St Ignatius of Loyola

A reflection on St Ignatius

It can be all too easy to have a simplistic understanding of the saints. They seem to come to us as part of a hagiography that forgets that they too are human beings who shared the joys and pains of the human condition.

However, once we take an honest look at the saints, we realise that they are like us in all our complexity.

Had the soldier Inigo de Loyola not been seriously injured at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, it is very likely that he would have gone down in history as a minor footnote – ‘Inigo de Loyola, Basque 16th century, minor nobility, served at the Battle of Pamplona, etc.’.

Inigo was brave, vain and extraordinarily stubborn. He had an eye for the ladies and wanted to marry well to advance his position at the Spanish royal court.

He was not averse to gambling and had had at least one scrape with the law. He cultivated his image by dressing in the expensive high fashion of the times.

Most of all he wanted to advance his career and he had chosen one of the vehicles of any age for doing this, namely the military.

God, on the other hand, had different plans for Inigo, but it took a cannon ball to get his attention.

Long months recovering from his injuries left him open to a different path, a different way of viewing the world. His competitive nature was now channelled into outdoing St Francis and St Dominic.

His charisma no longer stirred the martial spirit of his troops but drew a group of companions who would indeed set the world on fire.

His spiritual exercises have brought millions to a clearer understanding of God’s immense love for each person and for the world.

The Ignatian desire to go where the need is greatest has led to the creation of schools and universities around the world and diverse works in some of the most remote and dangerous areas.

Jesuits are educators, social workers, doctors, lawyers, scientist, artists, authors and explorers. In the spirit of the Magis, millions of people have been inspired by Ignatius’ vision and spirituality and seek to contribute to the greater good.

The story of St Ignatius provides each of us with the challenge of engaging in a process of discernment to discover how God is calling us to greatness. 

None of us is meant to be a footnote. Like Inigo de Loyola, each of us is called to greater things.

A prayer for generosity

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous; 
teach me to serve you as you deserve, 
to give and not to count the cost, 
to fight and not to heed the wounds, 
to toil and not to seek for rest, 
to labour and not to seek reward, 
except that of knowing that I do your will.


St. Ignatius Loyola