Feast of St Ignatius of Loyola

For the Feast of St Ignatius of Loyola: 31 July 2005

Pasquale Puca, S.J.

The Jesuit goal: Finding God in all things

Ignatius of Loyola was not really an "intellectual". But this does not mean that he did not have great esteem for the important human value of culture and knowledge, as some of his decisions, after a certain point in his life, clearly demonstrate.

He was born in Loyola, in the Basque region of Northern Spain, in 1491. On 20 May 1521 he was severely wounded in the leg in an effort to defend the Fortress of Pamplona besieged by a squad of French soldiers.

During his long convalescence patiently spent at his family's castle in Loyola, he had a special experience of profound inner conversion. He was fascinated by the person of Jesus Christ and won over by the Gospel values that Jesus had proclaimed and witnessed to with his life.

Having reached adulthood and through extraordinary spiritual experiences, he discovered his "vocation" to follow Christ as he is portrayed in the Gospel and to serve the Church in the priestly ministry.

So it was that at age 33, wishing to prepare appropriately from a doctrinal point of view for his new life in the Church and in society, he moved to Barcelona. Here for two years (1524-1525) he devoted himself to humanistic studies.

He later began to study philosophy and theology: first at the Universities of Alcalà de Henares and Salamanca (1526-1527), and later at the Sorbonne in Paris (1528-1535), where he obtained a Master of Arts degree on 14 March 1534.

In 1537, during a stay in Venice, he was ordained a priest. He was 46 years old.

Society of Jesus, approved in 1540

The Religious Institute he founded with the name the "Society of Jesus" was approved by Pope Paul III on 27 September 1540. The specific aim of the Society's apostolate was "to serve the Lord alone and the Roman Pontiff, his Vicar on earth", since it was especially concerned with "the progress of the faith, through public preaching and the service of God's Word, spiritual exercises and works of charity and, expressly, through teaching the Christian truths to boys and peasants and imparting spiritual consolation to believers by hearing their confessions" (Bull of Approval of Paul III, Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae).

The Society was always held in great esteem, all due to its work of evangelization of every category of persons and its valuing of doctrine in every branch of human knowledge.

Therefore, the Society of Jesus has always had a considerable number of truly eminent people among its members, coming from the most refined cultural and scientific backgrounds. This was so that, always and everywhere, the Gospel would penetrate the fabric of society and in every milieu inspire sincere commitment to truth, justice and goodness among people and institutions.

The goal of becoming contemplatives in action

In apostolic service to the Church, the primary motivation of members of the Society of Jesus has always been firm trust in God and total dedication to Christ; they are driven by a constant willingness to choose in their actions what gives the greatest glory to God and to put it into practice, always striving to achieve it in the best possible way and taking into account their circumstances and the means available for their action. In other words, they strive to be contemplatives in action, finding God in all endeavours.

To undertake great things in the Church at the service of God and one's neighbour means facing hardship, sacrifice, at times even slander or injury: for it is impossible to do something truly great for the good of souls and thus for the glory of God without the world becoming alarmed, excited and doing its utmost to prevent it! What developed, therefore, was the criterion of total personal abandonment to God, in accordance with the well-known sayings Ignatius set down in his little book of Spiritual Exercises:

"Take, O Lord, and accept all my freedom, my memory, my mind and all my will, all that I have and possess; you bestowed it upon me, I restore it to you; Lord, all is yours, make use of it as may best please you; give me but your love and grace, that this may suffice me".

The earthly life of Ignatius of Loyola came to an end at age 65. He died in Rome in his house at the foot of the Capitol Hill, at dawn on 31 July 1556. His priestly ministry had lasted only 19 years.

At his death, only 16 years after the approval of the Society of Jesus by Paul III, the order was already present on four continents, organized in 11 religious provinces and had approximately 1,000 Jesuits living in 70 houses.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
20 July 2005, page 19

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