|Saint Ignatius of Loyola|
Portrait by Peter Paul Rubens
|Born||c. 23 October 1491|
Loyola, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Crown of Castille (currently Spain)
|Died||31 July 1556 (aged 64)|
Rome, Papal States
|Venerated in||Catholic Church, Anglican Communion|
|Beatified||27 July 1609 by Paul V|
|Canonized||12 March 1622 by Gregory XV|
|Attributes||Eucharist, chasuble, book, cross|
|Patronage||Dioceses of San Sebastián and Bilbao, Biscay and Gipuzkoa; Basque Country; Military Ordinariate of the Philippines; Society of Jesus; Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil; Junín, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Antwerp, Belgium.|
SaintIgnatius of Loyola (Basque: Ignazio Loiolakoa, Spanish: Ignacio de Loyola; c. 23 October 1491 – 31 July 1556) was a SpanishBasquepriest 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 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 12 March 1622. His feast day is celebrated on 31 July. 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.
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.
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 over.
Religious conversion and visions
While recovering 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, since the "romances of chivalry" he loved to read were not available to him in the castle.
The religious 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.
Aside from dreaming about imitating the saints in his readings, Íñigo was still wandering off in his mind about what "he would do in service to his king and in honor of the royal lady he was in love with". Cautiously he came to realize the after-effect of both kinds of his dreams. He experienced a desolation and dissatisfaction when the romantic heroism dream was over, but, the saintly dream ended with much joy and peace. It was the first time he learned about discernment.
After he had recovered sufficiently to walk again, Íñigo resolved to begin a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to "kiss the earth where our Lord had walked", and to do stricter penances. He thought that his plan was confirmed by a vision of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus he experienced one night, which resulted much consolation to him. In March 1522, he visited the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat. There, he carefully examined his past sins, confessed, gave his fine clothes to the poor he met, wore a "garment of sack-cloth", then hung his sword and dagger at the Virgin's altar during an overnight vigil at the shrine.
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 to 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 wrote the Jesuit Constitutions, adopted in 1553. It created a centralized organization for the order, and stressed absolute self-denial and obedience to the Pope and to superiors in the Church 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 ("Autobiografía de San Ignacio de Loyola" in Wikisource in Spanish) 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.
Ignatius as Superior General
Statue of Saint Ignatius of Loyola at Gesù Church, Rome
Death and canonization
Ignatius died in Rome on 31 July 1556, as a result of the Roman Fever, a severe case of malaria that recurred in Rome, Italy, at different points in history. At this time he was placed in a wooden shrine, his body was then covered with his priestly garments. On 1 August the shrine was then buried in the small Maria della Strada Church. In 1568 that church was pulled down and replaced with the Church of the Gesù. Saint Ignatius was put into a new coffin and reinterred in the new church.
Ignatius was beatified by Pope Paul V on 27 July 1609, and canonized by Pope Gregory XV on 12 March 1622. His feast day is celebrated annually on 31 July, the day he died. Saint Ignatius is venerated as the patron saint of Catholic soldiers, the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Basque Country, and various towns and cities in his native region.
Ignatius has to this day a powerful and respectable legacy. Of the institutions dedicated to Saint Ignatius, one of the most famous is the Basilica of St Ignatius Loyola, built next to the house where he was born in Azpeitia, the Basque Country, Spain. The house itself, now a museum, is incorporated into the basilica complex. In addition, he has had a global impact, having been the influence behind numerous Jesuit schools and educational institutions worldwide.
In 1949 he was the subject of a Spanish biographical film The Captain from Loyola in which he was played by Rafael Durán.
In 2016, he was the subject of a Filipino film Ignacio de Loyola in which he was played by Andreas Muñoz.
Shield of Oñaz-Loyola
The Shield of Oñaz-Loyola is a symbol of Saint Ignatius family's Oñaz lineage, and is used by many Jesuit institutions around the world. As the official colors of the Loyola family are maroon and gold, the Oñaz shield consists of seven maroon bars going diagonally from the upper left to the lower right on a gold field. The bands were granted by the King of Spain to each of the Oñaz brothers, in recognition of their bravery in battle. The Loyola shield features a pair of rampantgray wolves flanking each side of a cooking pot. The wolf was a symbol of nobility, while the entire design represented the family's generosity towards their military followers. According to legend, wolves had enough to feast on after the soldiers had eaten. Both shields were combined as a result of the intermarriage of the two families in 1261.
Villoslada established the following detailed genealogy of Saint Ignatius:
St. Ignatius Loyola was born in 1491, one of 13 children of a family of minor nobility in northern Spain. As a young man Ignatius Loyola was inflamed by the ideals of courtly love and knighthood and dreamed of doing great deeds.
But in 1521 Ignatius was gravely wounded in a battle with the French. While recuperating, Ignatius Loyola experienced a conversion. Reading the lives of Jesus and the saints made Ignatius happy and aroused desires to do great things. Ignatius realized that these feelings were clues to God’s direction for him.
Over the years, Ignatius became expert in the art of spiritual direction. He collected his insights, prayers, and suggestions in his book the Spiritual Exercises, one of the most influential books on the spiritual life ever written. With a small group of friends, Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. Ignatius conceived the Jesuits as “contemplatives in action.” This also describes the many Christians who have been touched by Ignatian spirituality.
Biographies of St. Ignatius Loyola
Three Holy Jesuits (PDF)
David L. Fleming, SJ, explores the unique qualities of Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier, and Peter Faber.
Who Was St. Ignatius? (video)
A short video introduction to the life of St. Ignatius Loyola, produced by Marquette University.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556
By Amy Welborn
This story of Ignatius is written for children to understand.
Jesuits On…Ignatius Loyola
An extract from a video about Ignatius Loyola from Loyola Productions’ “Jesuits On…” series. Features a commentary by Richard Leonard, SJ.
Life of Ignatius Loyola
An outline of the life of Ignatius, organized around important dates in his life. A rough translation from German.
St. Ignatius of Loyola Video
Video introduction to St. Ignatius Loyola, produced by the Apostleship of Prayer for his feast day.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola: Imitator of Christ, 1494-1555
By John Hungerford Pollen
A balanced and popular account of Ignatius’s life and conversion. Discusses the early years of the Society of Jesus and its contribution to world missions and the Council of Trent. Gives important highlights of the Constitutions. Book available online in several formats.
Works by St. Ignatius Loyola
Selected Letters of Ignatius
Ignatius’s letters are renowned for their insight and wisdom. Here are 50 of them.
Reflections on St. Ignatius Loyola
What Students Can Learn from St. Ignatius
Stephanie Russell, Executive Director of Marquette University’s Office of Mission and Identity, discusses the challenges faced by students today and how a Jesuit education can help.
Will the Real Ignatius Please Stand Up?
By Ron Darwen, SJ
The different images of Ignatius through the ages: soldier, man of action, and mystic.
The Mysticism of Ignatius of Loyola (PDF)
By Brian O’Leary, SJ
A survey of the development of Ignatius’s spiritual journey of growth in discerning God’s will for himself and how he could share those insights with others. The article discusses Cano’s critique of the relationship between contemplation and action in the Exercises. The author also notes Ignatius’s reticence in speaking of his personal mystical experiences in his later years.
How God Accompanied Ignatius: A Paradigm for Us in “Helping Souls” (PDF)
By Simon Decloux
Ignatius’s practice of accompanying others on their journey with God was based on his experience of how God first taught and guided him. Ignatius shared his interior readiness and openness to God every day and more specifically at those stages of his journey in which he let go of his personal desires to follow the direction in which God was leading him. As a spiritual companion he helped others to recognize how God was leading them in a similar way.
St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Stars
An icon of “Ignatius and the Stars” by Fr. William McNichols is paired with the poem “San Ignacio de Loyola” by Fr. James Janda.
Call and Response in St. Ignatius and St. Francis
By Brian Purfield
A comparison of the spiritual journeys of Francis of Assisi, as seen in the biography written by St. Bonaventure, and the journey of Ignatius, as outlined in the Spiritual Exercises.
Ignatius of Loyola: Leader and Spiritual Master (PDF)
By Jaime Emilio Gonzalez Magana, SJ
Shows how Ignatius was able to develop a leadership style integrated with the reality of this world, while always keeping his focus on discerning to find, feel, and do God’s will.
dotMagis Posts About Ignatius Loyola
From the category archives of the dotMagis blog.