Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556)

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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 .


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

Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556)

views updated May 21 2018

Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556)

Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), Spanish soldier and ecclesiastic. Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuit order.

Ignatius was born in the castle of Loyola in the Basque province of Guipúzcoa. His real name was Iñigo de Oñaz y Loyola, but from 1537 on he also used the more widely known Ignatius, especially in official documents. From the age of about 15 to 26 he lived at the fortress town of Arévalo as a page of Juan Velázquez de Cuéllar, a treasurer general for Ferdinand the Catholic. After 1516 he participated in military expeditions for the Duke of Nájera. On May 20, 1521, he was wounded in the defense of Pamplona.

During convalescence at Loyola, Ignatius read from the Life of Christ by Ludolph of Saxony and from the short lives of saints by Jacobus de Voragine entitledLegenda aurea. This resulted in a conversion, whereby he resolved to live as a knight wholly devoted to Christ and to go to the Holy Land. He abandoned Loyola in 1522 and lived for 11 months in austerity and prayer at Manresa. Here he had religious experiences which rank him among the greatest mystics of Christianity, and he composed at least the core of his famous Spiritual Exercises (published in 1548).

Through the intensive experiences of Manresa and later, Ignatius gradually developed a world view centered on cooperation with Christ and the pope as His vicar in efforts to achieve God's plan in creating and redeeming men. His constant endeavor was to lead men to give greater praise to God through both prayer and apostolic service. Hence arose his phrase, reiterated so often that it became a motto, "For the greater glory of God."

Ignatius reached Jerusalem in 1523 but could not remain because of the enmity between Christians and Turks. He returned to Barcelona and began studies (1524–1526) toward the priesthood. He then studied at the universities of Alcalá (1526–1527), Salamanca (1527), and Paris (1528–1535), where he received the degree of master of arts in April 1534. On the following August 15 he and six companions vowed to live in poverty and chastity and to go to the Holy Land or, should this prove impossible, to put themselves at the apostolic service of the pope. When war prevented passage to Jerusalem in 1537, they accepted a suggestion of Pope Paul III to find their apostolate in Italy.

Ignatius was ordained a priest on June 24, 1537. In Rome in 1539 he and nine companions drew up a "First Sketch" of a new religious order devoted to apostolic service anywhere in the world by means of preaching and any other ministry. On Sept. 27, 1540, Paul III approved this new order and its title, the Society of Jesus. In April 1541 Ignatius was elected its general for a lifelong term.

Chiefly between 1547 and 1550 Ignatius composed his Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, a classic both of spiritual doctrine and of religious law. This work reveals Ignatius's genius as an organizer and administrator. To secure better cooperation in charity, he stressed obedience, but he placed many democratic procedures within the monarchical structure of his order.

From 1537 on Ignatius lived in Rome, engaging in various forms of priestly work. Twelve volumes of his correspondence have been preserved. He founded a chain of schools for the Christian education of youth. Between 1546 and 1556 he opened 33 colleges (3 of them universities) and approved 6 more. He was the first founder of a religious order to make the conducting of schools for lay students a major work prescribed by the Constitutions.

At his death on July 31, 1556, the Society of Jesus had some 1,000 members distributed in 12 provinces. He was declared a saint by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622.


Ignatius (of) Loyola

views updated Jun 08 2018

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.

Ignatius of Loyola, Saint

views updated May 29 2018

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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Saint Ignatius of Loyola