St. Ignatius' Own Story

as told to Luis Gonzalez de Camara

[The Pilgrim]

St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Ignatius was born in 1491, in the castle of Loyola, in Guipuscoa, a Mart of Biscay that reaches to the Pyrenean mountains. His father, Don Bertrant, was lord of Ognez and Loyola, head of one of the most ancient and noble families of that country. His mother, Mary Saez de Balde, was not less illustrious by her extraction. He was wounded at the siege of Pamplona in 1521, wrote the Spiritual Exercises shortly thereafter, and founded the Society of Jesus between 1537 and 1541. He ruled the Society until his death July 31, 1556.

Canonized in 1622.

St. Ignatius' Own Story

as told to Luis Gonzalez de Camara with a sampling of his letters

Translated by William J. Young, S.J. -- Loyola University Press

• Up to his 26th year he was a man given over to the vanities of the world and took a special delight in fighting with a great desire of winning glory. But his faith was such that before any potentially deadly battles he always received the Sacraments.

• During one such battle his legs were shot off by a cannonball, repaired poorly, and had to be rebroken, sawed, and worked on for many months.

• He wrote the Spiritual Exercises during his rehabilitation period from his war wounds.

• Influenced by two books: Life of Christ and Lives of the Saints - came to the conclusion that when he thought about and indulged in the things of this world he was initially delighted but eventually they left him weary, dissatisfied and spiritually dry. But when he thought about and did the things of God he was left cheerful, restored in health, and satisfied.

• He kept a daily journal of his life, and copies of letters he wrote, from the very beginning of his ministry.

• During a period of prolonged contemplation, prayer and meditation he decided to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

• Knelt before the altar on the feast of Our Lady's Assumption March 14th, 1522 for the entire night until dawn. Then he gave all his money to the poor and struck out on foot with only his books and papers, and a staff into the poorest part of town.

• Wore a single layer of sacking cloth "..of a prickly nature .." reaching from his feet to over his head.

• Let a mule (God's Will) decide if he would kill a Moor or not along the highway to Montserrat.

• Begged alms, ate no meat and drank no wine. Began having visions, especially during formal instruction.

• Long period of a great and undisturbed joy followed by anxiety and self-doubts, thoughts of suicide and fears.

• Seven hours of prayer every day, often with visions of "..the humanity of Christ.." and other insights into wisdom.

• Stories of many sicknesses and adventures resulting from his travels around the region. St. Ignatius referred to as "..the pilgrim.."

• When he got to Jerusalem they would not let him stay, so he decided to go to Barcelona to study grammar and language arts. After Barcelona he went to Alcalá to study Logic and Natural Philosophy.

• Inquisition brought him up on charges of heresy and he was forbidden to teach for four years. Protested to the Bishop and was sent to Salamanca.

• Was tested thoroughly by priests on theology, and although he had had no formal education the Holy Spirit made all his answers agreeable.

• After examining his Spiritual Exercises and confining him to prison for 22 days he was released as long as he would not teach about mortal and venial sin, since he had no formal instruction in that matter. Went to Paris to continue his studies in the Humanities.

• Won many to the Lords service with the Exercises, including Francis Xavier.

• After severe stomach troubles doctors suggested he needed his "native air" so he returned to Guipúzcoa.

• When recuperated he went to Rome and Venice. Traveled by walking barefoot. Begged Alms and did 40 day fasts (toast only) with others. Taught the Catechism.

• Banished from Rome by Governor, continuing legal squabbles until the Pope returned to Rome and a definitive sentence in favor of "the pilgrim" was reached.

• "Works of piety" were founded in Rome - Santa Maria, house of catechumens, an orphanage, and others.

• Continuing visions, by now a "large bundle" of collected writings, and each day shedding many tears.

Excerpts from Letter on Obedience to the Province of Portugal

In the "Conference of Abbot Moses", Cassian observes: "By no other vice does the devil so lead a [man] on in order to hurl him headlong to destruction, as when he persuades him to disregard the counsel of his superiors and trust to his own judgment and decision." (Collationes, II, c. II. PL 49, col. 541)

• It is this same "leaning on our own judgment" forbidden by Proverbs that led St. Bernard to say regarding those who had become disgruntled about the commands of their superiors: "If you begin to grieve at this, to judge your superior, to murmur in your heart, even though you outwardly fulfill what is commanded, this is not the virtue of patience or obedience, but merely a cloak for your malice." (Sermo III, de Circumcisione, n.8. PL 183, col. 140.)

• If your judgment and the obligations of obedience conflict, you can have no true peace and tranquillity in your soul, so you "prowl about, looking for someone to consume". This is why the Apostle, wishing to safeguard the spirit of unity, the binding force of every society, is so much in earnest when he urges all of us to be of one mind and one heart. (Romans 15:15, I Corinthians 1:10, II Corinthians 13:11, and Phillipians 2:2) He knew that if the faithful agreed in will and judgment, they would be a mutual and unfailing help to one another.

• If there is to be one and the same understanding between the members and the head, it is easy to see whether it is more reasonable for the head to agree with the members or the members to agree with the head. Whatever I do I try to do it as working for the Lord - and not Men, knowing that it is from the Lord that I receive my inheritance as a reward. (Colossians 3:23-24)

• As St. Leo tells us "It is not hard to serve when we love what is commanded." (Sermo de jejunio septimi mensis, iv. PL 54, col. 444.)

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