Birth of Ignatius of Loyola

In 1491, the youngest child of eleven children was born to a noble family, in the northeast of Spain, in the Basque country. The man whom we now call St Ignatius, was named Inigo.

He was sent to be trained as a courtier at a young age and started working for the treasurer of Spain. When he was in his twenties, he entered into the service of the Duke of Navarre, and became a soldier.

Conversion at Loyola Castle

In 1521, Inigo defended the city of Pamplona against the French forces. Outnumbered and besieged, Inigo rallied the troops to fight till the very end, until a French cannonball struck him in the legs and wounded him severely. While recuperating in his home, Loyola Castle, Inigo was drawn into a period of deeper reflection and prayer after reading about the Life of Christ and the Life of Saints, which sparked his desire to emulate the saints.

The Origins of the Spiritual Exercises

Ignatius left the castle in 1522 a converted man, gradually changing from a proud military man into a religious pilgrim. Enlivened and engaged, Ignatius studied the core of his beliefs, examining how intellect and feelings worked in his life. He started writing about his own spiritual experience, which later became the nucleus of what would become the Spiritual Exercises.

Gathering of the Companions

Ignatius’ plans to minister to the people living in the Holy Land were diverted as the church authority in the Holy Land told him that it was too dangerous. His academic pursuits, to serve God better, took him to various universities in Spain and eventually led him to University of Paris, where he gathered companions who shared his hopes and dreams, and his great love for Christ.

The Founding of the Society of Jesus

In 1537, they traveled to Italy to seek papal approval for the founding of the Society. In 1539, they took part in conferences to prepare for the definitive foundation of the Company of Jesus. Finally, after overcoming many ordeals, and Pope Paul III permission, Ignatius and his companions established the Society of Jesus in 1540. Ignatius continued to serve the church fervently until his death in 1556.