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Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Early Life and Ordination

Ignatius was of noble birth and was reared in the household of a prominent courtier. In 1517 he left his life at court to enter the army. During a convalescence (1521) from a serious wound, he was converted through reading a life of Jesus. He went to Montserrat, where he was confessed and absolved, and from there he went to Manresa. In 1523 he set out for the Holy Land. Prevented from entering Palestine, he returned with the decision to secure an education.

He studied at Barcelona (1524–26); at Alcalá (1526–27), where for a short time he was imprisoned by the Inquisition; at Salamanca (1527–28), where he again suffered brief imprisonment; and at Paris. St. Ignatius's strength lay not in scholarship but in spiritual direction. The Inquisition again became suspicious, but he was cleared of any irregularities. He and six followers—among them St. Francis Xavier and Diego Lainez—together took vows of poverty and chastity. This group was the nucleus of the future Jesuits. They planned to go to the Holy Land and live in imitation of Christ, working to convert the Muslims, but the Turkish wars intervened, and they went to Rome instead. They were ordained (1537) and received by the pope (1538), who set them to work in Italy.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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