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St.Ignatius Of Loyola

Inigo de Loyola was born in 1491 in Azpeitia in the Basque province of Guipuzcoa in northern Spain. He was the youngest of thirteen children.At the age of sixteen years he was sent to serve as a page to Juan Velazquez, the treasurer of the kingdom of Castile.As a member of the Velazquez household, he was frequently at court and developed a taste for all it presented, especially the ladies. He was much addicted to gambling, very contentious, and not above engaging in swordplay on occasion.

At the age of 30 in May of 1521 as an officer defending the fortress of the town of Pamplona against the French, who claimed the territory as their own against Spain. The Spaniards were terribly outnumbered and the commander of the Spanish forces wanted to surrender, but Ignatius convinced him to fight on for the honor of Spain, if not for victory. During the battle a cannon ball struck Ignatius, wounding one leg and breaking the other. Because they admired his courage, the French soldiers carried him back to recover at his home, the castle of Loyola, rather than to prison.

His leg was set but did not heal, so it was necessary to break it again and reset it, all without anesthesia. Ignatius grew worse and was finally told by the doctors that he should prepare for death.On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul (29 June) he took an unexpected turn for the better. The leg healed, but when it did the bone protruded below the knee and one leg was shorter than the other. This was unacceptable to Ignatius, who considered it a fate worse than death not to be able to wear the long, tight-fitting boots and hose of the courtier.

Therefore he ordered the doctors to saw off the offending knob of bone and lengthen the leg by systematic stretching. Again, all of this was done without anesthesia. Unfortunately, this was not a successful procedure. All his life he walked with a limp because one leg was shorter than the other.

HIS CONVERSION

During the long weeks of his recuperation, he was extremely bored and asked for some romance novels to pass the time. Luckily there were none in the castle of Loyola, but there was a copy of the life of Christ and a book on the saints. Desperate, Ignatius began to read them. The more he read, the more he considered the exploits of the saints worth imitating. However, at the same time he continued to have daydreams of fame and glory, along with fantasies of winning the love of a certain noble lady of the court, the identity of whom we never have discovered but who seems to have been of royal blood. He noticed, however, that after reading and thinking of the saints and Christ he was at peace and satisfied. Yet when he finished his long daydreams of his noble lady, he would feel restless and unsatisfied. Not only was this experience the beginning of his conversion, it was also the beginning of spiritual discernment, or discernment of spirits, which is associated with Ignatius andand described in his Spiritual Exercises.

He had decided that he wanted to go to Jerusalem to live where our Lord had spent his life on earth. As a first step he began his journey to Barcelona.He proceeded to the Benedictine shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat, made a general confession, and knelt all night in vigil before Our Lady's altar, following the rites of chivalry. He left his sword and knife at the altar, went out and gave away all his fine clothes to a poor man, and dressed himself in rough clothes with sandals and a staff.

THE EXPERIENCE AT MANRESA


He continued towards Barcelona but stopped along the river Cardoner at a town called Manresa. He stayed in a cave outside the town, intending to linger only a few days, but he remained for ten months. He spent hours each day in prayer and also worked in a hospice. It was while here that the ideas for what are now known as the Spiritual Exercises began to take shape. It was also on the banks of this river that he had a vision which is regarded as the most significant in his life. The vision was more of an enlightenment, about which he later said that he learned more on that one occasion than he did in the rest of his life. Ignatius never revealed exactly what the vision was, but it seems to have been an encounter with God as He really is so that all creation was seen in a new light and acquired a new meaning and relevance, an experience that enabled Ignatius to find God in all things.

RETURN TO SCHOOL

By now he was 33 years old and determined to study for the priesthood. However, he was ignorant of Latin, a necessary preliminary to university studies in those days. So he started back to school studying Latin grammar with young boys in a school in Barcelona. There he begged for his food and shelter.

After two years he moved on to the University of Alcala. There his zeal got him into trouble, a problem that continued throughout his life. He would gather students and adults to explain the Gospels to them and teach them how to pray. His efforts attracted the attention of the Inquisition and he was thrown into jail for 42 days. When he was released he was told to avoid teaching others.

Because he could not live without helping souls, Ignatius moved on to the University of Salamanca. There, within two weeks, the Dominicans had thrown him back into prison again. Though they could find no heresy in what he taught, he was told that he could only teach children and then only simple religious truths. Once more he took to the road, this time for Paris.

At the University of Paris he began school again, studying Latin grammar and literature, philosophy, and theology. He would spend a couple of months each summer begging in Flanders for the money he would need to support himself in his studies for the rest of the year. It was also in Paris that he began sharing a room with Francis Xavier and Peter Faber. He greatly influenced a few other fellow students (Xavier was the hardest nut to crack, interested as he was mainly in worldly success and honors), directing them all at one time or another for thirty days in what we now call the Spiritual Exercises. Eventually six of them plus Ignatius decided to take vows of chastity and poverty.

THE FORMATION OF SOCIETY OF JESUS

Ignatius, along with two of his companions, Peter Faber and James Lainez, decided to go to Rome and place themselves at the disposal of the Pope. It was a few miles outside of the city that Ignatius had the second most significant of his mystical experiences. At a chapel at La Storta where they had stopped to pray, God the Father told Ignatius, "I will be favorable to you in Rome" and that he would place him (Ignatius) with His Son. Ignatius did not know what this experience meant, for it could mean persecution as well as success since Jesus experienced both. But he felt very comforted since, as St. Paul wrote, to be with Jesus even in persecution was success. When they met with the Pope, he very happily put them to work teaching scripture and theology and preaching. It was here on Christmas morning, 15 3 8, that Ignatius celebrated his first Mass at the church of St. Mary Major in the Chapel of the Manger.

During the following Lent (1539), Ignatius asked all of his companions to come to Rome to discuss their future. After many weeks of prayer and discussion, they decided to form a community, with the Pope's approval, in which they would vow obedience to a superior general who would hold office for life. They would place themselves at the disposal of the Holy Father to travel wherever he should wish to send them for whatever duties. A vow to this effect was added to the ordinary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Formal approval of this new order was given by Pope Paul III the following year on September 27, 1540. Since they had referred to themselves as the Company of Jesus (in Latin Societatis Jesu), in English their order became known as the Society of Jesus.

For the next fifteen years he spent composing the Constitutions of the Society and would write thousands of letters to all corners of the globe to his fellow Jesuits dealing with the affairs of the Society and to lay men and women directing them in the spiritual life.

Towards the end of his life Ignatius became so worn and feeble that he was assisted by three fathers. He died at the age of 65 after a brief illness, on July 31, 1556. Ignatius directed the Society of Jesus for fifteen years. At the time of his death there were 13,000 members, dispersed in thirty-two provinces all over Europe, and soon they were to be established in the New World.

Ignatius was beatified by Pope Paul V on July 27, 1609 and canonized by Pope Gregory XV on March 13, 1622. His feast day is celebrated annually on July 31, the day he died. Saint Ignatius is venerated as the patron saint of Catholic soldiers.