Saint Ignatius of Loyola

St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was born at the castle of Loyola in Basque country, Spain, the youngest of thirteen children. In keeping with the young aristocrats of his day, Ignatius sought after military prowess, vainglory, and fame, and became a knight at the age of seventeen. He was known as a fancy dresser, an expert dancer, a womanizer, sensitive to insult, and involved in criminal behavior. During a period of convalescence after being wounded in battle, he read a collection of saint biographies and a Life of Christ. These books profoundly affected him, and he experienced a conversion of heart. He desired to pattern his life after the great saints, and ceremoniously hung up his military garments before an image of the Virgin Mary. After experiencing a vision of the Blessed Mother with the Infant Jesus, he lived for a time as an ascetic in a cave. It was during this time that he formulated his famous Spiritual Exercises, the spiritual centerpiece of the religious order he would later establish. He then went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and studied theology for many years. During his studies he gathered a group of six like-minded men and founded the Society of Jesus, today known as the Jesuits. They went as missionaries all over the world to spread the Gospel, especially focusing on education. Today the Jesuits have over 30,000 members and 500 universities. St. Ignatius of Loyola's feast day is July 31st.
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