The Founder

St. Ignatius Loyola

St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus was born at Loyola in the Basque region of northern Spain in 1491. He was a noble man, a knight, in the service of the King of Spain. He received a severe leg injury in a battle against the French at Pamplona in 1521. This was how God entered his life. For many months he was bedridden till his leg was healed. He spent his time reading books of chivalry, and then, for want of other books, he read the lives of the saints and the life of Jesus. He felt great consolation and joy reading the latter, and sadness and dryness whilst reading the former. He realized the emptiness of his life and resolved to follow Jesus in the most radical way. He set out on his pilgrimage in search of God. He spent one year at Menresa where he performed frightening penances and experienced a deep religious conversion. He was a changed man. He offered himself totally to God and set out for Jerusalem. He wanted to remain in the holy land “to live as Jesus lived “but he was forbidden. He returned to Spain and started recruiting people to his way of life. Soon he realized the need for studies, He started learning Latin at the age of 33 and letter went on to universities in Spain. Being harassed by the Inquisition, he went to Paris to complete his studies. He recruited six students and animated them with his vision and his burning love for God. Among them was Francis Xavier.

This was the nucleus of future Society of Jesus. Individually they took their vows of poverty and chastity at Montmartre, a famous church in Paris and decided to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Because of the Turkish pirates, they were unable to fulfill their vows. They deliberated. They decided to constitute an Order, chose Ignatius as their general and offered themselves to the Pope. Their aim was “to be friends in lord and to work for the salvation of souls” Pope Paul III approved the new order in 1540. The Pope sent the companions all over the world but Ignatius remained at Rome till death, writing the constitutions and directing and inspiring his fledgling society. He grew steadily in union and familiarity with God, gifted with extraordinary mystical graces. He died in Rome on July 31, 1556.