St. Ignatius of Loyola: Founder of the Society of Jesus
Feast: July 31
St. Ignatius of Loyola, with his new and dynamic conception of the religious life, has left an impress on the Church unparalleled in modern times. The founder of the Society of Jesus was a pragmatic idealist who devoted his mature years to revitalizing Catholicism and meeting the challenge of the Protestant Reformation. He was born on December 24, 1491, the year before Columbus discovered a New World and claimed it for Ferdinand and Isabella. His birthplace was the great castle of Loyola in Guipuzcoa, in the Basque country of northwest Spain. Both his father, Don Beltran, lord of Onaz and Loyola, and his mother were of ancient and illustrious lineage. There were three daughters and eight sons in the family, and Inigo, as Ignatius was christened, was the youngest. He was a slight, handsome, high-spirited boy, with the Spaniard’s pride, physical courage, and ardent passion for glory. As a youth, Inigo was sent by his father to go and live in the household of Juan Velasquez de Cuellar, one of King Ferdinand’s provincial governors, at Arevalo, a town of Castile. Here he remained for many years, but like most young men of his class, he was taught little more than how to be a good soldier, an accomplished horseman and courtier. This long period of training, inculcating the soldierly virtues of discipline, obedience, and prudence, probably exerted some influence on the form and general tone of the society he founded.