Acta Sanctorum: St. Ignatius Loyola (July 31)
July 31, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

July 31

St. Ignatius Loyola


In 1491, Ignatius of Loyola was born into a noble Basque family in Spain. In his youth he was a courtier, a swaggering “caballero,” and a soldier in the service of the Spanish king, Ferdinand. 
While he was defending the fortress at Pamplona in 1521, his leg was shattered by a cannonball. During a prolonged convalescence, Ignatius sought diversion in the books available in the library of his family castle: the lives of Christ and the saints. These readings led Ignatius to experience an interior transformation that changed his whole life. A new desire to serve Jesus replaced his former hopes of knightly glory, and he eventually decided to study for the priesthood. 
The once-proud courtier left Loyola and set out as a pilgrim to the Benedictine monastery at Montserrat. There, as a statue at the center of The University of Scranton campus depicts, he spent all night in vigil and offered his knight’s sword to Our Lady. Exchanging his rich garments for those of a beggar, he spent the next few months living in a cave in nearby Manresa. Testing himself through mortification and prayer, he reflected deeply on the life and teachings of Jesus. He kept careful notes of his experiences in prayer, notes that formed the basis of the Spiritual Exercises. This book, revised and adjusted throughout his life, was used by Ignatius to lead others to an experience of God by meditation on the life of Jesus. 


While a student in Paris, the 38-year-old Ignatius drew together a small group of friends who gathered in extended prayer and meditation according to his Spiritual Exercises. His closest colleagues were Francis Xavier and Peter Faber, 23 year-old students and roommates. Over the next few years, they were joined by others who ultimately made vows of poverty and chastity on August 15, 1534, in a chapel near Paris. 
The spring of 1539 found Ignatius and his companions in Rome where they engaged in serious discussions about how they might work together to serve God in the Church by helping souls. What emerged was a formula for their future. On September 27, 1540, Pope Paul III approved this formula and the Society of Jesus was born. 
In 1556, Ignatius, who called himself “the pilgrim,” ended his journey to God. He died peacefully in the early morning of July 31.

ScriptureEcclesiastes 1:2,2:21-23

Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For so it is that a man who has laboured wisely, skilfully and successfully must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all. This, too, is vanity and great injustice; for what does he gain for all the toil and strain that he has undergone under the sun? What of all his laborious days, his cares of office, his restless nights? This, too, is vanity.
I call poverty a grace because it is a very special gift from God, as Scripture says: poverty and riches are from God [Sir. 11:14]. How much God loved it His only-begotten Son has shown us, who, coming down from the kingdom of heaven [Wis. 18:15], chose to be born in poverty and to grow up in it. He loved it, not only in life, suffering hunger and thirst, without any place to lay His head [Matt. 8:20], but even in death, wishing to be despoiled of everything, even His clothing, and to be in want of everything, even of water in His thirst.
Wisdom which cannot err wished to show the world, according to Saint Bernard, how precious a jewel is poverty, the value of which the world did not know. He chose it for Himself, so that His teaching, blessed are they that hunger and thirst, blessed are the poor [Matt. 5:3, 6] etc., should not be out of harmony with His life. Christ likewise showed us the high esteem He had for poverty in the choice and employment of His friends, who lived in poverty, especially in the New Testament, beginning with His most holy Mother and His apostles, and continuing on with so many Christians through the course of the centuries up to the present, vassals imitating their king, soldiers their captain, and members their head, Jesus Christ.
So great are the poor in the sight of God that it was especially for them that Jesus was sent into the world: because of the misery of the needy and the groans of the poor, now will I arise, says the Lord [Ps. 12:5]. And elsewhere, he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor [Luke 4:18], words which our Lord recalls when He tells them to give as answer to Saint John, the poor have the gospel preached to them [Matt. 11:5]. Our Lord so preferred the poor to the rich that he chose the entire college of His apostles from among the poor, to live and associate with them, to make them princes of His church and set them as judges over the twelve tribes of Israel—that is, over all the faithful—and the poor will be His counselors. To such a degree has He exalted the state of poverty!
Friendship with the poor makes us friends of the eternal King. Love of poverty makes kings even on earth, kings not of earth but of heaven. And this can be seen in that the kingdom of heaven is promised in the future to others. To the poor and to those who suffer persecution for justice’s sake, Immutable Truth promises it for the present: blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [Matt. 5:3]. Even in this world they have a right to the kingdom. Not only are they kings, but they share their kingdom with others, as our Lord teaches us in Saint Luke, make friends for yourselves with the mammon of iniquity, that when they fail you, a lasting dwelling will be yours [16:9]. These friends are the poor, particularly the voluntary poor, through whose merits they who help them enter the tabernacles of glory. For they, according to Saint Augustine, are the least of all, of whom our Lord says, as long as you did it one of these my least brethren, you did it to me [Matt. 25:40].
In this, therefore, we see the excellence of poverty which does not stoop to make a treasure of the dunghill or of worthless earth, but with all the resources of its love buys that precious treasure in the field of the Church, whether it be our Lord Himself or His spiritual gifts, from which He Himself is never separated. But if you consider the genuine advantages which are properly to be found in those means that are suited to help us attain our last end, you will see that holy poverty preserves us from many sins, ridding us as it does of the occasion of sin, for "poverty has not wherewith to feed its love.”
It slays the worm of riches, which is pride; cuts off the infernal leeches of lust and gluttony, and many other sins as well. And if one should fall through weakness, it helps him to rise at once. For it has none of that attachment which, like a band, binds the heart to earth and to earthly things and deprives us of that ease in rising and turning once more to God. It enables us better to hear in all things the voice—that is, the inspiration—of the Holy Spirit by removing the obstructions that hinder it. It gives greater efficacy to our prayers in the sight of God because the Lord will hear the desire of the poor [Ps. 10:17]. If poverty is in the spirit, then the soul is filled with every virtue, for the soul that is swept free of the love of earthly things shall in the same proportion be full of God, having received His gifts. And it is certain that it must be very rich, for God's promise is at the rate of hundred to one, even in this life. The promise is fulfilled even in a temporal sense, when that is for our good. But in the spiritual sense it cannot fail of fulfillment. Thus it is inescapable that they, who freely make themselves poor in earthly possessions, shall be rich in the gifts of God. (Letters to the Fathers and Brothers in Padua)
Musical Selection
Take and receive, O Lord, my liberty, Take all my will, my mind, my memory, All things I hold and all I own are Thine, Thine was the gift, to Thee I all resign, Do Thou direct and govern all and sway, Do what Thou wilt, command, and I obey, Only Thy grace, Thy love on me bestow, These make me rich, all else will I forego. Do Thou direct and govern all and sway, Do what Thou wilt, command, and I obey, Only Thy grace, Thy love on me bestow, These make me rich, all else will I forego.
O God,
to spread the greater glory of your name
you raised up Saint Ignatius of Loyola in your Church;
grant that by his help and example in our earthly struggle
we may receive with him a crown of glory in heaven.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.  Amen.