During July, we celebrate the life and legacy of St. Ignatius of Loyola. As you probably know, Loyola Press, the host of this blog, is a ministry of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. And this society is the legacy of St. Ignatius, who formed it 500 years ago with a few companions who, with him, wanted to help souls and change the world.
Over the next five weeks, we will follow Ignatius’s (or, Iggy’s) life story and use key moments in it to prompt reflection on our own life stories. We’ll call it our summer Ignatian pilgrimage.
This week, we begin at the beginning, for all of us: birthplace and early life. In some ways, Iggy’s life differs drastically from the life of the typical Days of Deepening Friendship subscriber. He was born to a family of minor nobility at a time when society was severely stratified and everything stood or fell on which king or commander was in control of a region. The Catholic Church was resisting the impact of the Protestant Reformation, and at that time the rulers of Spain had joined forces with the Church to conquer as much of the world for Christ and king as it could. Unfortunately, the conquering was quite literal—warfare everywhere between Christians and Muslims, and both of those groups took turns either converting or exiling whatever Jewish populations existed among them. Columbus and others were surveying new worlds, and the printing press was changing culture as people knew it.
Well, perhaps there’s not so much difference between Ignatius and you or me. We live in a world of constant war and sectarian violence; the digital age has come upon us and changed every area of life; and society today is gravely divided, not between royalty and peasants but between the super-rich and the rest of us, between huge, multinational corporations and neighborhoods full of real human beings.
Ignatius’s mother died when he was just a child, and the local blacksmith’s wife became his nurse. That family, for all practical purposes, brought up the child Ignatius. He grew up in a lush region of northern Spain full of crops and livestock. He grew up not in a cosmopolitan city but a rural community. His family fell out of favor with the regional monarch, which severed important social and economic ties for the family. Ignatius left the estate as a young man to serve as a page in the court of a nobleman with whom they still had good relations. There he learned how to behave at court, and he trained to be a soldier.
- What aspects of Ignatius’s life do you find most intriguing?
- In what ways is it difficult for you to relate to this story so far?
For more about Ignatian spirituality throughout the month of July, follow 31 Days with St. Ignatius.