This famous saint who started the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was born
in Guipuzcoa in Spain as Inigo Lopez de Loyola. He was from a rich
Spanish family and was one of twelve children. As a boy, he was sent to
be a page at the royal court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
There he wished someday to become a great soldier and marry a beautiful
In the battle of Pamplona, he did, indeed, win honor for his courage
but, a wound in the leg from a cannon ball forced him to spend months
in bed at Loyola Castle. Ignatius asked for some books to read. He
preferred stories of knights, but only life stories of Jesus and the
saints were available.
Having nothing else to do, he read them. A little by little, the books
began attracting him. His life began to change. He said to
himself: "These were men and women like me, so why can't I do what they
have done?" All the glory he had wanted before seemed worthless now. He
began to imitate the saints in their prayers, penances and good works.
When he was fully recovered, Ignatius hung his sword before the altar
of the Virgin Mary and put on simple robes and began to live a simple
life. He then traveled Europe and went on a pilgrimage to the Holy
Land before he settled in Rome.
St. Ignatius had to suffer many temptations and much shame. Before he
could begin his great work of starting the Society of Jesus, he had to
go back to school. He had to study Latin grammar. The rest of the
students were little boys and Ignatius was thirty-three years old. Yet
Ignatius was ready to bear the shame and went to the class because he
knew he would need this knowledge to help him in his work for Jesus.
He received the boys' jeers and taunts with patience and good humor. He
used his time trying to teach and encourage people to pray. He was even
put in jail for a while because of this! But that was not going to stop
Ignatius. "The whole city does not contain as many chains as I desire
to wear for love of Jesus," he said.
Ignatius was forty-three years old when he graduated from the
University of Paris. After this, with six other students, he took his
religious vows and became a priest. Ignatius and his friends, including
Blessed Peter Faber and Saint Francis Xavier promised to work for God
in whatever way the Holy Father thought best. In 1540 their order was
officially recognized by the pope.
Before Ignatius died, there were one thousand members of the Society of
Jesus or "Jesuits." They were doing much good work teaching and
preaching. He died in Rome, on July 31, 1556.
The Jesuits today have over five hundred universities and colleges;
thirty thousand members; and teach over twenty thousand students each
Let us pray today in the words of St. Ignatius Loyola: "Give me only
your love and your grace. With this I am rich enough, and I have no
more to ask."