Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) was a devout Catholic who lived during the time of the Catholic and Protestant Reformations. He was a Spanish soldier who, after suffering a war injury, underwent a spiritual conversion which eventually led him to join the priesthood. He was an educated man and developed a following of other religious men, forming the Institute of the Society of Jesus. The society was officially sanctioned by the pope in 1540.
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The first vows taken by Loyola and his followers were those of poverty and chastity. They also vowed to visit the Holy Land. The group tried to obtain recognition as an official institution by the Roman Catholic Church in 1539. Loyola drew up a proposal of the groups' main goals which he submitted to the pope under the title "Formula Institute." At first the church hierarchy decided that a new order of priests would not be admitted into the structure of the Catholic Church. However, this decision was soon reversed. Loyola was elected the first general of this newly sanctioned order of priests. It began as a group of his friends gathering to pray and meditate using the principals found in Loyola's "Book of Spiritual Exercises." The name `Jesuits' was used as a negative term to describe this order soon after its formation. However, it is this name that stuck.
One of the most significant aspects of the Jesuit Order was the work that they did in the name of God and the church. They were involved in foreign missions under the guidance of the pope. They ministered to needy groups in society such as the sick and prisoners. Perhaps most importantly of all was their work in education, which they are still associated with today. It was a goal of the Jesuits to educate the youth of all classes in society, as well as the poor and ignorant. This emphasis on education as well as the legacy of the Jesuits is evident in the number of educational institutions at all academic levels named after Loyola and the Jesuit order that he founded.
Pollen, J. H., "Ignatius Loyola," New Advent Catholic Supersite Home Page.
Wheeling Jesuit University, WJU Students and WJU Webmaster, "The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus in the United States," 1996.
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Edited by: Kjerstin E. Olson
Researched by: Keely A. McGowan
Written by: Kerstin R Lindgren
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