St Ignatius of
The founder of the Jesuits was on his way to military fame and fortune when
a cannon ball shattered his leg. Because there were no books of romance on hand during his
convalescence, Ignatius whiled away the time reading a life of Christ and lives of the saints. His
conscience was deeply touched, and a long, painful turning to Christ began.
Having seen the
Mother of God in a vision, he made a pilgrimage to her shrine at Montserrat (near Barcelona). He
remained for almost a year at nearby Manresa, sometimes with the Dominicans, sometimes in a pauper´s
hospice, often in a cave in the hills praying. After a period of great peace of mind, he went
through a harrowing trial of scruples. There was no comfort in anything—prayer, fasting, sacraments,
penance. At length, his peace of mind returned.
It was during this year of conversion that
Ignatius began to write down material that later became his greatest work, the Spiritual
He finally achieved his purpose of going to the Holy Land, but could not remain,
as he planned, because of the hostility of the Turks. He spent the next 11 years in various European
universities, studying with great difficulty, beginning almost as a child. Like many others, his
orthodoxy was questioned; Ignatius was twice jailed for brief periods.
In 1534, at the age of
43, he and six others (one of whom was St. Francis Xavier) vowed to live in poverty and chastity and
to go to the Holy Land. If this became impossible, they vowed to offer themselves to the apostolic
service of the pope. The latter became the only choice. Four years later Ignatius made the
association permanent. The new Society of Jesus was approved by Paul III, and Ignatius was elected
to serve as the first general.
When companions were sent on various missions by the pope,
Ignatius remained in Rome, consolidating the new venture, but still finding time to found homes for
orphans, catechumens and penitents. He founded the Roman College, intended to be the model of all
other colleges of the Society.
Ignatius was a true mystic. He centered his spiritual life on
the essential foundations of Christianity—the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist. His spirituality is
expressed in the Jesuit motto, ad majorem Dei gloriam—"for the greater glory of God." In his
concept, obedience was to be the prominent virtue, to assure the effectiveness and mobility of his
men. All activity was to be guided by a true love of the Church and unconditional obedience to the
Holy Father, for which reason all professed members took a fourth vow to go wherever the pope should
send them for the salvation of souls.
To read more about the Saint