The Founder of the Society of Jesus, St. IGNATIUS LOYOLA, born in 1491, was the last child of a large Basque family in Spain. The name LOYOLA came from the ancestral castle that was the family heritage. Ignatius was trained to arms and to the etiquette of court life. He enlisted himself in the border wars with France and was badly wounded in a battle. As he lay convalescing at Loyola, he read the Gospel narratives and the lives of saints and was inspired to follow Christ by giving up all worldly ambitions and trappings of power and embracing a life of poverty, sacrifice and service after the example of his saintly mentors.
He began this new life at the age of 31. He spent a year of severe penance and intense prayer in a solitary cave on the banks of the river Cardoner near the town of Manresa.
He recorded his experiences in the book of the Spiritual Exercises, which became the soul and centre, the rule and character of every Jesuit who came after him. Reflecting on the crisis in the Church of his time, he felt that the need of the hour was for learned and holy priests, free of greed and ambition and ready to serve the poor and to give witness to the love of Christ for men. To achieve this objective, he set himself in right earnest to study from grammar school to college and University in the various Spanish centres of learning and finally took his Master’s Degree from the Sorborne University, Paris.
After completion of his studies in Philosophy and Theology he was ordained a priest in 1537. He won over a group of brilliant and like-minded University men (one of whom was St. Francis Xavier), moulded them by the Spiritual Exercises and welded them into a religious fraternity which became the Society of Jesus or Jesuits in 1540 as they popularly came to be known in course of time.