St. Ignatius of Loyola was born in Loyola, Spain, in 1491. His father was Lord of Loyola. Ignatius’ family was a very old and distinguished one. As a boy, Ignatius served as a page at the court of the King of Spain.
Ignatius joined the army. He served in a war between Spain and France. At the siege of Pamplona, he was badly wounded by a cannon ball. Ignatius was forced to recover at his family home. Extremely bored, he began to read extensively. Ignatius read many works on the lives of the Saints. Ignatius was inspired by what he read, and decided to live a life devoted to God. After recovering from his wounds, he left his home and his life of privilege.
Ignatius divided his time for two years between working in a paupers’ hospice and as a hermit in a cave. While in the cave, Ignatius began writing his great work Spiritual Exercises.
Ignatius went to Paris to study theology. While there, he met six other like-minded students. Under Ignatius' leadership, the six took vows of charity and dedicated themselves to God. This is often regarded as the foundation of the Jesuit Order.
Ignatius and his companions tried to sail to the Holy Land to preach the Gospel, but this was impossible because of the Ottoman Turks. Instead, St. Ignatius and his companions offered their services directly to the Pope. The Pope recognized the ardor and spirituality of Ignatius, and recognized the new order.
Ignatius became the first Superior General of the Jesuits. He was to prove a brilliant administrator and organizer.
St. Ignatius sent missionaries all over Europe. He also established schools and universities in order to provide young boys and youths with a Catholic education. The Jesuits helped to improve the education system in many countries.
The Jesuits, under St. Ignatius, soon attracted many members. The Order helped to rejuvenate the Church during a period when it was challenged by the Reformation in Europe.
St. Ignatius died in Rome, in 1555. He was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.
St. Ignatius was associated with several miraculous events. On several occasions, the Saint's head glowed with light, or a light encompassed his entire body, or rays of light radiated from his body.
St. Ignatius of Loyola urged Christians to live selfless lives. This would bring them closer to God:
“Teach us to give and not to count the cost.”
The saint urged people to change themselves in order to change the world:
“He who goes about to reform the world must begin with himself, or he loses his labor.”