On July 31, the Society of Jesus marks the 456th anniversary of the death of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.
Born into a wealthy Basque family, Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – July 31, 1556) was a Spanish knight; but he was seriously wounded in the Battle of Pamplona in 1521. During his long recovery, he experienced a spiritual awakening and was led to abandon his military career and devote himself to labor for God, following the example of St. Francis of Assisi.
At the shrine of Montserrat in 1522, Ignatius had a vision of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. Filled with awe at this great gift which had been given him, he traveled to Manresa—where he prayed for seven hours a day, eventually developing the Spiritual Exercises which have been the hallmark of Jesuit spirituality. He had an unwavering devotion to the Catholic Church, and he called his followers to unquestioning obedience to the Church’s authority and hierarchy.
Ignatius is the patron saint of soldiers and of the Jesuit order.
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The Jesuits have produced great scholars and great scientists, including two contemporary astronomers: George Coyne, S.J., whose research interests have been in polarimetric studies of various subjects including Seyfert galaxies; and Guy Consolmagno, S.J., astronomer at the Vatican observatory who has primarily devoted himself to planetary science.
Jesuit musicians have produced great works for the Church. In the 1700s, Italian organist and composer Domenico Zipoli created great inspirational works. In the years post-Vatican II, the group of five Jesuit musicians who came to be known as the “St. Louis Jesuits” set Scripture to music in contemporary hymns which are popular in American Catholic churches today.
Jesuits have expressed the Faith in poetry, too. Two famed Jesuit poets are Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., and Saint Robert Southwell, S.J.
In tribute to Jesuits everywhere, and most especially in honor of my former boss Most Rev. George V. Murry, S.J. (now Bishop of Youngstown)—here follow two favorite pieces by great Jesuit writers: Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “God’s Grandeur” and a unique performance by popular recording artist Sting of “The Burning Babe,” a poem by St. Robert Southwell.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell; the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.