July 30, 2017

Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest & Founder

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

July 31st, is the memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, priest and founder of the Society of Jesus. Ignatius, was born of a noble family at Loyola, in Cantabria, Spain. He attended the court of the Catholic king before pursuing a military career. In 1521, while defending the town of Pamplona against French attack, Ignatius was struck by a cannonball in the legs. To save Ignatius' life doctors performed several surgeries. Despite their efforts, his condition deteriorated.

On June 29, 1521, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Ignatius began to improve. As soon as he was healthy enough to bear it, part of one leg was amputated which while painful, sped his recovery. He chanced in his illness to read several pious books, which kindled in his soul a fervent desire to follow in the footsteps of Christ and the saints. Among his realizations, was that some thoughts brought him happiness and others sorrow. He recognized that evil caused unpleasantness while God was the source of true joy and happiness.

He entered the Benedictine monastery, Santa Maria in Montserrat, and before the alter of the Black Madonna, laid down his arms. He gave his costly garments to a beggar and retired to Manresa, where he dressed in sackcloth. There he stayed for a year, living on bread and water, given to him in alms, fasting every day except Sunday and engaging in severe mortifications of the flesh. God favored and refreshed Ignatius with such wonderful spiritual insights, that afterward he was wont to say that even if the Sacred Scriptures did not exist, he would die for the faith, on account of the revelations he received from the Lord at Manresa.

In order to make himself fit for gaining souls, Ignatius determined to procure a proper spiritual and scriptural education. Meanwhile he relaxed nothing of his zeal for the salvation of others, ever desiring to suffer for the glory of the Lord. At the University of Paris, he was joined by nine companions, men of different nations, who had their degrees in Arts and Theology. The future saint laid the foundations of his Order, which he later instituted in Rome. He added to the three usual vows a fourth concerning missions, thus binding the Jesuits closely to the Holy See.

Pope Paul III first approved the Society of Jesus, as did later other pontiffs. The Council of Trent sent his fellow Jesuit, Saint Francis Xavier to preach the Gospel in the Indies, and dispersed others from his Order to spread the Catholic faith throughout the world; thus, declaring war against paganism, superstition, and heresy. This war Ignatius waged with success, winning may souls back to God.

He made the restoration of piety among Catholics his first care. He increased the beauty of sacred buildings, the giving of catechetical instructions, the frequency of sermons and of the sacraments. He opened schools for the education of youth in piety and letters. At length in the sixty-fifth year of his life, he passed to the embrace of his Lord, on July 31, 1556, whose greater glory he had preached. St. Ignatius was celebrated for his miracles and for his great services to the Church, In 1622, Pope Gregory XV enrolled him among the saints; while Pope Pius XI, declared him heavenly patron of all Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius pray for us.

Adapted excerpt from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

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