St Ignatius Loyola.
1491-1556. ~ Founder of the Society of Jesus. Ignatius was born in Loyola in Spain, the son of a wealthy nobleman and he was accustomed to living a comfortable life. In his youth, he joined the army and duly served his country, but during the siege of Pamplona, he suffered a leg injury the result of being hit by a cannonball. He may well have remained in the army and travelled to the “New World” had it not been for his injury. While he was recovering, he had plenty of time to read and came across books on the life of Jesus, the saints and other religious publications. This had a great influence on him and he decided to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On his return to Spain, he began studying Latin and Greek and gained his M.A at the University of Paris. Even though Ignatius had a permanent limp and was limited in his physical capabilities, he decided to put his military training to good use by applying his disciplines and obedience to become a “Soldier of Christ”. He gathered together seven students and they took vows to God and decided to be missionaries to the Moslems in Palestine. After three years, there were ten members of their society. At the age of forty-seven, Ignatius was ordained a priest with some others of his group. They thought they would organise themselves into a regular religious order and dedicate their lives to God.
At first, they specialised in the education of children and uneducated adults and they vowed to take the gospel to wherever they could around the world. Through their hard work, schools were founded both here and abroad. He sent missionaries to Brazil, India and Japan. The pope approved the order and they decided to call themselves “Society of Jesus” or otherwise known as “Jesuits”. For fifteen years, Ignatius was the superior of the order, living in Rome. The society grew from just ten members to well over a thousand with houses all over Europe and further a field.
Ignatius was a learned, holy man with a friendly personality and he was the author of many writings; his most famous work is “Spiritual Exercises”.
He died in Rome aged sixty-five. Today, the Jesuits continue to thrive all over the world.