Today we honor St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

Friday, 7/31/15

Ignatius was baptized Igneo after a saint honored only by Northern Spain's Basque population. Then,  going along with what others called him, he let people address him as Ignatius. As the thirteenth child of a woman who died when he was one, he was turned over to a proud family who raised him as a swordsman. As an ambitious young warrior, he swaggered with the sword and dagger that swung down the side of his skin tight leggings.

As a volunteer swordsman in one Basque cause after another, he had mastered only the learning he needed for reading tales of dashing warriors. At thirty, in 1521, he received a cannonball that came close to tearing off a leg. He regained mobility only by a crude surgery that had a friend sawing off a protruding bone.

Alone in a cave through two years of recuperation, he took to memorizing line after line in a book on the Life of Christ. His solitary years of prayer led him to compose his Spiritual Exercises,  a month-long program of meditations. They were a digest of his own experience in transforming him to being a knight of the Lord.

He resolved on recovering the Holy Land from the Moors. So, with adventures at sea and with prison spells in foreign lands, he made his way to Jerusalem. But there, the Franciscans, whom the Holy See had put in charge, ordered him to leave after allowing him just two weeks to visit Calvary and the Mount of Olives.

Brought to see that to serve the Lord as his knight, he would need to become a learned man, he returned to Spain where for three years he took the back bench in a school for boys. With two years at the University of Salamanca, he prepared himself for admittance at the University of Paris where he gained a mastery of Catholic Theology.

We won't here go into his founding of the Jesuits. The story is well known. He led each of seven scholars to give a month to following his Spiritual Exercises. Seeing themselves as a unit it God's army, they formed what they called The Company of Jesus. Ignatius was forty-nine when Pope Paul III recognized  his Jesuits as an order in the Catholic Church. Ignatius had transformed his ideals of worldly chivalry to one of Godly chivalry.



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