The Life of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Soldier, Poet, Mystic, Author, Defender of the Faith

and Founder of the Society of Jesus

Saint Ignatius was born in 1491, the year before Christopher Columbus was commissioned by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to go to the New World, in thanksgiving for Spain having been liberated from the yoke of the Saracens. For nearly 700 years, Spaniards could not worship in Catholic Churches; they were deprived from receiving the Sacraments; religious and clergy were exiled, imprisoned or killed; all mention of Jesus was forbidden under the penalty of death. How did the people from whom our Saint comes, preserve their faith with this persecution going on for most of seven centuries? How did Spain and the Catholic Church raise up such powerful soldiers as the much maligned Catholic Queen Isabella, Saints like Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Paschal Baylon and Ignatius of Loyola to mention a few? We believe the answer lies in the stories of Saints and Martyrs, and others not yet proclaimed.

Spain had survived this scourge of physical and spiritual domination which had covered her plains from North to South and East to West; it was a time for rejoicing and thanksgiving. What they did not know was that another attack would be leveled at this faithful nation of Saints, a new attempt to destroy the Church which Jesus founded. But God, all-Omnipotent, He Who is, was and always will be, He Who is beyond time and space, He Who sees all and knows all, and upon knowing all, does all to save His Church, raised up a powerful army of Defenders of the Faith, to save this faithful nation and others which would fall under another type of tyranny.

As the enemy of God’s holy Church is raising up men who would bring about a revolution called the Reformation, God is calling forth soldiers to counteract this revolt, an army which will bring about a true Reformation, a Counter-Reformation. This is the story of one such Saint!

A child is born who will change the course of history!

History brings us to the part of Spain, known as the Basque country, to the Castle of Loyola in Guipuzocoa. A child is born; Ignatius (baptized Ignio) was of noble blood, his family from a long line of nobles. His father was Don Bertram Tañez, lord of Oñaz and Loyola and head of one of the oldest families of Spain. The lineage of his mother Doña Marina of the House of Saenz, equalled that of his father. God had blessed his parents with eight daughters and three sons, Ignatius being the youngest of the sons.

Right from the beginning, God had a plan for this child. Ignatius was sent to his aunt’s castle where he received a solid Christian education and was prepared to enter King Ferdinand’s service initially as a page. It is in the King’s castle that Ignatius would lend his services to a young lady of the court as her knight. A gentleman, he never mentions her name in the poetry he writes at this time, but refers to her as “more than a Countess or Duchess.” Some historians have conjectured that possibly the lady was the very young widow of King Ferdinand. Of course, marriage was out of the question, so our young knight loved from afar, serving in the noble way befitting his and her station. He wrote his most beautiful poetry at this time.

He was an avid reader, his taste leaning toward books on chivalry, knights and ladies of the court, recounting tales of glorious times of valor and honor. So, it is no surprise, we find him, in 1517, at twenty-six years of age, leaving to engage in his first battle, the defense of Navarre of which his uncle was Viceroy. The attack was suppressed by the Spaniards; but the French renewed their offensiveand this time captured Navarre, and laid siege on Pamplona. Ignatius and the other Spanish soldiers were in the garrison, heavily outnumbered. Victory was impossible; but Ignatius was able to convince the others to remain with him and defend the fort.

The walls of the fortress began to crumble beneath the furious battery of cannon balls striking at its ramparts, quickly tearing down the soldiers’ defenses and with that their hope of victory. Knowing the end was near and they would die, Ignatius turned to a good friend and asked him to hear his confession. He fought courageously, right up to the moment a heavy cannon ball pierced the wall where Ignatius was fighting, shattered the bone of his right leg and seriously injured the other. When he fell, the others surrendered and the French soldiers captured the fort. But seeing how bravely he had fought, the French carried him to his rooms in town and had their physicians attend him for close to fifteen days. When they realized they were limited, the French had a litter made to carry the brave little soldier home. His small frame bobbing up and down on the litter (Ignatius was barely 5’2”), his red hair matted by the sweat pouring down his face from the intense pain, Ignatius never let out a cry!

It is not known why the bones did not set properly. Was it that he had been moved too soon or was it the arduous trip back home? Back at the Castle of Loyola, the doctors decided that the bones had to be broken again. Again, brave and noble knight, he asked for no form of anesthetic and went through the operation with his hands and teeth clenched. He grew weaker and weaker. The doctors advised him he was dying. Ignatius called for a priest and asked to receive the Last Rites of the Church. Ignatius would not last the night.

But again, God had another plan. The eve of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, at midnight, Ignatius passed the crisis. Now, he had always had a devotion to St. Peter, and historians all agree that Ignatius had an apparition of St. Peter who told him he would be cured, and he was!

The physicians messed up the operation and a bone was left protruding from his leg. Ignatius had it removed. His friends marveled at the courage and strength shown by Ignatius throughout the operation, insisting they could not have endured the excruciating pain. The bones were straightened out at last, no bones protruding, but the operation left him with one leg shorter than the other.

His recovery was slow and arduous. Ignatius had an active mind, but it was locked up inside a body which was betraying him. But he could read! His mind and heart never left the young lady he had left behind. Now, he waited for the time when he would return and tell her how she had occupied his every thought in battle and as he was recuperating. He practiced over and over again what he would wear and what he would say. To prepare himself, he requested books on knighthood and ladies of the court. But (as God would plan it), in the Castle of Loyola there were only books on the life of Jesus and of the Saints!

Soon he found that contemplating things of the world gave him momentary pleasure, which soon faded away in the light of what he was reading about the graces from Above! Through the lives of Jesus and the Saints he was discovering a new world and a new battlefield! The Saints taught him he had to make a choice between the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God. Their lives became strategic maps revealing the great battles needed to be waged, in order to gain eternal victory. All the vain glory he had sought in the past went up like so much smoke, when he discovered the sweet fragrance that was his to give, the offering he was being called to make to God the Creator. He discovered there was only one true, lasting glory in that which makes the “soul pure and like unto God.”

He spent long hours grieving for the sins of his past, coupled with his deep resolve to lead a life resembling that of the Desert Fathers and the Saints. The struggles and battles, fought between powers and principalities, for his soul at this time, run through the pages of Ignatius’ book: Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius decided he would choose God and His ways; then God began to manifest Himself to him. One night, Ignatius was praying before the image of Our Lady, tears spilling from his eyes, pleading with God to show him He had accepted Ignatius, when a tremor shook the house, the walls began to crumble in his room; the window frames cracked. Ignatius rejoiced! He knew this was a sign - God was answering him and he would never be alone again; God was showing him that it was He Who was directing his life!

His Purgatory on earth coming to an end, Our Lady made an appearance and let him know how she had been interceding on his behalf. She was holding the Baby Jesus in Her arms; She said nothing; but Her presence filled his heart with a sweet peace unlike anything he had ever known. Before leaving, she bestowed another gift on him, one that would remain with him forever: He lost all desire for things and creatures of this world, as his soul was filled with the “purity of the angels,” and this gift would protect him, the rest of his life.

The Honeymoon begins between God and Ignatius

His days and nights were filled with grace upon grace from God; He was preparing Ignatius to share in His Passion, His rejection, His abandonment. Ignatius decided the only way he could know how to truly walk in Jesus’ Footsteps was to go to the Holy Land, to where He walked, lived and died. He believed with all his heart that this was the only path he could take, to prepare himself for a life of penance and mortification, by which he might make up for his sins and those of the world. Then he would enter the Carthusian Monastery in Seville upon his return.

Now, although he did not share his conversion and the thoughts that were going through his mind and heart, all around him sensed a tremendous change coming about. He raised his thoughts more and more to the eternal world. He later wrote, having beheld Heaven, he would weep, crying out, “Oh, how vile this earth seems when I look at Heaven.” This detachment from earth and its temptations, focusing on Heaven alone, would be the first of his Spiritual Exercises. It led him to understand that “the end of man is not to serve the creature but God the Creator, and Him alone.”

Ignatius defends his Lady against a Moor

Ignatius spoke to his older brother, of his desire to leave the castle, and all it represented, and begin a new life. His brother, believing that Ignatius would not knowingly do anything to bring dishonor on the family name, shared some of his concerns. Ignatius graciously listened and assured his brother he was aware of his duty; as a matter of fact, his first step would be to visit their relative, the Duke of Najera and apprise him of his plans. He stopped at his relative, shared briefly his new life with him, paid off a debt he had incurred, received a reluctant blessing and left for Montserrat.

Being too weak to walk, he mounted his mule and began his journey. He was meditating on the Blessed Mother when, who should he encounter but a converso. The two began traveling together, when his companion asked Ignatius his destination. When he replied he was going to visit Our Lady of Montserrat, the man shared that although he believed Mary was a Virgin at the time of Jesus’ Birth, she did not remain a Virgin. Ignatius insisted, he could not understand how, this man, as a Catholic, could choose to accept one truth and deny another. When his companion realized that he was trying to apostatize someone who knew his Faith and was not about to be dissuaded, he left Ignatius at the first fork in the road. Ignatius, the more incensed he became over what the follower of Mohammed had said, argued with himself if he should pursue the man and continue to try to convince him of his errors, or give him a good beating for so having maligned his Heavenly Mother. As this latter behavior would have suited the warrior and not the apostle he planned to become, Ignatius decided to continue his journey, with the idea of praying for this poor misguided man.

Now, Montserrat is an extremely high mountain; its ridges, like the teeth of a saw made the climb perilous, at best. It not only looked impenetrable, it was that and more, its cliffs rising sharply with little or no plateaus. The only way to get to the top was by climbing treacherous steps cut out in the rock, by those who had dared to go before. Before beginning his ascent, Ignatius stopped at the church, at the foot of the mountain. There was a monk there, known for his holiness. Ignatius confessed his sins and shared all that he believed the Lord was calling him to do. For three days, he poured out his heart! This completed, the monk directed him, as an act of total abandonment to leave his mule at the monastery,

These were either Moslems or Jews who had pretended to convert, but instead taught their own beliefs. Read more on this in Bob and Penny Lord’s chapter on Saint Teresa of Avila in their book: Saints and other Powerful Women in the Church. from which it got its name and Ignatius obeyed. Then asking him if he was truly committed to depending solely on the Lord, he asked Ignatius if he could leave the only means of defense he would have from attacks leveled by any of God’s creatures, two-legged as well as four-legged; would he leave his sword and dagger at the altar of Our Lady?

Our Lady’s knight keeps guard over her during the night.

God, by His perfect Divine Design placed Ignatius at the foot of Montserrat on the Feast of the Annunciation. He decided he would stand guard over his Lady, “keeping the night-watch of arms” as was the ancient practice of knights, before receiving their final war regalia. But instead of being attired in the resplendent coat of arms and regalia of a noble knight, he put aside his rich clothes and put on the robes of a poor penitent. He donned a pilgrim’s tattered robe of coarse fabric; removing his velvet and satin sash, he bound his waste with a rough cord; he replaced his boots of fine leather with hemp slip-ons. As his leg had not healed entirely, he had to balance himself precariously on one foot, propping himself on a roughly whittled walking-stick.

With the rising of a new day, the knight of the House of Loyola was no more; this knight would fight the impossible fight, only for the Lord and His Mother. Staff in hand and a shell with which to scoop water to drink from a brook, all was in order. Now off to conquer the unseen foe! Onward to Montserrat! He began his ascent.

As God would have it, a future benefactor, Agnes Pasquale was to encounter Ignatius at Montserrat. As Montserrat was only nine miles from Manresa, where she was staying, it was not only her custom to go there, each Sunday, but as this was the Feast of the Assumption, to be there once again, to visit her Heavenly Mother. Mid-day, when she and her companions approached the Chapel of the Apostles, she could not help noticing a pilgrim who, although dressed as an indigent beggar, had an air of gentility about him. She was impressed by the piety which his eyes reflected the rare times he looked up; and his humility when they were cast down. Now, no longer able to walk, Ignatius inquired of the ladies if there was a hospital nearby. Agnes suggested he come with them to the one which he had purchased on the way to Montserrat in Manresa. Refusing a ride on a donkey, Ignatius slowly followed the young women to Manresa. It was then that an officer of the law stopped him, inquiring if it were true that he had given his fine clothes to a destitute beggar; as they had not believed him, they had placed him in jail. Ignatius was truly grieved that he had caused the man this pain, and admitted that it was true; but would answer no further questions about himself.

Always seeking anonymity, preferring the company of God alone, he was much upset when word got out of what he had done. Life in Manresa was simple; Ignatius attended Mass daily, participated in Vespers, and received Holy Communion once a week. He would pray on his knees as much as seven hours a day. He rarely slept, scourged himself, begged for a small dry piece of bread, and drank a bit of water. His pilgrim’s robe not penance enough, he wore a hair shirt next to his skin. He served the poor and the sick of the hospital, choosing those with the worst diseases. But although he kept the company of beggars, no one took him to be a beggar; consequently the children made fun of him; they chased him, calling him all sort of vile names. Only once, was he tempted to remove his humble attire, the abuse got so bad. Although he overcame that temptation, he felt it was time for him to seek more solitude, if he were to hear God speaking to him of His Will.

 

Ignatius discovers God in a cave

Ignatius discovered a dark cave, virtually unknown because it was so overgrown with brush. There, he would spend hours, sometimes all through the night, praying without interruption, except for the occasional sounds of God’s four-legged and winged creatures calling out to one another. The cave at Manresa was a battlefield, a lonely battlefield, with Ignatius battling one temptation, winning that battle only to be put to the test with another temptation and another battle. Among other struggles, he imagined himself guilty of all types of sins, mistaking venial sin for mortal sin, battling alleged scruples and scrupulosity to the point of near desperation. He did not know where to turn; it seemed to him that God had deserted him. Then, he remembered hearing that God would come to his aid, if he fasted until his petition was granted. He fasted from Sunday to the following Sunday. His Spiritual Director seeing him dangerously weakened by this excessiveness, near death, ordered him to eat some food or he would deny him absolution. Ignatius obeyed and his melancholy left him!

Temptations of one kind or the other persisted until his trial over, his doubts and anxieties were also at an end. It had been one of the severest duels of his life; it seemed as if he were fencing with the prince of darkness himself, with the devil thrusting and him parrying, Ignatius, God’s holy knight falling, appearing at times to be down for the last time, mortally wounded; but with the force of the Holy Spirit Who never left him, he would rise again to fight another battle. This time in the cave of Manresa would fill a spiritual well with teachings from which not only Jesuits would draw lifegiving water of knowledge and strength but those who in the future would read the Spiritual Exercises and follow Ignatius and his experiences to a deeper life with God.

He had fought! The lessons, received from both the powers of Heaven and hell would serve to form the vessel which God was shaping for His purpose. But it was not easy for Ignatius to follow what he called the “Finger of God!” He would say “that God had treated him as a wise master does a child, to whom He gives little to learn at a time, and before whom He does not place a second lesson until he has well understood the first.”

Ignatius is visited by the forces of Heaven and hell!

Without the battles fought and won in the cave of Manresa, Ignatius could not have begun writing his Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius had visions of the serpent early in his spiritual life, before he had any Heavenly ecstasies.

Day had settled into night, wiping away the slightest ray of light entering his room at the hospital in Manresa, when Ignatius saw a figure, glowing and almost incandescent; it boldly intruded into his thoughts and prayers. Strain as he might, he could not recognize the figure; it was hard to identify, it was so blurred; all he could make out was that it dimly resembled a serpent! As he was almost hypnotized by the sight, suddenly blinding lights shot forth from what appeared to be many eyes on the form. Then it would leave. The image would return over and over again; Ignatius began to look forward to its next reappearance, feeling an unexplainable attraction toward it. But the Lord is always balancing the odds, always providing us with the ammunition to fight the attacks of the devil.

Ignatius would later in life write that while he was immersed in ecstasy, God infused him with such knowledge and enlightenment that if he were to add all he had received his entire life, it would not equal what he had learned in that one moment. When he came out of the ecstasy, he ran to the cross, in front of which he always prayed, and began to share his feelings with Jesus Crucified, when all of a sudden the glistening figure appeared! But this time, in the True Light of the Cross, Ignatius could perceive clearly who the vision was; it was the father of deception himself who had been appearing to Ignatius. This vision persisted, appearing again in Manresa and then in Rome, and then in Paris; but now Ignatius was able to quickly discern who it was and he dispelled him, at times attacking the vision with his bare hands and at other times disdainfully shooing him away with his walking stick.

Ignatius, because of the spiritual work God had planned for him to do, and the seeds of wisdom he would be called to sow, received the same infused knowledge from the Holy Spirit which other great Saints of his time, Spanish ones like Saints Teresa and John of the Cross had, of the Divine Mysteries of our Faith. One day, in the church of the Dominicans, while reciting the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, he had a vision of the Holy Trinity. It had such a profound effect on him, he began to cry; from that day he entered into such intimacy with the Triune God that later in life this Divine Mystery would be the center of his prayer life and revelations. Another time, he was filled with the mystery of how God created the universe. Although he spoke of this, he, along with others who have seen Heaven, could not put into words what it was like being in the Kingdom and in the presence of those who dwelled therein. In this same church, when the Host was raised in consecration, he had a vision of the Child Jesus Who revealed how He was present in the Sacred Host after the consecration.

He had interior visions of the God-Man Jesus, seeing Him with the eyes of his heart, between 20-40 times. He had visions of the Blessed Mother as well, in the same way. When hospitalized in the Hospital of St. Lucy, he went into ecstasy for a whole week, beginning with Saturday lasting until the following Saturday. He lay as if dead, with the faintest heartbeat. When he came to, as if awakening from a deep sleep, he cried out over and over again, “O Jesus! Jesus!” This was reported by eye-witnesses who had been at his bedside. Ignatius never spoke of what had transpired during that ecstasy. There are those who ascertain that it was then that he received the word to establish the “Company of Jesus,” for when he was writing the Constitution of the Jesuits, he would say that he was including certain passages that were given to him at Manresa. The Jesuits say one thing is definite, Ignatius was given the idea of the Company of Jesus while meditating on the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Before leaving Manresa, Ignatius would have more serious bouts with his health, each time almost succumbing to the angel of death; but God was not finished using him. Ignatius, this selfless, caring vessel of God so touched young men, they flocked to him. But for as many as loved him and hung on his every word, there were those who hated him and the change that was coming about among the people; and so they began maligning not only Ignatius but all those holy families who were befriending him. He had no recourse but to leave Manresa. His ten month stay at Manresa over, he left with only the patched clothes of a pauper on his back; but he was accompanied by the love and prayers of all whom he had touched. As he did not speak Latin, they begged him to take a companion who could assist him in Italy. He refused saying, all he needed was faith, hope and charity:

“If he took a companion, he would be looking to him for food when hungry, and if he fell would look to him to lift him up, and would thus be learning to rest in him, whereas he desired only to love and look up to God, and put all his hope and confidence in Him. `And the pilgrim,’ said St. Ignatius of himself, `spoke from his heart.’”

Ignatius leaves for Barcelona, his sites on the Holy Land

His heart saddened at leaving so many dear ones, his soul soared at the prospect of being one step closer to the Holy Land and his dream to convert the unbelievers. Ignatius arrived in Barcelona, and there met Doña Isabel Roser, who saw him encircled in light while he was praying. She helped him gain free passage to Italy on a ship, with the condition he would furnish his own provisions for the trip. Ignatius begged, and for the most part was given alms, but as always there are those who abuse the down-and-out. Afraid they would deny him if he said he was ultimately going to the Holy Land, considering the trip too dangerous, he begged just enough alms to get him to Rome, his first stop. One person, hearing he was going to Rome, answered “Those who go to Rome, seldom come back the better for their visit.”

Ignatius landed in Naples five days later, and traveled by foot with three other people, who like himself were begging for alms for their journey to Rome. One was a young man, and the other two a mother and daughter (disguised as a young man to protect her from being attacked). They were given food and a place to stay by some villagers, the mother and daughter a room on the top floor and Ignatius and the young man a place to sleep in the barn. At midnight, Ignatius became alarmed at the crying and screams coming from the rooms above. Hearing Ignatius shouting as he bolted up the stairs to defend the women, the attacker fled. Ignatius believed it must have been the young man, as he was not to be found when they set out for Rome.

Fearing they were carrying the plague, the little band of three were refused admission when they arrived at the gates of Rome. Especially Ignatius looked suspect, but when he explained he was not ill, but exhausted from his long trip, he was allowed to enter Rome. It was Palm Sunday, when Ignatius arrived; he spent Holy Week visiting churches and making the Stations of the Cross, and that completed, left for Venice with a passport to the Holy Land, after having received the Pope’s blessing. His poor clothes and equally poor health caused him much pain and problems as he traveled throughout Italy. Judging he had the plague, they would not allow him to enter Venice without a certificate affirming he had a clean bill of health. Alone, too tired to go on, he spent the night out in the cold. But although his human companions left him stranded, his Lord had not; God told Ignatius He would be with him and protect him. The next day, the guards at the gates of Venice did not notice Ignatius and he entered without the required papers.

Although too ill to make the voyage, Ignatius boarded the ship, and after having the customary sea-sickness was relieved of his raging fever. The sailors used the language of the gutter, never once considering the pilgrims aboard, especially women. When Ignatius scolded, they began to plot against him; they planned to leave him on a deserted island. But when they approached the island a furious wind whipped the ship toward the Isle of Cyprus, where other pilgrims were waiting. They walked thirty miles to the ship which would carry them to the Holy Land.

Ignatius arrived and rushed to tell the Franciscans (who were the custodians of the Holy Land), that his purpose in coming to the Holy Land was to park himself near the Holy Sepulcher of Our Lord and labor there to spread the Kingdom of Christ. He shared his plan to found a Company of Jesus committed to bringing the Word of God to the followers of Mohammed. The Franciscans agreed he could go about evangelizing, as long as he could provide for himself; but to await their Provincial for the final word. Ignatius went about his way, alone and with the other pilgrims, visiting all the holy places where his Savior had walked, right up to His last Walk to the Cross. The day before the other pilgrims were to depart, Ignatius was called before the Provincial, who ordered him to leave tomorrow with the other pilgrims. Ignatius was confused! The Provincial accused him of endangering himself and the other pilgrims. He said that if the Moslems had caught them they would have killed them or held them for ransom, and that Ignatius, remaining in the Holy Land, would not only be a threat to himself but to all the Franciscans.

The Provincial stated he had a Bull from the Pope declaring he had full authority, and to disobey him was to be excommunicated. Ignatius, believing this was the Will of the Lord, told the provincial it was not necessary to show him the Bull, he would obey! Ignatius departed for Venice. God was with him all the way! The ships which denied him passage were ship-wrecked and the poor ship he was on landed safely in Venice.

Ignatius takes the long road back to Spain

Ignatius traveled from Venice to Genoa; and war raging, first was taken prisoner by the Spanish as a spy for the French, and convincing them he was not, by the French as a spy for the Spanish. In Genoa he met a friend who gave him passage on his ship, and Ignatius reached Barcelona the early part of 1524. He rushed to 18

Manresa to begin studying with a Cistercian monk he had known, but upon finding he had died, Ignatius returned to Barcelona. He was admitted into a public school where he would study Latin. His old friend Doña Isabel Roser and others helped him, providing him a place to stay and food. The servants learning he was of the nobility treated him cruelly, accusing him of being a bum who ran away from his duties. He prayed for them, and they were converted before he left. To further his walk to the Cross, here he was thirty-three years old struggling to learn among much younger, brilliant students who breezed through their Latin lessons.

John Pasquale, son of one of his benefactors, said that he would look in on Ignatius and would see him, deep in prayer, his knees bent, levitated, exclaiming “O Lord, if men only knew Thee!” To his embarassment, this would also happen in public. At a convent, after having prayed for over three hours, he was seen rising, levitating for a long time.

Ignatius never compromised his mission and commitment to God. There was a convent of Nuns who had gone so far from their vow of closure, they even had men visiting them in the parlor. Ignatius heard of this and began visiting the convent, praying hours on end for the conversion of the Nuns. Noting the piety of Ignatius, they asked him to speak to them. He spoke to them of their vocation, the vows they had taken, shared his Spiritual Exercises and before you know it, conversion came about. But not everyone was converted; there were those who liked the freedom they had; and in an effort to discourage him from returning, had him beaten several times on the road. That failing to deter him, they hired two Moorish slaves to kill him. They were waiting for him at the gate of the convent and beat him and his priest companion, so brutally, the priest died a few days later and Ignatius was close to death. As soon as he recovered, he went to the convent, over the pleading of his many friends who knew what had transpired. One of the men who had beaten him, begged his forgiveness and was converted.

Returning home from the convent, he came upon a man who had hanged himself. Ignatius drew near to the body which had been cut down from the tree. Not being able to revive him, Ignatius began praying and crying, begging God to have mercy on one who had died such a horrible death, condemning himself to eternal damnation.

The man opened his eyes and expressed sorrow for all his sins, and having done so closed his eyes for the last time.

Ignatius was tested and consequently informed he was ready to study at the illustrious University of Alcala. Young men began to join his company; he had four by this time; like him they all lived on alms, wore the same long grey habit and a cap of matching color, gaining the name, the ensacados or men in sacks. Life for Ignatius was not only an interior walk, but one very much involved with the spiritual and physical well-being of his brothers and sisters, the poor of all kinds.

At the University, Ignatius saw a canon who, upon making the acquaintance of wild young men, began living a life unworthy of his vow. Ignatius prayed and then went to the home of the canon, who reluctantly let him in. After hours of Ignatius praying and reminding him of the gift he had been given by God, and the price Jesus paid for the salvation of his soul and those he was ordained to save, the canon’s disdain and anger turned to deep respect and he was converted and resumed living up to his vocation.


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