The Soldier of Christ
The founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola was one of the most startling and imposing saints in the history of the Church. Born in 1491 to Spanish nobility, he spent his youth as a courtier, focused on worldly things like his appearance and gaining temporal glory. He described himself later as a manifold sinner. Eventually, he became a soldier in the Spanish army. In 1521, at age 30, his life conversion struck: hit by a cannonball, he was forced into a convalescence of several months. To spend the time, he read; when he found the romantic and knightly novels he requested were not available, he read the lives of the saints and of Christ. His heart was stirred to repentance and imitation of the saints, and he began to compare his dreams for his life: serving the king and wooing a particular woman of the king's court or serving God and imitating the penances and fasts of the saints. The former left him sad and dissatisfied, and the latter left him peaceful and joyful: thus he knew what was the way, and this became the foundation of his method of discernment.
After his recovery, Ignatius was a new man. After confessing and vowing his life to Our Lady, he lived in a cave for a time and performed exceeding fasts and penances. Throughout this period, he was tempted by suicide and was filled with scruples, but he persevered and gained the grace of visions and discernment of spirits. He recorded the first elements of his famous Spiritual Exercises, made a harrowing pilgrimage to the Holy Land (only to be turned away), and studied at universities for 11 years. Eventually, he gathered six companions and formed the basis of the Society of Jesus, that monumental, titanic, and legitimately world-shifting religious order which owes its existence to him. After ordination, Ignatius took 18 months to prepare for his first Holy Mass. When at last the society was formalized, the pope took a great liking to them. Among their constitutions were the revolutionary rule not to accept ecclesiastical dignities and the extremely long period of probation. Ignatius guided the order through massive growth spurts and trials, ultimately succumbing to illness in utter peace, passing quietly into eternity.
This life of the soldier saint will inspire you and invigorate your faith life. No one is too far gone to turn back to God, and, if his own life experience is any indication, this biography will work wonders in stoking your desire to become a saint!
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