St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)
The founder of the Society of Jesus was born in the Basque region of Spain in 1491, and baptized Íñigo. As a youth, he sought military glory. During the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, a cannon ball shattered his leg, forcing a lengthy convalescence.
While recovering, Íñigo read a life of Christ and lives of the saints. Deeply moved, he renounced his military ambitions to dedicate his life to Christ.
Adopting the name Ignatius, he made a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine at Montserrat, and spent a year at nearby Manresa. During that time, he wrote reflections which later contributed to his renowned Spiritual Exercises — a compilation of meditations, prayers, and practices for deepening one’s relationship with God.
In 1539, with St. Peter Faber and St. Francis Xavier, Ignatius formed the Society of Jesus, approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III. Ignatius was the first Superior General of the Jesuits. He spent his final years overseeing the order from Rome, dying at 65 nearly blind and in poor health on July 31, 1556.