Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius

Was a Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family, hermit, priest since 1537, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and, on 19 April 1541, became its first Superior General. Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation. Loyola’s devotion to the Catholic Church was characterized by absolute obedience to the Pope.

Don Íñigo López was born at Loyola (today in the town of Azpeitia) around the year 1491 and was member of the large family (thirteen children) of Don Yanez and his wife, Marina Sáenz. His father had been a soldier in the service of Henry IV, of the Catholic Kings and of John II.

Alongside Fernando the Catholic, he led the siege against the town of Toro, Burgos, Loja, won on 29 May 1486 and Vélez-Málaga. For his loyalty to the crown, he received awards from the king, who named him his vassal and granted the ancient privileges to his family: the annuity of two thousand maravedis from the ironworks of Barrenola and Aranaz and the right of patronage over the parish of Azpeitia. His mother was the daughter of Dr. Don Martín García de Licona, a high-born figure, a courtier of the King of Castile, and adviser of the Catholic Kings, who possessed the domain and the primogeniture of the Balda house. As for the other children, we know that there were eight males and five females, of which Íñigo was the youngest.

He went to the Holy Land. After a short time, he was forced to return to Spain. In that period, he elaborated his method of prayer and contemplation, based on the “discernment.” These experiences have actually originated from a passage from the Second Letter to the Corinthians of Paul of Tarsus. He described a series of meditations which will then have to be follow by the future Jesuits. This work has influenced profoundly subsequent methods of evangelization of the Catholic Church. He also had the opportunity to visit the Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat on 25 March 1522, where he hung his military vestments before an image of the Virgin Mary, in a real military vigil dedicated to Our Lady. He entered the monastery of Manresa, in Catalonia where he practiced the most rigorous asceticism. The Virgin became the object of his chivalrous devotion. His military imagery always played an important part in his life and in his religious contemplations.

In 1528 he entered the University of Paris, where he remained for seven years, extending his literary and theological education and trying to persuade other students to learn the “Spiritual Exercises”. By 1534, he had six “followers”: Pierre Faber (France), Francis Xavier, Diego Laínez, Alfonso Salmerón, Nicholas Bobadilla (Spanish) and Simão Rodrigues (Portugal).

On 15 August 1534, Íñigo and the other six students met in Montmartre, near Paris, binding each other with a vow of poverty and chastity and founding the Society of Jesus, in order to carry out missionary and hospitality work in Jerusalem or to go unconditionally wherever the Pope had ordered them to go. In 1537 they traveled to Italy to seek papal approval for their order. Pope Paul III praised them and allowed them to be ordained as priests. They were ordained at Venice by the bishop of Arbe (now Rab, Croatia) on 24 June. They devoted themselves to prayer and charitable work in Italy because the new conflict between the emperor of Venice, the Pope and the Ottoman Empire made impossible any journey to Jerusalem.

Ignatius was chosen as the first superior general of the Society of Jesus. He sent his companions as missionaries around the world to create schools, colleges, and seminaries. In 1548, the “Spiritual Exercises” were printed for the first time, for which he was brought before the Inquisition, but was released. Also in 1548, Íñigo founded in Messina the first Jesuit College in the world, the famous “Primum ac Prototypum Collegium ovvero Messanense Collegium Prototypum Societatis”, the first one and, then, the prototype of all the other Jesuit teaching colleges merged with success in teaching the distinctive brand of the order.

Ignatius wrote the “Jesuit Constitutions”, adopted in 1554, which created a monarchical organization and asked for self-denial and absolute obedience to the Pope and to the superiors (“like a corpse” as Ignatius wrote). The rule of Ignatius became the unofficial motto of the Jesuits: “Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam”. The Jesuits have made a vital contribution to the success of the Counter-Reformation.

He died in Rome in 1556 and was canonized on 12 March 1622. On 23 July 1637, his body was placed in gilded bronze ossuary, in the Chapel of Saint Ignatius Church of Jesus in Rome. The statue of the saint, made from silver, is the work of Pierre Legros. The religious festival in honour of Ignatius of Loyola is celebrated on 31 July, the day of his death.

However, there are some theories and people who accuse Ignatius of Loyola as being an imposter, charlatan and evil person. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, is the man who founded the Jesuits, known for his spiritual exercises, which Catholics would consider holy but when it gets right down to it are based in vain imaginations, false visions, sorcery and witchcraft. Also, it is being said that he was seen levitating. Other theories claim that he used to drink the blood of living sacrificed children.

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