St. Ignatius of Loyola – A Fiery Man’s Heart for The Lord

March 2, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

“There are very few people who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace”
– St. Ignatius of Loyola

The above quote cannot more accurately and adequately describe the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

A man fervently devoted to the Lord through potent prayer, humble service, and ceaseless vigour for God’s greater glory, Ignatius directly and explicitly inspired others to come to know the Lord—even today his Company of Jesus, the Jesuit Order, remains arguably the most influential Catholic religious order in the world.

Ińigo de Loyola was born on December 24, 1491, in Azpeitia, a Basque province in northern Spain.

Ińigo, the youngest of twelve children, illustriously lived a youthful and passionate life as an early adolescent, concerning himself with swordplay, gambling, and womanizing, while engaging in vain activities such as hair-grooming, nail clipping, and lavish bathing.

As a faithful Spaniard, Ińigo ‘s father sent him to learn discipline, obedience, and prudence under the watch of Juan Velasquez—a governor of King Ferdinand of Spain.

St Ignatius of LoyolaEager to express his zeal and masculinity to gain glory, Ińigo enlisted in the Spanish military and found battle quickly against the French while earning for himself accolades and respect amongst his peers.

Ińigo ‘s dreams for eternal glory changed with a sudden chain of events.

While engaging in battle against an overwhelming French army at Pamplona in 1521, a cannonball struck Ińigo in the legs.

One leg was completely broken, and the other was also damaged.

Although the French handily defeated the Spanish, the commanding French officers ordered for the courteous treatment of the gallant injured Spanish soldiers—this included Ińigo.

Eventually, by the kindness of French Colonel Andre de Foix, Ińigo returned back to Azpeitia, where his leg refused to heal correctly.

Disgruntled and disheartened that his eternal glory to serve as a personal soldier for the king of Spain was indefinitely halted, Ińigo insisted that his leg be re-broken to hasten the healing process and maintain his prideful egotistical self-centricity.

Simultaneously, to pass the time, Ińigo requested literature from his sister-in-law.

She gave him the only two books in the house—The Lives of the Saints and The Life of Our Savior.

Displeased, he asked her if she had Amadus of Gaul, a popular romantic book about knights and their valorous deeds, and she again replied that those were the only two books in the house. She left the books next to his bedside. It was not for days until Ińigo caved and began to read.

At first, Ińigo read almost against his will.

But, once finished, he read the books again—and again!

Each time Ińigo read them with more interest, excitement, and peaked sensitivity. He read intently about St. Francis Assisi, St. Dominic, St. Paul, St. Stephen, and others while finding one pervading and encompassing theme — these saints lived lives as soldiers for Christ and engaged in exciting and daring adventures.

The more he read, the more Ińigo saw himself as a saint, serving Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

It was at this point that Ińigo began to refer to himself as Ignatius after the early church father St. Ignatius of Antioch – a martyr for the Christian faith and inspiration to Ińigo.

After anaesthesia-less surgery to repair his broken and sluggishly-healing leg, Ignatius sought Confession from Fr. Jean Chanon, a well-reputed Benedictine monk who lived near a Shrine at Montserrat.

Ignatius’s confession lasted three straight days.

After confession, Ignatius committed and dedicated his life for the greater glory of God.

“I have lain awake at night and thought only of how best I could serve God. I am happy in no other thought. I wish to do nothing else,” Ignatius confided to Fr. Chanon.

As Ignatius grew in his devoutness and piety, he developed and wrote the Spiritual Exercises— a way of understanding and living the human relationship with God in the world through personal Christo-centric meditations—in a cave near Manresa.

St Ignatius of LoyolaThe Spiritual Exercises form the cornerstone of contemporary Ignatian Spirituality and serve as distinct prayer focused on the life of Christ.

The “Principle and Foundation” of the Exercises states,

“Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God… to save their souls.”

This Ignatian Spirituality can be summed up by this phrase – “Finding God in all things.” Ignatius realized the particular importance of a sacra-mentality which invites a person to search for and find God in every circumstance of life.

This unique perspective of sacra-mentality drew praise and followers as well as caustic criticism.

In particular, Ignatius faced charges of heresy and was imprisoned by the Spanish Inquisition.

Fearing that Ignatius spread contradictions of the Catholic faith and did not recognize the pope as Christ’s vicar, the Inquisitor Don Alonso thoroughly questioned and viciously interrogated Ignatius on the grounds of faith and papal authority.

Finally, Alonso confirmed, “I find nothing wrong with this man.”

While Ignatius gained a reputation for his piety and sincere devotion to the Lord and the Catholic Church, he began to gain followers. Some of the first followers of St. Ignatius included Bl. Peter Favre and St. Francis Xavier – men persuaded by the example of Ignatius’s zealous love for Christ.

For example, Ignatius pestered Francis Xavier daily with the question,

“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?”

Slowly and surely Francis experienced metanoia, and agreed to join Ignatius’s Company. Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, and Peter Favre founded the Company of Jesus, men who pronounced poverty, chastity, and obedience to the Holy Father in Rome.

It was not until 1540 that Pope Paul III established and approved the “Society of Jesus.”

At this, Ignatius called together all the Company, and voted for a Father General – the head of the Company. Ignatius received all votes except his own, and out of humility rejected the decision to lead the Company. So, a re-vote was issued, and yet again Ignatius received all votes except his own. Overwhelmed with humility and unworthiness to lead men, Ignatius sought the advice of his confessor.

Finally, after three days once again in confession, Ignatius agreed and became the first Father General of the Society of Jesus.

St. Ignatius of Loyola died on July 31st, 1556, after having served fifteen years as Father General of the Society of Jesus.

By the time of his death, the Jesuits had founded fifteen colleges in Spain, seventeen in Portugal, three in Germany, and two in France.


Loyola College, Chennai

Loyola College, Chennai

Today there are over 13.5 thousand Jesuit priests in the world and over 50 Jesuit high schools or colleges in the United States alone.

Having attended a Jesuit high school, St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, I have encountered the direct effects of St. Ignatius’s intentions for coming to know God in the world around me.

I experienced, during my junior year in high school, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius during a retreat.

These intense and rigorous Exercises allowed me to delve into myself and find God’s presence all around me. A specific prayer I have come to personalize is named the Inner Room—a prayer where, in fact, a person imagines their own “room” and meets Jesus face-to-face there.

The paramount objective I took away from my Jesuit high school experience was living to be a Man for Others (a term coined in the 1970’s by Father General Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.). I learned not to live for myself, but for God and others.

Only by being a man for others would I become fully human.

Only in this way can I live in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who gave of himself for the salvation of the world, who was, above all, the Man for Others par excellence.

During his life, St. Ignatius of Loyola exemplified two main virtues.

The first of these, obedience, is easily found in his persistent promulgation of faithfulness to the Church. His perpetual lesson was:

“Sacrifice your own will and judgment to obedience. Whatever you do without the consent of your spiritual guide will be imputed to wilfulness, not to virtue, though you were to exhaust your bodies by labours and austerities.”

The second virtue, humility, pervades all of Ignatius’s prayers—for example in the Suscipe…

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will…”

or in his Prayer for Generosity…
“Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve. To give and not to count the cost…”

Humility, the deprivation of pride, elevated St. Ignatius to such a beautiful model of faith. He is a saint of perseverance, a saint of hope, a saint of fiery passion for the Lord.

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess, You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.

– St. Ignatius of Loyola

Author Resource:- Derleth, August William, and John Lawn.

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