St. Ignatius was born into a noble family in Loyola, northern Spain, in 1491. As a young man Ignatius was inflamed by the ideals of courtly love and knighthood. He dreamed of doing great things.
In 1521, Ignatius was wounded at the battle of Pamplona. While recuperating in his sister’s house, reading the lives of Jesus and the saints, he experienced a change of heart. Instead of courtly love, he now dreamed of doing great things for God.
Having recovered from his injuries, he left his family and went on pilgrimage to Montserrat in north eastern Spain, where he abandoned his old way of life and offered himself to serve Christ. For some time he lived as a beggar in a cave in the town of Manresa. He ate and drank sparingly and prayed for several hours each day. The experience of this prayer led Ignatius to write guidelines for prayer known as the ‘The Spiritual Exercises” which are widely used to this day. He decided to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem hoping to serve Christ in the Holy Land. However, following many setbacks in this plan, he recognised that his call lay elsewhere. He returned to Europe and decided to pursue further education. He attended university in Paris and there gathered companions around him. Together they founded the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits taking the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and a commitment to be ready to go wherever the Pope should send them. The new order received the approval of Pope Paul III in 1540.
Ignatius’ spiritual heritage has had immense influence in the Church. He teaches us that, if we are looking for God, we must look around us and we will find God in all things.
If you would like to hear more about the life and conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola click on the following YOUTUBE link which is produced by catholic.org :