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Come Deeper into Peace.
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St. Ignatius of Loyola
St. Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491, one of 13 children of a family of minor nobility in northern Spain. One thing to know about Ignatius is that he was far from saintly during much of his young adult life. He was vain, with dreams of personal honor and fame. He gambled and was not above sword fighting.
All that changed in the Spring of 1521. Ignatius was 30 years old and an officer in the Spanish army. Leading his fellow soldiers into battle against the French, he was struck by a cannonball in the leg. During a difficult recovery, Ignatius asked for books about chivalry — a favorite theme he enjoyed reading. There weren’t any books of this kind to be found in the family castle where he was recuperating. However, books about the life of Christ and biographies of saints were located and given to the convalescing solder to read. Unexpectedly, Ignatius found these books riveting.
Ignatius had always dreamed of imitating heroic deeds and capturing the attention of beautiful women at court. But now the heroes were different and had names like Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena. Ignatius also noticed something strange happening to him. God, he realized, was working within him — prompting, guiding, inviting. As soon as he was able, Ignatius traveled far and wide, discovering God was similarly at work in the lives of all people and in the everyday events of their lives.
These experiences would prove to be the beginnings of Ignatian Spirituality — and Jesuit ministry. He collected his insights and prayers into a book of Spiritual Exercises, one of the most influential texts on the spiritual life ever written. With a small group of friends, he met while studying in Paris, they made religious vows in 1534 and came to call themselves the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). On September 27, 1540, the order was granted official approval by Pope Paul III.
The early Jesuits fanned out to the metropolises of Europe and beyond. They did so with instructions from Ignatius, their leader in Rome, to “seek the greater glory of God” and the good of all humanity. They devoted themselves to the care of souls while helping people discern God’s presence in their lives.
Most of all, Ignatius wanted his Jesuits and everyone to go out and “find God in all things.” He died in 1556 — on July 31, his feast day in the Catholic Church.
Image: St Ignatius in the Cave at Manresa by Ignasi Flores.