Iñigo López Sánchez, who would adopt the name of Ignacio, was born in 1491 in the castle of Loyola in Azpeitia, population of Guipúzcoa (Basque Country, Spain). His father, Don Bertrán, was lord of Ofiaz and Loyola, and his mother, Marina Sáenz de Licona and Balda. He was the youngest of eleven children.
Íñigo, at the death of his father (aged 16) entered the service of Don Juan Velázquez de Cuéllar, major accountant of Queen Isabella of Castile. At that time I liked the pleasures of the flesh and games of chance. In 1515, at age 24, he committed certain excesses, for which he was accused of crimes that the documents do not specify; Yet he got away well and fled from the scandal Azpeitia to take refuge in Pamplona.
In 1516, after the death of Fernando the Catholic and after the accession to the throne of Carlos I and V of Germany, Juan Velázquez de Cuéllar was dismissed of his position and even dispossessed of its fief. So Iñigo was then entrusted to Don Antonio Manrique de Lara, viceroy of Navarre.
In 1521, at the age of 30, he fought against the French in the north of Castile. But his military career ended abruptly that same year, when a cannonball broke his leg during the fight in defense of the castle of Pamplona. After Iñigo was wounded, the Spanish garrison capitulated. He was taken to the castle of his family and underwent painful surgeries due to the fracture of his leg.During the convalescence, in order to distract himself, Iñigo wanted to read some books of chivalry, but when there was not, he dedicated himself to read the history of Christ and a volume of lives of saints. Iñigo began to read them to pass the time, but little by little began to be interested more and more. “Finally, Iñigo decided to imitate the saints and began by doing all possible corporal penance and crying their sins.
One night the virgin appeared to him. The vision comforted Ignacio deeply. He just finished his convalescence, made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat, where he decided to live a penitent life. His purpose was to reach the Holy Land and to do so he had to embark in Barcelona which is very close to Montserrat. The city was closed for fear of the plague that lashed the region. So he had to wait in Manresa, a small town not far from Barcelona. He stayed there, sometimes in the convent of the Dominicans and sometimes in a poor hospice. To pray and do penance, he retired to a cave of the surroundings, the today called “Cave of San Ignacio de Loyola” in which he was 11 months.
After a few days he experienced a spiritual crisis called “the dark night of the soul.” Finally, the saint came out of that crisis feeling great relief and joy. That experience gave Ignatius a great discernment and a singular ability to help the scrupulous. With what he wrote his first book: “Spiritual Exercises.
In the end, in February 1523, Ignacio was able to leave to the Holy Land asking for alms during its route. After a pilgrimage to the Holy Places, in 1524 Ignatius returned to Spain where he entered the University of Alcalá de Henares first and then in Salamanca where he was able to acquire knowledge of all kinds.
In 1528 he traveled to Paris where he spent three and a half years in the College of Santa Barbara, belonging to the university of “La Sorbonna” dedicated to philosophy. There he induced many of his companions to consecrate on Sundays and feast days to prayer.
At that time, another six students of theology were joined by Ignacio: Peter Fabro, who was a priest of Savoy; Francisco Javier, a Navarrese; Laínez and Salmerón, who shone much in the studies; Simón Rodríguez, originally from Portugal and Nicolás Bobadilla. All of them in 1534, in the same year they received the title of the university, vowed poverty, chastity and obedience, committing themselves to being under the orders of the Supreme Pontiff to employ them in the service of God as he saw fit.
Ignacio left Paris in the spring of 1535. His family received him with great joy, but the saint refused to live in the castle of Loyola and stayed in a poor house in Azpeitia.
Two years later, he meets with his companions in Venice with the intention of serving as priests in Jerusalem. But the war between Venetians and Turks prevents them from leaving and while they wait to embark, they work pastorally and are designated as the “Company of Jesus” (Societatis Jesu, S.J.).
The companions of Ignatius, who were already ten, moved to Rome; Paul III received them very well and granted those who were not priests the privilege of receiving the sacred orders from any bishop. After the ordination, they retired to a house in the vicinity of Venice in order to prepare themselves for the apostolic ministries. The new priests celebrated the first mass between September and October, except Ignacio, who differed more than a year in order to prepare better for her. As there was no chance that they could move to the Holy Land, it was finally decided that Ignatius, Fabro, and Lainey would go to Rome to offer their services to the Pope. They also resolved that, if anyone asked them the name of their association, they would reply that they belonged to the Society of Jesus (St. Ignatius never used the name “Jesuit”. Prayed in the chapel of “La Storta,” the Lord appeared to Ignatius, surrounded by a halo of ineffable light, but loaded with a heavy cross, Christ said to him: “Ego vobis Romae propitius ero” (I will be propitious in Rome) Paul III appointed Father Fabro as a teacher at the University of La Sapienza and entrusted Lainez with the task of explaining the Sacred Scripture, while Ignacio dedicated himself to preach the Exercises and to catechize the people. Similar, although none of them still dominated the Italian.
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