Rooted in the Mission of Jesus Christ

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4: 18-19)

With these words from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus announced the beginning of his ministry to the world, and it was out of this mission that Jesus gained the initially small following that would eventually become the global Church that Brophy serves today. It is no wonder, then, that St. Ignatius Loyola would found the Society of Jesus on this very ethic, declaring, "If our church is not marked by caring for the poor, the oppressed, the hungry, we are guilty of heresy." For the nearly 500 years since the establishment of the Society, the Jesuits have remained rooted in this foundational mission that Christ first set forth.

The Society of Jesus — The Jesuits

List of 4 items.

  • > Who was St. Ignatius?

    The Society of Jesus was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. St. Ignatius came from a family of minor nobility in Spain’s northern Basque region. Born in 1491, he was the youngest of 13 children. Historical accounts note that, as a young man, he was far from saintly, known to get into brawls and sword fights and to gamble.

    All that began to change in spring 1521 when, as a soldier leading his men into a battle against the French, he was struck by a cannonball in the leg. During a difficult recovery (he limped for the rest of his life), Ignatius asked for books about chivalry — his favorite reading. Since there were none of those at the family castle, he had to settle for a book about the life of Christ and biographies of the saints. Unexpectedly, he found them riveting.

    St. Ignatius had always dreamed of heroic deeds, but now, these heroes had names like Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena. Ignatius also noticed something strange happening to him. He realized God was working within him — prompting, guiding, inviting. After his recovery, as he traveled he realized that God was similarly at work in the lives of all people, in the everyday events of the world.

    In 1522, once he was well enough to leave home he started the physical and spiritual journey that would lead him to found the Society of Jesus — the Jesuits. A pivotal year in that journey was the time he spent in a cave at Manresa, Spain. There, he delved into the scriptures, noting the powerful emotions his studies evoked —  the gratitude and anguish, the consolation and the desolation. Putting pen to paper, he documented this experience in what would become the foundational Ignatian work, the "Spiritual Exercises." 

    Feeling called to the priesthood, but needing more education, he enrolled at the University of Paris. While in Paris, Ignatius gathered around him some friends or "companions," as they became known. They took religious vows in 1534 and called themselves the Compañia de Jesús — the Society of Jesus. Six years later, the order was granted official approval by Pope Paul III, and Ignatius was elected the first Father General of the Society of Jesus.

    For the next 15 years, Ignatius would direct the Society from a small office in Rome. An important part of Jesuit ministry became the founding of schools that were open to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds — an unusual practice at a time when the norm was educating only nobility and the wealthy. He also continued to work with the poor and the sick in Rome.

    Ignatius struggled with health concerns through much of this time and on July 31, 1556, he died. In 1609, Ignatius was beatified by Pope Paul V, and in 1622, he was canonized by Pope Gregory XV, along with Francis Xavier, one of his first two companions when founding the Jesuits. (The third companion, Peter Faber, was canonized in 2013 by Pope Francis.)

    A look at St. Ignatius and the Society of Jesus from Jesuits.org.
  • > The Jesuits

    The Society of Jesus was founded in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris in 1534 and granted its official charter by Pope Paul III in 1540. Founded by Ignatius of Loyola, with his two original companions — Francis Xavier and Peter Faber — and four other companions, the Jesuits have grown to an order of over 16,000 novices, scholastics, priests and brothers working around the world. Pope Francis is a Jesuit, and our first Jesuit pope.

    As noted at the top of this page, Ignatius stated, "If our church is not marked by caring for the poor, the oppressed, the hungry, we are guilty of heresy.” But Ignatius and the Jesuits wanted to do more than just care for the marginalized of society — they wanted to give them the means to lift themselves out of poverty and to challenge strict societal social structures. What better way than to offer them a superb education? The Jesuits began what would become a renowned educational ministry with the establishment of the first Jesuit school in Messina, on the island of Sicily, in 1548 — a secondary school in the humanist tradition.

    The Jesuits were known for their scholarship in every conceivable field and for their exploration and discoveries. They were scientists, mathematicians, writers, historians, linguists and more, and as their schools became known for exceptional academics, the Jesuits gained a reputation as "the schoolmasters of Europe."

    When the Society of Jesus was founded, in addition to the traditional vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, the Jesuits took a vow of obedience to the pope. This practice continues and reflects their broader dedication to the universal Church and to the greater good of all people from all faiths and cultures.
  • > What Does It Mean to be Jesuit Educated?

    A Jesuit education combines the pursuit of knowledge with a dedication to faith in God and love of mankind, and a commitment to social justice and serving others. To be Jesuit educated is to embrace the concept of magis — to always strive to serve more, learn more and to love more deeply.

    Students at Jesuit institutions are encouraged to find God in all things — their work in the classroom, their work serving others, in the natural world and in their spiritual life. The motto of the Society of Jesus — emblazoned throughout the Jesuit world — is AMDG — ad majorem Dei gloriamfor the greater glory of God.

    Additionally, the Jesuits established the following core tenets for Jesuit-educated graduates; that they will graduate as young people who are intellectually competent, open to growth, religious, loving and committed to doing justice. (See the Graduate at Graduation.)

    Finally, in 1973, at the International Congress of Jesuit Alumni of Europe, Jesuit Superior General Pedro Arrupe brought into sharp focus the call to incorporate a strong message of service into Jesuit education with these words, "Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-for-others; men who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ — for the God-man who lived and died for all the world; men who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice is a farce."
  • > Jesuit Resources

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

On This Page: Scenes From the Life of St. Ignatius of Loyola

By Albert Chevallier-Tayler (1862-1925)
St. Ignatius Church of the Sacred Heart – Wimbledon, England
© Jesuit Institute
    • Ignatius at the Battle of Pamplona – 1521

    • Writing the Spiritual Exercies at Manresa – 1522-23

    • Pope Paul III approves the Society of Jesus – 1540

    • Convalescing at Loyola – 1521-22

    • Vision at La Storta, near Rome – 1537

    • Ignatius and companions profess vows – 1541