate himself to becoming a soldier of Christ. During this time, he experienced a number of pivotal spiritual experiences which mapped out the direction of his life. But he soon also suffered severe trials of fear and scruples: these almost drove him to despair. As a result of these various experiences, he wrote his famous “Spiritual Exercises”.

After extensive travel (which included Palestine and Italy) – he constantly referred to himself as “the pilgrim” – he took up studies in various schools (Avila, Salamanca and Barcelona).  He ended up at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he received a Master’s degree (the equivalent of the modern doctorate) in 1534. He was forty-three years old at the time. 

Because of his austere life-style and single-minded Catholicism, he attracted considerable opposition in Paris.  Despite this, he also attracted a number of talented followers.  These included Saint Francis Xavier.  It was in Paris that the kernel of the Society of Jesus was planted. Paul III approved the Society of Jesus in 1540, and Ignatius spent the rest of his days in Rome.

Ignatius died on 31 July 1556.  He was beatified in 1609, and canonised, together with Saints Philip Neri, Francis Xavier and Teresa of Avila, in 1622.  Over one hundred and fifty members of the Society of Jesus have been declared Blessed, and over fifty have been canonised as Saints.


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