vol II date / index
St. Ignatius, of Loyola, A.D. 1556. St. John Columbini, A.D. 1367. St. Helen, of Sweden, A.D. 1160.
St. Ignatius Loyola—founder of the Jesuits.
Ignatius was born in 1495, in the castle of Loyola in Guipuscoa, a part of Biscay adjoining the Pyrenees. In his childhood he was pregnant of wit, discreet above his years, affable and obliging, with a choleric disposition, and an ardent passion for glory. Bred in the court of Ferdinand V., under the duke of Najara, his kinsman and patron, as page to the king, he was introduced into the army, wherein he signalized himself by dexterous talent, personal courage, addiction to licentious vices and pleasures, and a taste for poetry; he at that time composed a poem in praise of St. Peter. In 1521, he served in the garrison of Pampeluna, against the French who besieged it: in resisting an attack, he mounted the breach sword-in-hand; a piece of stone struck off by a cannon ball from the ramparts bruised his left leg, while the ball in its rebound broke his right.*
Dr. Southey in a note to his recently published "Tale of Paraguay," cites the Jesuit Ribadeneira's account of this accident to Ignatius from his life of him in the "Actæ Sanctorum," where it is somewhat more at length than in the English edition of Ribadeneira's "Lives of the Saints," which states that St. Peter appeared to Ignatius on the eve of his feast, with a sweet and gracious aspect, and said that he was come to cure him. "With this visitation of the holy apostle," says Ribadeneira, "Ignatius grew much better, and not long after recovered his perfect health: but, as he was a spruce young gallant, desirous to appear in the most neat and comely fashion, he caused the end of a bone which stuck out under his knee, and did somewhat disfigure his leg, to be cut off, that so his boot might sit more handsomely, as he himself told me, thinking it to be against his honour that such a deformity should be in his leg: nor would he be bound while the bone was sawed off." Father Bonhours, also a Jesuit, and another biograher of Ignatius, says, that one of his thighs having shrunk from the wound, lest lameness should appear in his gait, he put himself for many days together upon a kind of rack, and with an engine of iron violently stretched and drew out his leg, yet he could never extend it, and ever after his right leg remained shorter than his left.
———When long care
Restored his shattered leg and set him free,
He would not brook a slight deformity,
As one who being gay and debonair,
In courts conspicuous, as in camps must be:
So he forsooth a shapely boot must wear;
And the vain man, with peril to his life,
Laid the recovered limb again beneath the knife.
Long time upon the bed of pain he lay
Whiling with books the weary hours away.
And from that circumstance, and this vain man,
A train of long events their course began,
Whose term it is not given us yet to see.
Who hath not heard Loyola's sainted name,
Before whom kings and nations bow'd the knee?
Tale of Paraguay.
Ribadeneira says, that one night while Ignatius kept his bed and was praying, a great noise shook all the chamber and broke the windows, and the Virgin Mary appeared to him "when he was awake, with her precious Son in her arms;" in consequence of this vision he resolved to embrace a life wherein he might afflict his body. For this purpose, he determined to go a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and bought a cassock of coarse canvass for a coat, a pair of country buskins, a bottle, and a pilgrim's staff; he gave his horse to the monastery of our blessed lady at Montserrat; hung up his sword and dagger at our lady's altar; and having spent the night of Lady-day, 1522, at the said altar, departed to institute the Society of Jesus, in his canvass coat, girded with his cord, walking with his pilgrim's staff bare-headed: he would have gone bare-footed but he was forced to wear one shoe on the foot of the broken leg. Thus he went,
"One shoe off,
And t'other shoe on
till he came to the hospital of St. Lucy at Manresa, where he lived by begging among the poor, and exhausting his body, not paring his nails, letting the hair of his head and beard both grow, and never using a comb; sleeping on a board or the bare ground; passing the greater part of the night in watching, praying, and weeping; scourging himself three times a day, and spending seven hours upon his knees. Ribadeneira says, "he was so set upon curbing, and taming, and mortifying his flesh, that he allowed it no manner of ease or content, but was continually persecuting it, so that in a very short time from a strong lusty man, he became weak and infirm." In 1523, he was so feeble and weak that he could hardly set one leg before the other; where the night overtook him, whether in the fields or high-road, there he lay; till at last, as well as he could, often falling and rising again, he made a shift to reach Rome, on Palm Sunday, where he "made the holy stations," and visited the churches, and after remaining there fifteen days, begged his way from door to door to Venice, afterwards went to Cyprus, and arrived at Jerusalem on the 4th of September. He returned from thence in the depth of winter, through frost and snow, with scarcely clothes to cover him, and arriving at Cyprus, wanted to ship himself on board a Venetian man of war, but the captain disliking his appearance said, if he was a saint, as he said he was, he might securely walk upon the water not fear to be drowned. Ignatius, however, did not take the hint and set sail upon his coat or a millstone, as other saints are said to have done, but embarked in "a little paltry vessel, quite rotten and worm-eaten," which carried him to Venice in January, 1524. On his way from thence to Genoa, he was taken by the Spaniards who thought him a spy, and afterwards thought him a fool; when he got to Spain, at thirty-three years of age, he began to learn grammar, fasted as he did before, cut off the soles of his shoes that he might walk barefoot, and cut down a man that had hanged himself, who, through his prayers "returned to life." At Paris, in 1528, he thought fit to perfect himself in the Latin tongue, and "humanity;" then, also, he studied philosophy and divinity, and made journies into Flanders and England to beg alms of the spanish merchants, wherewith he got together a fraternity under the name of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, whom he persuaded John III. of Portugal to send to the East Indies as missionaries. He afterwards increased the number, and retired with two of his order for forty days into a ruined and desolate hermitage without doors or windows, open on all sides to wind and rain, where they slept on the ground on a little straw, and lived by begging hard mouldy crusts, which they were obliged to steep in water before they could eat: they then went to Rome on foot, begging all the way. Before entereing that city, Ignatius going into an old church alone, had, according to Ribadeneira's account, a celestial interview of a nature that cannot be here described without violence to the feelings of the reader. After the removal of certain difficulties, the pope confirmed the order of the Jesuits, and Ignatius was unanimously elected its general. He entered upon his dignity by taking upon himself the office of cook, and doing other menial services about the house, "which he executed," says Ribadeneira, "with that readiness and desire of contempt, that he seemed a novice employed therein for his profit and mortification: all this I myself can testify, who at that time being a youth, was a scholar and brother in the society, and every day repeated St. Ignatius's catechism. Our blessed father St. Ignatius general of the society fifteen years, three months, and nine days, from the 22d of April in the year 1541, until the last of July, 1556, when he departed this world."
Ribadeneira largely diffuses on the austerities of Ignatius, in going almost naked, suffering hunger and cold, self-inflictions with a whip, hair-cloth, "and all manner of mortifications that he could invent to afflict and subdue his body." He accounts among his virtues, that Ignatius lived in hospitals like a poor man, amongst the meanest sort of people, being despised and contemned, and desirous to be so: his desire was to be mocked and laughed at by all, and if he would have permitted himself to be carried on by the fervour of his mind, he would have gone up and down the streets almost naked, and like a fool, that the boys of the town might have made sport with him, and thrown dirt upon him. He had a singular gift of tears which he shed most abundantly at his prayers, to the great comfort of his spirit and no less damage to his body, but at length, because the doctors told him so continual an effusion did impair his health, he prayed for command over his tears, and afterweards he could shed or repress his tears as he pleased.
It is especially insisted on by Ribadeneira, that "Ignatius had a strange dominion and command over the devils, who abhorred and persecuted him as their greatest enemy. Whilst he was in his rigorous course of penance at Manresa, Satan often appeared to him in a shining and glistening form, but he discovered the enemy's fraud and deceit. Several other times, the devil appeared to him in some ugly and foul shape, which he was so little terrified with, that he would comtemptibly drive him away with his staff, like a cat, or some troublesome cur. He laboured all he could one day to terrify him, whilst he lived at Alcala, in the hospital, but he lost his labour. At Rome, he would have choked him in his sleep, and he was so hoarse, and his throat so sore, with the violence the devil offered him, that he could hardly speak for a fortnight after. another time whilst he was in his bed, two devils fell upon him, and whipped him most cruelly, and brother John Paul Castelan, who lay nigh him, and afterwards told it me, heard the blows, and rose up twice that night to help him." In the year 1545, the college of the society (of Jesuits) which we have at our blessed Lady's of Loretto, was first begun, and the devils presently began to make war against our fathers in that college, and to molest and disquiet them both by day and by night, making amost terrible clatter and noise, and appearing in sundry shapes and forms, sometimes of a blackamoor, then of a cat and bear, and other beasts, and neither by saying holy mass, praying, sprinkling holy water, using exorcisms, applying relics of saints and the like, could they rid themselves of that molestation, wherefore St. Ignatius, by letters, recommended a firm and strong confidence, and that he on his part would not be wanting to recommend it in his prayers; and from that very hour, (a very remarkable thing,) all those troubles ceased, nor were there seen any more spirits. This happened whilst St. Ignatius was living." To this, Ribadeneira adds story upon story, of women and maids being tormented by devils, who were discomfited by the mere sight of Ignatius's picture, "which kept off all the blows and assaults of the ghostly enemy, yet so great was his malice and desire of doing mischief, that he fell furiously upon the chamber walls, and cupboards, chests, coffers, and whatsoever else was in the room, beating upon them with horible strokes, though he never touched any box wherein was kept a picture of the saint." He affirms, that the like happened in the year 1599, to a schoolmaster of Ancona:—"These damned spirits," says Ribadeneira, "opened the doors of his house when they were locked, and shut them when they were left open, swept the chambers, made the beds, lighted the lamps, and then on a sudden put all into disorder and confusion, and removed things from one room into another; but when the good man had hung up a picture of our blessed father in his house, all was quiet within doors, yet a most terrible tumult there was without, for they flung to and fro the doors and windows, and beat as it were, the drum round about his house till he put more pictures of the saint upon the doors, and several parts of the house, when the molestation wholly ceased." Of the numerous devilries raised and abolished by the saint's holiness, these specimens may suffice.
To so distinguished and efficient a member of the Romish Church, as Ignatius, the gift of prophecy is, of course, awarded, and the power of working miracles, of necessity, follows; accordingly we find instances of the, "too numerous to mention in this particular." It is to be expected that his relics were equally miraculous, and hence Ribadeneira's account is seasoned sufficiently high, for the most discriminating palate of the most miracle-loving epicure. Water wherein a bit of a bone of Ignatius's body had been dipped, cured the sick at the hospital at Burgos. The letters he wrote were preserved as relics for miraculous purposes; and a later saint carried the autograph of Ignatius about him as a relic. If one of Ignatius's autographs be coveted in England, it may probably be discovered in the reliquary of Mr. Upcott at the London Institution.
Enough has certainly been said of St. Ignatius Loyola; yet less space could hardly have been devoted to the founder of the celebrated order of the Jesuits, a body which perforates and vermiculates through every part of the civilized world wherein the Romish religion predominates, or has ever prevailed. Concerning the present state of an order, composed of men of talent under a vow of poverty; devoted to the papacy, and possessing more wealth than any other catholic fraternity; wearing or not wearing a habit to distinguish them from ordinary citizens in catholic and protestant countries, as may suit their private purposes; prowling unknown, and secretly operating; there can be little gathered, and therefore little to communicate. The coexistence of a free government and a free press is a sure and safe defence from all their machinations.
One circumstance, however, related by all the biographers of Ignatius, must not be forgotten. It stands in Ribadeneira's life of him thus: "As he was sitting one day upon the steps of St. Dominick's church, and reading our blessed lady's office with much devotion, our Lord on a sudden illustrated his understanding, and represented to him a figure of the most blessed trinity, which exteriourly expressed to him what interiourly God gave him to understand. This caused in him so great comfort and spiritual joy, that he could not restrain his sobs and tears, nor speak of any thing but this holy mystery, delivering the high conceit he had of it with so many similitues and examples, that all who heard him were amazed and astonished, and from that time forward, this ineffable mystery was so imprinted in his soul, that he writ a book of this profound matter which contained fourscore leaves, though at that time he had never studied, and could but only read and write; and he always retained so clear and distinct a knowledge of the trinity of persons, of the divine essence, and of the distinction and propriety of the persons, that he noted in a treatise which was found after his death, written in his own hand, that he could not have learnt so much with many years' study." This pretended revelation with figments equally edifying has employed the pencil of the painter. Rubens has left a well-known picture representing Ignatius in his rapture. From a fine print of it, by Bolswert, the engraving at the head of this article has been taken; the picture is in the collection at Warwick Castle.
Great Mullen. Verbuscum Virgatum.
Dedicated to St. Ignatius.
Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. Butler's Saints. [return]