Ignatius Loyola and the “Society of Jesus”

Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556)
As a young man, Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), was devoted to the military. During a battle in 1521, the bone in his right leg
was shattered by a musket ball and was badly set. With no anesthetic, the leg
was reset; some sources say the protruding bone was sawn off.

During the time his leg was healing, Ignatius is said to have read a life of Jesus and a collection of the lives of the saints which led to a conversion experience.

One night as Ignatius lay awake,“’he saw clearly the image of Our Lady with the Holy Child Jesus’…which eventually left him with such a loathing of his past sins, and especially for those of the flesh, that every unclean imagination seemed blotted out from his soul, and never again was there the least consent to any carnal thought. His “conversion” was now complete.” [1]

“Throughout the months of recuperation, Ignatius noticed how God led him
to pay attention to the diverse ‘voices’ inside of him—to the movements of consolation and desolation in his heart and spirit…he learned that God was shaping and forming him to be a companion of Jesus. The fruit of these
months of prayer and reflection is contained in his Spiritual Exercises.” [2]

After he recovered from his battle wounds, Ignatius visited the Dominican monastery of Montserrat and hung his military accoutrements before the
image of a black madonna, the Virgin of Montserrat.

On his way back from Montserrat in 1522, Ignatius “…soon entered the monastery of Manresa, “where he practised the most rigorous asceticism with frequent confessions and masses and the performance of the most disagreeable and menial tasks. He is said to have had visions of the Trinity, of the mystery of the creation, of the union of deity and humanity in Christ (in the Eucharist).” [3]

Ignatius Loyola is said to have not only raised several feet (levitated) but became luminous in the process. “The contemplation of any religious act or meditation on any of the great facts of redemption brought before his susceptible mind realistic images of the events concerned. The Virgin became the object of his devotion.” [4]

“Ignatius possibly learned about the spiritual advantages of the practice [taking the Eucharist more often] at Montserrat. By the time he was at Manresa he was receiving the Eucharist every Sunday. At Manresa, moreover, he discovered, The Imitation of Christ…The entire fourth book of the Imitation is on the Eucharist, the fifth chapter of which recommends its frequent reception.” [5]

While in Manresa, Ignatius of Loyola is known to have practiced severe mortifications for which he is praised.

“It was at this time, too, that he began to make notes of his spiritual experiences, notes which grew into the little book of The Spiritual Exercises.

“God also afflicted him with severe sicknesses, when he was looked after by friends in the public hospital; for many felt drawn towards him, and he requited their many kind offices by teaching them how to pray and instructing them in spiritual matters.” [6]

“… Military imagery played a prominent part in his religious contemplations. Before he left Manresa he had wrought out his The Spiritual Exercises, which were to exert a potent influence in the winning and training of converts and in revolutionizing the methods of propagandism in the papal Church; ‘the mill
into which all Jesuits are cast…'” [7]

At age 33, Ignatius learned Latin with the schoolboys in Barcelona. By the time Ignatius entered University of Paris a few years later—1528, for a solid founda-
tion in Catholic theology, he had incurred the censure of the authorities at two Spanish universities he had attended, because of his efforts to win converts among the students by inducing them to subject themselves to courses of
training in the Spiritual Exercises.

Ignatius remained at the University of Paris over seven years, perfecting his literary and theological education which was deeply influenced by Renaissance humanism, and winning associates. At the University of Paris he narrowly escaped punishment at the hands of the authorities for disturbing the students
by getting them absorbed in the Spiritual Exercises. [8]

Company of Jesus
In Paris, Ignatius and six other men, Peter Faber, Francis Xavier, Alfonso Salmeron, Diego Lainez, Nicholas Bobadilla, and Simon Rodriguez, formed the “Company of Jesus” (as in an infantry company and companions of Jesus). They made a vow to go wherever the pope directed without questioning. Sometime around 1537, the seven men met in Venice and then went to Rome where they “offered their services” to the pope.

The Company of Jesus went to Rome a second time. On the way, Ignatius had a vision in the wayside chapel at La Storta, in which the Trinity appeared. Jesus, bearing his cross is said to have told Ignatius, “It is My will that you serve Us”, and promised to be “propitious to you in Rome.” [9]

Pope Paul III not only received them cordially and accepted their services, but (when the congregation of cardinals finally gave their approval to Loyola’s constituion), confirmed the order through the bull Regimini militantis ecclesiae (To the Government of the Church Militant), on September 27, 1540. Ignatius Loyola and his companions were now called, The Society of Jesus.

[The Society of Jesus, often called Jesuits, has also been called, Soldiers of Christ, and Foot soldiers of the Pope.]

Ignatius was chosen as the first superior-general and continued to develop his Spiritual Expercises. He sent his companions as missionaries around Europe to create schools, colleges, and seminaries. [10]

The Jesuit Constitution written by Ignatius and adopted in 1554, created a monarchical organization and stressed absolute self-abnegation and obedience
to Pope and superiors (“well-disciplined like a corpse” as Ignatius put it). His
main principle became the Jesuit motto: Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (“for the greater glory of God”).

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (“For the greater glory of God”)
The phrase, Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (For the greater glory of God), is “designed to reflect the idea that any work that is not evil can be meritorious for the spiritual life if it is performed with this intention…” [11] This interpretation sounds very much like the end justifies the means.

A main thrust of the Jesuits who were rigorously trained in the Spiritual exercises, classical studies, and theology was to stop the Protestant Reformation [by any means, even violent] and convert non-Christians to Catholicism.

As missionary teachers, the Jesuits brought the reformed Catholicism of the Council of Trent to the people of Europe and spread their “Gospel” to every continent. [12]

“The type of academic, psychological, and spiritual education for which the Jesuits became so famous was well worked out before the founder’s death. The tone remained religious; students must hear Mass every day, go to Confession every month, and begin their studies with prayer. Their master should take every fit occasion to inspire them with love of heavenly things, and encourage a fervent habit of prayer.” [13]

Ignatius directed the Society of Jesus for fifteen years. By the time of his death
in 1556, the Jesuits were already operating a large network of colleges on three continents.

The Jesuits are best known in the fields of education (schools, colleges, universities, seminaries, theological faculties), intellectual research, and
cultural pursuits. They are also known in missionary work and direct
evangelization, social justice and human rights activities, interreligious
dialogue, and other ‘frontier’ ministry. [14]

As of January 2008, the Jesuit Order (the largest male religious order of the Roman Catholic Church), has 18,815 members—13,305 priests, 2,295 scholastic students, 1,758 brothers and 827 novices.

Jesuit colleges and universities are located in over one hundred nations around the world and they are engaged in ministries in 112 nations on six continents, the largest number being in India followed by those in the United States, which has 28. Former President Clinton graduated from Georgetown University, the first Jesuit University in the US.

A Few Famous Jesuits

    Augustin Bea, German cardinal.

    Avery Dulles, American theologian, Cardinal,
    professor at Fordham University.

    Karl Rahner, German Theologian 20th century.

    Matteo Ricci, Italian missionary to China, Linguist,
    Initiator of the Inculturation of the Faith movement in China.

    Pedro Arrupe, 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus.

    Peter Hans Kolvenbach, 29th Superior General of the Society of Jesus.

    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French paleontologist, theologian/philosopher and spiritual writer.

    35 craters on the moon have been named after Jesuits to honor their
    work as astronomers and scientists.

Jesuits in the News
The Superior General of the Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is led by a Superior General, sometimes nicknamed the black pope. General Curia, the headquarters of the Society is in Rome. As of January 19, 2008, the current Superior General is Adolfo Nicolás, a Spanish Jesuit missionary in Japan …

America, the Jesuit Magazine americamagazine.org/
America, a Jesuit magazine…now approaching our 100th year of continuous weekly publication. America is the only national Catholic weekly magazine in
the United States.

Ignatius Press, Jesuit Publisher
Most Jesuit colleges and universities have their own presses which produce
a variety of books, book series, textbooks and academic publications as well. Ignatius Press, staffed by Jesuits, is an independent publisher of Catholic books…

William P. Leahy, President of Boston College, a Jesuit institution
In 2002, Boston College president William P. Leahy, SJ, initiated the Church in the 21st Century program as a means of moving the Church “from crisis to renewal.” The initiative has provided the Society with a platform for examining issues brought about by the worldwide Roman Catholic sex abuse case…

Rosebud Reservation Radio Station owned by Jesuits
“A small group using a loudspeaker demonstrated at KINI Radio in St. Francis recently. The group, led by Alfred Bone Shirt and others, say they want equal access to the airwaves.

“The radio station is owned by the Rosebud Reservation’s Jesuit community, which hires Indians to work at the station. Group members say tribal members are denied access to the airwaves to discuss political issues on the reservation,
as well as Lakota spiritual ideas. The radio station has an eclectic format and broadcasts Christian-related programs.

“Bone Shirt said his grooup will keep coming back to the radio station to protest. “If Lakota people are denied access to promote and discuss Lakota issues and political issues then the Jesuit community should turn the station over to tribal members. We’re not going to take it anymore. Only certain people are allowed access to the airwaves. We’re not going to take it anymore,” Bone Shirt said.”

Sources of information
1. communityofhopeinc.org/Prayer%20Pages/Saints/ignatius.html
2. norprov.org/spirituality/index.htm
3, 4. ccel.org/s/schaff/encyc/encyc05/htm/ii.xiii.v.htm; religionfacts.com/christianity/people/ignatius_loyola.htm
5. The First Jesuits, by John W. O’Malley, p. 152
6. communityofhopeinc.org/Prayer%20Pages/Saints/ignatius.html
7. Cretineau-Joly
8. scu.edu/scujesuits/education.cfm
9. The Jesuits, by O’Malley, Bailey, Harris, Kennedy
10, 11. Jesuit Political Thought: the Society of Jesus and the State,
Höpfl, Harro (2004)
12. consideringpiusx.com/Reform.htm
13. ewtn.com/library/MARY/IGNAITU2.HTM
14. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesuit


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