Ignatius of Loyola (Basque: Ignazio Loiolakoa, Spanish: Ignacio de Loyola) (ca. October 27, 1491 – July 31, 1556) was a Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family, hermit, priest since 1537, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and, on 19 April 1541, became its first Superior General. Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation. Loyola's devotion to the Catholic Church was characterized by absolute obedience to the Pope.
After being seriously wounded in the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, he underwent a spiritual conversion while in recovery. De Vita Christi by Ludolph of Saxony purportedly inspired Loyola to abandon his previous military life and devote himself to labour for God, following the example of spiritual leaders such as Francis of Assisi. After claiming to experience a vision of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus at the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat in March 1522, he went to Manresa, where he began praying for seven hours a day, often in a nearby cave, and formulating the fundamentals of the Spiritual Exercises. In September 1523, Loyola reached the Holy Land to settle there, but was sent back to Europe by the Franciscans.
Between 1524 and 1537, Ignatius studied theology and Latin in the University of Alcalá and then in Paris. In 1534, he arrived in the latter city during a period of anti-Protestant turmoil which forced John Calvin to flee France. Ignatius and a few followers bound themselves by vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In 1539, they formed the Society of Jesus, approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III, as well as his Spiritual Exercises approved in 1548. Loyola also composed the Constitutions of the Society. He died in July 1556, was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1609, canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622, and declared patron of all spiritual retreats by Pope Pius XI in 1922. Ignatius' feast day is celebrated on July 31. Ignatius is a foremost patron saint of soldiers, the Society of Jesus, the Basque Country, and the provinces of Gipuzkoa and Biscay.
Íñigo López de Loyola (sometimes erroneously called Íñigo López de Recalde) was born in the municipality of Azpeitia at the castle of Loyola in today's Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Spain. He was baptized Íñigo, after St. Enecus (Innicus), Abbot of Oña, a medieval Basque name arguably meaning "My little one". It is unclear when he started using Ignatius instead of his baptismal name "Íñigo" (Latin: Enecus; Basque: Eneko; Spanish: Íñigo). Ignatius did not intend to change his name but rather adopted for France and Italy a name which he believed was a simple variant of his own, and which was more acceptable among foreigners.
The youngest of 13 children, Íñigo López was brought up by María de Garín, the local blacksmith's wife, after his own mother died soon after his birth. Íñigo adopted the last name "de Loyola" in reference of the Basque village of Loyola where he was born. He later became a page in the service of a relative, Juan Velázquez de Cuéllar, treasurer (contador mayor) of the kingdom of Castile.
As a young aristocrat Ignatius had a "love of martial exercises and a vainglorious desire for fame." At this period he framed his life around the stories of adventures of El Cid, the knights of Camelot, and The Song of Roland (the tale has Roland slain by Muslims, when historically his death was at the hands of Basques like Ignatius). Joining the army at seventeen he strutted about "with his cape slinging open to reveal his tight-fitting hose and boots; a sword and dagger at his waist." Upon encountering a Moor who denied the divinity of Jesus he challenged him to a duel to the death and ran him through. He dueled others until the events of 1521.
In 1509, Íñigo took up arms for Antonio Manrique de Lara, Duke of Nájera and Viceroy of Navarre. According to Thomas Rochford, S.J., his diplomacy and leadership qualities made him a gentilhombre very useful to the Duke. Under the Duke's leadership, he participated in many battles without injury. But when a French-Navarrese army supporting the Navarrese monarchy, expelled in 1512, stormed Pamplona's fortress on May 20, 1521, a cannonball wounded one of his legs and broke the other. Heavily injured, Íñigo was returned to the castle. He was very concerned about the injuries and had several surgical operations, which were very painful in the days before anaesthetics.
During this time he read the De Vita Christi, by Ludolph of Saxony, in a Catalan edition. This work influenced his whole life. De Vita Christi is the result of forty years of work by Ludolph. It is a commentary on the life of Jesus Christ, a commentary on the Gospels borrowing extracts from the works of over sixty of the Fathers of the Church. Ludolph particularly quotes St Gregory the Great, St Basil, St Augustine and the Venerable Bede. Ludolph proposes to the reader that he place himself at the scene of the Gospel story; that he visualise the crib at the Nativity etc. etc. This is known as a method of prayer called Simple Contemplation and is the basis of the method that St. Ignatius sets out in his Spiritual Exercises.
Religious conversion and religious life
During his period of convalescence in 1521, Ignatius read a series of religious texts, on the life of Jesus and on the lives of the saints; he became fired with an ambition to lead a life of self-denying labour and to emulate the heroic deeds of Francis of Assisi and other great monastics. He resolved to devote himself to the conversion of non-Christians in the Holy Land. Upon recovery, he visited the Benedictine monastery, Santa Maria de Montserrat (March 25, 1522), where he hung his military vestments before an image of the Virgin. He then traveled to the town of Manresa, Catalonia and spent several months in a cave near where he practiced rigorous asceticism. Ignatius also began seeing a series of visions in full daylight while in hospital. These repetitive visions appeared as "a form in the air near him and this form gave him much consolation because it was exceedingly beautiful ... it somehow seemed to have the shape of a serpent and had many things that shone like eyes, but were not eyes. He received much delight and consolation from gazing upon this object ... but when the object vanished he became disconsolate."  In 1523, he instituted a pilgrimage to the Holy Land on a path of self-denial and sacrifice. He briefly remained from September 3 to 23 but was not permitted to stay. Twelve years later, standing before the Pope with his companions, he again proposed sending his companions as emissaries to Jerusalem.
Returning to Spain, he and his companions were occupied in the University of Alcalá (the present-day Complutense University of Madrid, not the newer University of Alcalá established in 1977) with the task of making disciples of women called as witnesses by the Inquisition under the direction of magistrate Alonso Mejias. Although the alumbrados [Illuminated; Illuminati; Enlightened Ones] of Spain were linked in their zeal and spirituality to the Franciscan reforms of which Cardinal de Cisneros was a promoter," the administrators of the Inquisition had mounting suspicions. These female disciples, Doña Leo, Doña Maria, and Doña Beatriz were so hysterically zealous that "one fell senseless, another sometimes rolled about on the ground, another had been seen in the grip of convulsions or shuddering and sweating in anguish." This suspicious activity had taken place while Ignatius and his companions were regularly preaching in public. Because of his "street-corner perorations" being identified "with the activities of the alumbrados," Ignatius was naturally singled out for inspection as one of these visionaries; however he was later released. After these adventurous activities, he studied at the ascetic Collège de Montaigu of the University of Paris, where he remained over seven years. In later life, he was often called "Master Ignatius". This title was due to his taking a master's degree from the before-mentioned university at the age of forty-three.
By 1534 he had gathered six key companions, all of whom he met as fellow students at the University—Francis Xavier, Alfonso Salmeron, Diego Laynez, and Nicholas Bobadilla, all Spanish; Peter Faber, a Frenchman; and Simão Rodrigues of Portugal. Later he was joined by Saint Francis Borgia, a member of the House of Borgia who was the main aide of Emperor Charles V, and other nobles. "On the morning of the 15th of August, 1534, in the chapel of church of Saint Peter, at Montmartre, Loyola and his six companions, of whom only one was a priest, met and took upon themselves the solemn vows of their lifelong work."  Ignatius of Loyola was the main creator and initial Superior General of the Society of Jesus, a religious organization of the Catholic Church whose members, known as Jesuits, served the Pope as missionaries. He is remembered as a talented spiritual director. He was very vigorous in opposing the Protestant Reformation and promoting the following Counter-Reformation. He was beatified and then canonized and received the title of Saint on March 12, 1622. He is the patron saint of the provinces of Gipuzkoa and Biscay along with the Society of Jesus. Ignatius Loyola wrote Spiritual Exercises, a simple 200-page set of meditations, prayers, and various other mental exercises, from 1522 to 1524. The exercises of the book were designed to be carried out over a period of 28–30 days.
Father General of the Jesuits
Ignatius was chosen as the first Superior General of his religious order, invested with the title of Father General by the Jesuits. He sent his companions as missionaries around Europe to create schools, colleges, and seminaries. Juan de Vega, the ambassador of Charles V at Rome had met Ignatius there. Esteeming him and the Jesuits, when Vega was appointed Viceroy of Sicily he brought Jesuits with him. A Jesuit college was opened at Messina; success was marked, and its rules and methods were afterwards copied in other colleges. In 1548 Spiritual Exercises was finally printed, and he was briefly brought before the Roman Inquisition, but was released.
Ignatius wrote the Jesuit Constitutions, adopted in 1554, which created a monarchical organization and stressed absolute self-abnegation and obedience to pope and superiors (perinde ac [si] cadaver [essent], "[well-disciplined] like a corpse" as Ignatius put it). His main principle became the Jesuit motto: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam ("for the greater glory of God"). The Jesuits were a major factor in the Counter-Reformation. During 1553–1555, Ignatius dictated his life's story to his secretary, Father Gonçalves da Câmara. This autobiography is a valuable key for the understanding of his Spiritual Exercises. It was kept in the archives for about 150 years, until the Bollandists published the text in Acta Sanctorum. He died in Rome on July 31, 1556, as a result of the Roman Fever, a severe case of malaria that recurred in Rome, Italy, at different points in history.
Canonization and legacy
Ignatius was beatified by Pope Paul V on July 27, 1609 and canonized by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622. His feast day is celebrated annually on July 31, the day he died. Saint Ignatius is venerated as the patron saint of Catholic soldiers, the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Basque country and various towns and cities in his native region.
Ignatius has - to this day - a powerful and respectable legacy. Of the institutions dedicated to Saint Ignatius, one of the most famous is the Basilica of St Ignatius Loyola, built next to the house where he was born in Azpeitia, the Basque Country, Spain. The house itself, now a museum, is incorporated into the basilica complex. In addition, he has had a big international impact, having been the influence numerous Jesuit schools and educational institutions worldwide.
Shield of Oñaz-Loyola
The Shield of Oñaz-Loyola is a symbol of St. Ignatius family's Oñaz lineage, and is used by many Jesuit institutions around the world. As the official colors of the Loyola family are maroon and gold, the Oñaz shield consists of seven maroon bars going diagonally from the upper left to the lower right on a gold field. The bands were granted by the King of Spain to each of the Oñaz brothers, in recognition of their bravery in battle. The Loyola shield features a pair of rampant gray wolves flanking each side of a cooking pot. The Loyola name was a contraction of the words Lobo y Olla which literally meant "wolf and pot" in Spanish. The wolf was a symbol of nobility, while the entire design represented the family's generosity towards their military followers. According to legend, wolves had enough to feast on after the soldiers had eaten. Both shields were combined as a result of the intermarriage of the two families in 1261.
"St. Ignatius of Loyola, Confessor", Butler's Lives of the Saints
Superior General of the Society of Jesus