ST. IGNATIUS LOYOLA: Patron of Retreats and Spiritual Exercises
1491 – 1556
God truly works in strange and mysterious ways. Just think . . . because a young noble soldier was wounded in the leg and had to be confined for a long time to a convalescent bed, a strange series of events known as the Society of Jesus, more simply and popularly known as the Jesuits, was formed.
The man was Ignatius Loyola. The year he was wounded at the battle of Pamplona in Spain was 1521, the same year that Martin Luther took his stand against the Roman Catholic Church at the Diet of Worms.
The circumstances was the fact that in the absence of reading material other than the books that dealt with the lives of saints, Loyola, to relieve his boredom, decided to read them. However he did not count on the strange effect these stories and legends of the lives of the holy men and women of the past would have on him. How he admired their commitments, trials, sufferings and joys! He promptly resolved to imitate them.
Having recovered, Loyola made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Our Lady of Montserrat where he hung up his sword and dagger at the feet of Our Lady.
His Spiritual Experiences
Determined to become a valuable “soldier for Christ” Ignatius decided that he should get fit – mentally fit.
So the following morning he left for Manresa where he found a cave suitable for his needs. Here for a while he could escape from the stress and trivialities of everyday life and spend it in quiet communion with God.
Here he could be alone to daily engage in fighting to rid himself of sinful attachments and to clothe himself in the armor of Christ.
While he intended to spend only some days there in deep prayer, discipline and penance he found the days stretching to almost a year.
During that time Ignatius not only experienced inspiring visions such as seeing a ray of light emanating from the Eucharist on the altar while he prayed but also troubling anxieties. Thus he found himself assailed by a form of spiritual depression tempting him to even attempt suicide. It was only through the grace of God that he was able to win over such trials.
But most important of all it was during these days that God gave him valuable knowledge of (1) himself; (2) Jesus Christ and; (3) His Church.
The Spiritual Exercises
Ignatius decided to put down in writing all his religious and inner spiritual experiences. He wrote about what he was doing describing it as his Spiritual Exercise. Out of all his notes was born his famous book Spiritual Exercises which Pius XI described as the wisest and most universal spiritual code for guiding the soul on the path to salvation.
As Ignatius wrote the first draft of his book peace and joy of mind finally came to him.
Do you want to know how to get straight with God? Do you want to know how to make sure that the moral decision you are making is what God wants? Are you seeking a way to come closer and nearer to God? Are you in need of reform? Do you want a guide to prayer? Do you want to know how to discern the will of God?
Then read Ignatius classic book, The Spiritual Exercises. More than being a collection of spiritual insights and pious meditations it is the best “how-to” save your soul book.
As such it is a manual for training the soul to grow daily nearer to God. Thus it becomes the manual devised by our saint for the spiritual formation of his followers and as the basis of the Rule for his future Jesuit order.
30 – Day Retreat
In reading this book one is struck by how the book guides the reader through what today we call a retreat. While Ignatius did not invent the idea of a retreat which is as old as St. Paul, what he did was to show us how powerful a retreat can be “in the training of bad Christians into good and good Christians into better.”
Today many retreat houses throughout the world successfully “pump new energy into people’s spiritual lives” by having them perform exercises modeled on those Ignatius wrote about in his book.
The Exercises which is designed to be completed in the course of a thirty-day retreat is centered around a series of guided meditation. These focuses on such themes as (1) The Creation of the World; (2) The life and ministry of Jesus and; (3) His death and resurrection.
While The Spiritual Exercises is no literary masterpiece still authorship of this slim volume has most of all won for Ignatius a place in history. This is because it is acknowledged that few books has had such a profound effect as this book has had on the lives of Christians.
It is no wonder that when Ignatius was canonized a saint in 1622 he was proclaimed a patron of retreats and spiritual exercises by Pope Pius XI.
SOURCES of REFERENCE
ST. IGNATIUS of LOYOLA
Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Vol. 3 – pp 221-227
The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Saints – pp 176 – 177
Pocket Dictionary of Saints – pp 251 – 252
The Watkins Dictionary of Saints – pp 118 – 119
A Calendar of Saints – p 144
All Saints – pp 327 – 328
A Year With the Saints – July 31
Butler’s Saint for the Day – pp 355 – 357
Illustrated Lives of the Saints Vol. 1 – pp 337 – 339
My First Book of Saints – p. 165
Saint Companions – pp 277-279
Saints for Our Time – pp 159 – 160
Saint of the Day – pp 183 – 184
Children’s Book of Saints – pp. 211 – 214
Saints – A Visual Guide – pp. 250 – 251
Saints and Heroes Speak – Volume 3 – pp 100 – 114
The Way of the Saints – pp.208-209
Saints – pp. 176 – 177
Voices of the Saints – pp. 470 – 471
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives – Group 6 Card 3
The Everything Saints Book – pp. 113 – 116
The Lion Treasury of Saints – p 214, 162 – 163
The Flying Friar – pp. 46 – 49
Servants of God – pp. 38 – 39
Best – Loved Saints – pp 107 – 110
The Way of the Saints – pp 208 – 209
Book of Saints – Part 5 – pp 18 – 19