The extraordinary life trajectory of Santo Inácio de Loyola

In these adversities, however, the Lord molded the soul of that restless young man ”

The extraordinary life trajectory of Santo Inácio de Loyola

On July 31, the Church celebrates the liturgical feast of the holy founder of one of the most important religious orders in history: the Jesuits, or priests of the Society of Jesus.


Childhood and adolescence

Known as Santo Inácio de Loyola, his original name was Íñigo López, born in Loyola, in the current Spanish municipality of Azpeitia, on May 31, 1491. The youngest of the thirteen children of Beltrán Ibáñez de Oñaz and Marina Sánchez de Licona, he lost his mother in the first moments after she gave birth to him.

In 1506, shortly before his death, his father sent him to Arévalo, in Castile, in order to receive a good education at the home of Juan Velázquez de Cuellar, minister of King Fernando, the Catholic. Íñigo accompanied the minister, as a page, to the cities where the itinerant court moved, and he assimilated the good manners that would have a great impact on his future work.

Soldier wounded in battle

After the death of Juan Velázquez, Íñigo put himself at the service of Antonio Manrique, Duke of Nájera and Viceroy of Navarre, fighting in his defense even in the siege of the castle of Pamplona by the French. It was May 20, 1521 when a cannonball from the besiegers hit him in the leg. Taken home, in Loyola, Íñigo underwent two painful leg surgeries, which left one shorter than the other and limped for the rest of his life.

In these adversities, however, the Lord molded the soul of that restless young man.

Personal spiritual transformation

During his long convalescence, he began to read, first with indifference and then with great attention, two yellow books that his sister-in-law had offered him: “Vita christi”(The life of Christ), by Ludolfo Cartusiano, and“Caption Aurea”(Life of the saints), by Jacopo da Voragine. The meditation on these readings convinced him that the only true Lord to whom it was worth dedicating the knight's perfect loyalty was Jesus Christ.


Pilgrim heading to Jerusalem

To mark the beginning of his new life, he decided to go to Jerusalem as a pilgrim as soon as he recovered. In February 1522 he left Loyola for Barcelona, ​​stopping en route to the Benedictine abbey of Montserrat. There he made a general confession, stripped off his knightly clothes, dressed in the clothes of a poor man, and took the first step towards a religious life by professing the vow of perpetual chastity.

Manresa and the rise of Spiritual Exercises

A plague epidemic, recurring in those days, prevented him from reaching Barcelona. He then stopped in Manresa and, for more than a year, led a life of prayer and penance in the vicinity of the Cardoner River, where he says he felt the inspiration to found a company of people consecrated to God. That inspiration completely transformed him. In a cave in the region, in human solitude, he began to write a series of meditations and norms that were later reworked to form the famous “Spiritual Exercises”, still a very rich source of energy for Jesuits and Catholics worldwide.

Rome, Holy Land and back to Spain

Finally arriving in Barcelona in 1523, he decided not to embark directly to Jerusalem, but to Gaeta, in Italy, from where he left for Rome. He was received and blessed by the last non-Italian Pope before St. John Paul II: the Dutchman Adriano VI. He went on to Venice and then set sail for the Holy Land.

While visiting the Holy Places, he wanted to stay in Jerusalem, but did not obtain permission from the superior of the Franciscans, who was in charge of the local custody. In 1524, he returned to Spain and, aware that he needed to deepen his studies in general and his then scarce theological knowledge in particular, he began at the age of 33 to study Latin grammar in Barcelona, ​​and subsequently began university studies in Alcalá and Salamanca. Misunderstandings prevented him from completing his studies in Spain, which forced him, in 1528, to move to Paris.


He remained until 1535 in the influential French political and cultural center, where he received a doctorate in philosophy. On August 15, 1534, he and six other students, in the Saint-Denis chapel, in the church of Santa Maria in Montmartre, made their vows of poverty and chastity: they were the Frenchman Pedro Fabro, the Portuguese Simão Rodrigues and the Spaniards Francisco Xavier, Alfonso Salmerón, Diego Laynez and Nicolau de Bobadilla. The group also promised to travel to Jerusalem and, if this were not possible, to make themselves available to the Pope so that he could decide what kind of apostolic life they would pursue. It was on that occasion that Íñigo Latinized his Basque name for Inácio, in evocation of the holy martyr Bishop Inácio de Antioquia.

Foundation of the Jesuits

The war between the European Christian territories and the Ottoman Turks made any trip to Jerusalem virtually impossible. In the company of Pedro Fabro and Diego Laynez, Ignatius traveled to Rome in October 1538 to make the group available to Pope Paul III, who told them:

“Why do you want to go to Jerusalem so much? To bear fruit in the Church of God, Italy is a good Jerusalem ”.

On September 27, 1540, Paul III approved the Society of Jesus with the bull “Regimini militantis Ecclesiae”. On April 8, 1541, Ignatius was unanimously elected the Superior General of the order. On April 22, together with six companions, he made his religious profession at St. Paul's Basilica.

From 1544 to 1550, Inácio drafted the company's constitutions. At that time, his spiritual children were already beginning to spread throughout the world. However, at the Pope's request, he stayed in Rome to coordinate the activities of the Jesuits.

Illness, death and canonization

At that time, Inácio suffered excruciating pains in the stomach due to a disease of the gallbladder and poorly treated liver cirrhosis. To fulfill all his commitments and to have time for prayer and the celebration of Holy Mass, he slept only four hours a night. The disease gradually limited his activities, until, on July 31, 1556, the soldier of Christ left the battle of this life in a modest room in the house located near the chapel of Santa Maria della Strada, in Rome.

He was proclaimed blessed on July 27, 1609 by Pope Paul V and canonized on March 12, 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.

Source: Aleteia

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