Who is St. Ignatius?

The Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of St. Ignatius every year on the 31st of July. Ignatius, or Inigo, was of Spanish nobility. He received a military education and entered the Spanish army in 1517 but was wounded in the leg by a cannonball at the siege of Pamplona on May 20, 1521. This injury left him partially crippled for life. During his recuperation the only books he had access to were The Golden Legend, a collection of lives of the saints, and the Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian. These books, and the time spent in contemplation, changed him. On his recovery he took a vow of chastity, hung his sword before the altar of the Virgin of Montserrat, and donned a pilgrim's robes.

Ignatius lived in a cave at Manresa, Spain from 1522 to 1523, contemplating the way to live a Christian life. During that time he recorded his spiritual experiences which are known today as The Spiritual Exercises. In 1528 he began studying theology in Barcelona, Alcala, and Paris and received his degree on March 14, 1534. His meditations, prayers, visions and insights led to forming the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. The Society received papal approval from Pope Paul III in 1540.

Ignatius traveled to Europe and the Holy Lands, then settled in Rome to direct the Jesuits until he died of fever on July 31, 1556. Ignatius was beatified by the Catholic Church on July 27, 1609 by Pope Paul V and canonized March 12, 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.

Although Ignatius never used the term Jesuit, which was coined as an insult by his opponents, the Society today uses the term with pride. The Jesuits today have over 16,000 members, 3,730 educational institutions worldwide, and care for over 2.5 million students. To learn more about St. Ignatius and the Jesuits, visit their website, www.jesuit.org.