A man who was once preoccupied with materialism and gaining worldly fame found himself choosing an austere life of contemplation in a cave. He would then become the founder of a religious order.

St Ignatius of Loyola via Flickr

A sudden conversion after a harsh injury

St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was an accomplished soldier but had his leg destroyed by an exploding cannon ball at the battle of Pamplona in 1521.

The Spanish saint developed an unhealthy attachment to material things and building his reputation to be a hero in the military prior to his severe misfortune.

But he experienced a miraculous and deep conversion during his recovery, where he was bedridden for months.

Ignatius initially requested to read books on chivalry and romance but only had the choice to read about the lives of saints and the life of Jesus Christ. He found these titles unexpectedly engaging and prompted his conversion to the faith.

When he finally recovered from his injury, he was aware that God had worked through him, and he became a completely different man with a strong zeal to help others discover Christ.

Surrendering materialism and worldly ambitions

Ignatius said he had seen the Blessed Virgin Mary in a vision and made a pilgrimage to the shrine in Montserrat. It was there that he surrendered his sword at the altar.

He also made the decision to renounce his valuables and ambition to be a soldier to live a poor life in a cave outside the town of Manresa.

St Ignatius of Loyola via Flickr

An austere and simple life in a cave

During his time in the cave, surrounded by nature and excluded from civilisation, Ignatius began writing what would become one of the most popular works in the Catholic Church – Spiritual Exercises.

Spiritual Exercises is a compilation of prayers and contemplative writings with the aim of helping others discover God’s personal will for them.

Helping others discover Christ and their vocation to be saints

Ignatius felt God was calling him to the priesthood but had to return to university to get the educational requirements.

He attended the University of Paris where he introduced the Spiritual Exercises to his classmates to help them grow in their relationship with Christ.

Some of his classmates he did apostolate with ended up to be canonised saints just like him such as St Francis Xavier and St Peter Faber.

Ignatius, Francis, Peter and 4 others founded a religious order – the Society of Jesus.

St Ignatius of Loyola’s feast day is celebrated on July 31.

“Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings and wishes of those who do speak. Thus, you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.”

St Ignatius of Loyola

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