August 1, 2008

Ignatius of Loyola

July 31 is the calendar day to remember Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, "The Society of Jesus". I had posted about a month ago about Benedict and some thoughts on Monasticism. I'll still be reading more as time goes on, just to understand the foundations of all the varying orders. But in what I've read to date, every time I come across stuff on the Jesuits, I have to say it's my favorite monastic order.

What I had given some brief accounting on as to history and the culture affecting the orders I know something of, also applies to the Jesuits. It was approved as an order in 1540, during what's called in History, the Counter Reformation. For centuries there had been voices telling the church to reform, but not until the Reformation did it finally seriously relook at itself.

Ignatius was raised in Spain to be a soldier and a courtier - a knight. As he wrote of himself, I was "a man given to the vanities of the world". His wild ways were greatly altered when a cannonball shattered his shin, both legs broken, he was confined to bed. He read books on the saints and too the life of Christ. Ignatius dedicated himself to God. At 33, he went back to school in Paris. His life choices had affects on people he came in contact with and he soon had some faithful followers.

The Society of Jesus emphasized missions and education, and became known as the 'schoolmasters of Europe', and were prominent as confessors to kings and emperors all over the world. I've read several stories from China, to India, to Africa, and to the Americas, where Jesuits very much affected the culture.

Ignatius wrote booklets, one well known as Spiritual Exercises. When most monastic orders' Rules applied to the settled life of the monastery, Ignatius wanted to send people out. He wrote a series of spiritual exercises for missionaries on the move. They were designed to be used as a manual for training that could be completed in four weeks - focusing on the life and teachings of Jesus. He helped people go through a process of serious reflection and submission, probing the depths of the soul.

"I must not shape or draw the end to the means, but the means to the end ... My first aim, then, should be my desire to serve God, which is the end, and after this ..." marriage, attachments ...

Why do I like the Jesuits? In all the stories I've read, I've seen them very interested in the people around them. They wanted to know their interests and what made them tick - their culture with the arts and sciences, interested in their foods, dress and all. Then they'd know better how to live the Gospel amongst them, wooing people to Jesus. And because I like learning, I like their liking for our mental capacities as God given as well.
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