Today, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the memory of one of the great founders. St. Ignatius of Loyola’s life up to his conversion was similar to that of St. Francis. Both of them were born and raised in wealthy families. Both sought to serve their respective princes by feats of arms, but for both God had other plans. For St. Ignatius, it was a cannonball to the leg that permanently gave him a lip. We can only speculate what would have happened to him had that cannonball not him where it did.
It was during months of agonizing pain that Ignatius sought to read and re-read the lives of the saints and the life of Christ. It was by reading these books that God converted him to a new life. However, that new life would not be easy. Ignatius would be thrown into dungeons, be ridiculed by Emperor Charles V, and even be forced to take his seminary classes among students that were much, much younger than him. Yet for all of these and numerous other trials, Ignatius attracted seven men around him who would help him to found the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).
As one who attended and recently graduated from a Jesuit university, St. Ignatius has a close place in my heart. Had it not been for him and his “Ratio Studiorum,” we would not have the system of Jesuit schools and universities that are so renowned for their rigorous education of the mind, body and soul. It is an education that has come to be prized by millions of students all over the world and it has impacted hundreds of others over the centuries that has existed.
Yet the Jesuits were not merely called to teach. They were asked by God to lay down their lives for those that they sought to convert. Countless Jesuits died during the persecutions of the Roman Catholic Church in England and hundreds more were martyred all over the world. Not only this, but there would be other martyrs that did not shed their blood. Think of the example of St. Francis Xavier and how he sought to overcome all odds by preaching the Gospel to the furthest corners of the known world and died in the process. Think of the Jesuit Martyrs of North America and their tireless preaching on behalf of those that they sought to save. Or the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador.
The Jesuits have impacted countless people wherever they have gone and whatever they have sought to do. In my own area, Catholic education and the conversion of countless native Americans would simply not have happened without the tireless efforts of Fr. Joseph Cataldo and Fr. Pierre De Smet. Had it not been for them, we would not have the magnificent seminary that was Mt. St. Michael’s or Gonzaga University.
On this feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, we have lots to be thankful for. Let us thank God for the tremendous gifts that He has given and continues to give us through the Society of Jesus.
Our Lady of the Stairs, pray for us!
St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!
St. Francis Xavier, pray for us!
St. Robert Bellarmine, pray for us!
St. Aloysius Gonzaga, pray for us!
St. John Berchmans, pray for us!
Holy Jesuit Martyrs of North America, pray for us!