St. Ignatius of Loyola, Founder of the Society of Jesus
St. Ignatius, the glorious founder of the Society of Jesus, and the unweary laborer for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls, was born of noble parents in Biscay, a province of Spain, in the castle of Loyola, from which he took his name. His birth took place in 1491, in the same century in which Martin Luther, the well-known heretic, was born, who with Calvin, born in 1506, persecuted the Catholic Church and endeavored to destroy it entirely. God, according to a papal declaration, always watching over His holy Church, would oppose Ignatius to these two new heretics, that through him, and through the Society founded by him, their erroneous doctrines might be thoroughly refuted, and the Catholic faith have powerful protectors, as, in former days, He had opposed Arius by St. Athanasius, Nestorius by St. Cyril, Pelagius by St. Augustine, and other heretics by other apostolic men.
Ignatius, chosen by God for so important a work, was endowed with great natural gifts, possessed a comprehensive mind, and early exhibited wonderful abilities and tact, with unusual wisdom and strength of soul. All his aspirations were lofty, and nothing vulgar or low could attract him. Soon perceiving his talents, his parents sent him, after he had been carefully instructed in the Catholic faith, to the Court of King Ferdinand of Castile, where he was educated with the pages, and was taught all that was supposed befitting his rank. In riper years, he entered the army, hoping to become famous by his valor. In 1521, an opportunity was offered to give a proof of his courage. The king had entrusted to him the defence of the city of Pampeluna, which was besieged by the French. Ignatius acted with all the prudence and caution of an old and experienced warrior. But Providence so ordered, that the wall upon which Ignatius stood, bravely defending the fortress, was struck by a cannonball, and a fragment of stone severely injured one of his limbs, while at the same time the ball rebounding, bruised his foot so badly, that he sank unconscious to the ground. The French were soon in possession of the fortress, but they treated their heroic prisoner with the greatest kindness, and sent him, a few days later, on a litter, to the Castle of Loyola. Here Ignatius became so ill, that it was deemed necessary to give him the last sacraments. The thread on which his life hung: was so slender that the physicians all agreed that there was no hope for him, if before midnight the symptoms should not change.
The Most High did not wish to call Ignatius out of life, and had brought him to this state only to make him disgusted with the world, and so lead him to a holier warfare. Therefore, on the eve of the feast of the Apostles St. Peter and St, Paul, God sent the Prince of the Apostles, to whom Ignatius had been greatly devoted from his early youth, to restore him to health. Appearing to Ignatius during his sleep, St. Peter looked tenderly at him, and touching his wounds, took from him all pain, and thus saved him from the danger of death. But nevertheless, it was the will of God that Ignatius should keep his bed a considerable time, in order to regain his strength. To pass the time, he asked for something to read; but, by special providence, none of the romances he desired were to be found, and in their stead, two devout books were brought to him, one containing the “Life of Christ,” and the other the “Lives of the Saints.” Ignatius, little inclined to read them, took them for want of others, and at first only looking into them, soon became, by the grace of God, so deeply interested in them that, meditating on the acts of Christ and the Saints, he repented of his past idle life, and resolved, thenceforth, to follow their steps, and to serve God alone. Rising during the night, he cast himself before an image of the Blessed Virgin, begging of her the grace to be accepted into her service and that of her beloved Son, and to remain in it until the end of his days.
Hardly was his prayer finished, when suddenly a terrible noise was heard, the house was shaken as by an earthquake, and the windows were shattered. St. Ignatius regarded this as a sign that his prayer was heard, and exhibited more joy than fear. The Evil One, hereupon, endeavored, by a thousand representations and apprehensions, to make him abandon his determination, and pressed him with the most dangerous temptations. But Ignatius again sought refuge with the divine Mother, and addressed her in the words of the Holy Church: “Show thyself a Mother.” The Divine Mother appeared to him with her heavenly Child, and animating him to persevere, she assured him of her assistance. After this comforting vision, all his temptations ended, and all his thoughts were directed towards the regulation of his new life. As soon as he was sufficiently recovered, he, under some pretext, left the house of his father and repaired to Montserrat, where a miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin drew crowds of pilgrims. There he made his general confession amid a flood of tears, and received, with the greatest devotion, the Blessed Sacrament. After this, he gave his horse to the monastery, and hung his sword near the altar of the Blessed Virgin, as a sign that henceforth he would no longer serve the world but God only. Having bestowed his costly garments on a beggar, he clothed himself as a poor pilgrim, and remained, as a newly-enrolled soldier of the highest of all generals, all night long before the altar of the Mother of Mercy, in fervent prayer.
The next day, which was the feast of the Annunciation of our Lady, he left early and betook himself to Manresa, which is three miles from Montserrat, and going to the hospital which was there, he served the sick with the most tender devotion.
As soon, however, as he detected that they began to esteem him for his charity and other pious deeds, he secretly left and went into a mountain cave, five or six hundred yards off, in which he led an extremely austere and penitential life. He daily spent seven hours on his knees, praying and weeping on account of his sins. He fasted continually except on Sundays, when he partook of the food of angels. Water and the bread which he received as alms, was his only nourishment. He always wore a hair-shirt, which was fastened round his loins by small chains. He scourged himself three times daily, often unto blood. The bare ground was his bed, and he never took more than a few hours’ rest, passing the remainder of the night in meditation on death and the Passion of Christ.
By long continuation of this austere life, his body became so emaciated and weak, that he was found more than once, lying more dead than alive on the road to Manresa, whither he used to go to assist at Holy Mass. Some friends advised him not to be so severe with himself; but he said: “Oh! let me suffer this trifle in order to secure my salvation.” Satan also tried to dissuade him from his austerities, and as he could not succeed, he took, by the permission of the Almighty, the form of a virtuous man, and going to the holy penitent, said, that it was not possible to continue long such extreme mortifications, and that he should therefore moderate them somewhat. “Unhappy man,” said he, ” you may still live seventy years; and have you the courage to spend so long a time in such penance and severity? ” Ignatius replied: “Can you promise me one single day of the many years of which you speak?” With these words, he brought the spirit of lies to shame, and drove him away. God permitted also this holy penitent to be tormented with the most harassing scruples. To overcome these, he resolved to abstain from all food and drink until he was free from them, as he had read that a certain Saint had used this remedy in a similar case. Seven days he passed without partaking of any nourishment; but his confessor, on hearing of it, commanded him to take his usual sustenance. Ignatius obeyed, and was from that moment not only released from his scruples, but obtained also from God an especial gift to free others from them.
Many other special graces did the Almighty bestow upon Ignatius in the first year of his conversion, which space does not permit us to relate. But there is one thing which we cannot omit to mention: it is that, during the year of penance at Manresa, Ignatius wrote that wonderful book of “Spiritual Exercises,” which has been recommended by the most learned and the most holy men, as the path, pointed out by heaven itself, to conversion, to spiritual perfection and holiness. The Apostolic See has praised and confirmed it, and the spiritual benefits which have been derived from it, and are still to this hour derived from it, are inexpressibly great. But as it is known that Ignatius, when he wrote this book, was as yet without learning, it must be concluded that he was inspired by God to give those instructions, by virtue of which he, and, later, the sons of his Order, worked real miracles of conversion in so many different places and persons. During this penitential year, the heart of Ignatius was filled with an intense desire to visit the Holy Land, not only for the purpose of seeing those places which have been hallowed by the presence of our Saviour, but also in the hope of converting the Mahommedans, and of giving his life for the true faith, in that land where our beloved Redeemer gave His for our welfare.
This voyage was undertaken in the greatest poverty and with deep devotion, and the holy places visited with a true spirit of ardent piety and reverence. As, however, the ecclesiastics, who resided there, dissuaded him from remaining long, and Ignatius himself recognized that, to gain his aim in life, which was to further the salvation of souls, he needed learning, he returned to Europe, and began at Barcelona, when 33 years of age, to study the rudiments of the Latin grammar with the boys in the public school. He continued his studies at different places and finished them at Paris, where he received the title of Doctor of Divinity. The trials, dangers, persecutions, disgraces, wrongs and calumnies he suffered, as well in his travels as during the years of his studies, would be too long to relate here. On his return from the Holy Land, he was seized by the Spaniards, who were at war with France, and was at first taken for a spy, and afterwards for a fool, and thus most disgracefully treated. By a few words, he could have escaped these insults; but he was silent and bore it all patiently, for the love of Christ, who just then had appeared to Him. At several places where he studied, or through which he travelled, he was apprehended by order of the authorities, and cast into prison; as at Alcala, Salamanca and Venice. The only cause of this cruel treatment was that, wherever the holy man was, he showed solicitude for the salvation of others, and converted many by his pious discourses, explanation of the Christian doctrine and his own Spiritual Exercises. Many he persuaded to leave the world, others he led to a quiet Christian life. For this he was suspected of disseminating false doctrines and corrupting men under the appearance of piety. But as often as he was examined, he was found guiltless, and requested to continue in his zeal.
At Paris, where he had recalled many young men from an idle and sinful life to a better and more useful one, it was resolved to whip him in public, as a corrupter of youth. When, however, the director of the school had recognized his innocence, he publicly and on his knees asked pardon of the Saint, and praised, in the highest terms, his zeal in leading souls in the path of salvation. To speak of God and of heavenly things had become a second nature to him, so that those who knew not his name, called him the man of spiritual conversation, or the man who was constantly looking up to heaven. He reformed a convent near Barcelona, the inmates of which stood in very ill repute. This drew upon him the vengeance of certain persons, who had been, at his suggestion, excluded from the house, and who, one day, lay in wait for him and beat him most unmercifully, threatening to treat him still worse, if he did not cease preaching at the convent. Ignatius was not in the least deterred by this from his good work. His enemies then hired two ruffians to kill him. These set upon him and treated him in a most brutal manner, whilst the Saint, with eyes raised to heaven, prayed God to forgive them. They left him weltering in his blood, supposing they had killed him. He, however, recovered, and no sooner were his wounds healed, than he again went to the convent in order to strengthen the nuns to perseverance in virtue. When someone tried to dissuade him from going, on account of the danger, he said: “What can be more pleasing to me than to die for love of Christ and my neighbors?” Not satisfied with his personal labors for the salvation of souls, he resolved to seek such men as would join him with all the power of their minds, to labor for the same object. He succeeded in uniting to himself nine students of the University of Paris, all of whom possessed great knowledge and were eminent for their talents. Among them was Francis Xavier, afterwards so celebrated as the Apostle of the Indies. Ignatius, by his Spiritual Exercises, led them all to virtue and sanctity, and inspired them with the fervent desire to devote themselves to the salvation of souls and to the honor of God.
In 1534, on the feast of the Assumption of our Lady, Ignatius and his companions went to a Chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, on Montmartre, near Paris, and after they had received holy communion, they all made a vow to renounce the world and go to Jerusalem to convert the heathen. If, however, they were unable, after waiting one year, to make their way to Palestine, they vowed that they would go to Rome, throw themselves at the feet of the Holy Father, and offer their services in whatever he might deem most beneficial for the salvation of souls. On account of a war between the Turks and the Venetians, they were unable to make their pilgrimage to Palestine; and hence, in fulfillment of their vow, they went to Rome. When Ignatius and the two companions who were with him had reached a place called La Storta, near Rome, the Saint went into a chapel nearby to say his prayers. His fervor was such that, in an ecstasy, he saw the Heavenly Father and beside Him His Son bearing the Cross. He heard the Heavenly Father commend him with loving words to His Son, putting him and his companions under His protection. The Divine Son manifested His pleasure at this Divine command, and turning to Ignatius, said: “I will favor you at Rome.” With this the vision ended, but the inner comfort which Ignatius and his companions, to whom he related it, derived from it, departed not, but remained in their hearts.
As soon as Ignatius had arrived in Rome, he threw himself at the feet of the Holy Father and offered the services of himself and his companions, for such spiritual labor as he might wish them to do in any part of the world. The Pope received them with pleasure, and having had sufficient proofs of their virtue and learning, he sent some of them to those places where he thought they would do the most good. Ignatius remained with the rest at Rome, and at first instructed young and old in the Christian doctrine; but later, he began to preach for the reformation of morals and exhorted the people to a more frequent use of the holy Sacraments. It cannot be denied that the custom of instructing children in the Christian doctrine, and also the frequent reception of the holy Eucharist, which was at that period greatly neglected, were again revived, or at least increased by St. Ignatius and his companions. To preserve this improvement and these advantages for future times, and to increase them still more, St. Ignatius resolved to found a new Order, whose members should labor for the spiritual well-being of men. He disclosed his intentions to the Pope, and having written, by his permission, certain rules, presented them to his Holiness for approval. After many difficulties, the holy desires of Ignatius were at length fulfilled, and thus was founded a new Order, under the name of the Society of Jesus, which in the year 1540 was first sanctioned by Paul III., afterwards by several other Popes, and was also confirmed by the Council of Trent. This Order demands of its members, besides the usual three vows of perpetual poverty, chastity and obedience, a vow to instruct youth, and requires of the Professed another vow, of special obedience to the Pope, by which they are bound to go, even without money, whithersoever the Pope may send them to labor for the salvation of souls. Ignatius was chosen as General by the members of the new Order, but he did not accept the office until he was commanded to do so by his confessor after having long consulted with God in prayer. He administered his office with admirable wisdom and strength of character, and to the immeasurable benefit of the entire Christian world, until his death.
Although remaining at Rome, he sent his disciples into other cities and lands, after having instructed them carefully in all that pertained to the salvation of souls and to the manner of leading them to God. Above all, he recommended entire self-abnegation, after the example of Christ, Who has said: “Whoever will follow me, must deny himself.” Hence he often said these important words: “Conquer thyself.” St. Francis Xavier, who frequently made use of this expression, was asked why he did so? He answered: “Because I learned it from our Father Ignatius.” Ignatius further endeavored to lead his disciples to acquire true virtue, especially a fervent love of God and of their neighbors. In this, as in all other virtues, he was a shining example to them all. According to the testimony of the Apostolic See, he had acquired the most perfect control over his inclinations. He also taught the members of the Order to be solicitous for the cleanliness and beauty of the house of God, for the conversion of heretics and heathens, for the promotion of virtue among Catholics, for the instruction of the ignorant, especially of children in the mysteries of the faith; for the frequent use of the Sacraments; for the increase of the veneration of the Blessed Virgin; and, in a word, for everything that could advance the honor of God and the salvation of souls.
The members of the Order faithfully obeyed his directions. The fame of the great good that these holy men did, induced many kings and princes to invite them into their states. Among these, the first was John III., King of Portugal, who, through his Ambassadors at Rome, demanded seven of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus. At this request, Ignatius sighed deeply and said: “If the king requires seven of my brethren, how many will remain for other countries? ” These words show how zealous he was in his thoughts and wishes. As the number of his religious was small, at that time, and as he would, moreover, send none who were not well-grounded in learning and virtue, instead of seven, he sent but two; but those two did more than could have been expected of seven.
They were Simon Rodriguez and Francis Xavier, the latter of whom, on account of his having converted many thousands of heathens and performed many miracles, is known and honored all over the Christian world. The good which was done by the holy efforts of these two men, induced the king to found the first college for the Society of Jesus, at Goa, the capital of India, and soon after, another at Coimbra in Portugal, which, in the course of time, supplied many places with apostolic laborers. While thus the disciples of St. Ignatius untiringly labored to win souls for Heaven in Portugal, India, and other countries, the Holy Father employed equally well those who were with him in Rome. All that he had taught his companions about decorating the house of God, converting the heretics, and instructing the Catholics, as before related, he practiced at Rome, without abating his zeal. “The world seemed too small for him,” said Gregory XV. No labor, no danger, could deter him, where the salvation of even a single soul was concerned. “If I could die a thousand deaths in one day,” said he on one occasion, “I would willingly do so to save a single soul.” At another time he was heard to say, that if he had the choice either to die immediately with the assurance of his salvation, or without this assurance to live and to have an opportunity to gain a soul for Heaven, he would rather remain upon earth and save that soul than die immediately and go to Heaven. These words display the love of St. Ignatius towards his neighbor and his zeal for the spiritual welfare of men.
No less was this manifested in his works; and it can be truly said that there was no man, whatever his race or station, for whose welfare he did not labor either personally or through the members of his order. With the greatest love and solicitude, he instructed children in the Christian doctrine, even when he was general of the order, and bound all its members to do the same. He founded public schools in various places, where youth was instructed in virtue and learning without any compensation. People of all ages and conditions were animated by his pious discourses, and especially by his Spiritual Exercises, to fervor in the service of God, and were led not only to repentance for their sins, but to the practice of the highest virtue. For the welfare of orphans and of children who had been abandoned by their parents, he established in Rome two houses where they were taken care of and instructed until they were able to take care of themselves. For single women, who on account of their poverty were in danger of sin, he founded the Asylum of St. Catharine, where they had a home until they either entered a convent or were provided with a dower. Another house was founded for women who were willing to abandon their wicked life and do penance. In it they were maintained and instructed. God only knows how many sins the holy man prevented by the foundation of these houses, and how much good he thus occasioned. It is true that some who had been reclaimed, returned to their old course of life, and the Saint was told that he should not waste his efforts upon them. But he answered: “It does not seem to me that my care and labor have been lost, even if such persons return to their former vices. It is much if I prevent them from offending God only for a single night.”
His solicitude extended even to the hardened Jews; their conversion was an object of great concern to him, and God blessed his efforts in their behalf with such signal success that he baptized forty of them in one year. He also established a house where those who had renounced Judaism were received and kept until they were thoroughly instructed in the Christian religion and baptized. The solicitude which the Saint manifested toward Germany, which was at that time in great danger of entirely forsaking the true faith, must not be forgotten. For the salvation of that country, he not only offered many prayers, penances and masses, but also ordered that all the priests of the Society should offer the holy sacrifice once every month, and all those who were not priests, should say certain prayers for the same intention. This ordinance is still kept. Besides this, he instituted, amidst infinite difficulties, the German College, which is still in existence in Rome, and in which young Germans are educated for the priesthood and prepared for the missions, in order that when their education is completed and they return to their homes, they may be able to protect the Catholic religion, convert the heretics, and by their good example, induce all to live virtuously. Martin Chemnitz, a well known Lutheran, wrote in regard to this College, that if the Society of Jesus had done but this, it could be called the destroyer of the reformed religion. St. Ignatius further manifested his sympathy with oppressed Germany, by sending several apostolic men to Cologne, Mayence, and other cities, who bravely opposed the heretics, and animated the Catholics to fidelity to their church. Melancthon, the assistant of Luther, said himself, that by the power of these men, the dissemination of the new Gospel was greatly hindered. When he perceived that the number of the Society daily increased, he cried out with grief: “Oh ! wo, wo! How will it be with the new gospel? The whole world will be filled with Jesuits!”
The Evil One, the founder and protector of all heresies, seemed to think the same; for he used his utmost endeavors to interfere with St. Ignatius in his most holy efforts. He instigated some to accuse, not only the Saint, but the whole Society, of the most hideous vices, and to persecute them whenever there was the slightest opportunity. There is not to be found an Order which, during its whole existence, has had to suffer such bitter persecution, and has been so slandered, so unjustly dealt with by the heretics, and even by some who called themselves Catholics, as the Order founded by St. Ignatius. But never was the Saint seen depressed about his personal persecutions; and the attacks which were directed against the whole Order he bore with great cheerfulness, as he concluded that as Satan was the author of them, he must have suffered some severe loss through the labors of the Society. On the contrary, when one day he was told that in a certain country, the members of his Order had nothing to suffer, he became very thoughtful, and said that he feared they were negligent in doing their duty, since they were not persecuted. He also prophesied that the Society of Jesus would always have the glory of being persecuted by the enemies of Christ and of the holy church. He frequently recalled the words of Christ: “If they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you.”
The greater and more frequent the persecutions were, the more the Society increased, and the more extended was its usefulness among the faithful, the heretics and the heathens, to the indescribable consolation of its founder. Pope Marcellus II. said that, since the days of the Apostles, he had never read of any one whose labors God had blessed with such abundant fruit during his life time, as those of St. Ignatius. The holy founder lived long enough to see his Order spread in all parts of the world, divided into twelve provinces, with more than one hundred colleges and houses. He heard how, by the unwearying labors of the Fathers, whole nations were converted from their idolatry to the true faith, numberless heretics brought back to the Church, and everywhere Catholics were strengthened in that faith, without which there is no salvation. He himself heard and saw how youth was carefully instructed in the Catholic religion, in the fear of God, and in all branches of knowledge; and how the people in general were animated to greater piety, to the more frequent use of the Holy Sacraments and all Christian virtues. He heard of the many miracles wrought by St. Francis Xavier, and other Apostolic men, in testimony to the true faith. He had the happiness of hearing that some members of his Order had heroically given their blood for the faith of Christ; and from every land he received news of the good which his children were incessantly doing for the honor of God and the salvation of souls. All this filled the heart of the holy man with inexpressible joy, as he desired nothing more fervently than that the Almighty might be known and honored by all men. He was frequently heard to exclaim: “Oh God! that all men might know and love Thee.”
Meanwhile his own soul burned with the desire to see, face to face, the God Whom he loved as his highest good. This desire grew to such an extent that the mere thought of death, or a glance at heaven, drew tears from his eyes, and made him disgusted with the whole world. Often, while looking up at the sky, he would cry out: “Oh! how I despise the world, when I look up to Heaven.” He begged God to free his soul from the fetters of mortality. God heard his prayer. A fever seized him, and although the physicians pronounced it not dangerous, Ignatius knew that it was a messenger to call him away. He asked for the last Sacraments and devoutly received them. When evening came, he called one of the oldest Fathers of the Order, and sent him to ask for the Holy Father’s last blessing and a plenary indulgence. He passed the night in an almost continual ecstasy, until an hour after sunrise, when, with eyes raised to heaven, and with the sacred names of Jesus and Mary on his lips, he ended his life, on July 31st, 1556, in the 64th year of his age. At the same hour when this took place, the Saint, arrayed in bright, shining light, appeared to a pious widow, named Margaret Gigli, at Bologna, and announced to her his death. The unexpected death of the great founder filled Rome with mourning, and everywhere was heard the lamentation: “The holy man is dead.” Many did not hesitate to honor him as a Saint immediately, and ask his intercession with the Almighty. The resting place of his holy relics was twice changed. At the first interment, an eminent servant of the Almighty heard heavenly music during two days; at the second, many saw bright stars upon his shrine.
Holy men and women, who lived at the time of St. Ignatius, admired and praised the Saint and the Society he founded. St. Philip Neri, who lived at Rome, said that he had seen the countenance of Ignatius, several times, resplendent with a heavenly light. In all doubts and fears, he resorted to St. Ignatius for counsel and comfort. To two members of the Society, whom he met one day, he said: “You are sons of a great father, to whom I owe much; he taught me the science of prayer.” After the Saint’s death, Philip sent to the tomb to commend to him his cares, and according to his own words, received marvellous comfort and assistance. St. Francis Xavier esteemed the Saint so highly while he still lived, that he called him the beloved father of his soul, and a Saint. He cut the name of St. Ignatius from a letter which he had received from him, placed it in a reliquary and carried it about him, and wrought many miracles with it. He always wrote to him on his knees, as a sign of great reverence for him, and read the letters he received from him in the same manner. I must omit the praise bestowed on St. Ignatius by other Saints, as, St. Francis of Sales, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Cajetan, St. Andrew Avellino, St. Thomas of Villanova, St. Teresa, St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, and many others. The pious Louis of Granada, a Dominican, who lived at the time that St. Ignatius and his order were bitterly persecuted, showed himself a warm friend and powerful protector and admirer of both until his death. Neither shall I mention here what many Popes, bishops and other high dignitaries of the Church have said in praise of the Society of Jesus, nor repeat the high commendations given by crowned heads and great statesmen, although it might add greatly to the glory of the holy founder.
We will only consider somewhat more attentively the words of the Roman Calendar of the Saints. It states that the Saint was remarkable for holiness and miracles. Much is contained in these few words. Ignatius was remarkable for his holiness. The heroic virtues, which so brilliantly shone in him, are a proof of this; his firm and intense faith, his unwavering trust in God; his fervent love of the Saviour and of his neighbor; his tender affection for the passion and death of Christ; his filial devotion to the Virgin Mother; his constant self-abnegation; his perfect resignation to the Divine Will; his invincible patience, admirable meekness, deep humility, and insatiable zeal to labor for the honor of the Most High, and to save souls for Heaven. Especial instances of all these virtues are to be found in the book which treats of the devotion of the Ten Wednesdays in honor of St. Ignatius.
Ignatius was also remarkable for his miracles. God worked many wonders through him during his life-time. One of his disciples who was dangerously sick, was healed by embracing him; another was cured of epilepsy. He relieved a noble matron from the Evil Spirit of whom she had been possessed four years, and healed several others of different maladies. He even restored life to a young man in Barcelona who had hung himself in despair and who was pronounced dead by all who saw him. God wrought still more miracles at the intercession of his faithful servant, after his death. In the process of his canonization we find two hundred miracles, which were tested by the ecclesiastical authorities and were found to rest on the authority of incontestable witnesses under oath. After the canonization their number was still increased. During his life also many other gifts and graces were granted him by God, such as the gift of tears; the gift of reading the hearts of others ; the spirit of prayer which he possessed in so eminent a degree, that he often fell into ecstasies which lasted several days, and finally the gift of prophecy and revelations. It is known that he said to a youth at Barcelona, who desired to follow him and live in poverty: “You will remain in the world and become a lawyer, and the father of several children, one of whom will, in your place, enter the Order which God will found through me, His unworthy servant.” At Antwerp he said to a merchant: “There will come a time when you will found a College in your country for the members of the Order which God will establish through me, His unworthy servant.” All this took place exactly as he had foretold. The number of the revelations and visions with which he was blessed is very large.
Besides the visit of St. Peter, the Blessed Virgin and our Lord, mentioned in the above pages, it is known that Christ appeared several times to him, at Manresa, during his year of penance; and also later during his holy life. The Blessed Virgin also appeared to him in like manner, especially at the time when he wrote his book of the Spiritual Exercises. The Roman Breviary asserts that he was so enlightened by the grace of God, that he used to say, that if there were no gospel, he would be ready to die for his faith on the evidences which the Almighty had revealed him at Manresa. In one of his ecstacies, so much was revealed to him of the incomprehensible mystery of the Holy Trinity, that he wrote a book which excited the most profound astonishment of all learned men. At another time, the happy death of two of his companions was revealed to him. The first was made known to him whilst he was at Monte Cassino, where, during his prayers, he saw the soul of Father Hozes, surrounded by a heavenly splendor, carried by angels into Heaven. The second was when on his way to say mass for his sick disciple at St. Peter’s Church, in Rome, suddenly stopping in his walk, he looked fixedly up to Heaven, then turning to go home, he said: “Let us go home, for our Father Coduri has departed.” From this it was concluded that he had seen the soul of the dead ascending to heaven.
To the visions which St. Ignatius had of others, I will add one that another had of him. At Cologne, on the Rhine, lived Leonard Kessel, a priest of the Society of Jesus, who had an intense desire to see St. Ignatius, who at that time resided at Rome. He begged permission to go, for this purpose, to Rome, which, however, was not granted him. While one day praying in his room, his holy Father Ignatius suddenly stood before him, and after having for some time kindly discoursed with him, as suddenly disappeared. All this proves that Ignatius was indeed remarkable for holiness, miracles and other divine gifts. In conclusion, I will explain why St. Ignatius is always represented in priestly robes, with the most holy name of Jesus on his breast and a book in his hand. His priestly robes denote that he was, in his time, an ornament to the priesthood, and eminently sanctified this dignity. It is further a sign of the great devotion with which the Saint said mass. He offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for the first time on Christmas-night, at Rome, before the manger of Our Lord, after eighteen months of preparation. It was on that occasion and frequently afterwards, that during Holy Mass, bright rays of light surrounded him, that he was raised from the ground, and his face suffused with tears of devotion. The more to satisfy his ardor, he generally said Mass in the chapel of the house, passing a whole hour in the act, during which he frequently fell into ecstacy, and had the grace of seeing Christ visible in the Host. The rapture was so intense, that it was feared his veins would burst, and he had often to be carried to his room in a state of exhaustion. He passed two hours in prayer before and after mass, whenever the duties of his office permitted.
The name of Jesus on his breast, is an evidence of the great love he bore for the Saviour. This and no other name would he give to his order, that its members might never forget how Christ labored and suffered, and be thus encouraged to shrink from no labor for the Most High, to fear no danger, no persecution nor even death in the pursuance of that which had become their sacred duty. The Saint used to say that nothing could more effectually give us courage to endure, than the remembrance of this holy name. By the book which he holds in his hand, are designated the Rules which he wrote for his society, and which have been pronounced, by those able to judge, a most perfect piece of human wisdom. While he was writing this book, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him several times, and almost dictated what he wrote. The Council of Trent called it a pious Institution, approved by the Apostolic See, in which there was nothing to be altered. Pope Julius III. said, in a Bull, that there was nothing in the Institute of the Society of Jesus, that was not pious and holy. Pope Paul III. who was the first to approve and confirm the Society, when he was informed of the praiseworthy deeds which its members, in accordance with its rules, had performed, exclaimed: “The finger of God is here!” The words: “To the greater glory of God,” which are read in the book, are those which St. Ignatius was wont to use, and they express the whole aim of his Rules which is no other than the advancement of the honor of God and the salvation of souls.
You will find much in the life of St. Ignatius which may serve you for instruction and example; and I will, in a few words, aid you to find some of the principal points.
I. The reform and holiness of the Saint began by reading a devout book, the Lives of the Saints. As I told you elsewhere, the reading of pious books, especially the Lives of the Saints, is of very great spiritual benefit; while the reading of a wicked work does intense harm. The vices and consequent damnation of many are the effects of reading dangerous books; while the holiness and final salvation of others, had their beginning in the lessons received while reading pious books. Judge from this in which direction your duty lies.
II. The purpose of all the actions of St. Ignatius was to promote the glory of God and the salvation of souls, and as he sought in everything only the glory of God, he always selected what was agreeable, nay most agreeable to Him. To do that which is always most pleasing to the Almighty, has always been the aim and distinguishing feature of all great saints on earth. To do only what is pleasing to God and to avoid that which is displeasing to Him, is the duty of every Christian. To avoid only mortal sin, is the sign of a very indifferent man, who neither loves God, nor is concerned about his salvation. Among which of these will you be ranked? Endeavor to have a place among the first, and do nothing except what you are convinced is pleasing to the Almighty, and avoid all that you know is displeasing to His Majesty. Perform all your works for the honor of God and the salvation of your soul.
III. St. Ignatius was called the man who always spoke of God and looked constantly to Heaven. Of that of which the heart is full, the mouth will always speak, while the eyes will ever glance towards it. Where do you turn your eyes, your thoughts, and what is inferred from your words? What is the object of your love, your desires? Examine yourself and correct where correction is needed. Finally, often pronounce these words of St. Ignatius: “Conquer thyself.” He himself tried, from the moment of his conversion till his end, to conquer himself internally and externally. In this way he became holy. He impressed upon every one whom he tried to lead to a devout life, the maxim “Conquer thyself.” He considered this not only useful, but necessary to salvation. And so it is. The world is full of care and misery, because Adam could not overcome himself and refrain from partaking of the forbidden fruit. Hell is full of souls who, because they could not control themselves, went to endless destruction; while heaven is filled with those who practiced self-abnegation, and thus worked out their salvation. If you will escape Hell and gain Heaven, conquer yourself; first, wherever this is demanded by a law of God of the Church; and secondly, in things which depend on your own will.
You have daily opportunities for this. Overcome yourself in speaking, hearing and seeing; in eating and drinking; in amusements; in dressing; in working; in praying; in visiting the churches; in confession; in avoiding occasions and persons dangerous to your spiritual welfare. Conquer yourself when your anger is aroused; when you are wronged; when Satan tempts you to sin; when men tempt you. In one word, conquer yourself in all things. How can you do this? Ask your confessor and he will tell you. This is the road in which the saints walked and in which you too must walk if you would enter Heaven. Therefore, let this maxim of St. Ignatius be your constant companion: “Conquer thyself.” There is no other way to become holy than to be dead to oneself. Hence, St. Ignatius says further: “Take courage and strive manfully. One heroic act of self-abnegation is more pleasing to the Almighty than many other good works.”
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.