THE ROLE OF ST. IGNATIUS LOYOLA
Born in 1491, Ignatius was the youngest of 13 children in the noble Basque family of Loyola, Spain. At the age of 26, he was serving as a soldier and defending the town of Pamplona against the French when a cannonball shattered his leg. He experienced a dramatic religious conversion when, during his long and difficult period of recovery, he read books on the life of Christ and found himself drawn away from thoughts of chivalry and warfare and toward the idea of serving Christ.
After his wounds healed, Ignatius attempted a pilgrimage to the Holy Land but stopped in Manresa, Spain, where he spent nearly a year reflecting on his life. Ultimately, Ignatius experienced a great enlightenment and devoted himself to serving God and others.
Realizing that an excellent education was necessary in order to fulfill his goal of working for Christ and the Catholic Church, Ignatius returned to school, studying Latin and theology. During this time he wrote a manual of spiritual direction called the Spiritual Exercises. Through sharing the Exercises, he gathered about him a group of companions who shared his love for God and zeal for service. These “friends of Jesus” became the first Jesuits and quickly responded to the needs of the Church through mission work, pastoral ministry, and education.