Tuesday, July 31, 2012

St Ignatius of Loyola

St Ignatius writing his "Spiritual Exercises"

The Jesuits had quite an important role in my education and spiritual formation. My spiritual director in the Seminary was a Jesuit as were many of my priest friends. My two nephews were educated in a school run by the Jesuits, and which has actually produced quite a few well-known people in Malta. Jesuits have provided many good priests, many of whom have dedicated their lives to work in the missions. We thank St Ignatius of Loyola, their founder, whose feast we celebrate today.
St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guipúzcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children, and was called Iñigo. When he was old enough, he became a page, and then a soldier of Spain to fight against the French. A cannon ball shattered his leg and subsequently, a series of bad operations ended his military career in 1521. While St. Ignatius recovered, he started reading the Bible and the lives of the saints, and decided to dedicate himself to becoming a soldier of the Catholic Faith.
Soon after he experienced visions, but a year later suffered a trial of fears and scruples, driving him almost to despair. Out of this experience he wrote his famous "Spiritual Exercises". After traveling and studying in different schools, he finished in Paris, where he received his degree at the age of 43. Many first hated St. Ignatius because of his humble lifestyle. Despite this, he attracted several followers at the university, including St. Francis Xavier, and soon started his order called The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits.
He was a gifted spiritual director, and has been described by Pope Benedick XVI  as “being above all a man of God and a man of profound prayer who gave the first place of his life to God.” He was very active in fighting the Protestant Reformation and promoting the subsequent Counter-Reformation. St Ignatius died at the age of 65. He was canonized on March 12, 1622.  There are 38 members of the Society of Jesus who have been declared Saints. So many other Jesuits have become Cardinals, Bishops and great writers.

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