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Loyola, Saint Ignatius (1491–1556)

Loyola, Saint Ignatius (14911556)

Founder of the Society of Jesus, a religious order also known as the Jesuits, and dedicated opponent of the Protestant Reformation. Born in Loyola, near San Sebastian in the Basque region of northwestern Spain, he entered the service of the treasurer of Castile as a teenager. He joined the Spanish army in its fight against the kingdom of Navarre and was severely wounded while defending the city of Pamplona against a siege in 1517. While recovering from his injuries, he dedicated himself to the church and became a solitary devotee of the Virgin Mary. He resolved to establish a religious order that would be organized much like an army, and fight to defend the authority of the pope. He wrote the Spiritual Exercises, a book of meditations, and used this work to proselytize for his new order. Attending the University of Paris, he earned a master's degree in theology and gathered a small group of followers who together proclaimed the founding of the Society of Jesus in the Church of Saint Mary in Paris in 1534. The order won the approval of Pope Paul III and was soon sending its members to build new schools and seminaries throughout Catholic Europe. The Society's goal was to educate the young, carry out missionary activities, and stamp out Protestantism; it was organized according to Loyola's Jesuit Constitution, which commanded complete obedience to the pope.

See Also: Reformation, Catholic

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