Wise Up

Ignatius of Loyola

His legacy lives on. By MAJOR BILLY FRANCIS
Wise Up
Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius of Loyola might not be a familiar name, but his impact on history is significant. Born in Spain in 1491, Ignatius had dreams of becoming a great military leader. But a life-changing event would redirect his path and lead him to become a spiritual leader and create one of the most influential Catholic religious orders: the Jesuits.

Growing up, Ignatius was full of energy and dreamed of adventure. He longed to become a brave knight. However, in 1521, during a military campaign, Ignatius suffered a serious leg injury. During recovery, he spent time reading religious books, especially about Christ. This period of rest transformed his life.

Ignatius decided to shift his focus from worldly ambitions to serving God. He embarked on a journey to the Holy Land. While deepening his understanding of Christianity, his new vision focused on a life of service through education and spiritual leadership.

Back in Europe, Ignatius pursued his education and earned a theology degree. In 1540, he founded the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, as a religious order. The Jesuits were committed to education, missionary service and social justice.

One of Ignatius’ most important contributions was Spiritual Exercises: a set of meditations and prayers to help individuals deepen their relationship with God. These exercises became the foundation of Jesuit spirituality, guiding the spiritual journeys of their followers.

Education was central to Ignatius’ vision. He believed that educated and resolute individuals could make a significant impact on society. Jesuit schools became known for their challenging curriculum and commitment to shaping well-rounded individuals, emphasizing critical thinking, moral development and service to others.

Ignatius died in 1556, but his legacy lives on. The Jesuits played a key role in the Catholic Counter-Reformation, emphasizing education and social justice. His focus on social justice and service to others was a forerunner to the passion of William Booth who, with his wife Catherine, founded The Salvation Army three centuries later. 

So What?

Ignatius’ journey from a young military soldier to the founder of the Jesuits demonstrates how commitment to Christ through spiritual awakening can change a person’s life. His vision for a society dedicated to education, service and spiritual growth continues to impact the world today. Ignatius’ story teaches that unexpected turns in life can lead to higher callings, leaving lasting legacies that go far beyond personal ambitions. 

How are you currently enhancing a deeper understanding of Christ? In what ways do you exemplify a life lived in service to others?  

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