Iñigo’s story: The spiritual journey of Ignatius Loyola (1)Print
Ignatian Spirituality has informed the Sisters of Charity since Mary Aikenhead founded the Congregation in the early 1800s.
But what is Ignatian Spirituality? To answer this question, we need to begin with the life of Iñigo (later, Ignatius) of Loyola. This is because the spirituality which bears his name is essentially based on the human experience of God: His own first of all, then his growing realisation that the pattern of this experience was valid for all those who begin to take seriously their relationship with God.
Over the next few months, we will publish a four-part series on the life and spiritual journey of St Ignatius Loyola.
Part 1: From Loyola to Montserrat (Pictured)
Iñigo of Loyola, the historical context
The era in which Iñigo lived was one of great change and upheaval. His countryman Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) discovered the New World of the Americas the year after Iñigo’s birth. At the same time, other European explorers were establishing lasting links with the Orient. Culturally, it was the period of the Renaissance, the great intellectual, humanist and artistic revival which swept Europe during the 16th century.
Despite the positive benefits these events brought to western civilisation, they were usually at the price of unrest in various forms. Colonialism went hand in hand with ongoing battles along with the burgeoning of romantic notions of bravery and chivalry on the part of hot-blooded young men who wanted to be first among their peers to defend their people, homelands, culture and beliefs.
From a religious perspective, Catholic Spain was under attack. Martin Luther (1483- 1546) and the Protestant reformers were quickly demolishing the long-held western assumption that Catholicism and Christianity are synonymous. When these religious uprisings of the Reformation are placed alongside the increasing insurgence of Islam, the complexity of lñigo’s political, cultural, and religious background is clear.
Family background and youth (1491-1521)
In 1491, Iñigo Lopez de Loyola was born the thirteenth and youngest child of a noble family on its property called Loyola, situated in the northern Basque country of Spain. As a young man, Iñigo was caught up in the daring chivalrous exploits of young men of his time, including participation in the constant warfare against the enemies of Spain and the Church. In the course of one such battle on the plains of Pamplona, he was seriously wounded in the leg and was taken to a nearby castle to recover.
Conversion at Pamplona (1521)
During his long period of convalescence, Iñigo soon became bored. Asking for something to read, the only books available were the Life of Christ and a life of the saints. Apart from reading, he spent most of his time day-dreaming about the great exploits he would engage in as a chivalrous knight errant, once he had recovered.
However, his reading gradually made an impression on him and he began to realise that God was calling him to turn from his frivolous and worldly way of life towards something deeper. Although this initial ‘conversion’ was only the beginning, lñigo began to get really serious about his spiritual life. He determined to repent of his past life and begin anew to imitate the devotion and dedication of the saints about whom he had read. He decided to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and on his return to enter a Carthusian monastery.
Image above shows the Virgin of Monserrat
Montserrat and Manresa (1552)
Leaving Loyola, lñigo travelled to the hillside shrine of Montserrat. Here, he pledged his life to God and made an all-night vigil there before the statue of Our Lady of Montserrat.
The next morning, he travelled down to the nearby town of Manresa where he spent several weeks in prayer and fasting, and took on all manner of penances and personal privations. After some months, the Dominican friars provided him with a room in their monastery and he gradually began to find new peace and inner freedom so that he began to plan his longed-for- pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Image shows Cova Manresa.
NEXT Part 2: Ignatius – Jerusalem, Paris and Rome (1523-1556); the Society of Jesus