The Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic order of religious men founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, noted for its educational, missionary, and charitable works, once regarded by many as the principal agent of the Counter-Reformation and later a leading force in modernizing the church. The Jesuits have always been a controversial group regarded by some as a society to be feared and condemned and by others as the most laudable and esteemed religious order in the Catholic Church.
The Society's founder was baptized Iñigo, after St. Enecus (Innicus), Abbot of Oña: the name Ignatius was assumed in later years, while he was residing in Rome (University). At an early age he had been legitimately received into the ranks of the clergy. It is not know when, or why he was released from clerical obligations. Ignatius was brought up in the household of Juan Velasquez de Cuellar, contador mayor to Ferdinand and Isabella (University). He was affected and extravagant about his hair and dress, consumed with the desire of winning glory. Evidence tends show that his own subsequent humble confessions of having been a great sinner should not be treated as pious exaggerations (University). In 1517 Velasquez died and Ignatius took service in the army. The turning point of his life came in 1521. While the French were besieging the citadel of Pampeluna, a cannon ball, passing between Ignatius' legs, tore open the left calf and broke the right shin (University). With his fall the garrison lost heart and surrendered. Ignatius was well treated by the French and was carried on a litter to Loyola, where his leg had to be re-broken and reset (University). All these pains were undergone voluntarily, without uttering a cry or submitting to be bound. But the pain and weakness, which followed, were so great that Ignatius began to grow weak. On the eve of Sts. Peter and Paul, however, a turn for the better took place, and he threw off his fever (University). One night as he lay awake, pondering these new lights, he saw clearly, the image of Our Lady with the Holy Child Jesus, at whose sight for a notable time he felt a reassuring sweetness, 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 (University). When Ignatius left Loyola he had no definite plans for the future, except that he wished to rival all the saints had done in the way of penance (University). His first care was to make a general confession at the famous sanctuary of Montserrat, where, after three days of self-examination, and carefully noting his sins, he confessed, gave to the poor the rich clothes in which he had come, and put on garment of sack-cloth reaching to his feet (University). His sword and dagger he suspended at Our Lady's altar, and passed the night watching before them. Next morning, the feast of the Annunciation, 1522, after Communion, he left the sanctuary, not knowing where he was going. He soon met a kind woman, Iñes Pascual, who showed him a cavern near the neighboring town of Manresa, where he could retire for prayer and contemplation, while he lived on charity. But here, instead of obtaining greater peace, he was consumed with anxiety. At one time he was violently tempted to end his miseries by suicide, on which he resolved neither to eat nor to drink (unless his life was in danger), until God granted him the peace that he desired, and so he continued until his confessor stopped him at the end of the week (University). At last, however, he triumphed over all obstacles, and then abounded in wonderful graces and visions. After a period of intense prayer, he composed the Spiritual Exercises, a guidebook to convert the heart and mind to a closer following of Christ. On August 15, 1534, at Paris, six young men who had met him at the University of Paris and made a retreat...
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