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5 Things you didn’t know about Ignatius of Loyola

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From worldly knight to soldier of God

Young Ignatius of Loyola was the last person most would imagine becoming a saint. A swaggering knight with an ambition for fame and love for worldly pleasures, he quickly earned a reputation as a womanizer and a rough punkish swordsman.

God had other plans, however, and he worked in Ignatius’ life as he has for many other saints—through a serious illness. A cannonball wounded Ignatius’ legs at the Battle of Pamplona, forcing the young soldier into a long and painful hospital convalescence. Religious orders ran most hospitals at the time, so the only reading materials available to him were religious works.

Another Spanish saint centuries later, St. Josemaria Escriva, would remark, “Spiritual reading has made many saints.” Sure enough, Ignatius experienced a profound conversion after he read the life of Christ and lives of the saints during his recovery.

In the years that followed, Ignatius spent time as a pilgrim and beggar while he discerned God’s will for his life, a process that he later distilled into his famous Spiritual Exercises. At last, he entered the University of Alcalá, where he surrounded himself with like-minded friends. These men became his close associates when he founded the Jesuit order.

By the time Ignatius died in 1556, the Jesuits had established schools, colleges, and seminaries throughout Europe. His legacy continues today through the many Jesuit priests and educational institutions around the world.

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