Founder of the Society of Jesus order

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By Mel Mantanona

If we were to take all the saints throughout history and gather them for the Olympics, St. Ignatius of Loyola would be one of the greats.

St. Ignatius Loyola is best known for being the founder of the Society of Jesus order, which most of us know as the Jesuits. He is known for being a prominent figure against the Catholic Reformation that took place in the 16th century. So who is this esteemed saint?

Inigo Lopez de Loyola was born in 1491 into a family of 13 children. Though he lost his mother at a young age, he was raised suitably with ambitions to become an important leader one day. At the age of 18, he became a solider and soon went by the name Ignatius, a variant of his birthname, Inigo.

He soared in the military and soon became commander to his own set of troops. During one battle, he was greatly injured in the legs and underwent surgeries without anesthetics which weren’t around at the time. His conditioned worsened and death was expected, however, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, his condition started to improve. Once he regained a bit of health, his injured leg was amputated and this helped him in his journey of recovering.

His life turned around as he decided to devote his entire life for Christ. He entered into a Benedictine monastery and placed his military apparel before an image of the Black Madonna and gave his regular clothes to a poverty-stricken man.

During all his sufferings while injured, Ignatius immersed himself in books. These books, mainly about saints and Jesus Christ, made an impact on him and influenced him to live a devout life and was especially interested in the conversion of non-Christians.

His life turned around as he decided to devote his entire life for Christ. He entered into a Benedictine monastery and placed his military apparel before an image of the Black Madonna and gave his regular clothes to a poverty-stricken man.

He worked in a hospital for the better part of a year, spending his time in prayer and contemplation while also suffering from anxiety and depression. After that, he went to school and perused education. He became familiarized with the structure and formality of higher education and these principals later helped him establish distinguishable schools.

Along with his friends, Francis Xavier and Peter Faber, the Society of Jesus order became an official religious order in 1540 with Ignatius as the leader. The order was known for its strict rules and establishment of many schools with its many members. The order itself was helpful in stopping the Protestant Reformation, known for strongly endorsing using reason in the battle against heresy.

His legacy lives on today not only as a great patron of education, schools, and colleges, but also as the writer of one of the most arguably influential books ever written on the spiritual life, “The Spiritual Exercises.” “The Spiritual Exercises” are a collection of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices used in order to deepen people’s relationship with Jesus Christ.

St. Ignatius died in 1556 and his feast day is July 31. He is the patron saint of the Dioceses of San Sebastian and Bilbao, Biscay & Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, Society of Jesus, soldiers, educators and education.

Information and photo from Catholic.org and Catholic Online respectively.