ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA. The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. St. Ignatius came from a family of minor nobility in Spain’s northern Basque region. One thing to know about Ignatius is that he was far from saintly during much of his young adult life. He was vain, with dreams of personal honor and fame. He gambled and was not above sword fighting. As some have noted, he might be the only saint with a notarized police record: for taking part in a nighttime brawl.
All that began to change in the spring of 1521. Ignatius was 30 years old and an officer in the Spanish army. Leading his fellow soldiers into a battle against the French that they were sure to lose, he was struck by a cannonball in the leg. During a difficult recovery (he limped for the rest of his life), the young man 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.
These experiences would prove to be the beginning of Ignatian spirituality—and Jesuit ministry. 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 the pope.
The early Jesuits fanned out to the metropolises of Europe and beyond. They did so with instructions from Ignatius, their leader in Rome, to “seek the greater glory of God” and the good of all humanity. Most of all, Ignatius Loyola wanted his Jesuits and everyone to go out and "find God in all things." He died in 1556—on July 31, his feast day in the Catholic Church.