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Biography of Ignatius Loyola

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I. Biography of Ignatius Loyola

Ignatius Loyola was born in 1491 to a noble family in Basque, a county of Spain. He was the youngest of 13 children. As a young boy he would aspire to be famous and well known, but that would change when he was hit by a cannonball while defending the citadel of Pamplona in 1521. His spiritual journey as accounted in his Autobiography started as he was recovering from his wound, from which he miraculously recovered. While recovering from his wound he indulged himself into reading “ The Life of Christ” and “ Flowers of the Saints”. This readings led him to meditate on spiritual things although he claimed he still feels a lot of temptations from his former mind. From then on, he lived a life in penance, fasting, prayer and meditation. He hated vain thing in life. In his trance, while meditating or from passing out because of lack of sleep or extreme hunger, he would claim to see visions of God. This was called madness by his relatives, who tried to convince him out of his convictions.  But his undeterred endeavors lead him to leave his family in 1522, a year later after his injury, to pursue his pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  

He travelled to Montsserat then to Mansera. His sojourn at Mansera has accounted to many of his spiritual trials and also at the same time, much spiritual enlightenment. In Mansera, he lived in alms, in poverty and in so much prayer. It was in Masera where he started writing his Spiritual exercises, a compilation of prayers, meditation and mental exercises against temptation. It would later be the doctrine, on which he preached and lived on. In 1523, he travelled to Barcelona, then left the place to travel to Jerusalem via Rome, Venice and Cyprus. He reached Jerusalem on September 4, 1523. But he was not compelled to stay in Jerusalem, as he felt that God is calling him for a mission.

He decided to pursue education as preparation for himself to educate others. By this time, he had already gained for himself disciples because of his preaching of his own written Spiritual Exercises. He studies in Barcelona for two years then later transferred to Alcala to study philosophy in 1526. After two years, he transferred to the University of Paris, where he studies until 1535. He found himself companions, who would later call themselves The Society of Jesus. They became unofficially a group of men, who vowed to live in poverty, chastity and obedience to the Church. Ignatius was ordained in June 24, 1537, from this point follows one decisive event in his life. He shared that God had given him a vision to be a servant of Jesus. In 1539, their Society decided to form a formal union, adding a vow of complete obedience to a superior pontiff, a position which Loyola had no difficulty of acquiring. In 1540, the Jesuit Order was officially recognized by Pope Paul III. It was the same year that his writing Spiritual Exercises received official recognition by the same Pope, although accepted with minor edits. He wrote the Constitutions of the Jesuit Society.  

Loyola spent the last years of his life educating and training new Jesuits. He spent the last stages of his life in Rome. During his lifetime, around 1000 Jesuits were trained and distributes all over Europe. He was successful in countering Reformation through establishment of Colleges. He founded Rome Colleges and Germanicum and many other colleges. The Jesuit Order progressed impressively under his leadership.

He died in July 31, 1556 at the age of 65. His achievements in education could be projected for fifteen years from 1542 to 1556. His legacy remained up to 200 more years from 1542 to 1773  until the Jesuit Suppression from  1773 to 1841 (41 years). The Jesuit operation would continue from 1841 up to present.


II. Content Outline of Presentation

A.  Who is Ignatius Loyola?

         Ignatius Loyola is a Spanish theologian, who played a crucial role in the Counter-reformation movement of the Catholic Church just after the Reformation. Now, we already know how the Reformation has affected the Catholic Church at this point of history. The Vatican was desperate for help to reclaim the glory of the church in political power and influence. Ignatius Loyola, a devout to Virgin Mary, instituted a new religious order called the Order of the Jesuits, with the task to check up on the progress of the Reformation, at the same time dedicated also to counter the effects of the Reformation.

 (To understand Ignatius Loyola’s philosophy, one must understand the circumstances, which greatly influenced his philosophical view.)

B. Spiritual Pilgrimage and His Philosophy

         Ignatius was born to a noble family in 1491 in Basque province of Guipuzcoa in Spain. His spiritual Journey started when he was severely wounded in a battle in a war at Pampeluna, Spain against the French army at age 26 in 1521.  His wound was so severe that the doctors thought, he would not make it, but he miraculously survived. I would like to point out  that this point of his life plays a crucial role to the development of the Philosophies, on which he stood all his life, and the same Philosophy that greatly influenced his writings and that which constituted the Jesuit Order and the Jesuit Education.

         While recovering from his wounds, he got immersed into reading spiritual books, which he claimed awakened his love and interest for spiritual matters. Here was the starting point of his rationalization to spiritual theology. He started hating vain glory and resolved to life of penance, fasting and poverty to stay away from worldly temptations. His spiritual encounter included all sorts of vision of God himself or Mary or Jesus. He decided to leave his family to pursue his wish of pilgrimage to Jerusalem

         His whole life was dedicated to spiritual things. He started to write his Spiritual Exercises in Mansera around 1522.  He has resolved a life of so much fasting that it affected his health throughout his life. In order to fulfill his longing of spirituality and purity, he cut his relationship with his family and even did not desire to use the influence of his family to survive, but rather lived most of his life in poverty. He accomplished his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but was not compelled to stay in the holy city.

 C. His Education

         After his Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he realized the need to be educated for his personal guidance as well as preparation to educate others. He received his education in Barcelona for two years, then set out for Alcala to study philosophy in 1526. There he continued to preach and teach his doctrine in Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius was slowly gathering to himself disciples, which put him under the suspicion of heresy but then later acquitted. Then, he left his disciples in Barcelona to pursue his studies in Paris from 1528 until 1535. Still, during this time he remained to live in alms and resolved to practice his Spiritual Exercises. In Paris, he was also able to gather disciples and companions, who later became his co-founder of the Society of Jesus. Among them is Francis Xavier, who later became a great missionary of the order. Ignatius and his companions went up to Montmarte on August 15,1534 and vowed their holy vow of poverty, obedience and chastity. In June 24, 1937, Ignatius and most of his companions were ordained and the 18 months followed during which they acquired much experience in the ministry.



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