Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola

You may know that St. Ignatius is the great founder of the Jesuit Order. And if you remember that, you probably remember his worldly youth and his career in the army, his wounding on the battlefield and his conversion to piety after reading the lives of the saints. 

But, did you know...

* his full name was actually Íñigo López de Loyola

* His baptismal name was chosen for the patron, 
St. Inecus, Abbot of Ona; Inecus was a medieval Basque name, meaning "little one."  It isn't known when he began to call himself "Ignatius," but one can imagine why he opted to change it...

*  he was born on Oct. 23, 1491,  in Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Spain

*  he was the youngest of thirteen children

*  his mother dying shortly after his birth, little Inigo was taken in by the wife of the local blacksmith to be nursed and cared for through his infancy

*  when still a child he became a page in the service of a relative in the Kingdom of Castile

*  his first inspirations in his formative years came from reading the stories of El Cid, the knights of Camelot, and the Song of Roland -- all adventures of worldly fame and glory through warfare

*  when he was still just a teenager, he joined the army, and encountering a Muslim who denied the divinity of Christ, Ignatius (surely by this time, he no longer went by Inigo) challenged him to a duel, and forthwith ran him through with his sword, killing him!

*  at the time he was wounded, Ignatius was 30 years old and serving as a knight/Gentilhombre under the illustrious patronage of the Viceroy of Navarre, holding a position of honor and certain privilege

*  it was a cannonball that laid Ignatius flat, breaking one leg and severely injuring the other

*  he endured several surgeries on his legs -- before anesthesia existed

* one of the surgeries he underwent unnecessarily!  A bone in one of his legs healed poorly, causing a limp;  caving to the vanity that he hadn't yet overcome, Ignatius required his surgeon to saw off the protruding bone, further lengthening his convalescence 

*  before he actually read the Lives of the Saints, Ignatius read De Vita Christi, a life of Christ written by Ludolph of Saxony

*  an explanation and images of the beautiful illuminated text of the Vita Christi may be found here

*  unfortunately, there has been no complete English translation of Ludolph's Vita Christi, though some prayers and small sections can be found

*  it was through the example of the Vita Christi that St. Ignatius first understood the notion of simple contemplation that lead eventually to his great work: The Spiritual Exercises

*  The introduction to contemplative prayer in The Spiritual Exercises is also known to have  inspired such great saints as Peter Favre, Francis Xavier, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Francis de Sales

* resolving to give up the world, St. Ignatius took up the grace of God as a challenge to his new life, and, on March 25th, 1522 symbolically hung up his armor before a statue of the Blessed Mother at the cathedral of Santa Maria de Montserrat in Catalonia

The statue of Our Lady of Montserrat, before which St. Ignatius surrendered his sword and armor.  The history of the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Montserrat can be found here.
* a panoramic video of the interior of the spectacular cathedral of Santa Maria de Montserrat may be viewed here

The cave at Manresa, in which a chapel has been built
*  after his recovery and his conversion and before embarking upon his journey of founding the Jesuit Order, Ignatius spent several months living the life of an ascetic in a cave in the wilderness near Manresa, Catalonia

*  he went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land  in 1523, where he developed a strong desire to work and pray for the conversion of non Christians in Jerusalem  -- a mission he promoted for the rest of his life

* St. Ignatius was brought before the Roman Inquisition -- twice -- found innocent and released twice after satisfying the charges of a certain kind of "over zealousness" that was a problem at that time

*  of the six companions Ignatius gathered together to form the core of the Society of Jesus in 1534, only one was a priest initially; when the Order was approved in 1537 by Pope Paul III they were all ordained

* the term "Jesuit," which in the 15th century meant "one who too frequently used or appropriated the name of Jesus," was first applied to the Society as a reproach.  Ignatius never used the title, though members and friends of the Society in time adopted it as a positive appellation

* St. Ignatius' preferred title was the Company of Jesus, or Amigos en El Señor, "Friends in the Lord," as he felt "they were placed together by Christ." He liked that the first title had a military ring to it (as in an infantry "company"), as it also related to their discipleship (the "companions" of Jesus). The word "company" also originates in Latin, cum +pane = "with bread", or a group that shares meals

* St. Ignatius spent seven years at the Catholic Collège de Montaigu of the University of Paris, graduating at the age of 43 (which makes him a patron and inspiration for those seeking to further their education later in life!)

* he was lauded by his contemporaries as a talented and inspiring spiritual director, well liked by all who knew him

* St. Ignatius fought tooth and nail against the Protestant Revolt which was in the opening days of its proliferation during his time, and worked vigorously to ignite a fire under his culture in his efforts toward a Counter Reformation in the Church

* he believed that the reform of the Church had to begin with the reform of each individual's heart -- thus the importance and influence of his Spiritual Exercises (found in pdf format here)
The Jesuits were the first missionaries
to North America

* St. Ignatius and his Jesuits founded the first ever retreats for lay people, using the Spiritual Exercises

* the Jesuits have  been known from the beginning as a missionary and teaching order of the Church, with a strong emphasis on education

* The original terms of the charter of the Order, approved by Pope Paul III, limited the growth of the Society of Jesus to only 60 members (This limitation was lifted after St. Ignatius appealed it)

* when he died in Rome on July 31, 1556 (of a form of malaria), his followers in the Jesuit Order numbered almost 1,000 members

*  by the 18th century, the Society of Jesus was the largest, most influential Order in the Church

*  through a series of scandals resulting largely from the Society's perceived lack of regard for local politics, in addition to other miscellaneous controversies, the Order was temporarily dissolved by Pope Clement XIV in 1773, and was not restored until 1814

* following the restoration of the Order in the 19th century, the Society of Jesus grew steadily, reaching its peak in 1965 with 36,000 members, but decreasing rapidly after Vatican II.  Today the Society reports fewer than 19,000 members -- but it is still the largest Order of the Church

* this famous entreaty of St. Ignatius:  

“To give, and not to count the cost
to fight, and not to heed the wounds,

to toil, and not to seek for rest,

to labor, and not to ask for any reward,

save that of knowing that we do thy will”

*  "AMDG" began as St. Ignatius motto for himself and his Order?

*  St. Ignatius was canonized in 1622, less than 100 years after his death, by Pope Gregory XV

* he is the patron saint of all spiritual retreats, educators and education, the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) throughout the world, Catholic soldiers,  and the Basque region in Spain

*  knowing his devotion to the conversion of the Holy Land, it might be appropriate to beg his intercession for the suffering Christians throughout the Middle East in our day 

*  meditating upon the influence of books in St. Ignatius life, we might beg for his direction in our lives in the forms of entertainment we choose for ourselves and our children

* today on his feast day, as on all feastdays, we can count upon special blessings on all of our intentions when asked through the intercession of St. Ignatius Loyola

St. Ignatius, Pray for Us!

* A free coloring page for St. Ignatius Loyola can be downloaded from here...

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