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July 31

St Ignatius of Loyola - July 31

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Priest and Comfessor

Founder of Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

(1491 – 1556)

“If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Saint’s Life Story

His Early Life

Iñigo Lopez de Oñaz y Loyola was born in the Castle Loyola, in Azpeitia, in the Basque country of northeastern Spain, in 1491, during the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Iñigo was the youngest of 12 children. Iñigo hardly knew his mother, Marina Saenz de Licona y Balda Maria;  she died when he was a child.   His father, Don Beltrán Yañez de Oñaz y Loyola, died when he was 16. Iñigo was raised to be a courtier and diplomat in service to the crown, having received a chivalric yet academically sparse education typical of his class.   He spent some time as a page at court.

Entered Army and Wounded in Battle

In 1517, Iñigo enetered the army and served several campaigns. Eventually, he found himself at the age of 30 in May of 1521 as an officer defending the fortress of the town of Pamplona against the French, who claimed the territory as their own against Spain. The Spaniards were terribly outnumbered and the commander of the Spanish forces wanted to surrender, but Ignatius convinced him to fight on for the honor of Spain, if not for victory. During the battle a cannon ball struck Ignatius, wounding one leg and breaking the other. Because they admired his courage, the French soldiers carried him back to recuperate at his home, the castle of Loyola, rather than to prison. Although Iñigo tried several remedies, fort he rest of his life this injury caused him to walk with a limp because one leg was shorter than the other.


During the long weeks of his recuperation, the only books Iñigo had access to were The Golden Legend, a collection of biographies of the saints, and the Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian. These books, and the time spent in contemplation, changed him. Iñigo noticed, however, that after reading and thinking of the saints and Christ he was at peace and satisfied. To his surprise, he enjoyed them and began to dream of becoming a “knight for Christ”, pursuing the ideals of St. Francis and St. Dominic. He eventually promised to devote his life to being a knight for St. Peter if he recovered. After nine months of convalescence, Iñigo recovered from his wounds enough to travel and left the castle in March of 1522.

After he had recovered sufficiently to walk again, Íñigo resolved to begin a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to “kiss the earth where our Lord had walked” and to do stricter penances. He thought that his plan was confirmed by a vision of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus he experienced one night, which resulted in much consolation to him. In March 1522, he visited the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat. There, he carefully examined his past sins, confessed, gave his fine clothes to the poor he met, wore a “garment of sack-cloth”, then hung his sword and dagger at the Virgin’s altar during an overnight vigil at the shrine.

Spiritual Exercises

From Montserrat, Iñigo continued towards Barcelona but stopped along the river Cardoner at a town called Manresa. He stayed in a cave outside the town, intending to linger only a few days, but Iñigo remained for ten months. He spent hours each day in prayer and also worked in a hospice. It was while here that the ideas for what are now known as the Spiritual Exercises began to take shape. Iñigo noticed that after doing good deeds for the Lord, he felt peaceful — which he termed as a “consolation,” but when he thought of being a successful soldier or of impressing a beautiful woman where he had initially felt enthused, he later felt dry. He called this a “desolation.” Through this process of discernment, Ignatius was able to recognize that God was leading him to follow a path of service. Out of this experience he wrote his famous “Spiritual Exercises.

In September 1523, Íñigo made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the aim of settling there. He remained there from 3 to 23 September but was sent back to Europe by the Franciscans.

Return to School

At 33 years old, Iñigo was determined to study for the priesthood. However, he was ignorant of Latin, a necessary preliminary to university studies in those days. So, he started back to school studying Latin grammar with young boys in a school in Barcelona. There, Iñigo begged for his food and shelter. After two years, he moved on to the University of Alcala. There, his zeal got him into trouble, a problem that continued throughout his life. Iñigo would gather students and adults to explain the Gospels to them and teach them how to pray. His efforts attracted the attention of the Inquisition and he was thrown into jail for 42 days. When he was released he was told to avoid teaching others. 


Iñigo and his first companions pronounce their vows near Montmartre in Paris, France.  At the University of Paris, he began school again, studying Latin grammar and literature, philosophy, and theology. Each summer, Iñigo would spend a couple of months begging in Flanders for the money he would need to support himself in his studies for the rest of the year. It was also in Paris that he began sharing a room with Saint Francis Xavier and Saint Peter Faber. On March 14, 1534,  Iñigo received his degree from the Unibersity of Paris at the age of 43. In later life, he would often be called “Master Ignatius” because of this.

Founding the Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

On the 15th of August, 1534, in the chapel of Church of Saint Peter, at Montmartre, Iñigo and his six companions, of whom only one was a priest, met and took upon themselves the solemn vows of their lifelong work. They decided to take vows of chastity and poverty and to go to the Holy Land. If going to the Holy Land became impossible, they would then go to Rome and place themselves at the disposal of the Pope for whatever he would want them to do. They did not think of doing this as a religious order or congregation, but as individual priests.  On this date, his meditations, prayers, visions and insights led to forming the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. 

In 1539, with Saint Peter Faber and Saint Francis Xavier , Ignatius formed the Society of Jesus, which was approved in 1541 by Pope Paul III. He was chosen as the first Superior General of the order and invested with the title of “Father General” by the Jesuits. Ignatius sent his companions on missions across Europe to create schools, colleges, and seminaries. A Jesuit college was opened in Messina, Italy, which proved a success, so that its rules and methods were later copied in subsequent colleges.

In a letter to Saint Francis Xavier before his departure to India in 1541, Ignatius famously used the Latin phrase “Ite, inflammate omnia”, meaning, “Go, set the world on fire”, a phrase used in the Jesuit order to this day.

He travelled Europe and the Holy Lands, then settled in Rome to direct the Jesuits.

Ignatius wrote almost 7,000 letters during his lifetime, the vast majority of them after he became the Superior General of the Jesuits. Ignatius considered the correspondence between members of the Jesuits one of the most important elements in fostering unity.

His Death

His health suffered in later years, and he was nearly blind at death. At the age of 65, Ignatius died in Rome, Italy on July 31, 1556, probably of the “Roman Fever”, a severe variant of malaria which was endemic in Rome throughout medieval history. Numerous institutions across the world are named for him, including many educational institutions and Ateneo Universities institutions in the Philippines. In 1852, Loyola University Maryland was the first university in the United States to bear his name.

The Jesuits today have over 500 universities and colleges, 30,000 members, and teach over 200,000 students each year.

Born:                   1491 in Azpeitia, Castille, Spain

Died:                   July 31, 1556 in Rome, Italy

Beatified:           July 27, 1609 by Pope Paul V

Canonized:        March 12, 1622 by Pope Gregory XV

Feast Day:          July 31

Patron Saint:    Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Basque Country, Spain; Diocese of Bilboa, Spain; Jesuits; Loyola University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Military Ordinariate of the Philippines; Retreats; Society of Jesus; Soldiers; Spiritual Exercises; Vizcaya, Spain



Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s life did not begin too saintly. He was a soldier that learned the male sins that armies and royal courts excel in teaching: gambling, fighting, treachery, and womanizing. However, God had other plans for Saint Ignatius. After reading about Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Dominic, and other saints, he wondered if he could be like them. But like us, his thoughts would wander  marriage of a beautiful woman he desired or glory in new military expeditions. In his desire for permanenet happiness, Saint Ignatius decided to repent of his past sins and decided to walk the way of the saints. Saint Ignatius went to write the Spiritual Exercises and found a new order – The Society of Jesus (Jesuits). His high ideals and creative leadership drew throngs of impressive followers to this very day.

Do you focus your energies too much on attaining power and money? How can you devote yourself more fully to developing virtue? Do you believe, as Saint Ignatius did, that you have the capacity to become a great saint? Through prayer, all things are possible for us to help us “finding God in all things”.


Prayer of
Saint Ignatius of Loyola

“Dearest Lord,
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 labor, and not to seek to rest;
to give of myself and not to ask for reward,
except the reward of knowing that I am doing Your will.”

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – 3 Ways St. Ignatius of Loyola is an example to modern men

All Saints & Martyrs – St. Ignatius of Loyola – Confessor, Founder of the Society of Jesus

America Needs Fatima – Saint Ignatius of Loyola

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 31 July – St Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) – Founder of the Society of Jesus/The Jesuits

Angelus – A cannonball that changed the world: Pope Francis marks 500 years since St. Ignatius’ conversion by Catholic News Agency

A Thought from Saint Ignatius For Each Day of the Year Translated by Margaret A. Colton

Bartleby – Rev. Alban Butler Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. July 31 St. Ignatius of Loyola, Confessor

Catholic Culture  – St Ignatius of Loyola and the Development of the Society of Jesus by Pasquale Puca

Catholic Exchange – The Magnanimity & Humility of St. Ignatius of Loyola by P. Bracy Bersnak

Catholic Fire – St. Ignatius of Loyola: Brief Biography, Favorite Quotes, Prayers, and Works

Catholic Ireland – Jul 31 – St. Ignatius of Loyola: Success out of Failure

Catholic Lane – St. Ignatius of Loyola

Catholic News Agency – St. Ignatius of Loyola and his letters to women

Catholic Online – St. Ignatius Loyola

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Franciscan Media – Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Independent Catholic News – St Ignatius Loyola

Loyola Press – Saint Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556 Feast day July 31

My Catholic Life – Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

New Advent – Pollen, J.H. (1910). St. Ignatius Loyola. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

RC Spirituality – St. Ignatius Loyola

Saints, Feast, Family – Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Story

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

Sanctoral – Saint Ignatius of Loyola Founder of the Society of Jesus (1491-1556)

Spiritual Exercises by Saint Ignatius of Loyola

uCatholic – St. Ignatius Loyola, Founder of the Jesuits

Wikipedia – Ignatius of Loyola

Video Links

Cradio Saint of the Day: Saint Ignatius of Loyola – YouTube Video (CatholicSaints.Info)