Born in Spain in 1491, Ignatius was the youngest of thirteen children. At the age of sixteen he became a page in the royal court; soon Ignatius was addicted to gambling. Eventually he found himself at the age of 30 as an officer defending a fortress against the French. During the battle a cannon ball struck Ignatius, wounding one leg and breaking the other. In the course of his convalescence Ignatius read the Life of Christ as well as the Lives of the Saints; this experience marked the beginning of his conversion. He traveled to Montserrat where he made a night vigil before Our Lady. He then remained nearby in Manresa for eleven months, administering to the sick at the Hospital of St. Lucy and spending hours in a cave in prayer and acts of penance. During this time, he wrote in substance the Spiritual Exercises. At Manresa Ignatius suffered from intense scruples, which only ceased after a decisive vision which is regarded as the most significant in his life. He later said that he learned more on that one occasion than he did in the rest of his life.

After leaving Manresa Ignatius with a party of pilgrims landed at Jaffa. The hostility of the Turks prevented fulfillment of his original plan to remain in the Holy Land, so Ignatius returned to Europe and began an eleven year program of study at Barcelona, Salamanca, and Paris. He was suspected by the Inquisition and was interrogated and imprisoned for 42 days. In 1534, Ignatius and his followers vowed to live in poverty and chastity and to go to the Holy Land. Since this journey became impossible, they offered themselves to the apostolic service of Pope Paul III. A vision at La Storta confirmed the divine design; Ignatius heard the words, "I shall be favorable to you at Rome." After long deliberations with his followers, he drew up the rule for their new institute, which was approved by Paul III in 1539. Julius III reconfirmed the society and gave it the goal of the defense and propagation of the faith.

Ignatius, whose love it was to be actively involved in teaching catechism to children, directing adults in the Spiritual Exercises, and working among the poor and in hospitals, would for the most part sacrifice this love while he directed this new society throughout the world. From his tiny quarters in Rome he would live to see the Society of Jesus grow from eight to a thousand members. While education is the work for which the Society is best known, at the beginning Ignatius had no intention of including teaching among the Jesuits' works. However it soon became clear that this work was truly one of the most effective ways to correct ignorance and corruption among the clergy and the faithful, to stem the decline of the Church in the face of the Reformation, and to fulfill the motto of the Society, "to the greater glory of God."

One of his closest associates summed up the life of this Saint: "Ignatius was always inclined toward love; moreover he seemed all love, and because of that he was universally loved by all. There was no one in the Society who did not have much great love for him and did not consider himself much loved by him."

Ever since his student days in Paris, Ignatius had suffered form stomach ailments and they became increasingly troublesome in Rome. In the summer of 1556 his health grew worse and on July 31 the former worldly courtier and soldier who had turned his gaze to another court and a different type of battle rendered his soul into the hands of God.

Extracted from The Life of St. Ignatius of Loyola by Rev. Norman O'Neal.