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Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556)

IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA (14911556)

IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA (14911556), Spanish religious leader. Founder of the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola was born Iñigo de Oñaz y Loyola in 1491 in Azpeitia in the Basque province of Guipúzcoa in northeastern Spain. He was the youngest of thirteen children in a family of lesser nobility but not lacking in social contacts or high prestige. Ignatius's father, just before his death, situated his youngest son in the household of Juan Velázquez de Cuéllar, the chief treasurer of King Ferdinand (14521516) and Queen Isabella (14511504). There young Ignatius learned courtly manners and sophistication, skills that served him well throughout his life. King Ferdinand's death brought about the downfall of Ignatius's patron, and through friends and family Ignatius received a position with the duke of Nájera, don Antonio Manrique de Lara.

Ignatius's life at either of these courts could not be held up as an example of Christian virtue. In May 1521 the simmering conflict between King Francis I (14911547) of France and King Charles I (15001558) of Spain erupted when the French forces attacked Pamplona. While Ignatius was defending the city against the French siege, a cannonball struck him in the leg. The French victors assured transport of the wounded man back to his family's castle. During his convalescence, Ignatius requested books on chivalry, particularly those with the character of Amadis of Gaul. Instead his sister-in-law gave him two works, Life of Christ, authored by Ludolph of Saxony and translated by Ambrosio Montesino, and a Spanish version of Lives of the Saints by Jacobus de Voragine (Jacopo de Varazze) translated by Gauberto María Vagad. Contemplating these books, Ignatius underwent a conversion, rejected his past, and chose to live as a hermit in Jerusalem.

On his way to Jerusalem, Ignatius visited Montserrat, a Marian shrine near Barcelona managed by the Benedictines; he then spent just over a year in the nearby village of Manresa (April 1522 to February 1523). There he created the framework of the Spiritual Exercises. In the Exercises, Ignatius presented various methods by which a person could move systematically through the three traditional steps of spiritual growth: purgation, illumination, and union with God. Although completed in substance in Manresa, the work took on additional features until its final form received papal approval in 1548. Leaving Manresa, Ignatius arrived in Jerusalem in September 1523, but his plans to stay were thwarted by the Franciscan custodians, who wisely perceived such a strong-willed pilgrim as a liability.

Returning to Barcelona in 1524, Ignatius set his course on a new project. Changing his desire to live as a spiritual recluse, he discerned his vocation as "helping souls." This conversion grew from religious fervor and not from a specific desire to defeat Protestantism, and therefore he stands with other Catholic reformers of the early sixteenth century. To help souls he realized he needed a formal education, and for the first time he took up a serious study of Latin, the necessary tool for academic progress. After two years of study in Barcelona, his teachers recommended he continue at the new university at Alcalá, near Madrid. Arriving at the university in March 1526, he took courses in an indiscriminate fashion. He experienced discouraging attempts to study at Alcalá and later in Salamanca, but at both locations he was imprisoned in 1527 under the suspicion of the Inquisition. Ignatius continued his education in a more methodological way at the University of Paris, where he earned both his licentiate and a master's in philosophy between 1528 and 1535. The name "Ignatius" is inscribed in the school's role for 1534, and from this time forward, with few exceptions, he referred to himself as Ignatius, giving up the "Iñigo" of his early years.

In Paris, Ignatius gathered six men who together decided upon lives of poverty and chastity. They also desired to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and there decide their futures. If such a trip were impossible, they would make themselves available to the Roman pontiff. The trip proved impossible, and the group, wishing to remain together, formed a religious order that received the oral approval of Pope Paul III (14681549) in 1539 and written approval in 1540. Elected as the order's first superior general in 1541, Ignatius witnessed its growth from a few men to one thousand members at his death on 31 July 1556. He supervised the creation of thirty-three schools, wrote the order's constitutions, and governed the ever-expanding Society of Jesus in South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Successfully grafting humanism, Catholic reform, and the missionary opportunities created by the New World economies onto medieval Europe's religious and philosophical heritage, Ignatius was one of the principal forces behind the transition from the medieval church to early modern Catholicism.

See also Ferdinand of Aragón ; Isabella of Castile ; Jesuits ; Missions and Missionaries ; Religious Orders .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. Edited and translated by George E. Ganss. St. Louis, 1970.

. Ignatius of Loyola: The Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works. Edited by George E. Ganss. New York, 1991. This edition includes the full text of the Spiritual Exercises, the Autobiography of Ignatius, selected letters, and parts of the constitutions.

. Letters of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Selected and translated by William Young. Chicago, 1959.

. Letters to Women. Collected by Hugo Rahner. New York, 1960.

Monumenta Ignatiana. Exercitia spiritualia Sancti Ignatii de Loyola et eorum directoria. 2nd ed. rev., 2 vols. Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu (MHSI). Madrid, 1919; Rome, 1969. The Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, formerly in Madrid and now in Rome, has edited the early documents of the Society of Jesus. These scholarly editions appear as a series with various contents or themes in the Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu (MHSI).

Monumenta Ignatiana. Fontes documentales de Sancti Ignatio de Loyola. Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu (MHSI). Rome, 1977.

Monumenta Ignatiana. Sancti Ignatii de Loyola Constitutiones Societatis Jesu. 3 vols. Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu (MHSI). Rome, 19341938.

Monumenta Ignatiana. Sancti Ignatii de Loyola Societatis Jesu fundatoris epistolae et instructiones. Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu (MHSI). Madrid, 19031911.

Monumenta Ignatiana. Scripta de Sancto Ignatio de Loyola, Societas Jesu fundatore. 2 vols. Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu (MHSI). Madrid, 19041918.

Polgár, László. Bibliographie sur l'histoire de la Compagnie de Jésus, 19011980. 3 vols. Rome, 19811990. The most extensive bibliography dealing with Ignatius.

Secondary Sources

De Dalmases, Cándido. Ignatius of Loyola: Founder of the Jesuits. Translated by Jerome Aixalá. St. Louis, 1985.

Ganss, George E. Saint Ignatius' Idea of a Jesuit University. Milwaukee, 1954.

O'Malley, John W. The First Jesuits. Cambridge, Mass., 1993.

Ravier, André. Ignatius of Loyola and the Founding of the Society of Jesus. Translated by Maura Daly, Joan Daly, and Carson Daly. San Francisco, 1987.

Tellechea Idígoras, José Ignacio. Ignatius of Loyola: The Pilgrim Saint. Edited and translated by Cornelius Michael Buckley. Chicago, 1994.

Michael W. Maher

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Ignatius of Loyola, Saint

Saint Ignatius of Loyola (Ĭgnā´shəs, loiyō´lə), 1491–1556, Spanish churchman, founder of the Jesuits (see Jesus, Society of), b. Loyola Castle near Azpeitia, Guipúzcoa, Spain.

Early Life and Ordination

Ignatius was of noble birth and was reared in the household of a prominent courtier. In 1517 he left his life at court to enter the army. During a convalescence (1521) from a serious wound, he was converted through reading a life of Jesus. He went to Montserrat, where he was confessed and absolved, and from there he went to Manresa. In 1523 he set out for the Holy Land. Prevented from entering Palestine, he returned with the decision to secure an education.

He studied at Barcelona (1524–26); at Alcalá (1526–27), where for a short time he was imprisoned by the Inquisition; at Salamanca (1527–28), where he again suffered brief imprisonment; and at Paris. St. Ignatius's strength lay not in scholarship but in spiritual direction. The Inquisition again became suspicious, but he was cleared of any irregularities. He and six followers—among them St. Francis Xavier and Diego Lainez—together took vows of poverty and chastity. This group was the nucleus of the future Jesuits. They planned to go to the Holy Land and live in imitation of Christ, working to convert the Muslims, but the Turkish wars intervened, and they went to Rome instead. They were ordained (1537) and received by the pope (1538), who set them to work in Italy.

Founding of the Jesuit Order

In 1539, Ignatius drew up a Formula for a new order and secured (1540) papal approval. It served as the basis for the later Constitutions, published at his death, by which Jesuits have been governed ever since. Ignatius was elected (1541) general of the order and remained its leader, with headquarters in Rome, until his death. Although the Jesuits became a major force in the Counter Reformation, the society was not founded particularly for that purpose. Ignatius's great interests seem to have been the foreign missions and the education of youth. Many schools were opened in Europe during his lifetime, and missions were begun in Japan, India, and Brazil.

He was dominated all his life by a desire to imitate Christ. His Spiritual Exercises, written over a number of years, are a series of reflections, examinations of conscience, and prayers, grouped according to a traditional set of four steps leading to mystical union with God. The spirituality identified with St. Ignatius is characterized by emphasis on human initiative. His little book is a classic of Christian mysticism and is much used by devout Catholics. His concept of the "soldier of Christ" has often been understood too militaristically: Ignatius used the image in obvious imitation of St. Paul (Eph. 6.10–17). He is buried in the Gesù at Rome. He was canonized in 1622. Feast: July 31.

Bibliography

See Letters of St. Ignatius Loyola (tr. 1959) and his quasi-autobiography, The Testament of Ignatius Loyola (tr. 1900); J. P. Brodrick, The Origin of the Jesuits (1940, repr. 1971); T. Maynard, Saint Ignatius and the Jesuits (1956); H. Rahner, Ignatius the Theologian (tr. 1968); W. W. Meissner, Ignatius of Loyola: The Psychology of a Saint (1992).

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Ignatius (of) Loyola

Ignatius (of) Loyola (1491)/1495–1556). Founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Born of a noble family, he became a soldier and was wounded during the siege of Pampeluna (1521). During a prolonged convalescence he read Ludolf of Saxony's Life of Christ and various lives of the saints which led him to abandon his military career. Upon recovery he went to Montserrat, made his confession, hung up his sword before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and exchanged clothes with a beggar. There followed a year (1522–3) of prayer and mortification at Manresa, the fruit of which profound experience is manifest in his Spiritual Exercises, probably written there. He then went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, via Rome, and on his return studied for eleven years, first in Spain, then in Paris. In 1534, he and six companions (including Francis Xavier) took religious vows. In 1540 the Society of Jesus was formally established, with Ignatius its first general. The Ignatian way in prayer, based on the Exercises, moves religion from the head to the heart, in absolute devotion to God. The claim of the Exercises is that the specific will of God for this person can be found, and that God will ‘deal directly with the creature, and the creature directly with his/her Creator and Lord’. See also JESUITS.

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Ignatius of Loyola, Saint

Ignatius of Loyola, Saint (1491–1556) Spanish soldier, churchman and founder of the Jesuits. In 1534, with Francis Xavier and other young men, he made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1537 and moved to Rome where, in 1540, Pope Paul III formally approved his request to found a religious order: the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. He spent the rest of his life in Rome supervising the rapid growth of the order, which was to become the leading force in the Counter-Reformation.

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Loyola, Ignatius of

Ignatius of Loyola: see Ignatius of Loyola, Saint.

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