st ignatius of loyola jesuit headquarters romeIgnatius of Loyola was born in 1491, at the Castle of Loyola in the Basque country of Spain.
Until the age of 26, he lived a worldly life, obsessed with passion for glory and honor. In 1521 in the battle of Pamplona (by the army of Francis 1st), a cannonball hit his legs; he underwent repetitive operations and spent many days in bed. While recuperating, Ignatius of Loyola experienced a conversion.

Reading the lives of Jesus and the saints made Ignatius happy and aroused desires to do great things. Ignatius realized that these feelings were clues to God’s direction for him.

When he recovered, he left his home and embraced a life of mendacity and mystical adventure. He retreated at Manresa in the house of Dominicans, waiting to embark on a journey to Jerusalem. On the shores of the river Cardoner he got a revelation which led to the foundation of his “Spiritual Exercises”.

In 1523 he made a pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem, begging for living. Upon his return, he understood that he had to study to get accreditation to help souls. His Exercises had been suspected by Inquisitors (who would often strain him); he was arrested, put in jail, and allowed to preach not until he had completed studies in theology.

From 1524 he studied Grammar, Latin and Philosophy in Barcelona and moved to Paris in 1528 to study Theology. He shared a room with Peter Faber and Francis of Jassu Xavier; the two who would go on to become co-founders of the Society of Jesus. In 1532, he was awarded a Bachelor’s degree and started to sign Ignatius of Loyola.

To understand the environment of his time, one needs to note that 1530 is the year of the Augsburg Confessions of Luther; while 1533, the year he converted Francis Xavier, is the year of Anglican Schism; and 1535, the year he received his Masters Degree, is the year Thomas More was executed.
In 1534, they were seven companions; sharing same way of life, united with same spirit; and pronounced vows (private): poverty, chastity, obedience and already a special obedience to the Pope. That year is marked by the Affair of Placards: the posters in Paris which attacked the catholic doctrine.
The companions had decided to embark for Jerusalem or to go to present themselves to the Pope. The departure for Jerusalem eventually aborted; they went to present themselves to Pope Paul III (1534-1555) who sent them to teach catechism in Rome. Their reputation grew fast and soon the emperor Charles Quint asked them for Indian colonies.

In 1538, a first legal document of the institute was written with an apostolic plan; the Pope ratified it and demanded the election of a Superior General of the Order and the writing of the Constitutions. In 1541, Ignatius was elected the Superior General, and six brothers took vows; they were a thousand by his death in 1556.

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