Everybody hears the vague story of St. Ignatius having been wounded by a cannon ball and during his recovery, he prayed and read The Life of Christ, and ultimately founded the Society of Jesus. I’m always amazed at the other details, however.
Today, in honor of his feast, I decided to list some of my favorite trivia about this Doctor of the Church.
1. It was almost called The Society of Mary. Ignatius had begun reading the lives of various saints, from a book like a medieval Butler’s lives, and as he read about Sts. Francis, Benedict, Dominic, and so many others, he made a resolution that he wanted to be like them. Shortly after this resolution, Mary, the Mother of God, began to appear to him. Thirty times. So many times, in fact, that Ignatius had originally wanted to call his new order, The Society of Mary! At Mary’s first visit, Ignatius was significantly healed. In her honor, he made his pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Monserrat and there made his confession.
2. Extreme austerity and penance. Ignatius went to a nearby cave (at Manresa) and for the period of about two years, fasted, did penance, meditated, prayed, and kept silence. Some of his self-inflicted austerity was so severe, they left him crippled for life. Nevertheless, in this crucible of expiation for his past sins, Ignatius penned the Spiritual Exercises. Coincidentally, if you ever see retreats named “Manresa,” the inspiration was from this time of Inigo’s life.
3. Convert Islam, particularly Palestine. Right after completing the Spiritual Exercises, Inigo declared, “God wants me to convert the Muslims!” So, he had so much zeal, he went to the Holy Land. He was very energetic, preaching in the streets, and working the crowds, and speaking to everyone he could. The Muslims were in no mood to be converted. The Franciscans living in the Holy Land told Ignatius, “that’s not how you convert Muslims!” and, “go back to Europe or we’ll be sending your corpse back.”
4. Remedial Education. Rejected in his first mission, Ignatius looked around at his circumstances, and he had opportunity to get educated. (Yes, he wrote the Spiritual Exercises prior). So, the dejected Ignatius, at age 33, enrolled in school again, where he learned to write, rudiments of grammar — literally sitting with children in school! He stayed in school 16 years (hence, the joke that Jesuits have such long novitiates because they always were slow learners).
5. The Constitutions of the Jesuits were Approved by the Council of Trent. At the end of Inigo’s schooling, he had gathered roughly 16 followers for this new order. Problem was that the Church felt she had enough orders already (“no new orders” was literally the line). Despite the odds, they presented the constitutions of the new order. No matter what difficulty, even the Pope turning them down initially, Inigo’s answer was to have Masses said. When the Pope turned them down, he ordered his order to say 2000 Masses (there were only 16 of them!).
This reliance on the power of the Mass is memorialized in the constitutions of the Jesuits itself. It says, “the single most powerful means the Society of Jesus has for the conversion of souls and bringing them to God, is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
I prefer that conclusion as well. Mass and the Rosary. And the Sign of the Cross.
Ignatius’s apex to the Spiritual Exercises is not discernment of spirits (it seems that’s the only thing people seek of his writing today), but rather, the Suscipe, a prayer that encompasses the sum total of the exercises: the only thing you have that is your own is your liberty. Thus, out of gratitude to God, you ought give that to Him.
Here is the translation of the Suscipe that Father Hardon would use:
Take Lord and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will;
all that I have and possess.
Thou has given all to me.
To Thee, Oh Lord, I return it.
All is Thine.
Dispose of it wholly according to Thy will.
Give me Thy Love and Thy Grace for this is sufficient for me.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!
Got any more favorite tidbits about St. Ignatius? Tell me about them in the comments!
This article, 5 Crazy Things you Didn’t know about St. Ignatius of Loyola is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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About John B. Manos
John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benzinger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.